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The Armenian Genocide Museum

Open Armenia


Heydar Aliyev

Heydar Aliyev

The third president of the Azerbaijan Republic

On June 15, 1993, Heydar Aliyev was elected chairman of the Azerbaijani Supreme Council and on July 24, by the decision of Milli Majlis he began to implement the powers of president of the Azerbaijan Republic. June 15 was declared National Salvation Day and has been marked as a public holiday since 1998.

During Heydar Aliyev's rule, Azerbaijan's attempts to seize Karabakh and completely de-Armenianize it became tougher (Aliyev achieved serious results as early as under Soviet power when attempts were made to reverse the demographic situation in favor of the Azerbaijanis by settling Karabakh with Meskhetian Turks, Kurds and other nations).

As a result, the Karabakh Liberation Army liberated:

July 23, 1993 – Aghdam

August 22, 1993 – Fizuli

August 23, 1993 – Jabrail

August 31, 1993 – Kubatly

October 29, 1993 – Zangelan


According to official biography, Heydar Aliyev was born on May 10, 1923. They say that during his childhood, he distinguished himself with a desire to outstrip everyone – with craftiness, strength or slyness. He was an excellent swimmer and was good at painting, for which his teachers held him up as an example to his classmates.

At the age of 14, he entered two-year pedagogical vocational school – the only educational institution in Nakhijevan at that time. Of course, he never worked as an elementary school teacher, but his pedagogical education proved useful to him later: in 1984, Aliyev, a member of Politburo, headed the commission on Soviet school reform.

In 1939, Heydar was sent to Baku to study architecture. It is known that he was a member of an amateur theater and played in student performances at the institute.

A war broke out. Like all those born in 1923, Aliyev, a student, was to go to the front. But Heydar stayed in his native town, in the cushy job of head of the agricultural department of Council of People's Commissars of Nakhijevan ASSR.

Many years later, when Aliyev worked in Moscow, letters from Azerbaijan poured to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. One of them said that in 1941 Aliyev submitted a fake tuberculosis certificate to the military registration and enlistment office. Party Control Committee chairman Boris Pugo sent a commission to Azerbaijan to check the outrageous fact of the Politburo member's biography.

Certainly, the commission did not find any certificates. But it is strange that no other documents were found either. For instance, the register of births of Nakhijevan mosque turned out not to have a record of Heydar's birth! There was no birth certificate either. But the entrance application, in which Heydar wrote with his own hand that he was born in 1922, was preserved at the pedagogical vocational school. That is, he should have served in the army already in 1940.

The commission did not find the personal file of student Aliyev in Azerbaijan Industrial Institute. The completely frightened rector, called to the commission, explained in a confused manner that shortly before it, some people came, requested the folder with documents and did not give it back.

As for the author who signed the letter to the Central Committee, he had to leave Azerbaijan and hide in Leningrad at then first secretary of regional committee Romanov. The story of Aliyev's draft dodging surfaced again in 1991 and was published in Azerbaijani Rural Newspaper.


In 1944, Heydar Aliyev was admitted to work in the state security system. Of course, not without the recommendation of uncle Hasan. At first he quickly advanced in his career – four years later he was already head of the 5th department that engaged in counter-intelligence. A successful career awaited him.

Heydar was married off in 1948. The bride was chosen to comply with the hopes set on him – it was Zulfia, daughter of first secretary of Dagestan regional committee Abbas Aliyev. She was reputed to be the first beauty of Dagestan.

Her beauty, majestic bearing of a Caucasian woman, natural intelligence (she was a DPhil, which is not mandatory for a wife in the East), her tact and charm impressed anyone who saw her at official receptions in Moscow in the 1980s.

The elite marriage, even with such a beauty, apparently did not make Heydar happy – he played his young wife false half a year after the marriage.

His lover was a "co-worker." She was known to be from Ukraine and she slept with German officers in the years of the war. She tried to escape to Germany with one of them in 1944. They were caught, the German was sent to a camp and she was recruited by the state security bodies. She appeared in Baku as a Lubyanka agent.

Aliyev had several secret addresses and that was where the lovers met. Their affair failed to be hidden from the envious co-workers who were displeased with the fast career of the young protégé. A scandalous report was sent to the management. The case reached Moscow.
Sharp measures were taken – Heydar was demoted to junior lieutenant and transferred to the lowest position in the operational work. His lover was simply ousted "from the ranks."

