Remembering Heydar Aliyev
Faig BaghirovThe rise of Heydar Aliyev, beginning in the farthest point of Soviet Azerbaijan, Nakhchivan, under the difficult conditions of the Stalinist regime and World War II, to the height of the Kremlin has been depicted in many books. Aliyev, who had to resign from his post in the Kremlin due to pressure exerted by Gorbachev, then the Secretary General of the Communist Party, returned to his native Nakhchivan and continued his struggle under heavy war conditions.
In 1993, he was invited from Nakhchivan to Baku to ensure the security and stability of Azerbaijan. First, he was chosen as the Speaker of the National Assembly, and on Oct. 3, 1993, he was elected President of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The country was suffering through difficult conditions at the start of his leadership, devastated both economically and socially due to the Armenian occupation of 20 percent of Azerbaijani territory, which resulted in more than 1 million Azerbaijanis becoming refugees.
In a short period of time, Aliyev lessened the turmoil in the country by maintaining peace, stability and resolving security problems, which paved the way for the cease-fire agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan in May 1994.
The judicial and corporate infrastructure that would provide the integration of Azerbaijan into the world was achieved during Aliyev’s leadership. As a result of this secure environment, the “Contract of the Century” was signed on Sept. 20, 1994. In addition, he made many legal reforms in the area of human rights and democracy. The improvements in economic and social life contributed to Azerbaijan becoming a member of the Council of Europe in 2001. The same year, (Aug. 1, 2001) Azerbaijan began to implement the Latin alphabet, a step that ensured improved integration not only with Turkey, but also the rest world.
Aliyev was honored with the international Atatürk Peace Award. He was awarded honorary doctorates by more than 10 universities in Turkey (including Hacettepe, Ankara, Atatürk, Ege and Dokuz Eylül), and various municipalities (Istanbul, Ankara, İzmir, Adana, Kars and Giresun) honored him by giving his name to streets and parks.
There is no doubt that Azerbaijan’s greatest assurances are its oil and natural gas resources, which Aliyev helped reach European markets by transiting them through Turkey. With his determined efforts, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum natural gas pipeline projects were realized, which contributed to Turkey becoming an important energy hub. Azerbaijan became a respected member of the international community thanks to its economic and social development, which is the product of the “balance politics” initiated by Aliyev and successfully followed under the leadership of current President Ilham Aliyev. The current success of Azerbaijan is the result of Ilham Aliyev’s realization of important energy projects in which he played an instrumental role, such as the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) and the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railroad projects, which will strengthen the power of Turkey and Azerbaijan while creating many opportunities for both countries.
Turkey and Azerbaijan have a long history with a common origin, culture and language. Aliyev made a great effort to improve those common bonds and strengthen the brotherhood between the two countries. While we commemorate Aliyev in the 11th year after his passing, one could say the “One Nation, Two States” principle still holds strong and defines the unshakable ties between Turkey and Azerbaijan.
Faig Baghirov is the Ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan to Ankara