Heydar Aliyev was the third president of the independent Republic of Azerbaijan, from October 1993 to October 2003, and is considered the founder of contemporary Azerbaijan. He died on 12 December 2003, day which is now celebrated as the Memorial Day of Heydar Aliyev.
1. Founder of contemporary Azerbaijan
Heydar Aliyev became the president of Azerbaijan in 1993 and, through a series of political and foreign policy reforms, he reshaped and transformed the country to what some now call modern Azerbaijan.
Among his achievements, he reformed the constitution, ensuring the separation of powers in the state, legislative, executive and judicial, thus setting the cornerstone of democracy. He recognised the country’s treasure of oil and gas and implemented a new oil strategy that attracted foreign investors, starting a fast-paced development. At his initiative, the Baku-Tbilisi-Jeyhan oil export pipeline was build, securing gas supply to the west and deepening the relations between Azerbaijan and Europe. During his presidency Aliyev also rebalanced Azerbaijan’s foreign policy, strengthening bilateral relations with other countries and international organizations.
He is thought of as the Leader of the Nation, celebrated and commemorated on 12 December, the day he died, across the country. While the occasion is not a bank holiday, many people still take the time to go to his tomb to pay their respects, leaving mounds of flowers behind.
2. Heydar Aliyev Center
On what would have been Aliyev’s 89th birthday, 10 May 2012, the Heydar Aliyev Center, was inaugurated in Baku. The centre, designed by Iraqi-British architect Dame Zaha Hadid, was built to reflect the former president’s ideological foundations of supporting and promoting the Azerbaijani language, history, culture, national and spiritual values.
The museum exhibits, in part, the history and traditions of Azerbaijan, as well as its future. From the interactive displays to the modern design, the centre is a landmark not just of Baku, but the entire country. Spreading over 9 floors and 2 underground levels, the building encompasses various exhibition halls, an auditorium, conference centres and cafeteria, the complex being complete with a landscape area of 13.5 hectares.
Part of the museum is dedicated to its namesake, Aliyev’s state cars being on display on the ground floor and his life and achievements being presented through interactive panels along the way to the history of Azerbaijan section.
On a different floor, a section is reserved for traditions of Azerbaijan, displaying customary clothing and musical instruments, recordings of each instrument playing when you get close. The art of carpet making is also displayed and explained, with different pieces portraying historic and literary scenes.
The mini-Azerbaijan exhibition is another must see, showing miniature models of historical and modern landmarks of the country, from mosques to the flame towers, depicting its dynamic development.
3. Architectural symbol
The museum was designed by Iraqi-British architect Dame Zaha Hadid. She is considered a major figure in the post-modern architecture of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, described by The Guardian as “the Queen of curve”.
Heydar Aliyev Center perfectly reflects this title, having no straight lines and no corners anywhere in its construction. The building simply flows into the shape of a wave, mirroring the Caspian Sea and symbolizing, at the same time, an eternal cycle. The lines on the museum’s exterior are meant to bridge the past with the present.
A tribute to post-modern architecture and landmark of modern Baku and Azerbaijan, the centre was named among the world’s most beautiful museums by National Geographic.