BAKU -- At what point does a president’s life become the basis for a new science?
Probably at the moment when a nation’s Academy of Sciences opens a department with a difficult-to-translate name like “Aliyevshunasliq.”
That word might best be rendered in English as AliyevScience. It refers to the study of the life and works of deceased Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev and, right now, 13 academics are hard at work developing it in Baku.
The 13 full- and part-time researchers, housed in the Department of AliyevScience in the History Institute of the Academy of Sciences, sit surrounded by paper archives from every period of Aliyev’s 80-year life. They are gradually distilling the material into a two-volume biography detailing all there is to know about a single subject.
Former President Aliyev already has a secure legacy in Azerbaijan after passing the presidency to his son Ilham in 2003, just two months before his death. But the goal of the AliyevScience department goes further.
"After all the work is done, it will be good to have [AliyevScience] as a subject in schools,” says Adalet Qasimov, the head of the Department of AliyevScience. "Special courses and special lectures could be established in universities to study the Heydar Aliyev phenomenon."
"There is nothing like this at the moment, though there are some schools and universities which have Heydar Aliyev centers," Qasimov adds. "But in the future, the Education Ministry might issue directives on how to study the subject and we, as a department, will be ready to help in a direct and effective way."
According to Qasimov, his team has already sent the first volume of the biography to the publishers: it covers the Aliyev years from 1993-2003, when he was the third permanent president of independent Azerbaijan.
The second volume, devoted to Aliyev's earlier life when he rose through the ranks of the KGB in Soviet Azerbaijan and headed the Soviet republic for 18 years, is still in the draft stage. Both volumes are to be published in time for the 90th anniversary of Aliyev's birth in May.
But what does AliyevScience consist of? RFE/RL asked Qasimov if it might also include criticism, as the name science -- with its emphasis on critical analysis -- might imply.
"One should be criticized if he or she really deserves it, " Qasimov says. "To me, Aliyev always served his nation. Compared to other leaders of Azerbaijan, there is nothing you could criticize him for. During our investigations we came across nothing of the sort."
Just across town, one of the capital’s most prominent new buildings is the ultramodern Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center. Opened in 2012, it, too, lists its goals as including research and promotion of the ideology of Heydar Aliyev. An ideology which now has a name: AliyevScience.
Written by Charles Recknagel in Prague. Based on reporting by RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service correspondent Shahla Sultanova in Baku.