by July 1, 2013 0 comments

Kirsan Nikolayevich Ilyumzhinov is a Kalmyk multi-millionaire businessman and politician. He was the President of the Republic of Kalmykia in the Russian Federation from 1993 to 2010, and he has been the President of FIDE (or the “World Chess Federation”), the world’s preeminent international chess organization, since 1995. He has also been in the forefront of promoting chess in schools in Russia and overseas.He is the founder of Novy Vzglyad Publishing House. In addition to his native Kalmyk and Russian, he can speak English, Japanese, and a bit Korean, Mongolian and Chinese languages. Ilyumzhinov was born in Elista, Kalmykia.

He studied at the Moscow State Institute of Foreign Relations from 1983 to 1989. Between 1989 and 1990 he was a sales manager for the Soviet Japanese automobile company “Liko-Raduga” in Moscow, and from 1990 until 1993 he was President of SAN Corporation in Moscow. Ilyumzhinov acquired his wealth with the emergence of the private sector which followed the collapse of the USSR. Kirsan is married to Danara Ilyumzhinova (née Davashkina) and they have one son, David. Ilyumzhinov also has two brothers, Sanal and Vyacheslav.

Ilyumzhinov has drawn world-wide attention for claiming personal contact with aliens, alleging that they took him on a mystical tour of the galaxy in their spaceship in 1997.

Political career

On April 12, 1993, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was elected as the first president of the Republic of Kalmykia, and remained president until 2010. Soon after his election, Ilyumzhinov introduced presidential rule, concentrating power in his own hands. He called early elections on October 15, 1995 and was re-elected unopposed- this time for a 7-year term. He won re-election in 2002. Ilyumzhinov’s election platform for the presidency of Kalmykia included promising voters $100 each and a mobile phone for every shepherd-much of the population of Kalmykia living from agriculture. He once campaigned under the slogan “a wealthy president is a safeguard against corruption.” He also pledged to introduce what he called an “economic dictatorship” in the republic, as well as to continue to promote chess in Kalmykia, in Russia and to the wider world. After his re-election in 1995, Ilyumzhinov reportedly told a journalist from the Russian daily Izvestia, “Irrespective of what I tell people, I give them instructions on a subconscious level, a code. I do the same thing when I communicate with Russian citizens from other regions. I am creating around the republic a kind of extra-sensory field and it helps us a lot in our projects.”

Ilyumzhinov has striven to become an “Asian values” authoritarian like his Singaporean, Korean, and Chinese role models (even though his republic is in the southern European portion of Russia). He has spent millions of dollars on chess and supporting religion, building a Catholic church at the instigation of the Pope John Paul II. He has also built a mosque, a synagogue, 22 Orthodox churches, and 30 Buddhist temples. Chess was made a compulsory subject in the first three years of elementary school-the only place in the world where this is the case. The region now has numerous champions. The 14th Dalai Lama has visited Kirsan Ilyumzhinov on many occasions and has blessed a number of the temples in Elista, as well as Kalmyk Buddhist temples overseas.. Recently, Kirsan Iiyumzhinov visited India to seek blessings from HH Chandraswamiji in New Delhi with his wife.

FIDE career

Since November 1995, Ilyumzhinov has been President of the World Chess Federation, investing a large amount of his private fortune into the game. He has been enthusiastic about attracting international tournaments to Kalmykia, and many grand masters have done so. His flamboyant plans to build an extravagant Chess City in the republic led to protests by some people, but have been praised by others for generating good publicity. The 1996 bout between Gata Kamsky and Anatoly Karpov was originally scheduled to be played in Baghdad. However the international response was so harsh that FIDE moved the match to Elista where it received more positive international attention.

In the summer of 1998, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov announced his possible candidacy for the Russian presidency. This coincided with Anatoly Karpov being critical of the annual knockout FIDE world title system. Karpov argued that his contract with FIDE stipulated that the winner of the 1998 Karpov-Anand match would hold the title for two years. Karpov’s successful advocacy of his rights led to the cancellation of a planned world title knockout series in Las Vegas, Nevada, later in that year. Since Karpov had an unsuccessful year, apart from his match against Anand, and he was unable to resist the plan that he would have to enter this knockout, whenever it came to be organized, at a far earlier stage.

Ilyumzhinov managed to persuade the 140 member countries of FIDE to take part in the main team event of the year, the Chess Olympiad, scheduled to start in late September 1998, in Elista. However the event started late due to the failure to complete the new venue in time. In the end, it attracted 110 teams to the main event, a Swiss system contest shortened to 13 rounds to allow for the delay.

On June 2, 2006, Ilyumzhinov was re-elected as FIDE President by a margin of 96-54 against his opponent Bessel Kok. In an October 2006 Wall Street Journal article Garry Kasparov, who backed a rival to Ilyumzhinov, criticized Ilyumzhinov FIDE’s leadership stating: “(Ilyumzhinov) has created a vertical column of power that would be familiar to any observer of Russia today.”Nigel Short, the British grand master who also supported Kirsan’s rival for the leadership of FIDE, joined Kasparov’s misgivings at Ilyumzhinov’s victory.

On September 29, 2010, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was reelected as President of FIDE defeating his rival, Anatoly Karpov decisively – winning this election by 95 votes to 55. During his recent visit to India, Kirsan met India’s Telecom Minister Mr Kapil Sibal to discuss enhancement of bilateral ties between India & Russia. H.E. Kirsan Iiyumzhinov was presented with the world’s cheapest tablet PC by Hon’ble Kapil Sibal. The visiting dignitary discussed incorporation of chess in schools as subject to promote the game with millions of Indians.

 – Inputs from Bhuwan Fulara

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