Heydar Aliyev

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Heydar Aliyev
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Full Name: Heydar Alirza oglu Aliyev
Alias: Shining Son of the People
Origin: Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan SSR, Transcaucasian SFSR, Soviet Union
Occupation: President of Azerbaijan (1993 - 2003)
First Deputy Premier of the Soviet Union (1982 - 1987)
First Secretary of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan (1969 - 1982)
Goals: Claim the Nagorno-Karabakh region for Azerbaijan (truncated)
Increase Azerbaijan's presence in the world (partially successful)
Crimes: Authoritarianism
Mass repression
Human rights violations
Type of Villain: Dictator

In his eight years of rule, the autocrat has orchestrated a true cult of personality. Pictures of leathery, sphinxlike Aliyev stare from the wall in every office across the country. The paintings with the caption 'Shining Son of the People' show an amazingly rejuvenated president emitting red and yellow rays of light, while in actuality 80-year-old Aliyev is suffering from cancer and has long since chosen his son Ilham to succeed him as president.
~ Lutz Klaveman desribing Aliyev's personality cult

Heydar Aliyev (May 10, 1923 - December 12, 2003) was an Azerbaijani politician who served as the first President of Azerbaijan from 1993 to 2003. Aliyev served as the head of the KGB branch in Azerbaijan. He has long been accused of violating human rights and forming an autocratic system in Azerbaijan with some critics even describing the regime as totalitarian and magisterial. His rule was also characterized by censorship of the press and and atmosphere of fear in Azerbaijan. Aliyev was known for his cult of personality throughout the country.


Aliyev was born in Nakhichevan, Azerbaijani SSR. Aliyev studied architecture and history in Baku. In 1944 he joined the KGB of Soviet Azerbaijan and became its director in 1967. In 1969 Aliyev became First Secretary of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan. In 1982 he was invited to Moscow as a full member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) Politburo and first deputy chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers. He also served as a member of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR for twenty years.

Following Mikhail Gorbachev's accession to power, Aliyev was forced to resign from his positions in the Party in 1986 and in the government in 1987. Aliyev resigned from the CPSU in July 1990 citing, among other reasons, his objections to the use of the Soviet army units against demonstrators in Baku earlier that year. He returned to Nakhichevan, where he relaunched his career as the chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Nakhichevan and deputy chairman of the Azerbaijani Supreme Soviet. In 1993 he was asked by the embattled President Abulfaz Elchibey of independent Azerbaijan to return to Baku. By October 1993 Aliyev was elected president of Azerbaijan. He was reelected in 1998.

Aliyev's main priority as leader of independent Azerbaijan was to secure domestic stability and effective control and exploitation of the country's hydrocarbon resources. Aliyev was able to neutralize unruly elements that threatened internal peace, as well as others who could challenge him politically, while pursuing a policy of selective political and economic liberalization.

In foreign affairs Aliyev adopted a supple and pragmatic approach. He moderated his predecessor's excessively pro-Turkish, anti-Russian, and anti-Iranian policies. Aliyev used the country's hydrocarbon resources to increase Azerbaijan's international stature and, working closely with Georgia, secured the West's political support to balance Russia's influence.

Aliyev's initial policy of continuing military operations in the Nagorno-Karabakh war caused further territorial losses to Armenian forces as well as a new wave of internally displaced persons. In 1994 he agreed to a cease-fire. Aliyev has supported the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's mediation efforts for a permanent solution to the problem of Nagorno-Karabakh as well as direct negotiations.

Aliyev's health began to fail in 1999, when he had a major heart bypass operation in the United States at the Cleveland Clinic. He later had prostate surgery and a hernia operation. He suffered a collapse while giving a speech on live television in April 2003. On 6 August, Aliyev returned to the United States for treatment of congestive heart failure and kidney problems. He stood down from the presidency at the start of October 2003 and appointed his son Ilham as his party's sole presidential candidate. On 12 December 2003, President Heydar Aliyev died at the Cleveland Clinic. He was buried at the Alley of Honor cemetery in Baku.