Kunayev, Dinmukhammed Akhmedovich

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(19121993), second ethnic Kazakh to lead the Kazakh Communist Party, member of the Soviet Politburo.

Born in Alma-Ata, Dinmukhammed Kunayev became a mining engineer after graduating from Moscow's Kalinin Metals Institute in 1936. He joined the Communist Party in 1939 and soon became chief engineer, and then director, of the Kounrad Mine of the Balkhash Copper-Smelting Combine. Between 1941 and 1945 he was deputy chief engineer and head of the technical section of the Altaipolimetall Combine, director of the Ridder Mine, and then director of the extensive Leninogorsk Mining Administration. From 1942 to 1952 he also was deputy chairman of the Kazakh Council of People's Commissars. Having obtained a candidate's degree in technical sciences in 1948, he became a full member of the Kazakh Academy of Sciences in 1952 and served as its president until 1955 and as chairman of the Kazakh SSR's Council of Ministers from 1955 to 1960.

By now a regular delegate to both the Kazakh and Soviet Party Congresses and Supreme Soviets, Kunayev progressed within the Communist hierarchy as well. In 1949 he became a candidate, and in 1951 a full member, of the Kazakh Central Committee, and in 1956 a member of the Central Committee of the CPSU. A member of the Kazakh Party's Bureau, he first served as the powerful first secretary from 1960 to 1962 and, after chairing the ministerial council from 1962 to 1964, served again as first secretary from 1964 to 1986. In 1966 he also became a candidate member of the Soviet Central Committee's Politburo, in 1971 he was promoted to full membership, and he was twice named a Hero of Socialist Labor (1972, 1976). Much of his success was due to the patronage of the Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, who himself earlier had been the Kazakh Party's first secretary. Critics charged that Kunayev showered Brezhnev with gifts and cash, but left politics to Party officials while he focused on the interests of his large and corrupt Kazakh clan. Even so, he did promote the concept of Kazakhstani citizenship and, in December 1986, his dismissal for corruption and replacement by the Russian Gennady Kolbin sparked the Alma-Ata riots. Despite Kunayev's ejection from the Politburo in January 1987, in 1989 his supporters secured his election to the Kazakh parliament, and he remained a deputy until he died near Alma-Ata in 1993. In late 1992 his clan and former Kazakh officials honored him by establishing a Kunayev International Fund in Alma-Ata. It had the proclaimed goals of strengthening the Kazakh Republic's sovereignty, improving its living standards, and reviving the Kazakh cultural heritage.

See also: central committee; communist party of the soviet union; kazakhstan and kazakhs


Olcott, Martha Brill. (1995). The Kazakhs, 2nd ed. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution.

David R. Jones