Speech by Ilham Aliyev at the solemn ceremony to mark 95th anniversary of national leader Heydar Aliyev
- Dear ladies and gentlemen! Dear friends!
It is the 95th birthday of great leader Heydar Aliyev today. The Azerbaijani people today are once again expressing their respect for the fond memory of the great leader.
Heydar Aliyev was a brilliant personality, a visionary leader and a brave man. He dedicated his entire life to his native nation and always served the people with dignity and devotion. Regardless of the public and political structure of society, Heydar Aliyev always felt the support of the Azerbaijani people and confidently led Azerbaijan forward. Both in the Soviet times and in the years of independence, in the most crucial moments for Azerbaijan and its people, the leadership qualities of Heydar Aliyev, his wisdom, thoughtful policy and bold steps saved our people from great troubles. The people believed in him, loved him and always supported him.
In Heydar Aliyev’s leadership in Azerbaijan during the Soviet period, the republic developed successfully and rapidly. In 1969, when he was elected head of the Azerbaijan Republic, Azerbaijan was one of the most backward republics of the Soviet Union. This is confirmed by socioeconomic indicators. As a result of 13 years of tireless work, Azerbaijan became one of the most advanced republics of the Soviet Union. If there were two donor republics in the Soviet era, the 1980s, Azerbaijan was one of them. Azerbaijan contributed more funds to the all-Union treasury than it received.
It was in those years that a high pace of industrial development was achieved in Azerbaijan. A lot of work was done in the light, heavy and oil industries. The infrastructure created at that time still serves the development of the independent Azerbaijan today. A lot of attention was paid to agriculture. Azerbaijan turned into a large construction site. If we look at the socioeconomic indicators of 1982, we can see that tremendous work was done in the 13 years of Heydar Aliyev’s leadership, and Azerbaijan, as I have already noted, was in the forefront.
The work he was doing, his principled position and personal qualities were, of course, were highly valued by the Soviet leadership. In 1982, after the death of Leonid Brezhnev and the ascent of Yuri Andropov to power, Heydar Aliyev was the first person he appointed. He invited Heydar Aliyev to Moscow and offered him high positions of first deputy chairman of the Council of Ministers and a member of the Politburo.
I remember quite well that my father hesitated for several days and did not want to leave Azerbaijan. The work he had done had certainly contributed to the significant development of Azerbaijan. He had major plans related to the further development of Azerbaijan. But at that time, of course, there was iron discipline. In addition, the Soviet state was faced new challenges, and he took on this tremendous responsibility. While he was in charge of many very important sectors in 1982-1987, he contributed to the successful development of the Soviet state. It was under his direct leadership that the Baikal-Amur Main Line, a major infrastructure project, was successfully completed.
At the same time, he always paid great attention to Azerbaijan and provided his help. Of course, the work he had done here facilitated Azerbaijan’s development even after he left the republic. Despite this, the socioeconomic performance of the republic was gradually deteriorating. The republic was on the decline. As a result, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Azerbaijan was faced with a great catastrophe.
In other words, the great leader did a great job at the time. He is still remembered with great respect and reverence in post-Soviet republics. My numerous meetings with those he worked with suggest that he was a decent man in the true sense of the word and worthy of great respect.
In 1987, Heydar Aliyev was removed from all positions by the then Soviet leadership without any justification. There were no grounds for that, because his professionalism and the results of the work he had done did not correlate with the injustice he was faced with. But those who were in the Soviet leadership at the time, the leader of the Soviet state showed a very negative attitude towards him. Heydar Aliyev was a very principled man. He spoke everything frankly. He saw that the situation in the country was deteriorating. He saw that instead of real reforms there was empty talk and populism. He saw that the decisions being made served to weaken the Soviet state. At the same time, starting from 1985, major violations were committed in the Soviet Union in the field of ethnic relations. The Soviet Union was a unified state primarily due to the regulation of ethnic relations. Until 1985, these relations rested on a sound basis. All peoples could develop and maintain their culture.
