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Head of Nakhchivan resigns after 27 years in power

21 December 2022
Former Head of Nakhchivan Vasif Talibov and President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev in 2020. Photo: President.az

Vasif Talibov, chair of the Supreme Assembly of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, has resigned after 27 years as head of the republic. 

Talibov was known for his authoritarian rule, with torture, censorship, and other human rights abuses common in the republic, and some dissidents alleged to have been forced into psychiatric hospitals. 

On Wednesday, Talibov submitted a request to Nakhchivan’s parliament through its deputy chair, Azer Zeynalov, asking that he be permitted to resign from his position citing his health. 

The chair was not in attendance at the parliament session, and no information was provided regarding his health condition. There had been no previous indication that Talibov was unwell. 

Attending members of parliament voted in favour of the appeal, removing Talibov from the post that he had occupied since December 1995. 

Following the vote, Zeynalov concluded the session, and announced that ‘from now on, the instructions and recommendations of the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev will be our main direction of action’.

‘We will remain loyal to Heydar Aliyev’s political line, which was successfully continued by the head of state [Ilham Aliyev].’


Taking away Nakhchivan’s autonomy

Siyavush Novruzov, a member of parliament from the ruling New Azerbaijan Party, said of Talibov’s resignation that ‘everything depends on the will of only one person.’ 

Novruzov went on to confirm that he meant that Talibov had resigned at the request of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. 

In the past month, Baku has been increasingly active in Nakhchivan, with the republic’s minister of finance and several senior Nakchivani officials arrested on charges of embezzlement, and Nakhchivan’s Customs Committee closed in lieu of a subsidiary to its counterpart in Baku. Speculation had been growing that Aliyev was looking to end the republic’s autonomy and bring Nakhchivan under Baku’s control. 

[More background: Podcast | HIV in Georgia and Nakhchivan’s diminishing autonomy]

Related by marriage to the ruling Aliyev family, Talibov was known for his harsh authoritarian rule. In the nearly three decades he spent in power, any opposition was fiercely suppressed, with activists and journalists who criticised the authorities facing persecution, arrest, and exile. 

While information was tightly controlled within the republic, levels of unemployment and emigration were known to be high, with many Nakhchivanis seeking better opportunities in the rest of Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Iran. 

The combination of political oppression, poor social conditions, and tight control of the republic’s business, government, police, and economic activity led the republic to be dubbed ‘the North Korea of Azerbaijan’. 

Talibov’s government was also known for its independence from Baku. While Talibov was believed to be close to the Aliyevs, he often disregarded or disobeyed instructions from other officials in Baku. In 2021, the Talibov family were also accused of money laundering

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