ASTANA – Kazakhstan celebrates the 112th anniversary of the birth of a prominent Kazakh politician Dinmukhamed Kunayev on Jan. 12. As the nation stands in a pivotal moment in its political reforms, it offers a chance to honor the life and legacy of the outstanding politician, who led the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) for an impressive 25 years and left a meaningful legacy, approaching his duties with honesty and integrity.
“Unity, solidarity, diligence, cult of knowledge, professionalism, mutual support, entrepreneurship, proactivity, honesty, modesty and frugality” make up the values of true patriots who can form a new quality of the nation, as mentioned by President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev in his recent interview with Egemen Qazaqstan newspaper.
Kunayev embodied a multitude of those virtues, which makes him a figure to stand as a beacon of inspiration for those championing progressive efforts in Kazakhstan.
During his time as the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Kazakh SSR from 1964 to 1986, Kunayev had an opportunity to defy Soviet corporate hegemony, shape the views of his fellow citizens, amplify the voices of Kazakhs and play a leading role in building a nation.
Facilitator of social change
Kunayev was anything but a reluctant reformer, making changes in the economy, education and culture.
Between 1955 and 1985, the output volume in the construction industry alone increased eight times, in agriculture by 6.2 times and in industry by 8.9 times. The country was fully electrified and new highways were constructed.
New cities and settlements have emerged. The former capital Almaty, then Alma-Ata, was transformed into an industrial, cultural and scientific center, becoming one of the most beautiful cities of the Soviet Union. The Palace of the Republic (concert hall), Kazakh State University campus (KazGUgrad), Arasan health center, Medeu sports complex, and many other buildings of social and cultural importance were built.
The scientific and intellectual potential of Kazakhstan grew significantly. The five-volume scientific work on Kazakhstan’s history was published in Kazakh and Russian under Kunayev between 1977 and 1982. He also protected Kazakh intelligentsia from arbitrary political persecution, namely the writer Ilyas Esenberlin and poet Olzhas Suleimenov. This protection enabled them to create works that later became widely known and recognized among the readership and earned them state prizes.
Defender of territorial integrity
Kunayev played a critical role in preserving the territorial integrity of Kazakhstan during the 1960s-70s. Despite pressure from the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to transfer cotton-growing areas of south Kazakhstan to Uzbekistan, Kunayev vehemently opposed the move, citing the republic’s expertise in developing virgin lands and expressing concerns about potential complications in inter-republic relations.
Remarkable individual and politician
While effectively managing politics, Kunayev retained his humble personality and showed what hard work, passion, and care for others can achieve. A person of great integrity, he had significant influence among the people of Kazakhstan due to his intelligence and simplicity.
“There is no greater happiness to be a son of a generous and kind people. This is the Kazakh people. And happy is the nation that has a faithful son who honors its past and sincerely works for its bright future. This great son is Dinmukhamed Kunayev,” writes a prominent Indian statesman Jawaharlal Nehru about Kunayev’s personality.
“He and I have two similar qualities. The first is our simplicity, and the second is that Almaty, in its green outfit, seemed to me to be a twin of our Kashmir. Amazing similarity!” he wrote.
Kunayev possessed a profound understanding of the intricacies and dynamics of power. From living through the Stalinist era and contributing to the development of the country across different phases of socialism to the destruction of the Soviet country and the communist ideology, he bore witness to the emergence of independent Kazakhstan, and he celebrated the successes achieved by the nation he had seen evolve throughout his lifetime.