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Heydar Alirza oglu Aliyev ( , ; May 10, 1923December 12, 2003), also spelled as Heidar Aliev, Geidar Aliev, Haydar Aliyev, Geydar Aliyev was the president of Azerbaijan for the New Azerbaijan Party from June 1993 to October 2003, when his son Ilham Aliyev succeeded him.

From 1969 till 1982, Aliyev was also the leader of Soviet Azerbaijan, practically dominating the political life of Azerbaijanmarker for over 30 years. He was married to Zarifa Aliyeva, who died in 1985, and was survived by his son and daughter.

Career in the Soviet era

Early life

The details of much of Aliyev's early life remain obscure. After the graduation from Nakhchivan Pedagogical School, from 1939 till 1941, Aliyev attended the Azerbaijan Industrial Institute (now the Azerbaijan State Oil Academy) where he studied architecture. In 1949-50, he studied at the USSR MGB Officer Corps Qualifications-Raising School. Aliyev's official biography also claims that he studied at the Baku State Universitymarker, graduating with a degree in history in 1957. However, it seems that he actually attended the Ministry of State Security Academy in Leningradmarker .

Leadership of Soviet Azerbaijan

Aliyev joined the Azerbaijan SSR People's Commissariat for State Security (NKGB) in 1944. In 1954, upon the government reform, NKGB became known as Committee for State Securitymarker, or the KGB. Aliyev rose quickly within the agency to the rank of Major-General , became a deputy chairman of Azerbaijani KGBmarker in 1964, and the chairman of this organization in 1967.

In 1969, Aliyev was appointed by Leonid Brezhnev to the post of First Secretary of the Central Committee of Azerbaijan Communist Party amidst a Soviet anti-corruption campaign, taking over from Veli Akhoundov, who was accused of corruption. Aliyev has made some progress in fight against corruption, a number of people were sentenced to prison terms; and, in 1975, five factory and collective farm managers were sentenced to death for gross corruption. In early 1980s, Aliyev closed the republic's law school to the offspring of certain legal personnel in a purported effort to curb a self-perpetuating elite based on corruption.

During his leadership of Soviet Azerbaijan, Aliyev did not develop a commitment to the modernization of social structures, but his efforts led to considerably increased economic growth rates in Azerbaijan SSR. Aliyev became perhaps the most successful republican leader, raising the profile of the underprivileged republic and consistently promoting Azerbaijanis to senior posts. This came at the cost of flattering Leonid Brezhnev with lavish gifts and receptions during his three visits to Azerbaijan SSR. On one occasion, Aliyev gave him a diamond ring, with one large stone in the middle - Brezhnev - surrounded by 15 smaller ones, symbolizing the constituent Soviet Republics, worth estimated 226,000 roubles.

On November 22 1982, Yuri Andropov promoted Aliyev from alternate to full member of Soviet Politburo and appointed him to the post of First Deputy Prime Minister of the Soviet Unionmarker, responsible for transportation and social services. Aliyev thus attained the highest position ever reached by Azerbaijani in Soviet Unionmarker. Aliyev was forced to resign from this position in 1987 amidst the alleged corruption charges by Mikhail Gorbachev.

From KGB to the leader of Azerbaijan SSR

As head of the KGB's branch in Azerbaijan, he ran an anti-corruption campaign masked to purge his opponents. Following the purge, Aliyev soon became the undisputed leader of Azerbaijan. During this time, Heydar Aliyev was enriched and venerated by developing prominent ties with the Azeri mafia. Aliyev, with the help of the Azeri mafia, earned the profits from the Caspian Sea caviar, Sumgait oil, fruits and vegetables, cotton and customs and transport industries of Azerbaijan. In order to remain as undisputed leader of Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev paid bribes to Brezhnev in the form of gifts such as a "Sun-king" diamond ring that was worth up to 226,000 roubles. When two Moscow prosecutors investigated the Azeri mafia, one was tried and expelled from the Communist party and the other was convicted and shot. He also became a candidate (non-voting) member of the Soviet Politburo in 1976. He occupied this position until December 1982 when Yuri Andropov promoted him to the post of first Deputy Prime Minister of the Soviet Unionmarker. The promotion came after a sum of 4 million roubles in bribes, at the cost of the Azeri mafia.

