February 27, 2017

ICF celebrates its 20th Anniversary

The International Chodiev Foundation is celebrating its anniversary. Twenty years ago, Patokh Chodiev, a graduate of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), businessman and patron of the arts, created his own charitable foundation.

The recent history records of the MGIMO refers to Patokh Chodiev (MP, 1976) as the institute’s first benefactor. “At least that’s what our rector, Anatoli Vasilyevich Torkunov, has always maintained”, said Mr Chodiev. “However, when I gave the institute the initial amount of one hundred thousand dollars in 1996, it didn’t matter whether I was the first or the second. I just wanted to help.”

Twenty years ago, one hundred thousand dollars was a huge amount. In the mid-1990s, it was unthinkable for a businessman to give the equivalent of the price of a Mercedes-Benz 600 to a charitable cause. But then, you must get to know Mr. Chodiev. “Patokh was always like that – helpful and understanding”, recalls Olga Monakhova, his onetime fellow student and now director of the International Chodiev Foundation. “That was his main trait. Whenever one of us needed help with taking notes or if we needed a loan or if we had an issue with one of the lecturers, Patokh could always offer help or advice. I remember the determination with which he helped one girl in his group who had problems with Japanese, and he turned her into a success! I guess he’s had that charitable side of his nature since birth.”

It is no coincidence that Mr. Chodiev decided to become a benefactor for his beloved institute. This is how he remembers that moment. “Up until 1996 I hardly ever went to the MGIMO because I didn’t visit Russia very often, spending most of my time abroad in Kazakhstan.  That year, however, I met up with Anatoly Vasilyevich once again and I was shocked to hear about the sad state of my alma mater, MGIMO. “Tolya”, I told him, “I’m with you! Tell me what we have to do.” -“We need money”, he answered. “We have no funds and we cannot survive without them.” So I decided to transfer the money; but the monetary rules then were such that the money had to go firstly into the official budget and then to the recipient. Generally speaking, you were lucky if you got anything back by the time it had gone through this rigorous procedure. So we ended up establishing an inter-fund system between ourselves.

Anatoli Vasilyevich created the MGIMO Development Trust and I established my own foundation, in Switzerland. We thought long and hard about what to call it and we eventually decided on “The Chodiev Foundation”. The first amount of $100,000 did a lot for the institute. We’d stipulated that it wouldn’t be spent on painting fences, but rather on supporting MGIMO’s intellectual potential – on salaries, encouraging teachers to remain at the institute, etc. Of course, under the growing philosophy of capitalism ‘money talks’ and we were able to recruit the best people from other academic institutions that were struggling financially. When I have the opportunity, of course I would be delighted to be able to give more. I then decided to do this on a regular basis, financing publishing activities and allocating grants to teachers and lecturers who were writing new textbooks and with this money students could go abroad on internships. Previously I just transferred the money, but then Olga Monakhova took over as Director of the foundation and began keeping track of all the spending – for which I am very grateful!”

The International Chodiev Foundation is now a recognised charity organisation, developing in countries other than just Russia and Kazakhstan. The foundation supports children’s homes as well as students and teachers and sponsors projects abroad, mostly related to Japan and its culture.

The Japanese theme dominates Patokh Chodiev’s life as he went to MGIMO to study the language and culture of the land of the rising sun.

“I thank my university lecturers who gave me the opportunity to specialise in Japanese studies and to get to know the country”, he said. “Thanks to the knowledge that stayed with me for ever, I left MGIMO as an independent person, prepared for life in the outside world. I therefore consider it my duty to give back what I can to my alma mater. And I believe that I haven’t done all that much yet!”

* * *

These twenty years of P. Chodiev’s philanthropy can be subdivided into several important phases. One significant event occurred in 2008, when the MGIMO Endowment Fund received considerable funding from its three main founders and most generous benefactors – Vladimir Potanin, Alisher Usmanov and Patokh Chodiev. Mr. Chodiev explains: “The fact is that at that time, a few people came forward and responded to the institute’s call for financial support, so Anatoli Vasilyevich asked me to set an example. Each of us donated 125 million roubles and I gave a further 50 million to support the veterans’ association of the MFA. Then, every year, the three of us have increased the capital of the endowment fund, giving a million dollars.

