(b. Azerbaijan, 10 May 1923; d. Cleveland, USA, 12 Dec. 2003)
Azeri; First Secretary of Azerbaijan 1968–89, President of Azerbaijan 1993–2003 Aliyev was the son of Azeri parents. By the 1960s he had a prospering career in the Azerbaijani KGB, serving as its Deputy Chairman for three years under Brezhnev's corrupt friend, S. K. Tsvigun, eventually succeeding him as Chairman. In 1968 Aliyev gained credit for a successful anti-corruption campaign which brought him the highest Republican Party post—First Secretary of Azerbaijan. Thereafter, Aliyev's career prospered at the all-Union level. In 1971 he became a full member of the Central Committee of the CPSU and in 1976 was elected candidate member of the Politburo. Yuri Andropov made him a full member of the Politburo in 1982. He was one of the few non-Slavs to attain such high rank in the Soviet Union. His fortunes deteriorated under Gorbachev, who removed him from the Politburo in 1987, accusing him of corruption. Possibly his main crime was resistance to reform. His political career appeared at an end in April 1989 when he announced his ‘voluntary’ retirement from the Central Committee.
Aliyev returned to politics after the break-up of the Soviet Union. In October 1993 he was elected President of Azerbaijan by a vote of 98.8 per cent in an uncontested election. He was unable to improve Azerbaijan's performance in the war with Armenia and a ceasefire was agreed in 1994, which saw the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh come under ethnic Armenian control. A major oil contract with Western oil companies was also signed in 1994, this ‘contract of the century’ promising future oil wealth to Azerbaijan. He defeated an attempted coup in March 1995, after which he banned all opposition parties. Re-elected in 1998, he continued to suppress opposition and kept tight control over the country. Ill health stopped his plan to stand again as President in elections in 2003, in which his son Ilham Aliyev won a landslide victory. He died while being treated in hospital in the USA.