Heidar the father and Ilham the son – the Alievs, an enduring dynasty in Azerbaijan , who have directed the affairs of this former Soviet state for 40 years.
The reign of the Alievs began in 1969 when Heydar Aliev, a former chairman of Azerbaijan’s KGB, became first secretary of the Communist Party in the soviet republic. In 1982 he was appointed to the Politburo in Moscow, and remained until he was forced to retire following perestroika in 1987. Heydar Aliev resurfaced in 1993 when he was elected President of Azerbaijan following a coup. In 1994, Azerbaijan signed an oil contract worth $7.4bn with a Western consortium. As Heydar Aliev’s health began to deteriorate at the beginning of the 21st Century, he named his son Ilham as his political successor. In 2003, Ilham, already prime minister, was victorious in presidential elections and took office just before the death of his father. Ilham Aliev assumed power rapidly, and continued the policies of his father. Diplomatic stability between Russia and the West and the signing of new energy contracts brought an economic boom to Azerbaijan, helped by the meteoric rise in the price of oil – 150 dollars a barrel in the Summer of 2008. For five years the country enjoyed spectacular growth in annual GDP, but this fell to around 10% in 2008 and remains there. Azerbaijan receives 60 per cent of its revenues from oil exports. Due to the economic crisis, Azerbaijan has seen a reduction in payments sent home by the two million Azeris – fully a quarter of the population – who are migrant workers in Russia. This reduction was especially felt in the third quarter of 2008 causing resentment in the provinces. This economic dip is expected to add to social discontent, but is unlikely to worry Aliev.