This was a real step forward in our support for the institute because it helped lay down a solid financial basis, with its proper management allowing the MGIMO to plan its development independently. Of course, occasionally something urgent crops up. For example, at a meeting of the board of trustees held in 2010 Anatoly Vasilyevich lamented that the equipment in the institute’s publishing house was hopelessly outdated so he immediately proposed financing the purchase of modern equipment. The modernisation cost 20 million roubles. Then the next chapter began a few years ago, when we set about increasing the target capital funds of the endowment to 1,000 million roubles. We believe that it has now reached 1,500 million.”

Mr. Chodiev proudly talks about helping his alma mater, which gives him great pleasure. There are however acts of charity that he does not willingly advertise – such as helping children. If you want to help, do it right away, he says. In this respect, planning is impossible; as soon as Mr. Chodiev sees a child in need, he reacts immediately.

“At about one or two o’clock in the morning, there was a call from Patokh”, Olga Monakhova remembers. “It turned out that he was on a plane and had read in an Almaty newspaper that money was urgently needed for an operation on a dying child. It was a cry from the soul! As soon as he got through he asked me, excitedly, to send the money straight away. But it was Saturday – so I had to rush around to find a bank open… Another time he sent money to an old lady for her grandson’s urgent treatment in China. They needed 20,000 dollars. Patokh just anonymously sent the money to the carer. The delighted grandma wrote back via a newspaper with a message of thanks for his kindness.”

Finding himself by chance in an orphanage in Kazakhstan, where over a hundred children lived, Mr Chodiev simply asked what was needed. As a result, the building underwent major repairs and technology rooms and a swimming pool were built. On realising that the children didn’t have their own clothes and that they had to take it in turns using other children’s clothes and footwear when going for a walk, he bought them all a full set of clothing. And when all the children got their own little cupboards, their joy knew no bounds! Many of them were ill and the foundation got them to doctors in Almaty and even Moscow. “Patokh was deeply moved when he discovered the history of these children’s names”, Olga Monakhova remembers, “Karbyshev, Suvorov etc.  – these unwanted kids were named after the streets where they were found.”

The International Chodiev Foundation is now a recognised charity organisation, developing in countries other than just Russia and Kazakhstan.

In a moment of spontaneously, following his inner soul, Mr. Chodiev shaped the destiny of the Odessa Rehabilitation Center for children suffering from cerebral palsy. “He had gone to Odessa to visit a friend”, Olga remembers. Seeing these poor children with their parents really shook him. At the time the Ukrainian Government wasn’t giving the centre any money and the decision had been taken to close it down. Besides, the Odessa doctors were trained in Germany and worked with a unique European method. Patokh built a new medical treatment centre fitted out with the latest equipment. A stable went up so that young patients could have their sense of movement restored through horse riding. The treatment was so successful that the children started walking and becoming self reliant within a few months; so imagine what it did for the parents!” The treatment, accommodation and food at the centre are completely free.

The Chodiev Foundation has assisted many different establishments. Periodically, among others, it helps the “The Gift of Life” foundation of Chulpan Khamatova, who opened the Children’s Oncology Centre in Moscow’s Leninsky Prospekt.

In 2010, Mr. Chodiev acquired the museum of kimono artist Itchiku Kubota and saved it from bankruptcy. Then he set about acquainting the world with this unique work of art.

The West has a very practical approach towards charity, which has already become a finely-tuned industry (in the broadest sense), where the donors are investors, religiously carrying out their profession “like a science”. Their contributions are calculated and the donor’s name is also mentioned with the donation.

“When I was in America”, Mr. Chodiev remembers, “I kept seeing on the walls of clinics, hospitals and medical centres the names of people who had made donations to help build them, often continuing to fund their activity.

For some reason, it’s not the done here. I ask myself: if I invested in a building or a place like that, would I want my name on the wall so that everyone knows it was my contribution? Or would I shy away from that? I thought about it. No, I wouldn’t hide but nor would I seek self-glorification. Rather, the respect that I receive would be passed on to my family and they would keep the fire burning, so to speak, and continue my mission to help other people. That’s my insurance, if you like; my descendants would not let me down in the future, rather they would continue with my work.”

