Prominent Russians: Kirsan Ilyumzhinov
Kirsan Nikolaevich Ilyumzhinov is a Russian politician, millionaire, the first and only president of the Russian Republic of Kalmykia to date and also the president of the World Chess Federation.
Ilyumzhinov was born in Elista, the capital of the then Kalmyk Autonomous Soviet Socialistic Republic. His father was an engineer and a party worker, his mother a veterinarian. Ilyumzhinov is also a hereditary Cossack. At the age of 14 he became the chess champion of Kalmykia, a year later he finished school with a gold medal, and afterwards started working as an assembly fitter at the Zvezda (Star) plant. When he was 18, he performed his conscription service in the Soviet Army, in the North Caucasus military district units. After his military service, he returned to his plant and later became the foreman of a young workers’ team. In 1983, he joined the Soviet Communist Party.
Ilyumzhinov’s good reputation in the Party and the fact that he had two years of work experience allowed him to enter the Moscow State University of International Relations. At the University he became Deputy Chief Party Ideologist and the captain of chess team. In 1988, however, he was expelled. Internet media suggest drug use, frequent visits to restaurants, alcoholism and even keeping cyanide as reasons for the expulsion. But, several months later, he was reinstated to the University, and in 1989, he graduated with the qualification of “Specialist on Japan and external economic relations of Oriental countries.”
In 1989 Ilyumzhinov won a competition and became the director of the joint Russian-Japanese company Liko-Raduga (or Eko-Raduga as it is sometimes known). According to some media outlets, by 1990 Ilyumzinov had made his first million rubles. By April 1993 he was the head or founder of over 50 companies and banks in CIS countries and abroad.
On 18 March 1990 Ilyumzhinov was elected the Russian Republic People’s Deputy of the Kalmyk Manych District Number 821. He was included in the Committee of International Affairs and External Economic Ties, the deputy group “Sovereignty and Equality” (“Suverenitet i Ravenstvo”) and the faction Change - New Politics (Smena – Novaya Politika). He was also a member of the last Supreme Soviet of the USSR that existed up until the Union’s collapse.
In January 1993 he was elected President of the Russian and Kalmyk Boards of Businessmen. That same year he presented himself at the first Kalmyk presidential election. His election campaign ran under the motto “a rich president means incorruptible power.” In April he won the election, receiving 65 percent of the vote. In April 1994 the Kalmyk Constitution Convention accepted the Steppe Constitution, a new principal law in place of the old Kalmyk Constitution. It differed from the old document in its form, and also contradicted the Federal Constitution in its contents. In April 1995 Ilyumzhinov fired the government (however, later he brought it back) after the Russian President’s inspectors found numerous financial violations, including the disappearance of more than 40 million rubles allocated from the state budget over the 1993-1995 period. The chief inspector filed a detailed report to his superiors, which, however, had no consequences for Ilyumzhinov.
Ilyumzhinov was re-elected Kalmyk President on 15 October 1995 for an unlawful seven-year term in a non-alternative election. He also entered the second Federation Council and the Committee of International Affairs, of which, in 1998 he became Deputy Chairman.
In November 1995 Ilyumzhinov was elected President of the World Chess Federation and later re-elected to the post several times, most recently in 2006.
In February 1998 he ordered the reduction of Kalmykia’s ministries’ staffs and subjected the executive bodies directly to himself. Several other government reshuffles followed before 2003.
In September 1998 the construction of the Chess City hotel complex ordered by Ilyumzhinov was completed on Elista’s southeastern outskirts.
On 17 November 1998 Ilyumzhinov stated the republic’s readiness to become independent of the Russian Federation. The same day president Boris Yeltsin ordered the Security Council to examine his statement and the next day Ilyumzhinov disavowed his words. On 27 October 2002 he was elected for his third term as President of the Kalmyk Republic, in January 2003 he became the head of the Republic’s government and in November 2004, joined the United Russia ruling party.
On 24 October 2005, Kalmykia’s khural (parliament) accepted President Vladimir Putin’s proposal and endorsed Ilyumzhinov as President for five more years. In October 2007 he headed the United Russia candidate list in Kalmykia for the State Duma election, but refused the mandate after the party’s victory.
Kirsan Ilyumzhinov holds the Order of Friendship (an award to Russian citizens making significant contribution to the friendship, cooperation and mutual enrichment of various nationalities) and several non-governmental awards. He is a master of sports in chess. Besides Russian and Kalmyk, he speaks Japanese, English, a little Korean, Mongolian and Chinese. Ilyumzhinov says he is a Buddhist. He is married and has a son named David, born in 1990.