President, Heydar Aliyev
Left: President Heydar Aliyev in his office.
Right: President Aliyev seeing the new AZgallery.org featuring 1,000 samples of art by nearly 100 Azeri artists produced by Azerbaijan International magazine. Editor Betty Blair and Publisher Pirouz Khanlou look on. Photos: December 5, 1999.
Heydar Aliyev has profoundly shaped the course of history in Azerbaijan over the past 30 years. Here in our final issue dedicated to "Celebrating the Century", Azerbaijan International's Editor, Betty Blair, met with the President to ask him some of his personal memories and impressions of growing up in this century and taking on major leadership roles that have done much to shape Azerbaijan this century.
The following interview took place in the President's office on Sunday, December 5, 1999.
Left: Aliyev (left) playing the lead role in Mirza Fatali Akhundzade's play, "The Adventures of the Lankaran Khan's Visier". Age 15 in 1938, Nakhchivan. Courtesy Aliyev Family Archives.
Right: Aliyev with his daughter, Sevil. Early 1960s. Courtesy: Family Archives
I'd like very much to ask you, not the usual type of questions that most journalists ask about the latest political and regional developments, but rather about your personal experiences growing up and leading this nation for much of the later half of this century.
Go right ahead.
Let's start with some of experiences and interests in childhood that you feel shaped your life and career.
When I was young, I didn't think about becoming a great leader some day. I didn't think that I would enter politics and become a statesman. I didn't even think about the future. Basically, I was just studying as hard as I could in school and trying to gain some basic knowledge and get excellent grades. I would say, though, that when it came to my studies, I was quite disciplined.
Left: Aliyev with his mother. Courtesy: Family Archives.
Right: Aliyev Family Portrait. Early 1960s. His wife Zarife, daughter Sevil and son Ilham. Courtesy: Aliyev Family Archives.
As for my father and mother - they made a profound impact on my life. My mother had eight children. My father worked for the railroad as a locomotive driver. But they had many fine human qualities. It's true that our living conditions were very difficult, but I can't remember that we were unhappy. We thought that our situation and conditions were given to us by God and we accepted them as such.
My mother and father didn't have much formal education, but we kids - all eight of us - received advanced education. Several of us became scientists and professors. One brother became an artist. I eventually entered government service.
Left: President Heydar Aliyev addressing the OSCE Assembly (Organization for the Security and Cooperation of Europe) at the Istanbul Summit in November 1999. Seating was alphabetical by country. Armenia's President Robert Kocharyan is to the right of Aliyev. Photo: Rafig Baghirov.
Right: At the recent OSCE Summit in Istanbul, November 1999. President Aliyev addressed the representatives of the 54 member nations. Photo: Rafig Baghirov.