MOSCOW, OCT. 21 -- Gaidar Aliyev, member of a dwindling group of Kremlin leaders who do not owe their position to party chief Mikhail Gorbachev, was retired today from the ruling Politburo on health grounds, according to the official news agency Tass.
The removal of Aliyev, 64, first deputy prime minister and former KGB security police chief in his native southern republic of Azerbaijan, was approved by the Communist Party Central Committee at a one-day meeting not announced in advance. It leaves 13 full members on the party's Politburo, of whom eight have been named since Gorbachev become general secretary in March 1985.
Aliyev's departure helps consolidate the leadership behind Gorbachev's program of economic and cultural restructuring by removing one of the last supporters of the late Leonid Brezhnev. The 300-member Central Committee adjourned without naming anyone else to the Politburo, a group that has no set number.
Aliyev had been rumored to be ill earlier this year when he dropped from sight for several months. But he reappeared in public this fall and recently was televised meeting a Yugoslav delegation in the Kremlin.
The brief Tass statement said he was relieved of his Politburo duties at his own request. Western analysts said his removal indicated that he also would lose his post as first deputy prime minister.
Aliyev ranked fourth in seniority in the Politburo, behind President Andrei Gromyko, Ukrainian leader Vladimir Shcherbitsky and Gorbachev. His duties included supervision of transport. In that capacity, he headed a commission last summer investigating the sinking of the passenger ship Admiral Nakhimov in the Black Sea.
A former party boss of Azerbaijan, Aliyev was the only representative of the Soviet Union's large Moslem minority on the Politburo. Azerbaijanis are a Turkic group, nominally of the Shiite sect. His removal leaves only three non-Russians on the ruling body -- Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, a Georgian; Nikolai Slyunkov, a Byelorussian, and Shcherbitsky.
Along with Shcherbitsky, Aliyev was seen as a political holdover from an earlier era and possible opponent of Gorbachev's policies. But Aliyev left his regional power base for Moscow in 1982, while Shcherbitsky still controls the powerful Ukrainian party organization, which is considered the key reason why he has not been forced from the Politburo.
Aliyev's political style was at odds with the puritanism and political modesty demanded by the Kremlin's new leadership. He also is known for his lavish praise of Brezhnev and the elaborate welcome he gave the late leader during a visit to Azerbaijan in 1982.
Last year, Aliyev, at an unusual news conference held before a party congress, defended privileges for party leaders -- which he said they earned by working long hours. He recently also allowed a bronze bust of himself to be erected in his home town.
However, Aliyev built his reputation in Azerbaijan as a fighter against corruption and enforcer of party and labor discipline. He made his career in the secret police, as a teen-ager in the NKVD during Stalin's era and then as a KGB chief.
He served as Azerbaijan's top security officer from 1967 to 1969 and was the republic's party boss from 1969 to 1982. He was promoted to candidate member of the Politburo by Brezhnev and was raised to full membership and named first deputy prime minister by Yuri Andropov, the former KGB chief who led a national campaign against corruption.
Despite Aliyev's reputation as a zealous crusader against corruption, rumors alleging his personal extravagance were circulating last summer in Moscow, coinciding with reports of his illness. Many analysts here had expected Aliyev to be retired at the June meeting of the Central Committee.
In recent months, Azerbaijan, an oil-rich republic on the Caspian Sea, has been accused in the central media of having neglected health, housing and other social issues. The Politburo this summer also took the unusual step of closing an academic institute in Baku, the republic capital.
Today's meeting of the Central Committee reversed the usual Soviet political calendar, since the party meeting followed, rather than preceded, this week's semiannual session of the Supreme Soviet, or legislature. Tass said that meeting, at which Gorbachev and 27 other party leaders spoke, was called to consider issues related to next month's 70th anniversary of the Russian Revolution and "some current tasks."