This paper is a brief political and ethnographic commentary on the ‘issues of weakness’ in the current political leadership of Kalmykia. In the Republic of Kalmykia, southwest Russia, ideas about national leaders have been subject to change, depending on the political regime in Russia. Whereas in the Soviet period good leaders, both historical and contemporary, were thought to be skilful managers who did not necessarily have the power to change the course of history, in the post-Soviet period proper national leaders are considered to be those who are endowed with the power to influence history. According to the author, this change in the concept of leadership became possible owing to certain political developments in post-Soviet Kalmykia that allowed alternative ideas to contest some tenets of the Soviet historiography, such ideas remaining largely intact. The tension in Kalmyk historiography between old Soviet and new ideas is unresolved, a situation which is symptomatic of wider tensions and transformations occurring in Kalmyk society itself.
KichikovM.L.ChuzhginovA.A.NaberukhinA.I.Kalmykia v Istorii SSSR. Posobie Dlya Izuchayushih Istoriyu Rodnogo Kraya.1968ElistaKalmytskoe knizhnoe izdatel’stvo(Kalmykia in the history of the USSR. Textbook for Those Studying the History of Native Place)
At the end of2004Vladimir Putin abolished local presidential elections in all subject territories of the Russian Federation including Kalmykia. Deprived of his presidential status in 2004 Ilyumzhinov was appointed by Putin as ‘head of Kalmykia’ (glava Kalmykii). Having served for two consecutive terms in this post in the 2010 gubernatorial appointments Ilyumzhinov did not nominate himself due to a new law by DmitryMedvedev forbidding national leaders to stay in power for too long.