DINMUKHAMED KUNAYEV was one of the last surviving representatives of the corrupt Communist era in one of the largest republics of the former Soviet Union. For 22 years he was the autocratic ruler of the Soviet republic of Kazakhstan. He served Stalin and Khrushchev and became a close ally of Leonid Brezhnev. He was eventually fired by Mikhail Gorbachev.
Born Dinmukhamed Akhmedovich Kunayev in 1912 in Verny, after 1921 renamed as Alma-Ata, the capital of the former Kazakh Soviet Socialist republic, he was the son of a Kazakh clerk. In 1936 he graduated from the Institute of Non-Ferrous and Fine Metallurgy in Moscow, and the same year began his career as a machine operator. Three years later he was engineer-in-chief of the Pribalkhashatroi mine, a position offered him on condition that he joined the Communist Party.
From that time Kunayev held senior executive positions in the mining industry. During the Second World War he became involved too in politics. In 1942 he was promoted to his first political post, as a deputy chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Kazakh SSR, a post he held for 12 years. After the war, in 1947, he became a deputy in the Kazakh SSR Supreme Soviet, a position he occupied later three times - in 1951, 1955 and 1959. In 1950 he was promoted as a deputy to the USSR Supreme Soviet, a post he later occupied twice - in 1954 and 1958. He was President of Kazakh SSR Academy of Sciences from 1952 to 1955.
It was Nikita Khrushchev who promoted Kunayev in 1955 to become chairman of the Council of Ministers of Kazakh SSR, a post he held until 1960; he was simultaneously twice a senior member of the Presidium of Kazakh Supreme Soviet, in 1955 and 1959. In 1956 Khrushchev backed Kunayev's candidature for membership of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. In 1964 he became First Secretary of the Central Committee of Kazakh Communist Party.
After Khrushchev's disappearance from political life in October 1964 Kunayev allied himself with Leonid Brezhnev, who in 1966 again promoted him as a candidate member of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union; in 1971 he became a full member.
Under Brezhnev Kunayev become the ruthless, autocratic ruler of his native republic Kazakhstan which he remained for the next 22 years. He used to come to Moscow and stay in a Politburo house guarded by the KGB and join Brezhnev's drinking parties, dinners and hunting sessions outside Moscow.
In 1954 Kunayev was a member of a Soviet cultural delegation to China. Two years later he was a member of a Supreme Soviet delegtation to Britain and in 1960 a member of a government delegation to the United States. He was holder of eight Orders of Lenin and numerous other political awards.
Dinmukhamed Kunayev's rule was marked by extraordinary corruption and in December 1986 Mikhail Gorbachev fired him from all his posts. His Communist supporters staged disturbances all over the country when he was replaced by a Russian party functionary, Gennady Kolbin.