Heydar Aliyev's cult of personality, also known as Heydarism (Azerbaijani: heydərizm), became a significant part of Azerbaijani politics and society after he came to power in 1993 and continuing after his death in 2003, when his son Ilham Aliyev succeeded him. Aliyev, a former Soviet politburo member and the leader of Soviet Azerbaijan from 1969 to 1987, became the President of Azerbaijan in 1993. He then began to carefully design an autocratic system, with heavy reliance on family and clan members, oil revenues and patronage.
In Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev is presented as "Father of the Azeri nation".
Aliyev has long been accused of violating human rights and forming an autocratic system in Azerbaijan, with many critics even characterizing the regime as totalitarian. His personality cult has been compared to that of the Soviet Union, characterized by an atmosphere of fear in Azerbaijan and censorship of the press. This continued following his death. According to Azeri analyst Zafar Guliyev, the 2003 appointment of Ilham Aliyev as his father's successor instigated a process of asserting the personality cult of his predecessor and rewriting recent Azerbaijani history.
In his 2003 book The New Great Game: Blood and Oil in Central Asia, German journalist Lutz Kleveman described the situation:
Opposition analyst Zardusht Alizade has said that Aliyev "was the last representative of the political heritage of Stalin and Beria. [He] personified the most terrible experiences in the fate of the Azerbaijani people." The 2006 US Congressional Record Proceedings and Debates also expressed concern about how Ilham Aliyev's government maintains a "distinct Soviet-era state television network and has elevated Heydar Aliyev to the status of a minor personality cult figure."
American journalist and specialist on the Caucasus, Thomas Goltz wrote in 1998:
Julie Hill described the cult in her 2005 book, The Silk Road revisited: markets, merchants and minarets, as follows:
In 2001, when journalists from CIS countries asked Heydar Aliyev about his cult of personality, he responded:
Every city and town in Azerbaijan has a street named after Heydar Aliyev, including one of the central avenues of capital Baku. According to official information, there are 60 museums and centers of Heydar Aliyev in Azerbaijan.
Other places named after him include:Baku International Airport was named after Heydar Aliyev on March 10, 2004.
Heydar Aliyev Sports and Exhibition Complex, Baku
Ministry of National Security Academy in Baku (ru)
Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center
Heydar Mosque in Baku (opened in 2014)
Baku Oil Refinery (ru)
The Baku factory of Deepwater Bases
Heydar Aliyev Georgia-Azerbaijan Humanitarian University, an independent university in Marneuli, Georgia (opened in 2008)
On June 14, 2005 a commemorative plaque was opened in Saint Petersburg, Russia on 6 Gorokovaya Street on the house where Aliyev lived from 1949 to 1950.
The Heydar Aliyev Order, founded in 2004, is the supreme order of the Azerbaijan Republic.
Annually, since 2000, a festival is held in Baku in honor of Heydar Aliyev, called Gül bayramı, which translates to "Flower Feast". It starts on May 10 and lasts a few days. Traditionally, it is held in Heydar Aliyev Park, in front of the Central Bank of Azerbaijan, where unique flowers from around the world are gathered. According to the opposition Yeni Musavat newspaper, over $76 million were spent in 2013 on this festival.
Two films were shot in 2003 commemorating Aliyev's 80th birthday. Black Label (Qara nişanə) was directed by Vagif Mustafayev with Polish actor Tadeusz Huk (pl) playing Aliyev's role. The Moment of Truth was directed by Ramiz Fataliyev (ru) with Russian actor Aleksandr Baluyev (ru) playing the lead role.
In Azerbaijan, almost every major city has at least one monument of Heydar Aliyev. With his death in 2003, many more were erected in Azerbaijan, other countries, especially in Post-Soviet states.
In the capital Baku, there are at least three statues of Aliyev father: in the Heydar Aliyev International Airport, in the Alley of Honor and in Heydar Aliyev Park on Rashid Behbudov Street.
Settlements in Azerbaijan with statues and monuments of Heydar Aliyev include:
Since Aliyev's death in 2003, many statues have been erected outside of Azerbaijan as well.
The first statue of Aliyev outside Azerbaijan was inaugurated in Kiev (2004). In the same year Aliyev's bust was inaugurated in Bucharest, in a park named after him in 2007. Later statues were erected in Comrat, Gagauzia, Moldova (2007), Tbilisi (2007) Qalyub, a suburb of Cairo (2008) Belgrade's Tašmajdan Park (2011) and Mexico City (2012).
In only two years, three statues of Aliyev were erected in Russia: in Ulyanovsk (2009), Dzhemikent village, Derbentsky District, Dagestan (2010) and Astrakhan (2010).
Also, statues of Aliyev were installed in three Turkish cities: Kars (2007), Ankara, and Istanbul's Haydar Aliyev Park.