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Yuri Andropov was the first head of the Committee of State Security (KGB) who rose to the top of the Soviet Union

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Yevgeny Primakov

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Updated: 25.11.2003

In Russian full Yevgeny Maksimovich Primakov, acting president of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, former Foreign Minister (1996-98) and Prime Minister (1998-99) of Russia.

Mr Primakov was born on Oct 29, 1929 in Kiev, Ukraine but grew up in Tbilisi, Georgia. Educated at the prestigious Moscow Institute of Oriental Studies, he worked for the state broadcasting and television services from 1953 to 1962. He joined the Communist Party in 1959. A speaker of English and Arabic, Primakov is assumed to have worked for the KGB since the 1950s when he reported for Pravda as deputy editor of the Asia and Africa desk. He was the deputy director of world economics and international relations at the Soviet (now Russian) Academy of Sciences from 1970 to 1977 and was made the director in 1985.

Mr Primakov headed the Moscow Institute of Oriental Studies from 1977 to 1985 and analysed international affairs as a member of a circle of progressive foreign policy advisers to Leonid Brezhnev in the 1970s.

Elected to the Congress of People's Deputies in 1989, he was a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party during 1989-91 and of the Politburo during 1989-90 and was recruited by Gorbachev to help institute perestroika, or restructuring.

As Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's special envoy to the Persian Gulf during 1990-91, he tried to persuade Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to withdraw from Kuwait shortly before the Persian Gulf War. Mr Primakov was one of the few aides to warn Gorbachev of a brewing hard-liner coup attempt, and when the coup took place in August 1991 (see August Coup) Primakov stood by Gorbachev and declared it illegal.

Despite his ties to Gorbachev, he seamlessly manoeuvred into the administration of Russian President Boris Yeltsin, becoming the head of the foreign intelligence service until his appointment as foreign minister in 1996.

In September 1998 Mr Primakov was appointed as a compromise premier after Mr Yeltsin dismissed then premier Sergey Kiriyenko after the Russian economy was hit by the global crisis in emerging markets. Mr Primakov has been given broad credit for stabilising the political situation and halting some of the economic decline, but his attempt to court popularity in the Communist-dominated parliament is thought to be one od resons reason why President Yeltsin sacked him in May 1999, replacing him with Sergey Stepashin.

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