According to the norms of that time, Aliyev was to be expelled from the party, but the almighty uncle Hasan interfered and the KGB party meeting pronounced its decision – severe reprimand, recorded in his registration card. Then the district committee reduced the punishment to a simple reprimand and his registration card was left untouched.

The second blunder in Aliyev's biography taught him a good lesson. He became an exemplary family man. Zulfia gave birth to daughter Seville and son Ilham.

But Heydar moved up the career ladder not so fast. Uncle Hasan was removed from his post after Stalin's death.

Only in 1964, Aliyev rose to the position of KGB deputy head and three years later became head of KGB and became a general.

In 1969, Aliyev was elected first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan. In 1982, 20 days after Brezhnev's death, new general secretary Andropov transferred Aliyev to Moscow to the post of Politburo candidate member.

Aliyev behaved perfectly in Moscow. People from service staff tell that they have never seen him drunk. He did not smoke, did not use bad language, did not seek relaxation and even did not go hunting in Zavidovo. He only went to work in the morning and came home in the evening. He drove by a Brezhnev ZIL with a bright red upholstery of cabin – he was very proud of that car. He ordered to lay a beaver lamb rugs on the floor – none of Politburo members had a one like that.

Only rarely, at his wife's and children's insistence, he went out to a festive concert at the State Kremlin Palace.

For the most part, the Aliyevs lived in a Central Committee cottage in Gorki-10. There was also a five-room apartment in Aleksey Tolstoy Street in Moscow. The apartment formerly belonged to Central Committee secretary Boris Ponomaryov. Aliyev personally oversaw the repairs before moving into the apartment (he was an architect, after all), and decorated the house in oriental style. The Aliyevs brought furniture from Baku. There were many carpets in all the rooms. The decorations also included wine red velvet curtains, flowers and paintings. A large library was located in one of the rooms. His daughter, who had two children, and his son, who got married in Moscow (his bride was sent for from Baku), lived in separate apartments in the center of the capital. His son lectured at Moscow State Institute of International Relations. He was sacked literally a week after his father was dismissed from his job in 1987.

Aliyev's wife died from cancer in the autumn of 1985 in Moscow. She was laid to rest in Novodevichy Cemetery.

People's Artist of the USSR Muslim Magomayev, for whom Heydar Aliyev arranged a probation in Milan's La Scala back in 1972, sang Azerbaijani mugham over her grave.

Doctored records

Becoming first secretary of the Central Committee of the Azerbaijan Communist Party, Aliyev at first showed unusual zeal. The "cotton issue" was being discussed in the republic at that time – whether or not to reduce the sown areas of the laborious but low-yield crop? Such talks caused displeasure in Moscow – the country needed more and more "white gold." Aliyev knew what they expected from him. He stated at his first plenum in August, "Anti-cotton sentiments in the republic are done with." The Aliyev cotton repeated the history of Khrushchev corn – it was spread everywhere by reducing sown areas of other crops and destroying pastures. The head of livestock declined sharply in the very first year. The Azerbaijani peasants, remaining without land and job, went to towns to engage in trade.

But Aliyev was capable of feeling the moods and had a gift of speaking to people. He drove through the regions that suffered from his "voluntarism." Those who recently scolded him in tearooms began praising him.

Speaking to his subordinates, he inquisitively looked into their eyes and asked, "Do you know arithmetic? Then calculate rightly how much cotton your people grew with their heroic labor." The directors calculated diligently. As a result, Aliyev reported to Moscow that the republic collected two million tons of cotton. But indeed, it could never collect more than one million even in the best harvest year. They carefully pointed to Aliyev that the number was incredible. He reacted immediately – six secretaries of cotton sowing regions were sent to prison for doctored records.


Aliyev is undoubtedly a gifted person. For instance, he is capable of learning, and not only from his own mistakes.

Before being appointed first secretary, Heydar spoke Russian poorly and it was unbecoming for the head of state as he was to deliver speeches during party plenums and congresses in Moscow. Aliyev urgently sent for two university professors – in Russian and Azerbaijani. Several weeks later, he could speak Russian for hours and even got rid of his Caucasian accent.

Heydar with time learnt how to cope with Moscow bureaucracy. His second secretaries were Russians.
They changed frequently – it was equal to exile for a party official to get that position in Baku at that time. For instance, one of them suffered from a heart disease, someone told him that fig was useful in treating the disease. He agreed to go to Baku actually because of that fruit.

