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Azərbaycan Respublikası
Republic of Azerbaijan
Flag of Azerbaijan Coat of Arms of Azerbaijan
(Flag) (Coat of Arms)
Motto: none
Anthem: Azərbaycan Respublikasının Dövlət Himni
Location of Azerbaijan
Capital Baku
40°22′ N 49°53′ E
Largest city Baku
Official languages Azerbaijani
Prime Minister
Representative democracy
Ilham Aliyev
Artur Rasizade
 - Declared
 - Formerly
From the Soviet Union
August 30, 1991
Azerbaijan SSR
 • Total
 • Water (%)
86,600 km² (112th)
 • 2005 est.
 • 2000 census
 • Density
7,911,974 (91st)
90/km² (81st)
 • Total
 • Per capita
2004 estimate
$37,841,000,000 (87th)
$4,500 (112th)
Currency Manat (AZM)
Time zone
 • Summer (DST)
Internet TLD .az
Calling code +994

Azerbaijan (Azerbaijani: Azərbaycan) is a country in the Caucasus, at the crossroads of Europe and Southwest Asia, with a coast on the Caspian Sea. It has frontiers with Russia in the north, Georgia in the northwest, Armenia in the west and southeast and southwest, and Iran in the south. The Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic (an exclave of Azerbaijan) borders Armenia to the north and east, Iran to the south and west, and Turkey to the northwest.

The country’s formal name is the Republic of Azerbaijan (Azerbaijani: Azərbaycan Respublikası). Azerbaijan is a secular state, and has been a member of the Council of Europe since 2001. A majority of the population are Shi'a Muslim and of Western Turkic descent, known as Azerbaijanis, or simply Azeris. The country is formally an emerging democracy, however with strong authoritarian rule.



There are several hypotheses regarding the origins of the name "Azerbaijan." The most common theory is that it is derived from "Atropatan." Atropat was the satrap at the time of the Persian Achaemenid dynasty, and gained independence after Alexander the Great destroyed the Achaemenids. The region was known as Media Atropatia or Atropatene at the time.

There are also alternative opinions that the term is a slight Turkification of Azarbaijan, in turn an Arabicized version of the original Persian name Azarpayagan, made up of azar+payag+an (azar=fire; payag=base; an=suffix of location); that it traditionally means "the land of eternal flames" or "the land of fire." Some Azeri historians also contend that the name is made up of four Azerbaijani components: az+er+bay+can, which means "the land of the brave Az people" or "an elevated place for the wealthy and exalted."

Historically, the territory of the present-day Azerbaijan Republic has been called Arran, named after Arran, a legendary founder of Caucasian Albania. However, the precise location identified by this name has shifted somewhat over time, currently referring to the lowland Karabakh plains situated between the Kura and Araks rivers.

Some opponents of the name Azerbaijan assert that it is anachronistic to use it in a historical context before 1918, because, they say, the term was first introduced by the national intelligentsia in early 20th century and later was endorsed by the Bolsheviks, with intention of claiming the northern province of Persia. To substantiate this claim they state that till early 20th century the population of present-day Azerbaijan had no clear ethnic identification and referred to themselves primarily as "Muslims."


Main article: History of Azerbaijan

Historically Azerbaijan has been occupied by a variety of peoples, including Armenians, Persians, Romans, Arabs, Turks, Mongols, Greek Empire, British and Russians.

The first state to emerge in the territory of present-day Republic of Azerbaijan was Mannae in the 9th century BC, lasting until 616 BC when it was overthrown by the Medes. The satrapies of Atropatene and Caucasian Albania were established in the 4th century BC and included the approximate territories of present-day Azerbaijan and southern parts of Dagestan.

Islam spread in Azerbaijan following the Arab conquests in the 7th8th centuries. In the 11th century, the Seljuk Turks became the dominant force in Azerbaijan and laid the ethnic foundation of contemporary Azerbaijanis. In the 1314th centuries, the country experienced Mongol-Tatar invasions.

Azerbaijan was part of the Safavid state in 15th18th centuries. It also underwent a brief period of feudal fragmentation in the mid-18th to early 19th centuries, and consisted of independent khanates. Following the two wars between the Qajar dynasty of Persia and the Russian Empire, Azerbaijan was acquired by Russia through the Treaty of Gulistan in 1813, and the Treaty of Turkmenchay in 1828.

After the collapse of the Russian Empire during World War I, Azerbaijan declared independence and established the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. This first Muslim republic in the world lasted only two years, from 1918 to 1920, before the Soviet Red Army invaded Azerbaijan. Subsequently, Azerbaijan became part of the Soviet Union.

Azerbaijan re-established its independence upon the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Despite a cease-fire in place since 1994, Azerbaijan has yet to resolve its conflict with Armenia over the predominantly ethnic Armenian Nagorno-Karabakh region. Azerbaijan has lost 16% of its territory including Karabakh, and must support some 800,000 refugees and internally displaced persons as a result of the conflict.


Main article: Politics of Azerbaijan

Ilham Aliyev, President of Azerbaijan
Ilham Aliyev, President of Azerbaijan
Isa Gambar, leader of the largest opposition bloc
Isa Gambar, leader of the largest opposition bloc
Lala Shevket, leader of the National Unity Movement
Lala Shevket, leader of the National Unity Movement

Azerbaijan is a presidential republic. The head of state and head of government are separate from the country’s law-making body. The people elect the president for a five-year term of office. The president appoints all cabinet-level government administrators. A fifty-member national assembly makes the country’s laws. The people of Azerbaijan elect the National Assembly. Azerbaijan has universal suffrage above the age of eighteen.

