Heydar Aliyev: The Architect of Modern Azerbaijan

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20131103_104510Muhammad Asif Noor

The history knows the names of the prominent figures that stood with their nations during the days of need and led them to the prosperous future. Heydar Aliyev was one of such leaders who made a modern Azerbaijan, a country of civilization, high culture and most harmonious mixture of ancient history with strong traditions and the boldest modernism, and thus engraved his name to the history. The great journey of development that has made Azerbaijan stood amongst the greatest nations of the world is correlated to the life and efforts of Heydar Aliyev. This name is steadily connected with the socio-political, economic and cultural uplift of the people of the country as well.

Heydar Aliyev was a leader of his nation providing them hope and optimism in the era of despair and distrust. With his wise and foresighted policies, great Azerbaijani leader Heydar Aliyev is the architect of what Azerbaijan is today; independent, economically developed and strategically important amongst community of nations. President Heydar Aliyev was instrumental in playing an indispensable role in keeping the country united, independent and sailing smoothly on a steady path of economic development.

Being a charismatic leader with impressive grasp of politics, he made all efforts to make his country important in the eyes of the west and equally secure relations with the east. Soon after becoming President of the country, the visionary leader was able to elevate the country’s status as an important global player.

Heydar Aliyev spent his early childhood years in the Nakhchivan city of Azerbaijan. He graduated from Azerbaijan Industrial Institute (currently Azerbaijan State Oil Academy), where he studied architecture. Later he went on to pursue his graduation from Baku State University with majors in History in 1957. He received special higher education in Leningrad (present St. Petersburg). Since 1941, Heydar Aliyev headed a department at the Internal Affairs division of the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of Nakhchyvan, and in 1944 was transferred the state security bodies. H.Aliyev remained at the highest ranks of Communist Party –member of Political Bureau and the First Deputy Prime Minister of the USSR. But later as a sign of protest to the policies of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Soviet Union’s Communist Party, resigned from his post.

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In 1991 the Republic of Azerbaijan proclaimed its independence. First years of the newly born state was crucial – aggression of Armenia, collapsed economy, unemployment, skyrocketing inflation. In June 1993 the crisis reached a peak level. The country was at verge of civil war. At that particular time people of Azerbaijan demanded to bring Heydar Aliyev to power. Heydar Aliyev, considering adversity of his nation, accepted the request and returned to great politics in Azerbaijan. The return of Heydar Aliyev brought hope and joy for his countrymen. On 15 June 1993, Heydar Aliyev headed the parliament and later was elected a President of Azerbaijan on national elections with overwhelming majority.

For achieving his dreams and goals for his country and his countrymen, Heydar Aliyev utilized his all efforts and energies to put the country on the path of economic development. He was instrumental in identifying that the nation’s oil and gas resources potential could be the key in securing the independence and successful economic development of Azerbaijan following the country’s succession from the Soviet Union. The visionary leader made the major powers to invest and participate in Azerbaijan’s oil exploration and development thus creating mutually beneficial relations with European countries, US and Turkey. During presidency of Heydar Aliyev major contracts regarding production and procurement of oil and energy has been signed that gave boost to the economic development of the country. A production sharing agreement (PSA) on Azerbaijani Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli offshore fields was considered as a Contract of the Century agreement that led to major investment in the country. Heydar Aliyev ensured the diversification of the transport routs to deliver hydrocarbons to the Western markets. This has not only brought substantial dividends to the budget but served to strengthen sovereignty of the state as well.

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During his rule Heydar Aliyev provided outstanding support to his native land and the progress that he persistently worked hard to achieve for his country earned him respect and love from countrymen even after his death. For his character, life and works, Heydar Aliyev received admiration as a legendary leader of Azerbaijanis and as a respectable political personality from around the globe.

In 1999, Heydar Aliyevs’ health begins to deteriorate and later in 2003 he stood down from presidency. His son, the current president of Azerbaijan, Mr. Ilham Aliyev became the next president after the sad demise of President Heydar Aliyev on 12 December, 2013. He was buried at the Alley of Honor cemetery in Baku.

