Monday, June 16, 2008

Garry Kasparov and Mongolia

I remember this incident. In a 1989 Playboy interview, Garry Kasparov, the Soviet chess champion, commented that USSR should sell Mongolia off to China. Given his political savvy, one wonders the wisdom of him running for the Russian presidency. Of course, one might forgive him for his unwise comments, he was only 25 and it was an interview with "Playboy"... which.. I mean, it's Playboy. Of course, the Mongolians didn't forgive him. Letters of petition and complaint were sent to the Soviet embassy. Apologies followed, by Soviet diplomats. Kasparov remained quiet. NY Times ran an article on Mongolia in 1990, where they also mention Kasparov's diplomatic blunder, while noting our peaceful transition to democracy as compared to the rest of the Communist world.

Below is an excerpt from "Truth, History and Politics in Mongolia: The Memory of Heroes" by Christopher Kaplonski, which I found on Google Book Search.

"The increasingly vocal discontentment with the government and Soviet influence boiled over in late December. Gary Kasparov, the chess champion, commented in a Playboy interview that the Soviet Union would solve some of its economic troubles by selling off Mongolia to China. Mongols, not unexpectedly, were outraged at this. According to articles at Unen, petition and letters signed by "many thousands" of Mongols were sent to the Soviet Embassy and the four consular offices (Unen 1990a). At multiple press conferences, a spokesman for the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed regret at the statement and reiterated that this was not official Soviet policy."

Read more from this book on Google Book Search