Gaidar Aliyev, 60, was elevated to the ruling Politburo in November 1982, after a 41-year career with the KGB. Aliyev's rise paralleled that of former Soviet President Yuri Andropov.

When, in 1967, Andropov became head of the national KGB, Aliyev took over the leadership of the KGB in his native Azerbaijan. Fifteen years later, when Andropov succeeded Leonid Brezhnev, Aliyev was the new Soviet President's first appointment to the Politburo.

Aliyev has been credited with revitalizing the beleaguered Soviet railroad industry. Early in his career, he made a mark by launching a successful crackdown on corruption and turning around the flagging economy in Azerbaijan. Since his election to the Politburo he has been widely viewed as a possible successor to Soviet Premier Nikolai Tikhonov, now 79.

In a Kremlin leadership strongly dominated by Russians with strong ties in Moscow, one of Aliyev's strengths lies in his background in Azerbaijan, one of the Soviet Union's southern Moslem republics.

Often described as extremely intelligent, and self-confident, Aliyev spent most of his career in the Soviet secret police, joining the KGB at age 19.

After his elevation by Andropov, Aliyev became part of a group of leaders, which many observers said actually was running the Soviet Union when Andropov became ill. Aliyev was said to be one of a half dozen men who made key decisions to carry out Andropov's program of changes in the Soviet economy and bureaucracy. Several of that group -- Grigori Romanov, Mikhail Gorbachev and Andrei Gromyko -- were among the key names in the speculation over who would succeed Konstantin Chernenko.

Following Andropov's death, Aliyev maintained a leadership position. In February 1984, he traveled to Syria to meet with that country's president, Hafez Assad, and pledged Moscow's continued support against "American plots" in the Middle East.

Aliyev warned that the Soviets would "not allow the United States and their allies in NATO to change the strategic military equilibrium in the Middle East to their advantage."

-- Gary Lee