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Aliyev, Heidar


(b. 1923), Soviet Azerbaijani statesman, president of Azerbaijan (1993).

Heidar Alirza Oglu 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 (thus effective leader) of Soviet 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.

His administration continues to be plagued by charges of authoritarianism, widespread corruption, and tampering with elections. Eight years into his administration, Aliyev's main challengesthe problems of Karabakh, of succession, and of securing new major routes for the export of Caspian hydrocarbon resourcesremain largely unresolved.

See also: armenia and armenians; azerbaijan and azeris; nationalities policies, soviet


Curtis, Glenn E. (1994). Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. Washington, DC: Library of Congress.

Herzig, Edmond. (1999). The New Caucasus: Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. London: Royal Institute of International Affairs.

Swietochowski, Tadeusz. (1995). Russia and Azerbaijan: A Borderland in Transition. New York: Columbia University Press.

Gerard J. Libaridian

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