Russia Jumps the Rails
Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is the ruler of the Russian region of Kalmykia, next to Rostov, just south of Volgograd. He’s also chief of the FIDE, the international chess federation, thrust into that position by Russian lobbying.
Andrei Lebedev is a member of the Russian parliament, affiliated with Vladimir Zhironovsky’s “Liberal Democratic” party. Hearing Zhirik’s name, you may suspect that this story is going to get weird and scary, but quick. If so, you’re right in spades.
Last week, Lebedev called for an investigation of Ilyumzhinov. The reason? Lebedev believes that Ilyumzhinov may have passed important state secrets to Russia’s enemies. On another planet.
You read that right. Some time ago, Ilyumzhinov announced that in 1997 he had been abducted and interrogated by space aliens in a “semi-transparent half tube.” Ilyumzhinov stated: “I was reading my book, watching television and had almost fallen asleep. Then I felt that someone was calling. I would not have believed it, if I had not had three witnesses. I am often asked which language I used to talk to them. Perhaps it was on a level of the exchange of ideas.”
Given that these are events of long standing in Russia, you may well wonder why Lebedev is so interested in them. It appears his concern stems not from the fate of Russia or of the people of Kalmykia, an issue as to which he was until very recently absolutely oblivious. But it seems that Lebedev is a big fan of Anatoly Karpov, who is vying with Ilyumzhinov in an upcoming election to the FIDE post.
This horrifying little story is Russia in a nutshell. In essence, the only hope to redress corruption in one of the most corrupt societies on the planet is with corruption, one corrupt person destroying another for corrupt reasons. But corruption does not lessen at all, only the names and faces change. The next ruler of Kalmykia, to say nothing of the next “president” of Russia, may believe he speaks not to little green men but to God Almighty.
In short, the lunatic who governs Kalmykia is no worse than those who prowl the Kremlin, it is simply that he is unmasked. And he is unmasked not because of any good faith effort to clean the effluent that has inundated Russian politics, but simply because he is at war with other, equally corrupt forces. Russians as blithely hand power to a man who speaks to little green aliens as they do to a man who takes pride in his past as a KGB spy. No mechanisms exist to even publicly criticize, must less discipline or remove, such monsters.
And so it goes in Vladimir Putin’s Russia.