Therefore, Heydar Aliyev could not remain indifferent to all these unpleasant tendencies and openly expressed his position. Soviet leaders were not impressed with that, of course. After his removal from all positions without any grounds, Azerbaijan lost a huge pillar. Our insidious neighbors immediately took advantage of this and less than two weeks after his resignation Armenian separatists and their patrons in the center raised the issue of withdrawing Nagorno-Karabakh from Azerbaijan and transferring it to Armenia.
So the factor of Heydar Aliyev, the fact that such a strong personality was at the center of the state did not allow separatist tendencies to raise their head. There were such trends before 1969. Only after Heydar Aliyev came to the leadership of Azerbaijan were all these trends stopped.
From that time on, a great injustice was shown against our people and republic. As a result, Azerbaijan was faced with a great catastrophe. I can say with full confidence that if Heydar Aliyev had been in Azerbaijan at the time, he as the head of Azerbaijan would never have allowed the separatist tendencies to raise their head and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to begin. His determination, courage and authority would never have allowed such a possibility to emerge. Unfortunately, the subsequent leaders proved weak, did not demonstrate adherence to principles, and their personal career was much more important to them than the interests of their people.
Until 1990, Heydar Aliyev lived as a pensioner. Although the center organized defamatory campaigns against Heydar Aliyev, he always enjoyed the respect of the Azerbaijani people. In the tragic days of 1990, Heydar Aliyev was again next to the people as a real leader and showed them the way. I remember those terrible days too well. The Soviet government and the Soviet leader committed a great crime against the Azerbaijani people. The bloody tragedy of January is a monstrous crime, a monstrous crime against our people. More than a hundred innocent people were brutally killed. Hundreds of others were wounded and went missing. Heydar Aliyev immediately stood up to this injustice. On 21 January, he went to the permanent representative office of Azerbaijan in Moscow. I was also there with him. He condemned the Soviet leadership, this heinous act, and expressed solidarity with the Azerbaijani people. This step required great courage because Heydar Aliyev was subjected to terrible pressure and Soviet propaganda campaigns at the time. But these dirty deeds could not extinguish the people's love for him. On the contrary, the people saw that there was a great injustice towards their leader and tried to rally around him even more closely. Heydar Aliyev's remarks at a press conference held at the permanent representative office in Moscow on 21 January 1990 was repeatedly published and shown on television. Let me repeat that this step required tremendous courage. He demonstrated once again that the problems, interests and grief of the Azerbaijani people were above everything for him, more than anything else for him, and he had to be with his people in hard days. I also want to note that Soviet power was still quite strong at the time. The collapse of the Soviet Union was still two years away. No-one could ever imagine that the Soviet state would collapse.
After that, Heydar Aliyev left the ranks of the Communist Party which he had served for many years. He made a serious statement, and, of course, the campaign of pressure and persecution against him assumed even larger proportions. According to absolutely accurate information, even the issue of his arrest was raised. It was impossible to stay in Moscow, and serious steps were also taken against all members of his family. All family members were dismissed from their posts, although the posts were not very high, they were quite ordinary. It is possible to say that we saw and felt the pressure of the repressive Soviet government machine at the time.
Heydar Aliyev went to his homeland and arrived in Baku. Unfortunately, he was not allowed to live in Baku, had to go to Nakhchivan, where he was born, and live there. The Azerbaijani people began to rally around him. The Azerbaijani people could clearly see that only Heydar Aliyev could get them out of this difficult situation and that only he can save the people. The people of Nakhchivan united around Heydar Aliyev, elected him chairman of the Supreme Majlis, and he defended Nakhchivan from occupation. Armenia intended to occupy Nakhchivan as well, but Heydar Aliyev did not allow this to happen. Tremendous mobilization work was carried out there, self-defense detachments were set up and the occupation of Nakhchivan was prevented. The people of Nakhchivan defended Heydar Aliyev because the PFPA and Musavat tandem, which had unlawfully seized power following a coup d'état in 1992, began to act against Heydar Aliyev and intended to commit a coup in Nakhchivan too. They even wanted to deploy one of the detachments of internal troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Nakhchivan, made threats to the people of Nakhchivan and Heydar Aliyev, but had to abandon these dirty deeds after seeing serious resistance and the fact that that this adventure could cost them dearly. They showed cowardice again, as they repeatedly did afterwards, and had to give up their dirty intentions.