Aliyev provided him with figs in an unlimited amount. Another one collected old coins and Aliyev always helped him to enlarge his collection.

No leader traveled from Baku to Moscow without gifts.

For instance, when President of Azerbaijani Academy of Sciences Akhundov traveled to the capital, a carriage packed with fish and caviar was attached to the train.

In Baku also every top guest was given generous gifts. Brezhnev traveled to Azerbaijan three months before his death. A gold pendant with precious stones was made at the local jewelry factory for Viktoria Petrovna. On seeing the luxurious gift, she felt shy and waved her hands, "What are you doing, this is a very expensive thing!" Leonid Ilyich grabbed the knick-knack in his fist: "Give it to me!" – and thrusted it into his jacket pocket.

Then the pendant together with other valuable gifts to Politburo members was handed over to Gokhran by Gorbachev's order.

The Party Control Committee tried to find out the origin of the pendant. The director of Baku jewelry factory remembered that there had been a high order. However, no documents were preserved and the actual value of the knick-knack remained secret.

Surprising the guests with luxury is the characteristic of Eastern rulers. It seems to be the nature of Aliyev. Once a "reception house" was urgently built in Baku for the arrival of a high-profile guest from Iran. Heydar Aliyev himself designed it – his incomplete architectural education proved useful to him. A huge, three floor high chandelier decorated the central hall. It was manufactured in Austria for $35,000. The entire mansion cost one million dollars.

Everything Aliyev did finally turned to the benefit of him.

In 1993, he himself settled in the "reception house" which began to be called a presidential palace. The location of the palace make it impossible to see it or take a photo of it from city highways and the nearest approaches are carefully guarded by police.


Aliyev held the office of first secretary for 14 years. Many in Azerbaijan still remember some acts useful to the republic. He managed to "win" the construction of new large factories in Moscow – oil machine-building, platforms of deep-water drilling, computers. Oil production in the Caspian Sea region declined in the mid 70s – it put Baku oil refineries at the risk of closure. Aliyev then achieved construction of Grozny-Baku oil pipeline and oil flowed to Azerbaijan through the pipeline from Tataria and Tyumen.
This was achieved only thanks to Brezhnev's patronage.

Aliyev literally took away from under his Ukrainian colleague Shcherbitsky's nose the air conditioner factory.
A consultation of first secretaries of union republics' communist parties was taking place in Tashkent. The aged Brezhnev could hardly tolerate the heat and the air conditioner in his hotel room turned out to be useless.
Sleepy Leonid Ilyich complained in the morning, "I thought a tractor was working in the next room all night." Aliyev, who stood next to him, sympathized with the general secretary, saying that there are heat fighting specialists in Baku, but there is a need to build a powerful enterprise producing air conditioners. Brezhnev immediately approved Aliyev's proposal. The factory that was planned to be built in Zaporozhye moved to Baku.

Aliyev, who evaded conscription, suddenly thought that the fact that the Azerbaijani youths are called up exclusively to construction battalion is hurting national dignity. He founded a "military school named after commander Nakhichevanski" (the very same khan who served in the Red Army). Azerbaijani students appeared in military colleges and higher education institutions. Aliyev could hardly foresee how the events would turn out. But after the collapse of the USSR, the Azerbaijani army was staffed with its own officers and generals. They did not forget who gave them their first shoulder straps and in the troubled year for Azerbaijan, 1993, helped Aliyev come back to power.

Heydar was gradually getting into the role of considerate "father of the nation." On his initiative, young Azerbaijanis went to study at practically all large higher education institutions of the country. The places for "national personnel" were allotted by a targeted assignment. The entrance exams were held in Baku. Instructors and professors sent from higher education institutions could appreciate Caucasian hospitality in full. "Aliyev's students" regularly received greeting cards on his behalf by the beginning of every academic year. Aliyev, already first deputy chairman of Union Council of Ministers, kept the list of his protégés in his personal safe. He regretted very much that he failed to take it with him after his resignation – Aliyev was in hospital after a heart attack at that time.

Those specialists currently occupy key positions in republic's industry (especially oil industry). They also supported their patron in the days of his second coming to Baku.

It is needless to say that most of those students belonged to the Nakhijevan clan. During Aliyev's first rule, their elder relatives made one-third of district committee secretaries, district executive committee chairmen and two-third of the academicians.


