Reports | September 27, 2010 23:19

Kalmykia documentary posted on YouTube

Kalmykia documentary posted on YouTubeAn Australian documentary from 1998 about the Russian republic of Kalmykia and its leader Kirsan Ilyumzhinov created fuss among chess fans and journalists of countries where it was broadcast. Its significance stems from an interview with Larisa Yudina, a journalist critical of Ilyumzhinov, who was murdered not long after the documentary was shown on TV. It has now been posted on YouTube.

Today we were notified of a comment on the ChessPro forum, which has links to two videos on YouTube. It involves the 1998 documentary Kalmykia, produced in the Foreign Correspondent series by Eric Campbell, one of Australia's most experienced and award winning international reporters.

He was the Moscow Correspondent from 1996 to 2000 of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, covering upheavals in the former Soviet Union as well as the conflicts in Afghanistan and Kosovo. In this period he also visited Kalmykia, where he created the documentary below.

Larisa Yudina, a journalist and editor of the newspaper Sovietskaya Kalmykia and a leading critic of Ilymzhinov's rule, is interviewed. At the time she was investigating irregular tax issues in Kalmykia, and about to publish her findings on the eve of the 1998 Chess Olympiad.

Not long after the documentary was broadcast, on 8 June 1998, Yudina was stabbed to death and her body dumped near a pond in Elista. Federal authorities took over the murder investigation and, in autumn 1999, convicted Sergei Vaskin and Tyurbi Boskomdzhiv, both with ties to Ilyumzhinov. The President of both Kalmykia and the World Chess Federation always denied any involvement with the murder.

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Later, Eric Campbell would write in his book Absurdistan (2005):

Four months later a stranger called Larisa's appartment claiming to have incriminating documents about Ilyumzhinov. She agreed to meet him outside. Neighbours saw her being driven away in a car with an official number plate.

She didn't come home that night. Her family waited with increasing dread. The next morning her stabbed and battered body was found dumped in a pond.

I read the news in the office in Moscow, staring at her name on the computer screen and feeling shocked and nauseuos. A woman I knew had just been murdered and it might have been for what she had told me. Anger welled up inside me - at Ilyumzhinov for what he did (I had no doubt his administration was behind the murder) and at myself for putting Larisa in danger.

Larisa had never been interviewed on Russian television so we gave our footage to the main network, NTV, which produced a half-hour story. It had an unexpected effect. President Yeltsin, momentarily back at work, condemned the murder, vowing that the killers would be found. Not trusting Kalmykia's police, the prosecutor-general sent federal investigators to take over the case. It took less than a week for two of Ilyumzhinov's former aides to be charged with murder. While the investigations were under way, Ilyumzhinov announced he would run for the Russian presidency.

The two men were convicted of murder but their boss denied any involvement. In an interview with Russian television, Ilyumzhinov claimed, 'The charges are unfounded and part of a Moscow plot to discredit a powerful regional leader.'

His pawn went to prison for life but the chess master remained free. He's still Kalmykia's president, he still heads the World Chess Federation and he even held the Chess Olympiad in Elista as schedule, less than four months after Larisa's death. Few players saw any need to withdraw from it. Moral bankruptcy was not confined to Kalmykia.

Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of ChessVibes.com, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.

Chess.com

Comments

Arne Moll's picture

Note how Ilyumzhinov doesn't notice during the entire "chess-game" fragment (3:03-3:17) that his king is in fact on d1 and his queen on e1.

LudoMedemblik's picture

It is an ancient and primitive fact that power will be defended at all costs until a majority finds it enough.
This majority can only arise if a continious stream of information about these abuses will be given, as now in this article.

Felix's picture

Arne: haha, nice discovery, didn't check it when watching the video :) but I would blame the one who set up the pieces, I also don't discover it instantly if the setup is wrong sometimes. But I wonder why the chess board is a cheap plastic one :)

Spank's picture

This was published on youtube long time ago and has also been available on other networks.
Why is it published here now only a few days before elections? Why not publish how chess players suffered from the breakaway of Kasparov a decade back? Or anything similar to balance because is Chessvibes becoming political?

