September 07, 2010
President of Russia's only Buddhist republic to step down, may have to call on extraterrestrials for help
According to the Moscow Times, Kalmykia President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is ready to step down. The colorful leader of the Russian Federation's only Buddhist republic appeared in a post here earlier this year, when chess great Anatoly Karpov made it known that he'd like Ilyumzhinov’s position as president of the International Chess Federation when the latter's mandate expires this month. Ilyumzhinov is happy to step down from the presidency of the republic, or at least he's happy to humor President Medvedev, whose policy of rotating regional leadership he cites as his reason for calling it quits. But he's not about to give in to Karpov's call for him to resign as the Chess Federation's president, a position he has held since 1995.
The soon-to-step-down leader made chess mandatory at Kalmykia's schools and cherishes his role as Chess King. But it's by no means certain he'll hold onto his position. Karpov is putting up a vigorous fight and has filed a lawsuit, claiming the chess boss isn't legit and holding him in check. A new International Chess Federation election will be held on September 29 unless Karpov's lawsuit prevents it, and the Buddhist, whose unexplained wealth has raised suspicions, just may get the boot.
On another front, Ilyumzhinov hasn't been so lucky, either. His efforts to make it possible for the Dalai Lama to visit Kalmykia are unlikely to succeed. The Tibetan leader last visited in 2004, when he consecrated Kalmykia's largest temple. But it looks like there won't be a repeat visit. In this case, Medvedev is doing the humoring, and has assured Beijing that Russia's pro-China stance on Tibet hasn't changed.
Ilyumzhinov, who claims to have entertained extraterrestrials in his home and to have been kidnapped by them on occasion, may have to turn to his former house guests for help.