The best ones leave early. The significance of Vafa Mirzaaga oglu Guluzade in the formation of the modern Azerbaijani state becomes clear after his sudden death on May 1, 2015.

Vafa Guluzade, orientalist, Arabist, diplomat, political scientist, former State Adviser of the Republic of Azerbaijan for Foreign Relations, then President of the Political Research Foundation of the States of the Caspian Region, was born in Baku on December 22, 1940. His parents are outstanding Azerbaijanis. Father – Mirzaaga Guluzade, academician, literary critic, orientalist. Little Vafa read books from his father’s library, striking people around him with a fine knowledge of Russian literature and philosophy.  His mother, Yagut Dilbazi, a writer, expert in Azerbaijani and Turkish literature. Her sister is the famous poet Mirvarid Dilbazi.

In 1963, Guluzade completed his studies at the Faculty of Oriental Studies of the Azerbaijan State University, and then worked as an editor and host of programs in Arabic at Baku radio. In addition to his native language, he was fluent in Russian, Arabic, English, Turkish, and spoke Farsi. At the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, he defended his thesis for the degree of candidate of philological sciences.

Toast and cognac from Heydar Aliyev

His diplomatic career began in 1970. Until 1973, he worked in Egypt at the USSR embassy; he started as an attaché, and later he was appointed the second secretary. In Egypt, he met the then Soviet boss, Heydar Aliyev, who was in an Arab country on an official visit. Aliyev was pleased and interesting to see his fellow citizen in the Soviet embassy.

“I translated all the features of H. Aliyev’s speech, his humor, the Arabs trusted me. At the banquet following the results of the visit, H. Aliyev raised a toast to me, presented a “Pobeda” watch and several boxes of cognac and caviar – one for me, the rest – to those who helped me,” V. Guluzade recalled.

In 1973-1887, he worked in the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan, where he rose to the post of head of the Culture Department.

In 1987, he returned to diplomacy and worked for three years at the USSR Embassy in Algeria as an adviser. This was his last diplomatic post. In his dossier at the USSR Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it is written: “extremely sociable, knows how to establish confidential ties with the highest circles of the host country.”

In 1990, Vafa Guluzade accepted the offer of the first president of Azerbaijan, Ayaz Mutalibov, to take the post of state adviser for foreign policy issues. In this post, he remained under the two subsequent presidents of the country – Abulfaz Elchibey and Heydar Aliyev, who remembered the skillful young diplomat after meeting in Egypt.

Vafa Guluzade was one of the few who served, and was respected by three presidents, whose political antagonism is well known. When the rebel Suret Huseynov led his army to Baku, Vafa Guluzade offered Elchibey to arm everyone in the Presidential Administration, so that, like in Chile, everyone could fight to the last. Elchibey kept silent and left for Nakhchivan. “In the morning I came to work, and they said to me: “And where is your president?”

In 1999, Vafa Guluzade left the civil service. Then many said that by his departure he expressed a political protest, resisting the plan to give Karabakh to Armenia. However, the former state adviser did not confirm this popular version in any of his interviews or personal conversations. The real reason for his departure can be guessed from the phrase, “On October 8, 1999, on my own initiative, I broke with the public service …”.

In the same year, he created the Political Research Foundation of the States of the Caspian Region.  The world-renowned American politicians Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski and James Baker have become members of the Board of Chairmen of this Foundation. As a public figure, V. Guluzade continued his struggle for an independent and strong Azerbaijan. The most eminent media outlets in the world turned to him for an expert assessment, in numerous interviews V. Guluzade, being retired, did more than many current diplomats. He understood more than others the importance of propaganda in politics and perhaps that is why he was friends with those journalists whom he considered capable of writing the truth.

He broke with civil service and continued his war for Azerbaijan

In the preface to his book “Among enemies and friends”, (the author of this publication worked on this book and came up with its title), Guluzade reported:


– … when in May 1994 we were preparing to sign a ceasefire agreement, the special envoy of the Russian president for the Karabakh settlement, Ambassador Vladimir Kazimirov, in the office of President Heydar
Aliyev, suggested that both sides – Armenians and Azerbaijanis, agreeing to a truce, stop propaganda friend against a friend. I then sharply opposed this proposal, accusing Kazimirov of protecting the interests of the aggressor – Armenia. I believe that in the propaganda war, Azerbaijan, despite unequal forces, has achieved significant success. This happened despite the fact that Armenia enjoyed not only military, but also propaganda support from Russia and the Armenian lobby all over the world. I hope that there is also a share of my participation in this victory.

In 2015, relations between the United States and Azerbaijan cooled. In an interview for “Radio Liberty”, Guluzade succinctly and clearly explains the reason for the actions of official Baku that are undesirable to America, and advises the United States to be close to Azerbaijan. He said what the leaders of the country and the Foreign Ministry could not say:

– The United States of America is well aware of our situation and knows what we are capable of, and what we are not capable of, and why. Therefore, the question arises: why have the requirements for Azerbaijan increased in the recent period? I am not saying that the demands are unjust, but at the same time, these demands must correspond to the nature of our government. This is where the main contradiction lies. The United States of America and Europe are strategic partners. Sometimes we try to somehow distance ourselves from them so as not to irritate Russia, because Russia also has its own interests in Azerbaijan …

Therefore, I believe that Azerbaijani-American relations should be restored – this is in the interests and Azerbaijani people, and in the interests of our own government, but our government wants Europe and the United States of America not to try to change the nature of our state. That is the whole point of the question. I hope that our relations will be settled and that they will develop in a positive direction.

Last years

Vafa Guluzade, a popular diplomat, with great tenderness treated his wife, music teacher Leila Ahmedova. He said that Leila is his first and last love.

In 2010, his beloved son Murad died of a serious illness at the age of 36. After this death, Vafa Guluzade gradually distanced from his previous acquaintances, did not appear in society for a long time. At the end of April 2015, his health worsened. Vafa Guluzade was taken to one of the capital’s clinics, where he underwent an urgent heart bypass operation. The operation went well, and he was transferred to the ward, but his heart no longer wanted to live … In addition to his wife, the family has a daughter, a grandson and three granddaughters – the successors of the eminent family.

In April 2016, the Azerbaijani army liberated a small part, and four years later, in September-November 2020, it returned most of Karabakh. In this long-term, political and military operation, the concept of a multi-vector foreign policy of Azerbaijan played an important role. The system of Azerbaijan’s relations with the bipolar world laid down by President Heydar Aliyev worked perfectly, neutralizing the plans of the enemies. The people are returning to their lands, the Azerbaijanis raised their heads, we felt like a nation. It is a pity that Vafa Guluzade, as one of the architects of our victory, did not see this.

Kamal Ali