Former Azerbaijan president dies in Ohio clinic

Dec 13, 2003 01:00 AM

Heidar Aliyev, the "grandfather" of Azerbaijan who dominated the former Soviet state for 36 years, died in a clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, after lengthy heart and kidney problems. He was 80.
A former Azerbaijani KGB chief, he was one of the several former Communist party regional heads who remained in control of their republics after the USSR disintegrated. He was made KGB chief in Azerbaijan in 1967, became its party chief two years later, and was sacked by Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987. He returned to power as president in 1993. His death from congestive heart failure and kidney problems was long expected.

He fell ill in May while making a speech and was admitted to the US clinic in great secrecy in August. Mr Aliyev created one of the first post-Soviet dynasties in the region when earlier this year he engineered his succession by his son Ilham, a reformed playboy. He became president of the oil-rich state in an October election marred by irregularities and a violent crackdown on opposition protests.
Western oil giants, which have formidable concessions in Azerbaijan's Black Sea fields, followed the vote keenly.

Heidar Aliyev’s authoritarian rule was, like many in ex-Soviet republics, masked by a thin veil of democracy and backed up by a strong police presence. In return he gave his people stability after a period of insurgencies and a protracted war over the enclave of Nargorno-Karabakh.
But he did little to improve the lot of ordinary Azerbaijanis. Much of the country outside the capital, Baku, is steeped in poverty.

Source: The Guardian
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