Talabani's death, following a decades-old struggle for Kurdish statehood, came after Iraq's Kurds voted 92.7 percent to split from Iraq in the September 25 referendum.
Talabani was an avuncular politician and a skilled negotiator, who spent years building bridges between the country's divided factions, despite his efforts for Kurdish independence.
Born in 1933 in the mountain village of Kalkan, he studied law at Baghdad University and did a stint in the army before joining the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of Mullah Mustafa Barzani, father of Masoud Barzani, current Kurdistan regional president.
Talabani took to the hills in a first uprising against the Iraqi government in 1961 but famously fell out with Barzani, who sued for peace with Baghdad, and joined a KDP splinter faction in 1964.
Eleven years later, he established the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) after Barzani's forces, abandoned by their Iranian, US and Israeli allies, were routed by Saddam Hussein's army.
Talabani became president in April 2005 after the first post-Saddam election in Iraq and continued in the post until 2014.
Iraq's head of state plays a largely ceremonial role and is elected by members of parliament.
In August 2008, the married father of two underwent successful heart surgery in the USs, then in 2012 he was flown to Germany after suffering a stroke, casting doubt over his ability to ever return to Iraq.
He did go back in July 2014, with Iraq in crisis after the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group had taken control of big expanses of the country.
Talabani was replaced by Fouad Masum as president following a parliamentary election.