Dude's picture

Because it was quickly put there just before the reporters arrived.

Dude's picture

Sorry that was @Felix

Spank's picture

To be more precise, here it is from 2007, I watched it back then with interest http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sjhP7lhcrC0

Jens Kristiansen's picture

Nice to have this story repeated in this way. But there is really nothing new compared to amo. Sarah Hurst´s "The curse of Kirsan".
And LOTS have happened since then. But not much for the better.

Arne Moll's picture

@Spank, it seems you're right about the earlier posting on Youtube, thanks for pointing this out. However, you're wrong about the lack of balance. Just look at the previous article, discussing in great detail Karpov's dubious role during the last decade of the Soviet empire.

Mark Crowther's picture

I looked at this and the Al Jazeera 2007 interview for a Chess Article I wrote. Although the above maybe is a new version as I couldn't find the pieces the wrong way round in the version I watched. I came to the conclusion that everything you think you know about Kirsan comes from what he has told you. Almost nothing can be taken at face value.

Kalmykian Senior Chess Champion at 14, Candidate Master, no evidence, in fact the pieces the wrong way round suggests otherwise, where are any games? I would love someone with a copy of Russian mags from the period to find the real Kalmykian Champion for 1976. Or the reverse, put an end to it, find a list in a checkable periodical where he is listed as a Candidate Master, with their grading system of the time. Or a published tournament table or game where he played to at a high level.. He was team captain supposedly in Moscow for his institute chess team. So maybe there? Anyone out there played him?

He say he was rich, with 100s of millions of dollars going through his hands when he took power in Kalmykia, unlikely, it goes on. I just find it impossible to understand how any delegate can justify voting for this guy. Ignorance is no longer an excuse. The material is there for all to see. You couldn't make this stuff up.

Al Jazeera Interviews

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=unicG1xbBJk&feature=channel

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BCmHi50Mve0&feature=channel

Spank's picture

Come on Arne, it is obvious :) The publications are 90% to 10% and Kasparov never questioned. I really hope you are at least being well paid for being onesided, otherwise this is not worth.

bernd's picture

boo @spank
Even if chessvibes or Arne were one-sided, it would be perfectly OK for them to be so. Last time I checked the Netherlands were a free country, were people could say and write what they want (as long as it does not affect somebody's rights).

Guillaume's picture

@Spank: You're wrong. You've obviously missed the article recently published by Chessvibes entitled "Not everyone likes the two Ks".

Iliumjinov's worst publicity is Iliumjinov himself. His claims about aliens and ground zero are ridiculous regardless of how objectively they are presented.

weetgraag's picture

"Last time you checked the Netherlands were a free country"
Yeah, but that's about to change in a few weeks.

Macauley's picture

@Spank - FYI...Looks like that 2007 YouTube post doesn't have English subtitles for the interviews either. So maybe not so useful for non-Russian speakers.

Agree about the timeliness -- obviously it's related to the election -- but hey, I'd never seen it, and it's certainly illuminating [Ilyuminating? ;)] so I bet others never saw it either. Larisa Yudina is a name many people have heard, but it's different to see her as she was -- and so soon before her death!

@Arne -- Hilarious about the king and queen being backwards. They play 3 or 4 moves, so you'd think he would notice, no?! Besides, the board's in his own office, right? I mean really...weird.

Mark Crowther's picture

I have Sjugirov as being born in 1993 in entry in the September FIDE list.

calvin amari's picture

It is startling that the chess community has suffered so long from abject embarrassment brought on again and again by Ilyumzhinov. Let's hope that the blight of his reign ends immediately.

Now that the Kremlin has blackballed Ilyumzhinov, it is clear that FIDE gives Ilyumzhinov desperately needed immunities from prosecution. What Ilyumzhinov gives FIDE is incompetence, corruption, and a HUGE publicity black eye. Why should the chess world permit itself to so taken advantage of by this delusional megalomaniac? Ilyumzhinov is well on his way to single-handedly erasing any association between intelligence and the international chess community. Only morons would voluntarily accept his leadership.

