The death of Haydar Aliyev, the 80 year old president of Azerbaijan, was less than headline news in the west. Once a key figure in the 'evil empire' of the Soviet Union, Aliyev ended up as one of the US's favourite Muslim rulers.
The first 30 years of his career in the dreaded Soviet secret police included the worst periods of Stalinist terror, when there were nearly a million political executions and up to 10 million political prisoners. By 1967 Aliyev was the chief of the Azerbaijani secret police. From 1969 he ran the country on behalf of his Russian masters. However, like other agents of Soviet rule in republics outside Russia, he also built up a network of local bureaucrats who were beholden to him for their jobs, perks and privileges.