His star waned following the appointment in 1985 of Mikhail Gorbachev as Soviet leader. His political views became a liability in the era of perestroika. Despite the persecutions of all his relatives in Azerbaijan, Gamboi Mamedov investigated Aliyev's corruption and ties with the mafia. This led to the mass suicide of a number of Azeri mafia members, as well as `mysterious` deaths of a number of Aliyev's lieutenants. In October 1987, Gorbachev mounted a clear-out of the Brezhnevite old guard and forced Aliyev to resign from the Politburo "for reasons of health".

George Soros speculated that the first pogroms against Armenians in Azerbaijan were instigated by the local mafia which was controlled by Aliyev, in order to create a situation that was detrimental for Gorbachev regardless of the outcome.

Alivey dominated the political life of Azerbaijan for over 30 years, but left his oil-rich country with a problematic legacy of gross corruption.

Fall and re-invention

After his forced retirement in 1987, Aliyev remained in Moscow till 1990. He suffered a heart attack during this time. Aliyev briefly appeared in the Permanent Mission of Azerbaijan SSR in Moscowmarker, opposing the Sovietmarker reassertion of control in Bakumarker, a military action which resulted in violent Black January events amidst the brewing Nagorno-Karabakh War.

Almost immediately after this public appearance in Moscowmarker, Aliyev officially denounced his membership of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and left Moscowmarker for his native Nakhchivanmarker. Here, Aliyev reinvented himself as a moderate nationalist and was subsequently elected as a deputy to the Supreme Council of Azerbaijan SSR in Bakumarker. Under the pressure and criticism from the groups connected to his nemesis, then-leader of Soviet Azerbaijan Ayaz Mutallibov, Aliyev again returned to Nakhchivanmarker, where he was elected a Chairman of the Supreme Council of Nakhchivan Autonomous Republicmarker in 1991.

By December 1991, when Soviet Unionmarker ceased to exist and Azerbaijanmarker became formally an independent state, despite Mutallibov's presidency, Aliyev independently governed Nakhchivanmarker. The period of early 1992 was marked by increased violence in Nagorno-Karabakh War, further fueled by Khojaly Massacremarker and the fall of Shushamarker, the last Azerbaijani-populated town in Nagorno-Karabakh. These events resulted in resignation of Ayaz Mutallibov and subsequent rise to power of Azerbaijan Popular Front led by Abulfaz Elchibey. During Elchibey's one year in power, Aliyev continued to govern Nakhchivanmarker without any subordination to official government in Bakumarker. The attempt by Popular Front's Minister of Interior Isgandar Hamidov to forcefully overthrow Aliyev in Nakhchivanmarker were thwarted by local militia in Nakhchivanmarker's airport. During the same period, Aliyev independently negotiated cease-fire agreement in Nakhchivanmarker with then Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossian.

On June 9, 1993, amidst the military coup in Ganjamarker, led by Colonel Suret Huseynov, Abulfaz Elchibey was forced to invite Heydar Aliyev in Bakumarker to mediate. On June 24, 1993, Elchibey himself left Baku for exile in his native Nakhchivanmarker while Aliyev was elected to become a Chairman of the National Assembly of Azerbaijanmarker, also assuming temporary presidential powers. In August 1993, Elchibey was stripped of his presidency by the nationwide referendum and Aliyev was elected a President of Azerbaijan in October 1993.

He also tried but failed to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh War, which eventually resulted in the loss of some 16% of Azerbaijan's territory, estimated 30,000 deaths and displacement of over 600,000 ethnic Azerbaijanis. Attempting a military counter offensive in December 1993.He settled for a ceasefire agreement in May 1994 which remains in force till now. The issue remains unresolved, with Armenian military control over Nagorno-Karabakh and hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Azerbaijanmarker as well as in Armeniamarker as a result of the war.