Patokh Chodiev is not a philanthropic dreamer. He is not trying to save humankind in the way that Elon Musk does, by spending money on “charitable efforts” by planning to set up a human colony on Mars to save humans from extinction on Earth. “You can’t save humanity by moving it to other planets”, Mr. Chodiev exclaims. “You have to think about how to save our planet! It still has so many beautiful places! I believe that the most important thing is to strive to correct the human conscience and morals. What good is it putting people on Mars if they take conflict and other human faults with them? No, I’m not reaching for the skies, that’s for future generations. For me, it’s important to help those who need it here and now.”

Speaking of “beautiful places”, Patokh Chodiev, of course, has his beloved Japan in mind. When, a few years ago, the country suffered the most powerful earthquake in its history, with giant tsunamis, the Chodiev Foundation helped the Japanese people. “The Japanese are very work-orientated and highly organised nation, ready for collective work”, Chodiev says. “The Japanese State has enormous reserves that help reduce the negative effects of crises.”

And this is not the philanthropist’s first experience of charitable work in Japan. In 2010, he acquired the museum of the kimono artist Itchiku Kubota and saved it from bankruptcy. Not content to stop there, however, he then set about introducing this unique masterpiece to the world, staging an exhibition “the world through the eyes of kimono master Itchiku Kubota” in many countries including Russia. Opening the exhibition in the Moscow Manège, Japan’s ambassador to Russia Tikehito Harada said: “I hope that this exhibition will help the Russian people have a broader understanding of Japan, enabling them to become acquainted with its culture and the soul and spirit of the Japanese people.”

Thanking the ambassador for these words, Patokh Chodiev then shared his innermost thoughts with those who attended the ceremony. “I have been given the opportunity to save the collection for the Japanese people. I spent many years in Japan; I studied the language and learned about the country and its distinctive culture. It has influenced me hugely and I would not be the person I am today were it not for Japan. This is to thank Japan for all that it has done for me.”

When I help someone, I don’t expect any commendation. It is something that I must do for my own peace of mind. Only then can I live with myself and find an inner calmness.

* * *

An important chapter in the history of the MGIMO Journal is the support provided by P. K.  Chodiev during challenging times. About ten years ago, seeing that the journal lacked the resources required to function normally, he suggested “I would like to help you”. The funds helped strengthen our journal and it became a fully-fledged publication with its own agenda. It helps bring the graduates together, promote the institute in Russian society and give the MGIMO graduates a positive image, as mentioned earlier.

The journal’s correspondents travel to different countries and continents, meeting past graduates and alumni in Russian embassies and consulates and various State and business organisations. These people, who graduated from MGIMO long ago and lost contact, suddenly have a sense of belonging to a wonderful MGIMO family and they look back on their years of study with nostalgia, grateful to their lecturers and they ultimately feel the need to return to the fold of their alma mater. All of this is the result of Patokh Chodiev’s benevolence.

So, what is the mission of this charitable man? Does he see this as his role, that of a “doer of good deeds” and is this his primary goal in life, above all else?

“The sense of purpose is a profoundly philosophical concept”, says Mr Chodiev. After some thought, he concludes: “However, I don’t consider charitable work to be my main mission in life, I simply do what my heart asks me to do; I’m simply guided by my conscience. Saving the Itchiku Kubota kimono collection gave me a warm feeling inside. Helping a child is, of course, something else. The mere thought of not helping would gnaw away at soul. I also have a duty towards my family. Nobody knows about this, but I am responsible, rather frighteningly, for a thousand people.

They are people who are close to me, not only through blood ties but also in spirit. Some I support, some I pay. Many, because of the difficult economic situation in their country, have nothing to live on, and I resolve that issue. If I were not a businessman, I could not help people. You see, whichever way you look at it, business is the main component of my life. The German writer Berthold Auerbach once said: “To acquire money requires valour, to keep money requires prudence and to spend money well is an art …”

Somebody once said that ‘doing a good deed is beneficial for your health’, energy positively directed towards someone who needs help will bounce back and create a feeling of well-being and goodwill”.

“I can say”, added Mr Chodiev, “that I don’t for a second attempt to make any connection. When I do something for someone, I don’t stop to think about gratitude. If I understand what is happening, I can help, but if I don’t help, my conscience won’t let me rest. As I said, I must be at peace with myself. And peace of mind leads to a healthy life”.

When I do something for someone, I don’t stop to think about gratitude. If I understand what is happening, I can help, but if I don’t help, my conscience won’t let me rest. As I said, I must be at peace with myself. And peace of mind leads to a healthy life”.


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