Yevgeny Primakov

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Person.png Yevgeny Primakov   History Commons NNDBRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
(spook, deep politician)
E Primakov 03.jpg
BornYevgeny Maksimovich Primakov
Kiev, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union
Died2015-06-26 (Age 85)
Moscow, Russia
Alma materMoscow Institute of Oriental Studies, Moscow State University
ChildrenAlexander Nana
Member ofRussia/Deep state
PartyCommunist Party of the Soviet Union, Independent, Fatherland – All Russia, United Russia
Primakov is associated with Russia's transition from a decade of Atlanticism to a course towards a multi-polar foreign policy.

Employment.png Prime Minister of Russia Wikipedia-icon.png

In office
11 September 1998 - 12 May 1999
DeputySergei Stepashin
Succeeded bySergei Stepashin

Employment.png Russia/Minister of Foreign Affairs

In office
9 January 1996 - 11 September 1998

Employment.png Foreign Intelligence Service/Director

In office
26 December 1991 - 9 January 1996

Yevgeny Maksimovich Primakov was a Russian politician and diplomat who served as Prime Minister of Russia from 1998 to 1999. During his long career, he was also Foreign Minister, Speaker of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union, and chief of the intelligence service. Primakov was an academician (Arabist) and a member of the Presidium of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Primakov is associated with Russia's transition from Atlanticism to a course towards a multi-polar foreign policy, needless to say dimly viewed in Washington. Primakov advocated the continuation of the development of Russia's relations with the countries of Europe and North America, while retaining the right for Russia to pursue an independent foreign policy in China, South Asia and the Middle East.

Early life

Primakov was born in Kyiv in the Ukrainian SSR and grew up in Tbilisi in the Georgian SSR.

His parents were Jewish and the family name was originally "Finkelstein", but was later changed to "Primakov".[1][2][3][4] His father, according to most records, had been sent to the work camps during the Stalinist purges.[2] His mother was Anna Yakovlevna Primakova, who worked as an obstetrician.[5]

Middle East Expert

He was educated at the Moscow Institute of Oriental Studies, graduating in 1953, and did postgraduate work at Moscow State University. From 1956 to 1970, he worked as a journalist for Soviet radio and a Middle Eastern correspondent for Pravda newspaper, journalism being an occupation that has fluid limits to intelligence analysis. (Working under the melodramatic code name 'Maksim' according to the dubious Mitrokhin Archive [6])

In 1969, during a trip to Baghdad, he met Saddam Hussein, and later met one of his close associates - Tariq Aziz, who at that time was chief editor of the newspaper "Al-Thawra". During this period, he made many trips to northern Iraq , often visiting the winter residence of the leader of the Kurdish rebels, Massoud Barzani. Primakov, as a direct channel of communication, was the only Soviet representative who had contacts with the Kurds in northern Iraq and took part in the preparation of the peace agreement concluded by the Kurdish leadership and the Iraqi government in Baghdad. Primakov tried to reconcile the central government of Iraq with the Kurds by granting them autonomy, the right to elect their own authorities, participation in the government, the place of the vice-president of Iraq for a Kurd, but nothing was achieved, and in 1974 the armed struggle of the Kurds resumed.[7]

As the Senior Researcher of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Primakov entered in 1962 the scientific society. From 30 December 1970 to 1977, he served as Deputy Director of Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the USSR Academy of Sciences. From 1977 to 1985 he was Director of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the USSR Academy of Sciences. During this time he was also First Deputy Chairman of the Soviet Peace Committee. In 1985 he returned to the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, serving as Director until 1989.[8]

In the summer of 1971, Primakov, as an analyst under the guise of the status of a special correspondent for TASS, studied the political situation in Egypt, where he concluded, in contrast to the opinion of the Soviet ambassador, that President Anwar Sadat, in contrast to his predecessor, had taken a course of rapprochement with the United States.[7] In July 1971, Primakov wrote proposals on the prospects for Soviet policy in the Middle East, where he cautiously recommended “some proactive steps towards Israel,” with which the USSR broke off diplomatic relations after the Six Day War. These proposals were approved by the Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, which significantly strengthened Primakov's authority in the highest echelons of power.

By the decision of the Politburo of the CPSU Central Committee of August 5, 1971, Primakov was entrusted with a secret mission to establish relations with Israel, which was supported by the head of the KGB Andropov and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the USSR Gromyko. At that time, Primakov held the non-hierarchical position of deputy director of the IMEMO Academy of Sciences of the USSR and was considered a "representative of the public", which ruled out protests from the Arab states if information about Primakov's secret contacts with Israel should leak out.