Today’s Azerbaijan is a stable and prosperous while at the same time it is united and progressive. The economic independence and progress that the country has achieved during the time of Heydar Aliyev are continued and the incumbent government is still following those policies. The economic progress of Azerbaijan is coupled with social cohesion and evolution. It has an independent and clear foreign policy and thanks to all the visionary leadership of past and current both for their works for the people of the country.

The whole commentary about the Azerbaijani National leader may be summed up with quote from President Ilham Aliyev’s speech at the 90th anniversary of late President Heydar Aliyev, who said “ While there is Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev will be alive. We – who continue the work of the great leader – will be going his way, strengthen Azerbaijan, defend our independence.”

Heydar Aliyev, the National Leader of Azerbaijan. 90-th anniversary

“I have always been proud and I am proud today that I am Azerbaijani”

Rapidly developing and flourishing Azerbaijan is a living monument of Heydar Aliyev. He, with his untiring efforts, indomitable will and dauntless courage united his Nation and built a modern, independent Azerbaijani state.

Mr. Heydar Alirza oglu Aliyev was born on 10 May 1923 in Nakhchivan city of Azerbaijan. He started his professional carrier in Internal Affairs Division of Nakhchivan and later got shifted to the state security bodies where raised up to the chairman level in1967.

In July 1969 Heydar Aliyev became the head of the Azerbaijan SSR, in December 1982 a member of Political Bureau of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and First Vice Prime Minister of the USSR.

In October 1987, Heydar Aliyev, as a sign of protest against the policy pursued by Political Bureau of the Communist Party, resigned from his post.

On 20 January 1990 the Soviet troops stormed Baku killing unarmed civilians who raised their voices against injustice made by Central Government. On the next day Mr. Heydar Aliyev reached Azerbaijan Representation in Moscow and in his statement demanded to punish the organizers and perpetrators of the crime committed against the people of Azerbaijan. Protesting the hypocritical policy of leadership of the USSR on Nagorno-Karabakh problem, in July 1991 Mr. Aliyev terminated his membership in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

After return on July 1990 to Azerbaijan, H.Aliyev was elected a member of Azerbaijan SSR Parliament and lead the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic Assembly. In 1992, he became a Chairman of the newly established New Azerbaijan Party.

On 15 June 1993, the day when Heydar Aliyev assumed leadership at the persistent requests of the people at a time when the political, economic and social crisis in the first years of Azerbaijan’s independence brought it the brink of civil war, has gone down in history as the day of National Salvation.
In general elections of October 3, 1993 Mr. Heydar Aliyev was elected President of Azerbaijan and reelected to the same post on October 11, 1998 with overwhelming majority.

Perhaps the first years of Heydar Aliyev’s tenure were most crucial. He became a President of the country with almost no army, collapsed economy, internal and foreign rivals, with a neighboring Armenia occupying the districts of the unguarded country one after another.

In a short span of time Mr. Aliyev formed a National Army which was able to halt aggression and even liberate a significant part of the occupied lands. Despite of unlimited support from outside, Armenia, having faced great losses, have had to sign a ceasefire agreement on 1994.

One of the main achievements of Heydar Aliyev that paved a way to the economic revival of the country was his Oil Strategy. It was based on making politically stable Azerbaijan with further attraction of the Western capital to the exploration of the huge on- and off-shore hydrocarbon reserves of the country and transportation them to the World markets via diversified routs.

