Azerbaijan's embassy in Addis Ababa on Tuesday marked the 99th anniversary of the birth of statesman Heydar Aliyev, who almost single-handedly plucked the then crisis-ridden Eurasian country from the brink of collapse in 1993.
Remembering the man whose name is synonymous with the modern history of Azerbaijan, dozens of Ethiopians who had benefitted from the country's free education for international students in the 1990s other renowned personalities as well as journalists joined the celebration.
Heydar Aliyev, the statesman helped Azerbaijan to become the stable, self-sufficient and prospering nation it is today and the organisers of events in Addis Ababa to mark almost 100 years of his birth says the fruits of his diplomacy are still being enjoyed in a number of African countries, salient among them Ethiopia and Morocco.
The country's Chargé d'Affaires in Ethiopia, Ruslan Nasibov described Aliyev as one those few individuals who had managed to write their names in the golden ink of history by positively impacting an entire region and humanity as a whole.
Heydar Alirzaoglu Aliyev, was born on May 10, 1923 in Nakhchivan inside present-day Azerbaijan which was part of the Soviet Union now defunct.
He was already a household name among the Azerbaijani people during the days of the Soviet Union when Aliyev led the republic between 1969 and 1982.
His astute development policies turned it from an under-developed agrarian and resource base of the Soviet Union to an industrial powerhouse in the region.
He also succeeded in putting the Azerbaijani language along with Russian in Azerbaijan’s constitution.
From 1982 to 1987 he was the loudest voice of the Azerbaijani people in Moscow given his capacity as a member of the USSR Political Bureau (supreme Executive Body) and First Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers.
He resigned his key positions as the First Deputy Chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers and a member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party in 1987.
In January 1990 he demanded justice from the Soviet Union, effectively as punishment for organizers and perpetrators of crimes against the Azerbaijani people in connection with a bloody tragedy writ large in the modern history of Azerbaijan and known as Black January.
When the nation was on the verge of collapse in June 1993 after the fall of the Soviet Union two years earlier, people clamoured for Aliyev to lead the then troubled nation and was duly elected president on October 3 of that year in a nationwide popular vote.
Azerbaijan faced numerous threats and challenges posed by a shrinking economy, neighbouring Armenia’s military aggression over its illegal territorial claims, the marauding activities of armed and criminal gangs, and the inept management of the country's affairs, a grim fact recalled by Ruslan Nasibov, the Chargé d'Affaires in Ethiopia.
It was thanks to Aliyev’s knowledge, experience, foresight, vision and leadership that Azerbaijan managed to make a dramatic U-turn from imminent collapse to prosperity in all its political, economic, social, scientific and cultural ramifications.
“Our national leader crafted amazing plans and policies many at that time believed to be ambitious, mobilized the people of Azerbaijan, engaged international partners and properly utilized the country’s energy resources for development of human capital. As a result of the foundation laid down by Heydar Aliyev, Azerbaijan reached the club of upper middle income country” said Mr. Ruslan.
According to Mr. Ruslan, Aliyev won the hearts and minds of international partners who started regarding Azerbaijan as a significant and reliable international player.
He signed a so-called contract of the century in September 1994, laid the foundation not only for his country’s greatness but also for the entire South Caucasus region to emerge stronger.
Although Aliyev passed away on 12 December 2003, his policy of statecraft has been largely maintained by his successor President Ilham Aliyev.
“Azerbaijan will go on to prosper, be home of proud citizens, be the emblem of multiculturalism and harmony, a hub of international tourism, a good neighbor to all states that respect its statehood, sovereignty and territorial integrity, a fuel to regional prosperity and reliable, trusted and responsible member of international community conducting cooperation with the countries of the world based on mutual benefit” Ruslan added.
Decades on since Aliyev, Azerbaijanis remember him with utmost pride and love fitting for a great national leader who rescued the country from the ropes and turned it into one of the strongest states in the region with its territorial integrity restored and its place in the comity of nations assured for the future.