After the presidential elections of October 15, 2003, an official release of the Central Election Committee (CEC) gave Isa Gambar – leader of the largest opposition bloc, Bizim Azerbaycan ("Our Azerbaijan") – 14% percent of the electorate and the second place in election. Third came, with 3.6%, Lala Shevket Hajiyeva – leader of the National Unity Movement, the first woman to run in presidential election in Azerbaijan and the whole of the Turkic speaking world. Nevertheless, the OSCE, the Council of Europe, Human Rights Watch and other international organizations, as well as local independent political and NGOs voiced concern about observed vote rigging and a badly flawed counting process.

Several independent local and international organizations that had been observing and monitoring the election directly or indirectly declared Isa Gambar winner in the 15 October election. Another view shared by many international organisations is that in reality a second tour of voting should have taken place between the two opposition candidates Isa Gambar and Lala Shevket.

  • Human Rights Watch commented on these elections: "Human Rights Watch research found that the government has heavily intervened in the campaigning process in favor of Prime Minister Ilham Aliev, son of current President Heidar Aliev. The government has stacked the Central Election Commission and local election commission with its supporters, and banned local non-governmental organizations from monitoring the vote. As the elections draw nearer, government officials have openly sided with the campaign of Ilham Aliev, constantly obstructing opposition rallies and attempting to limit public participation in opposition events. In some cases, local officials have closed all the roads into town during opposition rallies, or have extended working and school hours—on one occasion, even declaring a Sunday work day—to prevent participation in opposition rallies." (source: HTML format)

Azerbaijan held parliamentary elections on Sunday, 6 November 2005.


Main article: Subdivisions of Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan is divided into:


Map of Azerbaijan
Map of Azerbaijan

Main article: Geography of Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan has an arid climate, except in the southeast near Gilan. Temperatures vary by season. In the southeast lowland, temperatures average 6°C (43°F) in the winter and 26°C (80°F) in the summer — though daily maxima typically reach 32°C (89°F). In the northern and western mountain ranges, temperatures average 12°C (55°F) in the summer and –9°C (20°F) in the winter.

Annual rainfall over most of the country varies from 200 to 400 mm (8 to 16 inches) and is generally lowest in the northeast. In the far southeast, however, the climate is much moister and annual rainfall can be as high as 1300 mm (51 inches). For most of the country, the wettest periods are in spring and autumn, with summers being the driest.


Main article: Economy of Azerbaijan

The economy is largely based on industry. Industries include machine manufacture, petroleum and other mining, petroleum refining, textile production, and chemical processing. Agriculture accounts for one-third of Azerbaijan’s economy. Most of the nation’s farms are irrigated. In the lowlands, farmers grow such crops as cotton, fruit, grain, tea, tobacco, and many types of vegetables. Silkworms are raised for the production of natural silk for the clothing industry. Azerbaijan’s herders raise cattle, domestic sheep and goats near the mountain ranges. Seafood and fish are caught in the nearby Caspian Sea. Azerbaijan has a highly dynamic economy, mainly because of oil, and has a GDP growth rate of up to 11% a year.


Main article: Demographics of Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan has population of roughly 7,911,974 (July 2005 est), 90.6% of whom are ethnic Azerbaijani, (also called Azeris; 1999 census figures). Azeris also form about 24% of the population of Iran, predominating in the northern regions of the country. Most of Armenia’s Azeri minority have left since independence and the Nagorno-Karabakh war. The second largest ethnic group are Russians, who now form roughly 1.8% of the population, most having emigrated since independence. The Talysh, an Iranian people, predominate in the southernmost regions of the country around the Talysh mountains and across the border into Iran. Some people argue that the number of Talysh is greater than officially recorded, as many of them are counted as Azerbaijanis. Numerous 'Dagestani' peoples live around the border with Dagestan. The main peoples are the Lezgis, Avar and the Tsakhur. Smaller groups include the Budukh, Udi, Kryts and Khinalug/Ketsh around the village of Xinaliq. Around the town of Quba in the north live the Tats, also known as the Mountain Jews, who are also to be found in Dagestan. Many Tats have emigrated to Israel in recent years, though this trend has slowed and even reversed more recently. The country’s large Armenian population mostly fled to Armenia and to other countries with the beginning of the Armenian-Azeri conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. During the same period, Azerbaijan also received a large influx of Azerbaijanis fleeing Armenia and later Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent provinces occupied by the Armenians. Almost all of Azerbaijan’s Armenians now live in Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan also contains numerous smaller groups, such as Kurds, Georgians, Tatars and Ukrainians.

Most Azerbaijanis, or Azeris, are Shia Muslim. Other religions or philosophical beliefs that are followed by many in the country are the Sunni and Sufi sects of Islam, the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Russian Orthodox Church, and various secular beliefs (many of which are left over from the Soviet era of less tolerance for spirituality). The Tat people around Quba follow Judaism.


Main article: Culture of Azerbaijan

The official language of Azerbaijan is Azerbaijani, a member of the Oguz subdivision of the Turkic language family, and is spoken by around 95% of the republic’s population, as well as about a third of the population of Iran. Its closest relatives are Turkish and Turkmen. As a result of the language policy of the Soviet Union, Russian is also commonly spoken as a second language among the urbane.

Miscellaneous topics

External links and references

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