Usually, they picture an intelligence officer as an adventurous protagonist of a cloak-and-dagger novel. Someone, who subverts hostile regimes, like Lawrence of Arabia. Besides, they would think technologically and their vivid imagination readily pictures another archetype – a resourceful inventor, like Major Boothroyd (aka Q), a fictional character in the James Bond films, who fights enemies on the high-tech front. But, there are also high command, who routinely oversee complex processes, taking place inside secret agencies. They set in motion all these cogs and wheels of clandestine machinery. Usually, the spymasters’ image is not as impressive as that of field agents. One has to take a closer look in order to perceive complex intricacies of day-to-day activities of high-ranking officers.
Lieutenant General Bulat Bayekenov, born 1942, has played a unique role in the modern history of Kazakhstan and Central Asia. His stellar career includes such high positions as the Chairman of the Kazakh KGB (October 1991-June 1992), then the Chairman of the National Security Committee of Kazakhstan (July 1992-December 1993), the Secretary of the Security Council of Kazakhstan (January 1994-October 1994), the Interior Minister of Kazakhstan (October 1994-October 1995), and the Head of Presidential Security Service (March 1997-May 2001). He is an honorary officer of both the National Security Committee of Kazakhstan (intelligence service) and the State Security Service of Kazakhstan (presidential bodyguards). He made a notable contribution to lawmaking process in the field of the Kazakh intelligence community. Today, he also serves as the Honorary President of the Kazakh Association of Security Companies. Private security companies in Kazakhstan have legally gained more rights with his help, too. Besides, he is a member of the Presidium of the Generals’ Council – a non-governmental organization, which has brought together Kazakhstan’s high-ranking security, justice, military, and police officers under its aegis.
Lieutenant General Bulat Bayekenov (right) with the author of this article
His biography reminds the lives and times of formidable chiefs of the Soviet KGB – Vladimir Semichastny (1924-2001) and Yuri Andropov (1914-1984). Before they were appointed to lead the secret police, both Mr. Semichastny and Mr. Andropov had gained valuable experience at Komsomol – a communist youth organization. Actually, Komsomol was a non-governmental organization. Therefore, its leaders had had to be quite inventive in their efforts to consolidate young citizens of the USSR. But, in many cases the organization was a nice preparatory stage before one takes on challenging tasks of communist and executive bodies of the Soviet Union. From humble beginnings of the Komsomol Department in Saran, Karaganda Region, Mr. Bayekenov turned into one of the leading counterespionage experts in Kazakhstan and Central Asia. In 1982-1985, he served as a senior inspector of the General Inspectorate at the KGB Head-Quarters in Moscow. It was the hard school of practical service. Within this two-year period, every month was practically spent in the following way: two weeks on business trips almost invariably had been followed by two weeks of drawing up a report on the trip. Thus, he acquired direct experience. His inspection tours ranged from the western frontiers of the Soviet Union to Lake Baikal, from the southern frontiers of the great country to the Kola Peninsula on its north.
Then, he headed the KGB Department in Kokshetau Region of Kazakhstan, 1985-1986. He was the Deputy Chairman of the Kazakh KGB, 1986-1990. Mr. Bayekenov also was the chief of the KGB Department in Almaty City and Almaty Region of Kazakhstan in 1990-1991. Thus, his knowledge and skills, gained at the KGB Head-Quarters, were further improved at the provincial level of high command. When he had been appointed to lead the Kazakh KGB just before the collapse of the Soviet Union, this broad experience proved to be of vital importance. The branch of the Soviet KGB had been funded from the state budget of the USSR. Naturally, the disintegration of the Red Empire cut off the Kazakh KGB financing. So, first of all, he had to find new budget sources. Another pressing problem was a brain drain of the secret police’s officers of the Kazakh ethnic origin, because during the Soviet era the majority of the officers had been Slavs. Moreover, there was insufficient equipment, since the most versatile machinery had been located in Moscow. Eventually, all these problems were successfully resolved. But, personnel and hardware issues cannot be coped with, if there is a faulty legal base. That is why, he put lawmaking activities as the number one priority. In June 1992, the Supreme Soviet of Kazakhstan adopted a law, dealing with the National Security Committee of Kazakhstan and its regional subdivisions. More than one thousand normative acts, concerning the secret police and its officers, were revised. He made a substantial contribution to this painstaking legal work.
As one of the closest allies of president Nursultan Nazarbayev, Mr. Bayekenov was also appointed to other positions of utmost importance. During his tenure as the Interior Minister of Kazakhstan, he initiated a nationwide operation Law and Order. Almost the entire personnel of the Interior Ministry participated in this operation, which was primarily intended to strengthen passport control and fight street crime. As the Head of Presidential Security Service, he placed high emphasis on preventive measures against possible threats to dignitaries. Besides, he did his best to provide presidential bodyguards with state-of-the-art equipment from Germany, the United States, Israel, etc. He also devoted his attention to bodyguard training. His subordinates often participated in international tournaments. Some of them received advanced training abroad. Now, he is a retired professional who has three daughters along with grandchildren and greatgrandchildren. For more than 53 years he has lived together with his wife, Tamara Martynenko. Her father, Vassily Martynenko, was a military pilot killed in action just a few days prior to the end of the Second World War in Europe. By the way, his father, Abdrakhman Bayekenov, was an officer of NKVD – Joseph Stalin’s secret police. So, the hero of our article follows in footsteps of his dad.
Although, by definition, intelligence, counterespionage and police activities are controversial, Mr. Bayekenov has managed to stay away from the scandalous limelight. By and large, his reputation has not been marred by tabloid publications. Of course, I am not going to say that he is a paragon of integrity. Nevertheless, his words and deeds have never caused a public outcry. Well, that is something to be proud of in the turbulent world of modern politics.