Report presents an interview with Mikhail Gusman, First Deputy Director General of the Russian news agency TASS and former Baku resident.

⁃ Who is Heydar Aliyev for you?

– If we are talking about Heydar Aliyev, the national leader of Azerbaijan, the word ‘leader’ is most suitable for people of my generation, for those who grew up under the leadership of this great man.

This is not an exaggeration, because I remember this day, July 14, when he was elected First Secretary of the Central Committee of Azerbaijan’s Communist Party.

I was 19 years old then, I remember all these conversations around. At that time, there were a lot of negative processes in Azerbaijan, people saw and understood that the Soviet republic needed changes, but no one, with the exception of a very narrow circle of people, knew who exactly would lead the republic.

I remember that many years later, in 2001, Heydar Aliyev, as the president of Azerbaijan, did me a great honor – he gave an interview for my program.

He told me that when he was the head of the KGB (Committee for State Security) of Azerbaijan, he was invited by the chairman of the KGB of the USSR, Yuri Andropov, who said that there was idea to nominate him to the highest post in Azerbaijan. But Heydar Aliyev refused, explaining that he does not see himself outside the system of law enforcement agencies and does not consider himself ready for this role.

According to Heydar Aliyev, a few days later Andropov phoned him and announced that he would be summoned to Brezhnev, the then General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the first person of the Soviet Union. “Forget your refusals, accept the offer, because it is you who can lead Azerbaijan and give it a completely new look and start reforms,” Andropov said.

From the first days of Heydar Aliyev’s leadership, a new life began in the Azerbaijan. The pace and rhythms with which Azerbaijan moved forward were not comparable with any other republic then. We were proud that the country is changing.

⁃ And what can you tell about the subsequent stage of his leadership of the country during the period of independence?

– When Heydar Aliyev headed the republic during the period of independence, it was in a ruined state, the treasury was empty, there was the situation in Karabakh, a huge number of refugees. He had to put together and unite the country. It was Heydar Aliyev who founded modern Azerbaijan, so he was not just a national leader.

He handed over the country to Ilham Aliyev in an already formed, but economically not so strong state. Ilham Aliyev had to continue building a new country on this foundation and according to the architectural designs outlined by his father. And I think he did it brilliantly. International recognition, the greatest military victory, the real, highly successful implementation of the behests that Heydar Aliyev left to his son.

⁃ Could you tell us about your meetings with the national leader?

– I was the commander of the school detachment, we were gathered to be rewarded for active participation in the protection of public order. At that time, Heydar Aliyev was the deputy chairman of the KGB of Azerbaijan, and it was he who presented me with a certificate of honor.

But we had the most significant meetingduring an interview in 2001. I then showed the letter of thanks given to me by Heydar Aliyev.

My interview then had a dramatic continuation, because two years passed and I asked again for an interview, which was scheduled for April 22, 2003. The day before, Heydar Aliyev came to the Republic Palace, where he felt unwell during his speech, but ended his speech anyway. At the end, Heydar Aliyev wished everyone good health, and for him this was the last public speech…

I then kept looking at the screen… Heydar Aliyev was a very important person for me. The scale of this personality is surprisingly multifaceted, combining all the qualities essential for a great political figure. An unshakable will, a brilliant and deep mind, phenomenal analytical thinking, the ability to be charming for any interlocutor – such a combination of qualities is very rare for a leader.