President of post-Soviet Azerbaijan who guided his nation through its first decade of independence.
Heydar Aliyev was a political survivor who shed his old Soviet skin to assume a new one of free-marketeer and would-be democrat. He rose to the pinnacle of the Soviet establishment, then seized the opportunity presented by the demise of the Soviet Union. His term in office as president of Azerbaijan was dominated by the sell-off of Caspian oil and the conflict in Nagorno Karabakh.
Aliyev joined the NKVD, the KGB's precursor, while still in his teen and rose to the rank of general before he was 30. His meteoric rise through KGB propelled him, in 1960s, to head the Azerbaijani branch. He was elevated to the politburo in 1982 - the first Muslim to achieve such status. Mikhail Gorbachev drove him from power in 1987.
Aliyev, however, was invited to Baku, in 1993, when the political condition in Azerbaijan came under pressure. Now was back in power, he proceeded to lure foreign investment to exploit the country's oil fields. He brought stability, signing a ceasefire with neighbouring Armenia after a dispute over the Nagorno Karabakh enclave that had cost more than 20,000 lives. Heydar's powers of memory were legendary and he often delivered speeches for hours at a time.
Aliyev's final months, spent in hospitals in Turkey and the US, were shrouded in mystery. Many Azeris believe their government concealed his death until power was transferred to his son Ilham.
In Baku, signs of Heydar's emerging cult are everywhere, from his portraits at traffic intersections to his name associated with the vast oil pipeline that is the key to Azerbaijan's future wealth which was solemnly inaugurated, in 2005, as the Heydar Aliyev Baku-Tablisi-Ceyhan Oil Pipeline.
Heydar Ali-oglu (son of Ali) Aliyev, according to official histories, was born in the Azeri province of Nakhchivan.
Compiled by:M. Nauman Khan