Dec. 12 marks the anniversary of the death of Azerbaijan’s national leader Heydar Aliyev.
Aliyev, who died 17 years ago, devoted his life to the prosperity and well-being of his nation and holds a special place in the history of Azerbaijan.
A talented politician and public figure, Aliyev demonstrated his ability as a national leader when he assumed the leadership of the country during the most difficult of times, gaining the confidence of his people and laying the foundation for a country with strong economic development.
Born in Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan, on May 10, 1923, it was for his work for his nation during the Soviet period and as president of an independent Azerbaijan that he was referred to as the founder of contemporary Azerbaijan. He created a milestone in the country’s modern history and will remain with us eternally through his ideas and accomplished works that set the future of Azerbaijan.
Aliyev participated in the most complex and contradictory historical processes without losing his self-control in difficult situations, appreciating geopolitical changes that could dramatically affect people.
He became deputy chairman of the Committee of State Security under the Azerbaijan’s Cabinet of Ministers in 1964, and became the head of the republic after being elected to the Plenum of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan as the first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan in July 1969.
Aliyev was elected a member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Soviet Union in December 1982 and, being appointed to the post of the first deputy chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers of the USSR, became one of the leaders of the USSR.
In October 1987, Aliyev resigned from his post in protest over the policies pursued by the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev.
After the tragedy on Jan. 20, 1990 in Baku caused by Soviet troops, Aliyev demanded punishment for the organizers and executors of the crime committed against Azerbaijani’s people. To protest against the hypocritical policy of the USSR leadership and the conflict that occurred in Nagorno-Karabakh, he left the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in July 1991.
After returning to Azerbaijan, he lived in Baku and then Nakhchivan, and was elected as deputy to the Supreme Soviet of Azerbaijan in the same year and held the post of chairman of the Supreme Assembly of the Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan and deputy chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Republic of Azerbaijan from 1991-1993. In 1992, Aliyev was elected as the chairman at the constituent congress of the New Azerbaijan Party in Nakhchivan.
As a result of the governmental crisis in May-June 1993, the Azerbaijani people wanted Aliyev to return power and he was elected as the chairman of the Supreme Soviet of Azerbaijan. He came to power as the president of Azerbaijan on July 24, 1993, approved by the parliament — the Milli Mejlis. Aliyev was elected president of Azerbaijan in a nationwide vote on Oct. 3, 1993, and was re-elected in 1998.
During his presidency, the nation’s foreign policy was rebuilt and transformed into a balanced policy. Bilateral relations between Azerbaijan and other countries, as well as cooperation with international organizations, particularly the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and Arab World countries started to strengthen. His visit to Saudi Arabia in 1994 opened new opportunities for the development of bilateral relations and the two countries signed the first General Agreement on the economy, trade, investment, technology, culture, youth and sports.
Only after his return to power by demand of the people was political stability established. In the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, a cease-fire was achieved between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Armenia. Large-scale economic reforms began and the financial situation of the country stabilized; the volume of investments attracted to the economy increased year by year and a better quality of welfare of the people was achieved.
After returning to power in 1993, Aliyev began to carry out measures related to reviving the oil-gas industry — the locomotive of the Azerbaijani economy.
The new oil strategy implemented in 1994 played a conclusive role in the integration of Azerbaijan into the world economy, attracting foreign investment due to the decisive policy of the president.
Integration of Azerbaijan into the world economic system and the country’s energy security was established with the signing of the “Contract of the Century” on Sept. 20, 1994 in Baku. Under “Contract of the Century,” 11 companies from 8 countries, including Saudi Arabia’s Delta Nimir Company, become shareholders.
Exploitation of the 1996 Baku-Novorossiysk and 1999 Baku-Supsa pipelines, the signing of the agreement on construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Jeyhan main export oil pipeline and diversification of export routes were achieved to export Azerbaijani oil to the world market.
The Baku-Tbilisi-Jeyhan main export oil pipeline is the greatest success of Aliyev’s oil strategy. To ensure the export of Azerbaijani gas to western markets, the construction of Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline was constructed on the initiative of Aliyev.
Development of infrastructure is one of the important directions of social-economic policy. Development of international and transit corridors and roads, inter-district, city and district road-transport infrastructure, as well as rapid integration of national transport systems to world communication was the focus of transport policy. The TRACECA, North-South and INOGEYT Program Projects were carried out to improve the international transport system.
The International Conference on reconstruction of the “Great Silk Road” was organized successfully by the participation and support of some structures of the EU in Baku, in September 1998. The events covered the representatives of 32 countries. The Main Many-sided Agreement on International Transport on development of TRASEKA, the Euro-Caucasus-Asia transit corridor, was signed by 12 countries of Europe and Asia on 8 September, 1998, and the volume of transit load passing through Azerbaijan increased rapidly.
Projects initiated by Aliyev are now being implemented by President Ilham Aliyev. In 2018 TAP and the Trans Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP) successfully completed their connection with the final golden weld, which physically connected the two pipelines. TAP will transport natural gas from the giant Shah Deniz II field in Azerbaijan to Europe. The 878 km long pipeline will connect with the Trans Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP) at the Turkish-Greek border at Kipoi, across Greece and Albania and the Adriatic Sea, before coming ashore in Southern Italy.
Aliyev died on Dec. 12, 2003, but his memory is still alive to this day. He was a leader who gained the love and respect of millions of people through his ideas and hard work. Aliyev will remain forever in the memory and hearts of the people as positive changes in their lives are directly associated with the name of the national leader and his far-sighted policies.
Every year, the people of Azerbaijan and all Azerbaijanis living around the world commemorate his memory.
Aliyev lives and will live eternally because he has always been associated with strong bonds with the people, which were the source of his strength and power.
His ideas and wise policies were successfully continued by President Ilham Aliyev. Under this far-sighted policy, Azerbaijan is rapidly developing and building its reputation. The process of negotiations initiated by Aliyev on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict completed as a result of Ilham Aliyev’s prudent policy and Azerbaijan has restored its territorial integrity.
- Shahin Abdullayev is the Azerbaijan ambassador to Saudi Arabia.