Aliyev's Moscow career was successful at first. Andropov made him a candidate member of Politburo, then first deputy chairman of Union Council of Ministers and Politburo member. Aliyev was in charge of fourteen ministries – transport and social sectors. Andropov's death and Chernenko's appointment as general secretary did not bring a change to Aliyev's life. But Gorbachev brought a cool wind of change and then a hail of troubles came.

Heydar tried to make friends with the new team with his proven methods. He stressed his respect in every possible way. Even in official documents, violating subordination, he put the signatures of Central Committee staff members in the front and only then put the signatures of subordinate ministers. He arranged guest performances of Baku Theater of Opera and Ballet at the Great Kremlin Palace.
He invited all apparatchiks to the luxurious premiere of Fikret Amirov's ballet One Thousand and One Nights, and during the intermission, he generously treated them backstage to brandy and oriental sweets.

Everything was in vain. Gorbachev could hardly hold back his irritation when he saw Heydar. He as if on purpose clumsily pronounced the name of the republic – he got something like "Azebarjan."

And the death of Aliyev's wife did not cause even the slightest sympathy of the general secretary. Once Mikhail Sergeyevich simply lost his temper. It was this way.

Aliyev headed the commission on the construction of Baikal–Amur Mainline. The construction dragged on and required more and more investment, the return was minimal.
Aliyev traveled to Siberia, conscientiously examined and made a report on Politburo. During his speech, Gorbachev interrupted him with venomous remarks, tried to throw him off, then shouted, accusing Aliyev of failure of the "construction of the century" – Heydar was hospitalized two days later with a massive heart attack. He struggled for four more months. In an attempt to prove his capacity for work, he conducted consultations right in the ward. In vain. Right there, at the hospital, he had to write a resignation letter.

Heydar lived alone in his Moscow apartment for three more years. It was in fact a house arrest. His cottage, car and household servants were taken away. His daughter took care of the household.

Once he planned to go to Baku – Gorbachev, through his assistants, strictly warned him to stay where he was. Gorbachev's protégés and Aliyev's hateful enemies – Vezirov and Mutallibov – ruled there, in Azerbaijan, replacing each other. Aliyev expected to live long and therefore, he heeded the warning.

But Gorbachev was losing power. Heydar snatched the moment to break loose.

Bloody events broke out in Baku in January 1990. Troops occupied the city on January 20. The next day Aliyev came to representative office of Azerbaijan SSR in Moscow, where he harshly criticized Gorbachev in his speech. It was sent to Baku, where it delighted supporters of anti-Moscow Popular Front.

Heydar turned suddenly and announced himself a supporter of Azerbaijan's independence. In July 1991, a month before the putsch in Moscow, he quit the CPSU. He criticized Gorbachev's project of the union treaty. Aliyev said, "All republics cannot be sovereign within one sovereign state."

At the very first opportunity, he flew to Nakhijevan, where he was immediately elected chairman of Supreme Majlis. According to the Azerbaijani Constitution, he was simultaneously vice speaker of Azerbaijani parliament.
But Heydar did not appear in Baku yet – his another rival, president Elchibey, also from Nakhijevan, leader of Popular Front, ruled there.

Oil and blood

Perhaps, none of the former USSR republics experienced so much tragic events in the 1990s as Azerbaijan. The protracted war in Karabakh undermined the economy. The enterprises stopped operating. About one million refugees left their homes.

But Azerbaijan also got unseen wealth – oil in the Caspian Sea. In fact, the Caspian oilfields were explored as early as under Aliyev's rule. He concealed from Moscow the real amount of "black gold" pools. Moscow always believed that Caspian oilfields are unpromising. But it miscalculated.

It thought better of it when Elchibey's government (which appeared to include people who knew about the possessions of the republic) began making contracts with the biggest oil companies in the world. The projects stipulated annual production of 50 million tons of oil from the bottom of the sea. Margaret Thatcher visited Baku and after that visit Englishman Terry Adams headed the so-called Azerbaijan International Operating Company.

Russia simply had no place in the initial projects. Lukoil head Vagit Alekperov tried to discuss it with Elchibey at the beginning of 1993. He explained vaguely that participation in the project of a new big company would put off the beginning of exploitation of the oilfield, which is undesirable for the Western partners.

The contract signing was set for June 4. The day before, Russian foreign minister Kozyrev announced that Russia does not accept the agreement. A certain Suret Huseynov raised a mutiny against Elchibey in Ganja on June 4.

