Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, president of the Russian republic of Kalmykia for 17 years, has announced his resignation in order to focus on maintaining control of the international chess federation, FIDE. Ilyumzhinov, who has been president of FIDE for 15 years, is running for re-election as head of the organization, with the vote slated for Sept. 29 during the bienniel Chess Olympiad, held this year in Khanty-Mansiysk, Siberia. But Ilyumzhinov may have had a push from the Kremlin, which has been cleaning house. He’s just one of a group of long-time leaders of Russian republics who have recently retired from their posts, including Murtaza G. Rakhimov of Bashkortostan, Eduard Rossel of Sverdlovsk Oblast, and Mintimer Shaimiyev of Tatarstan.
If Ilyumzhinov has indeed been ousted, it may have had something to do with his claims that he can communicate with aliens, or his inept financial management of his poverty-stricken region.
(For the 1998 Chess Olympiad, Ilyumzhinov spent $50 million to build Chess City, a chess-themed Disneyland-like complex on the outskirts of Kalmykia’s capital, Elista.) Meanwhile, Ilyumzhinov’s FIDE presidential campaign has also hit rough waters. In July, Anatoly Karpov, a former world champion, filed a lawsuit along with five national chess federations in Switzerland seeking to have Ilyumzhinov’s election ticket disqualified. The hearing is scheduled for Sept. 15 and 16, just two weeks before the FIDE election and the Chess Olympiad.