For centuries, Europe has been long considered the birthplace of Western Civilization. Today, Europe takes pride in leading the world’s efforts with its values of promoting human rights, equality, peace, and standing up for justice. A polar opposite of these values can be found in eastern Asia in what’s called the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. There can be found one of the most brutal dictatorships in modern time. Since its founding in 1948, the Kim family dynasty has ruled North Korea.
A family with similar values and appetite for power has formed on the edge of Europe’s eastern boundary in Azerbaijan, a post-soviet country run by the Aliyev family. The late patriarch of the family, Heydar Aliyev, a former Soviet KGB officer, played a key role in Azerbaijan’s formation after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. His rule was marked by authoritarianism and human rights abuses, including the suppression of opposition political parties and independent media.
LIKE FATHER LIKE SON
The Kim family dynasty is named after its founder, Kim Il-sung, who served as North Korea’s first leader until his death in 1994. Kim Il-sung was succeeded by his son, Kim Jong-il, who ruled until his death in 2011, at which point he was succeeded by his own son, Kim Jong-un.
Kim Jong-un, who is often referred to as the “Supreme Leader,” has continued his father and grandfather’s policies of repression and cult of personality.
Similarly, the Aliyev family has ruled Azerbaijan for over 30 years, as Heydar Aliyev, the late patriarch of the family, served as President of Azerbaijan from 1993 to 2003, and was succeeded by his son, Ilham Aliyev, who has been President for the last 20 years.
Much like Kim Jong-un, Ilham Aliyev has continued to live in his father’s shadow by continuing many of his father’s policies, including the suppression of opposition voices and the crackdown on free speech. Many human rights organizations and leaks have identified widespread corruption as Aliyev uses his position to enrich himself and his family, including his wife, who in 2017 was appointed the First Vice-President of Azerbaijan.
Throughout North Korea and Azerbaijan you will find the current leader’s display countless statues of their fathers, portraying them as heroic, strong figures, while nearly every room in the countries include a portrait of the father and son.
FUELED BY HATE
Other similarities between the two hostile countries include:
- Both countries have authoritarian governments that tightly control their populations.
- Both countries have state-controlled media that limit access to outside information. North Korea has a strict censorship regime, while Azerbaijan has been criticized for restricting media freedom and cracking down on journalists.
- Both countries heavily promote large-scale propaganda and state sponsored racism against their neighboring countries, North Korea with South Korea, and Azerbaijan with Armenia. The hate mongering is used to distract the populations from economic hardship they face while living with a lack of basic needs.
- Both dictatorships have turned their focus to expanding their country’s military capabilities, leading to tensions with their neighbors.
China serves as the guarantor of South Korea while Turkey and Pakistan support Azerbaijan’s erratic rhetoric and threats. The world has yet to see what the future holds with these ruling families.
What differentiates these dictatorships? And more importantly, why does the international community largely demonize North Korea but turn a blind eye to Azerbaijan’s human rights violations and blatant disregard for neighboring Armenia’s territorial integrity through repeated and unprovoked incursions?
Simple: Aliyev reigns over oil-rich Azerbaijan, which currently supplies gas to Europe while North Korea, on the other hand, lacks resources that may be of use to the West.