V's picture

Dear ChessVibes, is this article a part of Karpov campaign? Why are you being involved in this BPR (Black PR)? Don't you find it strange, that a videolink, posted in ChessPro today by unknown user (this person has only one comment so far)? has immediately appeared on your website?

weetgraag's picture

@V.
So the tuth lies in the amount of comments someone made.
Talkin about stupidness

Mark Crowther's picture

Many are just against Ilyumzhinov who is not a fit and proper person to be FIDE President. I wouldn't be all that bothered if there were two normal candidates. The case against Kirsan should be clear to anyone who does any investigation. We're facing a man who is great at the internal politics of FIDE but little else. We're also facing a future where Kirsan could still be with us in another 20 years. It is getting increasingly hard to bear. That's what this election is about for at lot people, Karpov is just the one who has the money to take him on and do what needs to be done.

cinzia's picture

Ilyumzhinov is now persona non grata with the Kremlin. I hope the federations recognized the clear practical impact of this. He always has been a grave personal liability to chess. Now, if reelected, he will be a financial and political liability as well, with no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

Victorh's picture

So Spank:
Are you comparing Ilyumzhinov with Kasparov?..Shame on you!

Arne Moll's picture

@V: Why don't you ask whether today's review of a book about Karpov's role as a KGB agent is part of Ilyumzhinov's campaign? Why be so selective in your criticism?

cak's picture

Don't you know, Arne, that your job as a journalist is to inform the public of what the party line is. Your continuing scrutiny and criticism of both candidates is really confusing.

(What I meant to say is: Well done!)

Peter Doggers's picture

Later, Eric Campbell would write in his book Absurdistan (2005):

Four months later a stranger called Larisa’s appartment claiming to have incriminating documents about Ilyumzhinov. She agreed to meet him outside. Neighbours saw her being driven away in a car with an official number plate.

She didn’t come home that night. Her family waited with increasing dread. The next morning her stabbed and battered body was found dumped in a pond.

I read the news in the office in Moscow, staring at her name on the computer screen and feeling shocked and nauseuos. A woman I knew had just been murdered and it might have been for what she had told me. Anger welled up inside me – at Ilyumzhinov for what he did (I had no doubt his administration was behind the murder) and at myself for putting Larisa in danger.

Larisa had never been interviewed on Russian television so we gave our footage to the main network, NTV, which produced a half-hour story. It had an unexpected effect. President Yeltsin, momentarily back at work, condemned the murder, vowing that the killers would be found. Not trusting Kalmykia’s police, the prosecutor-general sent federal investigators to take over the case. It took less than a week for two of Ilyumzhinov’s former aides to be charged with murder. While the investigations were under way, Ilyumzhinov announced he would run for the Russian presidency.

The two men were convicted of murder but their boss denied any involvement. In an interview with Russian television, Ilyumzhinov claimed, ‘The charges are unfounded and part of a Moscow plot to discredit a powerful regional leader.’

His pawn went to prison for life but the chess master remained free. He’s still Kalmykia’s president, he still heads the World Chess Federation and he even held the Chess Olympiad in Elista as schedule, less than four months after Larisa’s death. Few players saw any need to withdraw from it. Moral bankruptcy was not confined to Kalmykia.

Castro's picture

Absurdistan is a very well imagined title, and I think it should be aplied to the whole of this elections and to both campains.
I used to make a joke, claiming "Spassky for president", but unfortunately it would no be so funny theses days, with our beloved Master being ill.
Absurdistan: Something FIDE has been, and something people are prepared to accept/provoke FIDE to be, changing or not names and faces.

Pedro Pinto's picture

the whole situation is indecent.

the fact that kirsan had a journalist killed is indecent.
the fact that these happenings, from 12 years ago, are not being delt with in court is indecent.

(but wiat... they have been delt with in court! it was not a fair trial? says who? i believe it wasn't.)

the fact that chessvibes publishes a 12 year old news a few days before elections is indecent.

i wish karpov wins.
but what's in it for you, peter?