The Nakhchivan period is very memorable. I remember it well. I went to Nakhchivan to see my father several times. I was there with him. A lot of work was done in very difficult conditions to protect Nakhchivan and for its existence. A lot was also done for our independence. It was on the initiative of Heydar Aliyev that the tricolor flag of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was, after a long break since 1920, approved at a session of the Supreme Majlis of Nakhchivan as the official state flag. This was the beginning of a path leading to independence.
The situation in Azerbaijan was gradually exacerbating. Our lands were being occupied by Armenia. The PFPA-Musavat government could not live up to people’s hopes. With its negligent and treacherous policy, it dealt a huge blow to the Azerbaijani people and Azerbaijani statehood, and brought the country to an uncontrollable state. There were chaos, anarchy, looting, tyranny, political, economic and military crisis, our lands were under occupation. The then leaders of Azerbaijan resorted to crimes, to civil war in order to cling to their shattered power. We remember those days and years too well. In order to stay in power, they decided to bomb Ganja. A picture of the destroyed buildings of Ganja comes to life before our eyes today. The Azerbaijani people said “no” to this anti-national government. Our people could endure them for only a year and rallied around their leader. Back in 1992, leading representatives of Azerbaijani intelligentsia, prominent public figures turned to Heydar Aliyev with the suggestion to establish a party, and a constituent assembly of the New Azerbaijan Party was held in Nakhchivan in November 1992. This meant the creation of a political system of the young state, because until that time there was no political system in Azerbaijan. Political relations did not exist at all. In 1993, Heydar Aliyev arrived in Baku at the request of the people. At that time, the PFPA-Musavat government showed cowardice once again by stepping aside. It is possible to say that the country was in an uncontrollable state. In that difficult situation, the people entrusted this historic mission to Heydar Aliyev.
From 1993 to the present day, Azerbaijan has been on a path of successful development. Despite the fact that there were two attempted coups in 1994 and 1995, the Azerbaijani people did not allow these criminal elements to seize power illegally again. Of course, the authority, courage and policy of Heydar Aliyev did not allow anyone to seize power unlawfully.
After that, a period of stability started in Azerbaijan and it continues to this day. Important decisions were made and political reforms were launched. It was in those years that the strategic choice related to our development was made: Azerbaijan should develop as a modern and democratic country. Economic reforms were launched and principles of a market economy began to be applied as fundamental principles. Azerbaijan managed to establish relations with the international community and get out of the international isolation it was in at the early stages of our independence. The international communications necessary for our country contributed to the attraction of investments to Azerbaijan. In 1994, the Contract of the Century was signed. It has played an exceptional role in our history and economic development. In 1995, the Constitution of the independent state of Azerbaijan was adopted. In addition, a political and legal assessment was given to the 20 January tragedy. Unfortunately, the previous government remained indifferent to this issue. Azerbaijan started to develop successfully. The goals of the country for 1993-2003 were successfully fulfilled. Major steps were taken to build the army. The Horadiz operation was carried out successfully and some of our lands were liberated from the invaders. So over 10 years, great steps were taken in Azerbaijan towards state building, and they still precondition our successful policy today.
In an address to the nation in October 2003, Heydar Aliyev, shared his views about the work done and voiced his confidence that his followers would continue his path and would be able to successfully manage Azerbaijan.
In 2003, the Azerbaijani people showed great confidence in me, and from that day to the present, I have been trying to live up to it. In 2003, on the eve of the presidential election, I promised that if the people trusted me with this mission, the policy of Heydar Aliyev would be continued in Azerbaijan. I am proud to have kept my word, as Azerbaijan has been successfully and confidently following the path outlined by Heydar Aliyev for the past 15 years. Stability is fully provided in Azerbaijan, and the Azerbaijani people is the guarantor of that. We see the situation in different parts of the world aggravating these days. There are new hotbeds of conflict, bloody confrontation, civil wars, coups, etc. They happen because people are unhappy with the governments, because governments don’t pursue the right policy at the proper level, don’t address people’s problems, can’t secure economic development, and allow for large violations. In Azerbaijan, the Azerbaijani people, the unity between the people and government are the guarantor of stability. Azerbaijan today is one of the most stable and successfully developing countries on a global scale.
