He graduated from the Institute of Non-Ferrous and Fine Metallurgy in Moscow in 1936, which enabled him to become a machine operator.
By 1939 he had become engineer-in-chief of the Pribalkhashatroi mine, and joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Communist Party of the Soviet Union), a condition of the position. Kunayev was deputy chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic from 1942 to 1952. In 1947, 1951, 1955 and 1959 he also was a deputy in the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic Supreme Soviet.
Kunayev"s rise in Communist Party ranks had been closely tied to that of Leonid Brezhnev"son
Khrushchev appointed Panteleymon Ponomarenko as the first secretary of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan, and Leonid Brezhnev as the second secretary, in February 1954. Soon, Kunayev and Brezhnev developed a close friendship which lasted until the death of Brezhnev.
When Brezhnev left Kazakhstan in 1956, I. Iakovlev became the First Secretary of the Kazakh Communist Party. Kunayev was an ardent supporter of the Virgin Lands campaign, which opened millions of hectares of lands in central Kazakhstan to agricultural development and caused a large influx of Russian immigrants into Kazakhstan.
In 1962 he was dismissed from his position as he disagreed with Khrushchev"s plans to incorporate some lands in Southern Kazakhstan into Uzbekistan.
Ismail Yusupov, a supporter of the plan, replaced Kunayev. He became first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan again in 1964 when Khrushchev was ousted and replaced by Brezhnev. He kept his position for twenty-two more years.
During Kunayev"s long rule, Kazakhs occupied prominent positions in the bureaucracy, economy and educational institutions.
A Brezhnev loyalist, he was removed from office under pressure from Mikhail Gorbachev, who accused him of corruption. On 16 December 1986 the Political Bureau replaced him with Gennady Kolbin, who had never lived in the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic before.
This provoked street riots in Almaty, which were the first signs of ethnic strife during Gorbachev"s tenure. In modern Kazakhstan, this revolt is called Jeltoqsan, meaning December in Kazakh.
He spent the last years of his life in charitable activity, establishing the "Dinmukhamed Kunayev Foundation", one of whose purposes was the support of political reform in Kazakhstan.
An institute and avenue in Almaty have been named after him as well as an avenue in downtown Astana.
Kazakhstan Academy of Sciences. Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union]
Brezhnev became the first secretary of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan in 1955 and a member of Communist Party of the Soviet Union Political Bureau in 1956. He was an alternate member of the Political Bureau from 1967, and a full member from 1971 to 1987.