On September 20, 1994, the oil contract, later called a “Contract of Century”, was signed with the Western oil companies in Baku. Neither coup attempt nor pressures from outside and inside could break a will of the Azerbaijani leader. This contract instilled a confidence to those who were full of doubts about the future of the newly born Republic.
As a part of the strategy it was decided to transport the hydrocarbons through different routs. Thus the Baku-Novorossiysk (Russia), Baku-Supsa ( Georgia) oil pipelines were commissioned. On 18 November 1999, despite of all pressures and doubts on its feasibility, an agreement for construction of Baku-Tbilisi –Jeyhan oil pipeline was reached. Thus, Heydar Aliyev undertook the next important step for ensuring the long-term political and economic interests of Azerbaijan, as well as ensuring stability and peace in the region.
And finally, on 29 September, 2001, agreement on construction of Baku-Tbilisi- Erzurum gas pipe-line was inked making Azerbaijan not only as an oil but gas exporter as well.
Ultimately, the oil strategy of Heydar Aliyev turned Azerbaijan to one of the oil and gas centers of the world.
The visionary Leader Heydar Aliyev took active steps for making country a regional transport hub. An ambitious interstate programme TRACECA aimed at supporting the political development in Black Sea Region, Caucasus and Central Asia by means of improvement of the international transport as well as construction of Baku-Tbilisi–Gars railway corridor being implemented by his successor Mr. Ilham Alıyev are the parts of the transport strategy of Heydar Aliyev.
The successful integration into the global economy, economic liberalization in the country, Azerbaijan’s growing credit rating, a high level of economic competitiveness, the annually increasing state budget and foreign exchange reserves are a strong indications of a stable economy built by Heydar Aliyev since 1993. The successful development of the non-oil sector in Azerbaijan is also result of Heydar Aliyev’s vision. By handing over land to private ownership, Presidnet Aliyev, whose bold decisions are unparalleled in post-Soviet republics, ensured the country’s food security.

As a result of Mr. Aliyev’s activity, Azerbaijan, capitalizing on its geo-strategic, economic and cultural potential, started to play the role of a reliable bridge between the East and the West and become one of the most dynamic economies in the world.

Over a short period of time, President Aliyev managed to turn Azerbaijan, whose
economy was in decline, the inflation was skyrocketing, there was widespread
unemployment, the atmosphere of hopelessness and other negative phenomena, into a country that has embarked on the path of economic and cultural development.

Leader of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev introduced a balanced foreign policy, based on the interests of the country and Azerbaijan got integrated into the political structures of the East and West both. His successful foreign policy contributed to the growing international authority of the country, which is now perceived as a reliable partner, and to its promotion as a reformist and ambitious state.

Mr.Heydar Aliyev was a founder of Azerbaijan-Pakistan relations. His historic visit to Pakistan in1996 and set of documents signed during the visit formed a legislative base of our ties. Since that very day our relations dynamically develop in political, diplomatic, economic, strategic spheres to the benefit of both Nations.

Construction of a modern, democratic, law-governed state, development of civil society, return to the national and spiritual values, and development of science, education and culture in Azerbaijan are forever linked with the name of Heydar Aliyev. The adoption of the country’s fundamental law, the Constitution, the principle of separation of powers, the alignment of the legal framework and national laws with international standards, the formation of government agencies are integral parts of the broad constructive program implemented under the leadership of Heydar Aliyev.

The role of Heydar Aliyev’s personality is also undeniable in the application of our
native language as the state language, the enhancement of its importance and
evaluation as the greatest asset of the Azerbaijani people.

That was also during the presidential tenure of Heydar Aliyev when Islamic values, which were not much welcomed during the Soviet era, started developing. Construction of new mosques, reconstruction of shrines, setting Islamic education institutions goes to the credit of Mr. Aliyev.

President Heydar Aliyev passed away on 12 December, 2003.People of Azerbaijan highly value the legacy of their National Leader. The Heydar Aliyev Foundation led by First Lady of Azerbaijan, Goodwill Ambassador of UNESCO and ISESCO Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva was established on 10 May, 2004. The main goal of this organization is to implement large-scale projects and programs in line with Heydar Aliyev’s ideas of Azerbaijan’s progress, likewise implementation of various scientific, cultural, healthcare, sport, environmental projects; promotion of cultural heritage of Azerbaijan.

The writer is Director of the Institute of Peace and Diplomacy