From August 1971 to September 1977, Primakov visited Israel several times in confidence or met with representatives of the Israeli leadership in the Austrian capital Vienna. Primakov's interlocutors were Prime Minister Golda Meir, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, Foreign Minister Abba Even, after the change of government - Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Foreign Minister Yigal Alon, Defense Minister Shimon Peres, then Prime Minister Menachem Begin... When asked by the Israelis about his powers, Primakov replied that “he was sent to Israel with an unofficial and confidential mission by the Soviet leadership,” but he had no authority to discuss the restoration of diplomatic relations between the USSR and Israel. Primakov tried to persuade Israel to leave the territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip occupied during the 1967 Six-Day War, in return offering guarantees of Israel's security from the USSR and the West. However, the Israelis were convinced that in the event of an attack by Arab countries, the external guarantees promised by Primakov would turn out to be insignificant and really impracticable, which led the negotiations to a dead end.[7]

Early political career

Primakov became involved in politics in 1989, as the Chairman of the Soviet of the Union, one of two houses of the Soviet parliament.[9] From 1990 until 1991 he was a member of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's Presidential Council of the Soviet Union.[8] He was Gorbachev's special envoy to Iraq in the run-up to the Persian Gulf War, in which capacity he held talks with President Saddam Hussein.[10][11]

Foreign intelligence chief

After the failed Soviet coup attempt of 1991, Primakov was appointed First Deputy Chairman of the KGB and Director of the KGB First Chief Directorate responsible for foreign intelligence. After the formation of the Russian Federation, Primakov shepherded the transition of the KGB First Chief Directorate to the control of the Russian Federation government, under the new name Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR). Primakov preserved the old KGB foreign intelligence apparatus under the new SVR label, and led no personnel purges or structural reforms.[12] He was SVR director from 1991 until 1996.[8]

Foreign minister

Primakov served as Minister of Foreign Affairs from January 1996 until September 1998. As foreign minister, he gained respect at home and abroad the reputation as a tough but pragmatic supporter of Russia's interests[13] and as an opponent of NATO's expansion into the former Eastern bloc, though on 27 May 1997, after five months of negotiation with NATO Secretary General Javier Solana, Russia signed the Foundation Act,[14] which is seen as marking the end of Cold War hostilities. He supported Serbia and Slobodan Milošević during the Yugoslav Wars.[15]

He was also famously an advocate of multilateralism as an alternative to American global hegemony following the collapse of the USSR and the end of the Cold War. Primakov called for a Russian foreign policy based on low-cost mediation while expanding influence towards the Middle East and the former Soviet republics.[16][17] Called the "Primakov doctrine", beginning in 1999, he promoted Russia, China, and India as a "strategic triangle" to counterbalance the United States. The move was interpreted by some observers as an agreement to fight together against 'color revolutions' in Central Asia.[18][19]

Prime Minister (1998-99)

After Yeltsin's bid to reinstate Viktor Chernomyrdin as Prime Minister was blocked by the State Duma in September 1998, the President turned to Primakov as a compromise figure whom he rightly judged would be accepted by the parliament's majority. As Prime Minister, Primakov was given credit for forcing some very difficult reforms in Russia. Following the 1998 harvest, which was the worst in 45 years, coupled with a plummeting ruble, one of Primakov's first actions as Prime Minister, in October 1998, was to appeal to the United States and Canada for food aid, while also appealing to the European Union for economic relief.[20]

While Primakov's opposition to perceived US unilateralism was popular among part of Russians, it also led to a breach with the NATO countries during the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, and isolated Russia from them during subsequent developments in the former Yugoslavia.[21]

On 24 March 1999, Primakov was heading to Washington, D.C. for an official visit. Flying over the Atlantic Ocean, he learned that NATO had started to bomb Yugoslavia. Primakov decided to cancel the visit, ordered the plane to turn around over the ocean and returned to Moscow in a manoeuvre popularly dubbed "Primakov's Loop".

Yeltsin fired Primakov on 12 May 1999, ostensibly over the sluggish pace of the Russian economy. Many analysts believed the firing of Primakov reflected Yeltsin's fear of losing power to a more successful and popular person,[22][23] although sources close to Yeltsin said at the time that the president viewed Primakov as being too close to the Communist Party.[24] Primakov himself would have had good chances as a candidate for the presidency. Yevgeny Primakov had refused to dismiss Communist ministers while the Communist Party was leading the process of preparing unsuccessful impeachment proceedings against the president.[25] Ultimately, Yeltsin resigned at the end of the year and was succeeded by his last prime minister, Vladimir Putin.[26] Primakov's dismissal was extremely unpopular with the Russian population: according to a poll, 81% of the population did not approve of the decision, and even among the liberal pro-Western party Yabloko supporters, 84% did not approve of the dismissal.[27]

After Politics

In the last 14 years of his life, Primakov chaired the "Mercury Club" he created, an informal and friendly meeting of veterans of "big politics", where the ex-prime minister made analytical reports. Each meeting of the club was summed up by a summary note by Primakov, which was then sent by the courier service to President Putin. The head of state wrote resolutions on these notes and gave appropriate instructions. According to Valery Kuznetsov, ex-Politburo official of the CPSU Central Committee, Primakov and Putin regularly exchanged views on political issues.[28]


  2. a b
  4. Russian Crossroads: Toward the New Millennium (2008) by Yevgeny Primakov, pp. 17
  6. Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, The Mitrokhin Archive: The KGB in Europe and the West, Gardners Books (2000)
  7. a b c Млечин Л. М. Примаков. — М.: Молодая гвардия, 2015 page 48
  8. a b c Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States: Documents, Data, and Analysis (1997) by Zbigniew Brzezinski and Paige Sullivan, pp. 124
  11. 435
  16. The Geopolitical Curse of the Caucasus (2013) by Nodar Gabashvili