From December 3, 1982 through May 21, 1988, Baghirov served as the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan SSR. After start and escalation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, he was replaced by Abdurrahman Vazirov. Baghirov is often blamed for deterioration of the economy of Azerbaijan which was boosted when his predecessor Heydar Aliyev was in office. He was also blamed for widespread corruption. From February 1988 when the conflict around Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO) started, until his removal from office, Baghirov has been considered as an inactive leader who allowed exodus of ethnic Azerbaijanis from Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, and inability to prevent the escalation of the conflict. Baghirov was bashed for his passiveness in allowing the NKAO's party leader, Boris Kevorkov to be replaced by Armenian nationalist, Genrikh Pogosian subsequently causing the direct rule of NKAO by Moscow
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