Gian's picture

The swiss court in Lausanne dismissed Karpov's lawsuit: http://www.interfax.ru/sport/news.asp?id=157038 Wasn't this supposed to be a "won case" for Karpov?

Mark Crowther's picture

Although the Larisa Yudina material is interesting (not least to see what she was like which you don't need language for) and given what happened a little bit touching, I think by far and away the most interesting way to watch the videos is to listen to what Ilyumzhinov says, his claims, and evaluate those for yourself. The reason this is relevant? Many people haven't seen them and they should. Make your own mind up, but at least watch them, these are Kirsan putting his best foot forward.

What are people getting out of it? Leadership of FIDE they're not embarrassed and indeed horrified about is the aim.

test's picture

People who want to vote for Kirsan need to know who they are voting for. (Not that I think this article will make any difference, but it can't hurt either.) Up to now they clearly do not know who they have been voting for; he's been running the show for 15 years now.

And even if you think this forum is too much anti Kirsan: so what? Go visit a forum that is pro Kirsan. Oh wait, there are none. Start your own pro Kirsan forum then.

steven's picture

Sjugirov (born 1994) was second in the last junior WC.
He is one of the biggest chess talents in the russian federation.
Also, Kalmykia has less than 300.000 inhabitants (more or less the same as the city of Utrecht).
Furthermore, it's not so easy to know which russian players are kalmykian (or Tatar, or any other minority), because all of them are listed as (RUS).
I read a while ago (i forgot the source) that kalmykian kids perform better on the average than other russian kids in russian interschool competitions (science, maths, chess,...).
Given the fact that russian students perform really well in these competitions worldwide (f.i. math olympiads) i wouldn't say the kalmykian educational system is underperforming.
If moral factors as democracy and human rights have any influence on brilliance in education (especially exact sciences), school , sport,chess than i would even say it's a negative one, given the very high level the USSR and other (now former) communist countries reached in the past, China ! (compared to the biggest democracy India) and given the steady decline of school education and the lack of discipline among pupils in western europe.

Henk de Jager's picture

One of the more absurd statements by Ilyumzhinov is the one about the government and the media sharing a common task, that of ,,improving society". By whose standards is left unclear. Those who do not agree with this thesis are ,,not understood" (murdered?!) by Kirsan. Well, news for corrupt mr Third World power politician: how about the task of the media being to CONTROL and REPORT ABOUT (possible) improper government actions, especially in backwater places without political checks and balances. It is a disgrace to the chess world that this astrology and aliens embracing idiot has been allowed to lead world chess for so long. An even bigger disgrace would be to re-elect him for the umpteeth time, rewarding his "bribe and conquer" practices yet again.

Mark Crowther's picture

Sanan Sjugirov is the major product of the Kalmykia teach kids chess program, born the year Kirsan took power. I believe you can see him in one of the videos. Anyhow he's on 4.5/6 as top board for Russia4.

Yetispotter's picture

BOYCOT FIDE!

Arne Moll's picture

I agree, Henk and Mark, this is the most shocking part of the entire documentary. He doesn't even define what he means by 'improvement'. Also, I couldn't help noticing that despite all "heroic" efforts to teach chess in schools in order to create super grandmasters from Kalmykia, 12 years later there don't seem to be many around...

bernd's picture

Henk: well said.

V's picture

Arne, there is a slight difference between these two articles - the so-called book of Gulko was published recently, so there you have a reason to make it a headline , as for the documentary about K.I., it appeared twelve years ago. Why did you remember about it right now? Because of a anonymous comment in ChessPro?

test's picture

@ V: To refresh everybody's memory.

Or maybe your point is that because it happened many years ago we should just forget about it?

Castro's picture

LOL

People here indeed know how to "undiscuss"!
Let's stay arround. Humor is healthy.

V's picture

@ test - my point is that your memory was "refreshed" just b4 the FIDE Congress and u can't deny it :p

Ben's picture

You know I just don't think we need two Russians go for the office.

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