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Azerbaijan’s Biggest Export: Heydar Aliyev


 A statue of Heydar Aliyev in Mexico City

A statue of Heydar Aliyev in Mexico City

With the ever-growing personality cult of Azerbaijan’s late national leader, seeing statues of Heydar Aliyev back home is nothing new. But over the past decade tributes to Aliyev have been cropping up in cities all over the world, from Belgrade to Cairo and now all the way to Mexico City.

Take a look at this interactive map by RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service keeping track of the world's Heydar Aliyev statues. The first statue of Aliyev abroad is believed to have been unveiled in Kars, Turkey in 2001 by Heydar Aliyev himself, who passed away two years later.


View Heydar Aliyev statues around the world in a larger map

In August, a life-sized bronze statue of Aliyev found a home in the newly renovated Azerbaijan-Mexico Friendship park in Mexico City. It has confused the city’s residents and sparked a controversy among human rights activists who point out that a statue commemorating an authoritarian leader who many believe was responsible for stifling dissent during his 10-year presidency should not be on display on Mexico’s Reforma Boulevard alongside the country’s national heroes and the likes of Mahatma Gandhi.

A dozen protesters gathered at the statue last week, among them human rights activist Homero Aridjis, who was quoted in an article on the Huffington Post website as saying: "It's as if they brought a dictator from Mars. Are we going to be a center for monuments to dead dictators? Who’s next? Hitler? Stalin?”

The BBC reports that although most people walking past the monument had never heard of Aliyev, they nonetheless praised the improved aesthetical appearance of the park.

Azerbaijan donated the majority of the estimated $5 million for the rebuilding of the two parks and two new statues. The second statue, which shows a woman mourning, is an export of another controversial part of Azerbaijan's history. The statue is meant to pay tribute to hundreds of Azerbaijanis killed in Khojaly during the Nagorno-Karabakh War in February, 1992.

At the unveiling of the Aliyev statue, Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico City’s mayor, expressed his gratitude to Azerbaijan, pointing out that the city had never received such a big investment from a foreign government.

PHOTO GALLERY: Heydar Aliyev statues around the world

The parks are meant to draw the two countries even closer, with Mexico being one of the first countries to recognize Azerbaijan after the fall of the Soviet Union, as Ambassador Ilgar Mukhtarov pointed out. According to Mukhtarov, Mexicans also fondly remember Heydar Aliyev’s visit to the capital in 1981.

Despite the controversy, the statue is not due to leave Mexico’s main boulevard anytime soon, and the city’s residents will continue to walk past the statue, which bears a plaque describing the leader as “a brilliant example of infinite devotion to the motherland, loyal to the universal ideas of world peace.”

-- Deana Kjuka

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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