Primakov, Yevgeny Maksimovich

(1929– )
   A skilled bureaucrat and academic, Primakov served Soviet and post-Soviet leaders effectively for five decades. After finishing his doctorate degree, Primakov worked as a journalist overseas. In 1970 he returned to Moscow to serve as the director of academic institutes, most importantly the Institute of International Economics and International Relations. During these years, Primakov built up excellent personal and professional contacts with Western academics and journalists. He also developed a reputation as a major voice for political reform inside the Soviet Union.
   In 1989 General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev co-opted Primakov into the Central Committee and then the Politburo of the Communist Party. During the 1991 August putsch, Primakov staunchly supported Gorbachev and was one of the party leaders who went to the Crimea to bring Gorbachev back from house arrest. Almost immediately following the putsch, Primakov was appointed by Gorbachev to head the new Central Intelligence Service, which in December of the same year became the Foreign Intelligence Service of Russia, or SVR.
   As a journalist and academician, Primakov had close contact with the staff of the KGB’s First Chief Directorate and was a good choice both politically and operationally to head the new foreign intelligence service. According to a former Soviet intelligence officer, Primakov was an enrolled KGB agent with the cryptonym “Maksim.” Primakov is widely credited with maintaining SVR morale and operational tempo during his tenure. The SVR suffered relatively few defections during this trying period and continued to run penetration agents in the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Primakov visited the CIA headquarters in November 1994 to institute liaison between the Russian and American services on drug trafficking, nuclear proliferation, and terrorism. As intelligence chief, Primakov also conducted secret diplomatic missions for the Boris Yeltsin government, visiting Afghanistan and Tajikistan. During the next four years, Primakov became a national and international spokesperson for Russian intelligence, emphasizing the differences between the KGB of the bad old Soviet days and the democratic SVR.
   In January 1996 Primakov was appointed minister of foreign affairs, and in September 1998 he was elevated to prime minister of the Russian Federation. In May 1999, however, Primakov was fired by President Yeltsin. Subsequently he became chair of the Fatherland Party in the Russian Duma.

Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. . 2014.

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