From Tractor driver to Prime Minister – Sultan Ibraimovich Ibraimov

September 20th, 2013 Sections: Soviet Union, Who's Who
Sultan Ibraimovich Ibraimov

Sultan Ibraimovich Ibraimov

Last month, President Atambaev took part in a ceremony in Tokmok, unveiling a monument to to the prominent statesman and public figure, Sultan Ibraimovich Ibraimov, who was the President of the Council of Ministers – the equivalent of the Prime Minister – of the Kirghiz Socialist Soviet Republic for two years until his death in 1980.

He may be remembered more for the mysterious circumstances of his death which have never really been explained – assassinated by two shots to the head from a sniper’s rifle whilst in a resort on Cholpon Ata on 4th December, 1980, at the age of 53.  The event was deemed sufficiently important to merit a mention in the New York Times … even though most of their readers might not have had the slightest idea of where the Kirghiz SSR was.

Sultan Ibraimov was born 86 years ago today, on 20th September 1927, into a peasant family in Alchalu – a small village in the Chui region of the Kyrgyz Socialist Soviet Republic.

He began his working career modestly enough as a kolhoz worker on a collective farm in the Chui valley, where he seems to have served for over ten years, becoming tractor driver and then a Hyrolic Engineer, graduating from the Tashkent Institute of Engineers of Irrigation and Agriculture Mechanization.

Then, in the mid 1950’s, he became an Associate Fellow of the Institute of Water Resources at the Kyrgyz Academy of Sciences and then, in 1957, joined the Communist Party and worked as an Instructor in the Department of Science at the University of the Central Committee.

After that he was appointed as as Second Secretary in the Alamedinskiy District Committee of the Communist Party, before being appointed as the Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources.

As such he was responsible for considerable irrigation projects extending the area of land under cultivation, for cotton, corn and beets – as well as the establishment of reservoirs such as Kyrgystan’s first; the Orto Tokoi reservoir just outside Kochkor.

He served two years as the Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Kyrgyzstan before being appointed as the First Secretary of the Regional Committee of the Communist Party in Osh – basically the governor of the oblast.  Under his leadership a plan for the development of the city was implemented with housing estates built as were many administrative buildings and cultural centers such as the Kyrgyz Drama Theater which now bears his name,  and the road system renovated.

He held that post for ten years before becoming the Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Kyrgyz SSR and then was appointed as the Chairman of the Council of Ministers – basically, the Prime Minister of the republic.

Although he had been responsible for the expansion of irrigation enabling more crops to be grown, he was later to cricise the ever increasing production targets of the State Plan, arguing that without further expansion of the land under irrigation they could not be met and it would lead to a degradation of the industry … and apparently he was proved to be right.

By all accounts he was something of a workaholic and worked to improve the lot of the ordinary people.  Perhaps it is little wonder that he proved to be a popular governor of the southern province … and that may well have been a contributing factor behind his assassination – which is generally thought to have organized by officers within the KGB who saw his popularity as a threat to those in the existing power structure, and may possibly have acted on the orders of the First Secretary, Turdakun Isubaliev, himself, (who was, it is said, increasingly worried about it and the level of support that he perceived Ibraimov was mustering in Moscow), at a time when the USSR was experiencing considerable difficulty and corruption was rife.  If so, it is said that it was the first political assassination in the USSR since that of Kirov in the 1930’s.


Ibraimov had awards bestowed upon him both in life and after his death.  He was awarded the Order of Lenin on two separate occasions, the Order of the October Revolution, and the order of the Banner, (also on two occasions).  As well as the new memorial, his name is perpetuated in the fact that one of the main streets in Bishkek, (formerly known – and sometimes still referred to – as Pravda), was named after him as was Kyrgyz Drama Theater in Osh.

He was married and had five children, two sons and three daughters.  Gulmira, one of his daughters, wrote a biography about him.


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