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Primakov, Yevgeny Maximovich


(b. 1929), orientalist, intelligence chief, foreign minister, and prime minister under Boris Yeltsin.

Born in Kiev, Yevgeny Maximovich Primakov grew up in Tbilisi; his father disappeared in the purges. Trained as an Arabist, Primakov worked in broadcasting in the 1950s and then became a Middle East correspondent for Pravda (and perhaps a covert foreign intelligence operative). In the 1970s he assumed academic posts as deputy director of the Institute of World Economics and International Relations (IMEMO), then as director of the Institute of Oriental Studies, and in 1985 as director of IMEMO.

In 1986 Primakov became a candidate member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and a foreign policy advisor to Mikhail Gorbachev. He was chosen in June 1989 to chair the Congress of People's Deputies, the lower house of the Supreme Soviet formed pursuant to Gorbachev's new constitution. His party status rose accordingly: full Central Committee member in April 1989 and candidate member of the Politburo in September. He was a leading contributor to the "New Thinking" regarding international cooperation that was identified with Gorbachev.

Primakov condemned the attempted coup by hard-line communists in August 1991; Gorbachev then made him First Deputy Chairman of the KGB and head of foreign intelligence. He was one of the few Gorbachev appointees to be retained in office by Russian President Boris Yeltsin after the Soviet Union was dissolved in December 1991.

Appointed foreign minister in January 1996, Primakov was a realistic and cool professional. He was a strong defender of Russian national interests, as opposed to the pro-Western stance of his predecessor Andrei Kozyrev, and often manifested pro-Arab sympathies. Espousing a "multipolar" world, he nonetheless avoided direct confrontation with the West and bargained for a Russian presence at NATO as it was expanding eastward. Later he criticized the 1999 NATO bombing campaign against Yugoslavia but kept open a Russian role in the Kosovo settlement.

Following the August 1998 economic and political crisis, Primakov emerged as a compromise candidate for prime minister. Overwhelmingly confirmed by the Duma in September, he was the most popular politician in Russia. His model for economic

stabilization was President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal in the United States.

As prime minister, Primakov soon aroused the jealousy of the ailing Yeltsin and alarmed the president's family and cronies by investigating corruption. Yeltsin emerged from a long period of torpor and dismissed Primakov in May 1999 in favor of Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin. In reply, Primakov accepted the leadership of the "Fatherland-All Russia" bloc to oppose Yeltsin's forces in the Duma elections of December 1999, and was a strong contender for the presidency in the elections due the following year. But in August Yeltsin replaced Prime Minister Stepashin with Vladimir Putin, who set up his own party, Unity, and capitalized on the war in Chechnya to forge ahead of Primakov's people. Primakov withdrew as a presidential contender in order to run for speaker of the new Duma; however, Putin made a deal with the communists to keep Gennady Seleznyov as speaker and marginalize Primakov. Those maneuvers notwithstanding, in the March 2000 election Primakov endorsed Putin, who subsequently tapped him for occasional diplomatic missions. In 2001 Primakov retired from the presidency of Fatherland-All Russia as it was preparing to merge with Unity.

See also: fatherland-all russia; gorbachev, mikhail sergeyevich; yeltsin, boris nikolayevich


Daniels, Robert V. (1999). "Evgenii Primakov: Contender by Chance." Problems of Post-Communism 46(5): 2736.

Shevtsova, Lilia F. (1999). Yeltsin's Russia: Myths and Reality. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Simes, Dmitri K. (1999). After the Collapse: Russia Seeks Its Place as a Great Power. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Robert V. Daniels

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"Primakov, Yevgeny Maximovich." Encyclopedia of Russian History. . 15 Dec. 2017 <>.

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Russian and Soviet leaders

Russian and Soviet leaders

General Secretary of the Communist Party

1 Equivalent of Prime Minister of the USSR

2 Between 1917 and 1953, the Council of Ministers was replaced by the Council of People's Commissars


Joseph Stalin (b. Dzhugashvili)


Georgi Malenkov


Nikita Khrushchev


Leonid Brezhnev


Yuri Andropov


Konstantin Chernenko


Mikhail Gorbachev

President of the Russian Federation


Leo Kamenev


Yakov Sverdlov


Mikhail Kalinin

President of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics


Mikhail Kalinin


Nikolai Shvernik


Kliment Voroshilov


Leonid Brezhnev


Anastas Mikoyan


Nikolai Podgorny


Leonid Brezhnev


Vassili Kuznetsov


Yuri Andropov


Vassili Kuznetsov


Konstantin Chernenko


Vassili Kuznetsov


Andrei Gromyko


Mikhail Gorbachev1

Chairman of the Council of Ministers2


Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (b. Ulyanov)


Aleksei Rykov


Genrikh Yagoda


Vyacheslav Molotov


Joseph Stalin (b. Dzhugashvili)


Georgi Malenkov


Nikolai Bulganin


Nikita Khrushchev


Alexei Kosygin


Nikolai Tikhonov


Nikolai Ryzhkov


Yuri Maslyukov


Valentin Pavlov

Russian President


Boris Yeltsin


Vladimir Putin

Russian Prime Minister


Viktor Chernomyrdin


Sergei Kiriyenko


Yevgeni Primakov


Vladimir Putin


Mikhail Kasianov

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Primakov, Yevgeny Maksimovich

Yevgeny Maksimovich Primakov (yĬvgyān´yē mŭksyē´məvyĬch´ prē´məkôf´), 1929–2015, Russian government official and economist, b. Kiev (now in Ukraine). An Arabic scholar, grad. (1953) Moscow Inst. for Oriental Studies, and a member of the Soviet Communist party (1959–91), he worked in the Middle East for Soviet broadcasting and the party newspaper Pravda in the 1950s and 60s. He became deputy director (1970) and director (1985) of the Institute of World Economic Affairs and International Relations; he was also director (1977–85) of the Institute of Oriental Studies. In 1989, Primakov became a member of the Communist party's central committee, and he served as President Mikhail Gorbachev's special envoy to Iraq prior to the Persian Gulf War, a war he unsuccessfully tried to prevent. In 1991, after the August Coup, he became head of the Central Intelligence Service. He remained head of the renamed Foreign Intelligence Service under the Russian government until 1996, earning a reputation as a hard-liner. In 1996, President Boris Yeltsin appointed Primakov foreign minister, and in 1998 he was chosen as a compromise candidate for prime minister when the Duma refused to approve Yeltsin's first choice, Viktor Chernomyrdin. Moving cautiously amid an economic crisis, Primakov avoided financial disaster, but after refusing to dismiss Communist members of his government in May, 1999, as the Communists moved toward impeaching Yeltsin, Primakov himself was dismissed by the president. His political party did more poorly than originally expected in the Dec., 1999, parliamentary elections. In 2003 Vladimir Putin appointed him envoy to Iraq, where he once again unsuccessfully attempted to avert war.

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