He was director of a cannery and was considered a wealthy person in the city. He was friends with the top brass of Soviet airborne division stationed there and bought weapons from them. Huseynov in time acquired a big detachment of fighters. That detachment marched towards Baku, meeting no resistance from the government troops.

Heydar Aliyev, who was sitting quietly in Nakhijevan, entered Baku with the mutineers. He was met by crowds of people. Banners with his portrait and slogan reading "I will give you what you want" hung in the streets.

Elchibey fled to Nakhijevan. Many of his supporters found shelter in Moscow. Aliyev was immediately elected speaker of parliament and became president of Azerbaijan in October.

Now, it is no secret that Huseynov's mutiny aimed to turn Baku's oil policy to the North. And of course, Aliyev was expected to do that without fail. But he did not forget the old offences and deceived Moscow once again – he postponed the signing of the oil contract for some time.

When the new projects were made public (it was in the autumn of 1994), it turned out that Russia got nothing again.
Then Suret Huseynov raised a mutiny again, this time against Aliyev. But this time Aliyev was supported by the army and the interior ministry, whose officers were once pushed forward by Heydar. Huseynov's detachments were smashed in Ganja, Suret fled to Russia. In the beginning of the current year, the Russian authorities extradited Huseynov to the Azerbaijani authorities. Now he is testifying in prison.

Shortly after Huseynov's fighters were smashed, Aliyev carried out cleansing in the army. He blamed defense minister Rahim Gaziyev for the defeat in the Karabakh war and declared him a traitor. Gaziyev fled to Moscow. Then Aliyev completely changed the army personnel.

In May 1995, the new oil projects were ready for signing. A mutiny broke out in Baku again. The special police squad (OPON), one of the most combat-ready units of Azerbaijani force structures, revolted. A bloody fight was going on in the center of Baku for several days. Commander Rovshan Javadov and 40 fighters of OPON died, about 300 people were arrested.

As for the oil contract, it was signed without a delay. Russian Lukoil was also included in the consortium – Aliyev let Alekperov have one-tenth of the Caspian oil belonging to Azerbaijan.

After the smash of OPON, Aliyev easily did away with the unarmed opposition. Most of the Popular Front leaders found shelter in Russia. But they do not feel safe here as they became a small coin in oil bargaining between Aliyev and Moscow. As necessary, the Federal Security Service extradites one or another oppositionist to Aliyev.

Russia has another tool to exert pressure on Heydar Aliyev – Karabakh. The OSCE commission, which also includes Russia, has failed to make a constructive decision for four years now. Moreover, Russia provides military assistance to Armenia through unofficial channels.

The transportation routes of the first Caspian oil were discussed at the beginning of this year. There were several options. The route through Turkey to Mediterranean port Ceyhan was considered to be the most promising one.
Another one was through Georgia, the third one was through the Northern Caucasus to Novorossiysk. The Armenian army received almost $1 million worth of armament and heavy military equipment from Russia in spring (the suppliers have not been found so far). Aliyev gave in – the Caspian oil will flow by the northern route and Russian company Transneft will get $16 per one ton of dispensed oil, which will amount to $80 million a year.

Aliyev rules practically alone in Azerbaijan. The parliament exists formally, but in practice it only ratifies presidential decrees and international agreements. Aliyev's power is mainly held up by corruption in the executive power and fear. A state official in Azerbaijan receives a monthly salary of $30 (the average salary in the country is $25) and simply cannot but take a bribe. And it is no secret to him that the all-seeing and all-hearing president is aware of that. He is scared and will never violate the will of his ruler.

Azerbaijan's police and special services are powerful and large. When the president goes out of the palace, two policemen stand on both sides of the road after every 20 steps, machine gunners on house roofs keep the whole neighborhood at gunpoint. The presidential motorcade at lightning speed drives through narrow side streets.

Heydar Aliyev is very much afraid of attempts on his life.
Stories about how he was attacked occupy more and more place in his public speeches. Even during his recent visit to Kazakhstan, he spoke about it extensively before MPs.

He divided his main two properties among his children. His son Ilham is vice president of the oil consortium. His daughter Seville heads the cotton corporation. It is being talked in Baku that Ilham will probably inherit the rule of the country after his father's death. But his son is treated with skepticism, if not to say more. It is rumored that Ilham lost one million dollars in a casino in one night. His father paid off the debt. Website is created by "Xenophobia Prevention Initiative"
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