Whom a Rockefeller Befriended?

Conspiracy theories have been told about strong connections between the Soviet Union and the Rockefeller family. Take this one, for example. You may agree or disagree with such an unorthodox view. But, let me narrate you a real story, which is still more unsual and directly related to the aforementioned controversial topic.

The cover of Major General Zakash Kamalidenov's memoir "The Roads of Life", 2010, in Kazakh.

Former chairman of the Kazakh KGB, Major General Zakash Kamalidenov (1936-2017) was also a Komsomol (the main Soviet youth organization) leader. In 1977, he led a Soviet youth delegation to the USA. One of the goals of their journey was Arkansas, where young American counterparts waited for the Soviets. Mr. Kamalidenov published his memoir  “Өмір жолдары” (The Roads of Life), 2010, in Kazakh. Its pages 229-232 contain his reminescences about Arkansas Lt. Gov. Winthrop Paul Rockefeller (1948-2006).

We were invited by a young leader — a young Rockefeller. The previous year, they visited Ukraine, Odessa. They were very happy to be there. We were told that Mr. Rockefeller himself would meet us. Our plane from New York City landed in an Arkansas’ town. 3-4 casually dressed young men greeted us. One of them took my luggage. As we proceeded to a bus, I asked a man from our delegation: “Is there Mr. Rockefeller?” I was surprised to hear that Mr. Rockefeller himself carried my luggage. The young millionaire without any objections carried the luggage of his guest. Upon my return to Almaty, I have often cited this example. A boss of the local Komsomol organization doesn’t carry his own luggage. His financial deputy carries the luggage in front of the boss and escorts the latter to a car. I regard this as a sign of arrogance. Try to be modest, if you are highly placed. One should refrain from such an arrogance. Upon boarding the bus, Winthrop Rockefeller introduced himself“.

Then, Mr. Kamalidenov wrote about a heated discussion between the Soviet delegation and the Governor of Arkansas, where the both sides tried to show advantages of their political systems — capitalism and socialism. Among other things, the Soviets disliked that the Governor was 10 minutes late. But, later they were on friendly terms: “A gala dinner went smoothly. The Governor and Mr. Rockefeller came in with their wives to sit with me“.  The next day, Winthrop Rockefeller invited the guests to his soybean and maize plantation.  Its management was computerized. Mr. Rockefeller oversaw its functioning by a closed-circuit television. Then, he invited Mr. Kamalidenov and a Soviet interpreter to board his four-seat airplane, which was piloted by Mr. Rockefeller himself. They flew to the young millionaire’s cattle farm, where he said that tomorrow would be an auction. He was to sell there 100 cows. Therefore, Mr. Rockefeller personally checked the condition of the cattle.

After that, they proceeded to his office, where they discussed politics. Mr. Kamalidenov remarks in his memoir that Mr. Rockefeller was well-aware of international relations. “He gave a dinner party at his home. Prior to entering a dining room, he invited us to his library. We learned that he collects recipe books from all over the world. He had a book “The Kazakh Cuisine”, which he showed to us. His hospitality resembles that of Kazakhs. He sent our guys to different houses. I stayed at the home of Winthrop Rockefeller. He introduced me to his wife and three little children. He showed me his entire household. The King of Belgium was a guest at his home before me. A young man, just 30-years old. An enterprising citizen with big knowledge. His hard-working nature is evident from his appearance. Comfortable casual clothes. A cap with an emblem. No loose talk. Tight business schedule. In this respect, Winthrop Rockefeller could be a role model for our young people… Thus, my friend Winthrop Rockefeller carried my luggage to see me off at the airport“.

Well, that was really a meeting to remember! One of the richest men in America befriended a powerful KGB officer: the young representatives of the two great countries looked hopefully forward to the future.

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