Kalmykia is a small Buddhist republic in the greater Russian Federation. For 17 years, the nation was ruled by President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, a multi-millionaire who made his fortune in the privatization of the Russian auto industry after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Ilyumzhinov is also the head of the World Chess Federation and introduced compulsory chess-education in Kalmykian schools. His time as president was marked by ostentatious displays and charges of corruption. The people of Kalmykia remain the poorest in all of Russia, despite numerous expensive construction projects; most notably a still yet-to-be-completed "Chess City" which was intended to house and celebrate chess champions and facilitate competitions. In 1998, opposition journalist Larisa Yudina was found stabbed and bludgeoned to death after publishing articles critical of Ilyumzhinov. Her murderers were two former government aides to Ilyumzhinov, who promptly banned the publication of Yudina's newspaper. The organization Reporters without Borders currently rate Kalmykia as being "among the most repressive towards the media in the entire Russian Federation." If this wasn't enough, Ilyumzhinov also described having a friendly relationship with Libyan dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi and former Iraqi-dictator Saddam Hussien.
Despite these little controversies, Vladimir Putin, then president of Russia, seemed to think well of Ilyumzhinov. In 2002, after Putin abolished the direct election of regional leaders (with this power being relocated to the Russian presidency), he selected Ilyumshinov for another seven-year term. Ilyumzhinov's political future was assured, until 2010 when the Kalmykian president made a very serious gaffe on a televised interview.
Kirsan Ilyumzhinov announced that on September 17th, 1997, during a trip to Moscow, he was visited by aliens.
The abduction was a simple affair, really. As described by Ilyumzhinov, the aliens descended from the skies, took him from his apartment and brought him to "some star." Ilyumzhinov, fearing that he would be late for a meeting in Ukraine, asked the aliens if they could bring him back to Earth and they complied. During the voyage, Ilyumzhinov had the opportunity to talk at length with his newfound extraterrestrial friends and they implied that chess originated in outer space.
Shortly after the interview, Putin's successor President Dmitry Medvedev received a letter from an alarmed Russian MP Andre Lebedev, who asserted that Ilyumzhinov was unfit to rule Kalmykia. Rather than decrying Ilyumzhinov as delusional, Lebedev was primarily concerned that the Kalmykian president may have disclosed official secrets to the aliens and created a security risk for the Russian Federation. Lebedev went on to suggest that alien abduction protocol be drafted for government leaders to prevent breaches of sensitive information.
It was probably not a coincidence that after controlling Kalmykia since 1993, Ilyumzhinov announced that he would not run for another term. Medvedev's new appointed president of Kalmykia, Alexei Orlov, was installed into power on October 24th, 2010. Although he has lost his political power, Ilymzhinov continues to act as the president of the World Chess Federation. Chessplayers, it appears, are more familiar with insanity.
Would you like to know more?
-Read this article from the Guardian
-Read this article from the BBC
-Watch this interview with Illymzhinov