The rise of Heydar Aliyev, beginning in the farthest point of Soviet Azerbaijan, Nakhchivan, under the difficult conditions of the Stalinist regime and World War II, to the height of the Kremlin has been depicted in many books. Heydar Aliyev, who had to resign from his post in the Kremlin due to pressure exerted by Mikhail Gorbachev, then the Secretary General of the Communist Party, returned to his native Nakhchivan and continued his struggle under heavy stress. In 1993, he was invited from Nakhchivan to Baku to ensure the security and stability of Azerbaijan. First, he was chosen as the Speaker of the National Assembly, and on Oct. 3, 1993, he was elected president of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The country suffered from difficult conditions at the start of his leadership, devastated both economically and socially due to the Armenian occupation of 20 percent of Azerbaijani territory, which resulted in more than 1 million Azerbaijanis becoming refugees.
In a short period of time, Aliyev lessened the turmoil in the country by maintaining peace, stability and resolving security problems, which paved the way for the cease-fire agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan in May 1994. The judicial and corporate infrastructure that would provide the integration of Azerbaijan into the world was achieved during Heydar Aliyev's leadership. As a result of this secure environment, the "Contract of the Century" was signed on Sept. 20, 1994. In addition, he made many legal reforms in the area of human rights and democracy. The improvements in economic and social life contributed to Azerbaijan becoming a member of the Council of Europe in 2001. The same year, (Aug. 1, 2001) Azerbaijan began to implement the Latin alphabet, a step that ensured improved integration not only with Turkey, but also the rest world.
Heydar Aliyev was honored with the international Atatürk Peace Award. He was awarded honorary doctorates by more than 10 universities in Turkey (including Hacettepe, Ankara, Atatürk, Ege and Dokuz Eylül), and various municipalities (Istanbul, Ankara, İzmir, Adana, Kars and Giresun) honored him by giving his name to streets and parks.
There is no doubt that Azerbaijan's greatest assurances are its oil and natural gas resources, which Heydar Aliyev helped reach European markets by transiting them through Turkey. With his determined efforts, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum natural gas pipeline projects were realized, which contributed to Turkey becoming an important energy hub. Azerbaijan became a respected member of the international community thanks to its economic and social development, which is the product of the "balance politics" initiated by Aliyev and successfully followed under the leadership of current President Ilham Aliyev. The current success of Azerbaijan is the result of Ilham Aliyev's realization of important energy projects in which he played an instrumental role, such as the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) and the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railroad projects, which will strengthen the power of Turkey and Azerbaijan while creating many opportunities for both countries. There is no doubt that Turkey and Azerbaijan have a long history with a common origin, culture and language.
Heydar Aliyev made great efforts to improve those common bonds and strengthen the brotherhood between the two countries. On that note, one could say the "One Nation, Two States" principle still holds strong and defines the unshakable ties between Turkey and Azerbaijan.
Heydar Aliyev also strived for the creation of a national identity in Azerbaijan. Every year on Dec. 31 Azerbaijanis throughout the world celebrate "World Azerbaijanis Solidarity Day." The unity and solidarity of the Azerbaijanis, their respect for national values as well as the feelings of a sense of belonging to their historical homeland are the main ideas behind this national holiday. Solidarity Day was initiated by Heydar Aliyev while he was the chairman of the Supreme Assembly of the Nakchivan Autonomous Republic, on Dec. 16, 1991. There is no doubt that the World Azerbaijanis Solidarity Day assumed an even greater meaning on the threshold of the 21st century. The major successes achieved in all areas of state building in Azerbaijan since its independence, provided a myriad of opportunities for Azerbaijan to assume an honorable position within the international community and more importantly to celebrate the idea of Azerbaijanism.
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