March 1995 coup attempt

On March 13, 1995, an armed insurrection aimed at bringing Aliyev down was staged by the special unit of Interior troops ("OMON") under the leadership of Colonel Rovshan Javadov. Four days later, on March 17, 1995, the units of Azerbaijani Armed Forces surrounded the insurgents in their camp and assaulted it, killing Javadov.

Later, the Turkishmarker parliamentary report on the 1996 Susurluk scandal revealed some details of the involvement of Turkish government, led by then prime-minister Tansu Ciller, and the Turkish intelligence in this coup attempt.

Death and successor

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

Ilham Aliyev duly won the presidential election of October 15, 2003 but international observers again criticized the contest as falling well below expected standards. This transfer of power became the first case of top-level dynastic succession in the former Soviet Union.


Throughout his life, Heydar Aliyev was awarded and decorated with numerous awards. Heydar Aliyev was awarded with the Order of Lenin four times, the order of Red Star once and Hero of the Socialistic Labor twice. On 27 March, 1997 in Kievmarker, Ukrainemarker, Aliyev was awarded with the supreme order of Ukraine, the "Yaroslav Mudry" order. On 13 April 1999, President Heydar Aliyev was awarded with the supreme order of Turkeymarker. the "Peace Premium of Atatürk" order. On 3 April, 2003, he was elected professor and authorized member of the Academy of Safety of the Russian Federationmarker, and was subsequently given the premium of Y.V.Andropov. On 10 May 2003, he was decorated with the order of Saint Apostle Andrey Pervozvanny, which is the supreme order of Russia.

See also


  1. Nikolaij Nor-Mesek, Wolfgang Rieper. The Defense Council of the USSR, Institut für Sowjet-Studien, 1984, p. 9
  2. Richard Sakwa. Soviet politics in perspective, Routledge, 1998, ISBN 0415169925, p. 71
  3. Bernard Anthony Cook. Europe Since 1945: An Encyclopedia, Taylor & Francis, 2001, ISBN 0815340575, p. 70
  4. James Stuart Olson. An Ethnohistorical Dictionary of the Russian and Soviet Empires, Greenwood Press, 1994, ISBN 0313274975, p. 71
  5. Louise I. Shelley. Policing Soviet Society: The Evolution of State Control, Routledge, 1996, ISBN 0415104696, p. 88
  6. Christian Schmidt-Häuer. Gorbachev: The Path to Power, I. B. Tauris, 1986, ISBN 1850430152, p. 205
  7. Thomas De Waal. Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War, NYU Press, 2003, ISBN 0814719457, p. 134
  8. Harold James Perkin. The Third Revolution: Professional Elites in the Modern World, Routledge, 1996, ISBN 0415143373, p. 134
  9. Alexander Hopkins McDannald. The Americana Annual: An Encyclopedia of Current Events, Americana Corporation, 1983, p. 524
  10. Martin McCauley. Who's Who in Russia Since 1900, Routledge, 1997, ISBN 0415138981, p. 13
  11. Roger East, Richard Thomas, Alan John Day. A Political and Economic Dictionary of Eastern Europe, Routledge, 2002, ISBN 1857430638, p. 34
  12. EurasiaNet Eurasia Insight - Azerbaijan: Biography Of Deceased Former President Heidar Aliyev
  13. The Gorbachev Prospect, by George Soros , Volume 36, Number 9, June 1, 1989, The New York Review of Books
  14. Roger East, Richard J. Thomas. Profiles of People in Power: The World's Government Leaders, Routledge, 2003, ISBN 185743126X, p. 32
  15. United States Library of Congress Country Studies Azerbaijan - The Coup of June 1993.
  16. CIA World Factbook 2007. Online Edition
  17. China Daily News Azerbaijan's Geidar Aliev dies at 80. Published December 16, 2003
  18. Human Rights Watch Azerbaijan: Presidential Elections 2003
  19. Radio Free Europe Azerbaijan: Ilham Aliev's Confirmation As Premier Will Keep Presidency In The Family. Written by Askold Krushelnycky. Published August 4, 2003.

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