The Azerbaijani state rests on a solid foundation. In the past 15 years, we have pursued a serious policy related to our national values. Our national values, our traditional values are the basis for us. I am very glad that the younger generation today is brought up in the national spirit. The sense of national dignity is growing. Our independence is perceived and supported by society as the greatest asset.
Azerbaijan has become an exemplary country on a global scale for the way it has handled interreligious and ethnic relations. Representatives of all nations and religions live under the Azerbaijani sky like one family, in the conditions of peace and friendship. This is our great asset and a great success of our policy.
Azerbaijan is a country enjoying high authority in the international community. We have equal, excellent and constructive relations with many countries. We never depart one step from our principled position. Our relations with our partners are based on mutual interests. Our judicious foreign policy allows us the opportunity to build up our strength, enhance our influence on the international arena, and also address internal problems, in particular those associated with economic development.
Our principled position on the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict remains unchanged. In the 2003-2018 period, over 15 years, many international organizations, including the UN General Assembly, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and other organizations, adopted resolutions reflecting our fair position related to this conflict. The Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict must be resolved only on the basis of norms and principles of international law. The territorial integrity of Azerbaijan should be fully restored and four resolutions of the UN Security Council must be implemented. These resolutions explicitly state that the occupying forces should unconditionally withdraw from the occupied lands. There are no other ways to resolve the conflict. The territorial integrity of Azerbaijan is not, never has been and never will be a topic of negotiation. The Azerbaijani people and state will never allow a second Armenian state to be created on Azerbaijani soil. If someone thinks otherwise, I believe that they live with vain illusions. The territorial integrity of Azerbaijan must be secured completely and unconditionally. This is required by justice and international law. Nagorno-Karabakh is an integral part of Azerbaijan. This is evidenced by history, culture and international law. The last far-fetched "referendum" held in Nagorno-Karabakh was not recognized by any country or international organization. This shows once again that the international community and all countries consider Nagorno-Karabakh an integral part of Azerbaijan. We will continue to strengthen our principled position. Azerbaijan has ample opportunities both on the international plane and in the region. No project can be implemented in the region without our participation. The sooner this reality is understood in Armenia, the earlier the conflict will be resolved and peace established in our region.
We are also doing extensive work in the world in connection with the Khojaly genocide. In recent years, more than 10 countries have recognized the Khojaly genocide, an unprecedented crime perpetrated by the Armenians, as an act of genocide. This process will be continued.
We have built a strong army. The leading rating agencies dealing with the ratings of armies see the Azerbaijani army among top 50 armies of the world. We know this, and our military power is growing with every passing day. Two years ago, the Azerbaijani army liberated a part of Agdara, Fizuli and Jabrayil Districts from the invaders. The Azerbaijani flag flies on these lands, our native lands today. I am sure that the day will come when the Azerbaijani flag will be raised on all our lands currently under occupation, including Shusha and Khankandi.
Following the path outlined by the great leader, we managed to build a strong economy. Over the past 15 years, there has been no other country in the world developing economically as fast as Azerbaijan. Our economy has grown more than threefold. Leading international organizations, the Davos Economic Forum rank Azerbaijan in 35th place in the world in terms of competitiveness. We are in third place among developing countries. We have huge economic resources. Our foreign reserves exceed our foreign debt five times. The fight against poverty and unemployment in Azerbaijan is yielding excellent results. Great progress has been made in addressing these social problems. We have implemented historic projects in the fields of energy and transport, and their implementation continues. We have completely resolved domestic issues related to energy security. In the future, we expect to complete major projects related to the supply of Azerbaijan's energy resources to world markets.
Azerbaijan has become one of the transport centers of Eurasia. The North-South and East-West transport corridors are being implemented thanks to our major investment, and the still outstanding issues in this area will definitely be resolved.
We are successfully developing in all directions. Our development is underpinned by the policies of great leader Heydar Aliyev. We remain committed to this policy, will not turn away from the chosen path and always go forward.
I want to reassure the Azerbaijani people again that we will continue to follow the path of development and progress. Thank you.