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Azerbaijan's Prodigal Son

In the last five years of his presidency in Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, has personally participated in the opening of more than 100 monuments, memorials, and museums dedicated to his father, whom he inherited power from in 2003.

State-run television channels run loops of Heydar images; billboards bearing his image go up around the country like mushrooms after rain. Aliyev's high-school diploma is hanging in every classroom, his picture is on the first page of the ABC, all major projects, like the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, are named after him.

Aliyev Jr. has also extended the cult of personality to include his mother, by recently dedicating several schools and hospitals to her. Some have suggested that Azerbaijan has more monuments devoted to Aliyev than it had to Lenin during the Soviet era.

This is about more than just a son's appreciation for his father, but in fact testament to Heydar's role as the "Father of the Nation" -- or Azerbaijan's Ataturk if you like.

To criticize the former president -- although the state media would never dare use that meager epiphet -- is to criticize the state and the nation. Moreover, many Azerbaijanis still seem to believe that Aliyev, with their best interests at heart, is somehow running Azerbaijan from beyond the grave.

Aliyev junior knows full well that his father's continued omnipotence is the source of his own power. Aliyev's is a dynasty that has been around for the last 30 years and, with elections in two weeks, it isn't going anywhere soon.

On October 15, Aliyev senior will score another victory, when his son will become president for a second term. $45 million has been spent on reconstructing a palace for the inauguration. No guesses as to whom the palace is named after.

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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

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