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Azerbaijan

Republic of Azerbaijan
Azərbaycan Respublikası
Flag Coat of arms
Anthem: Azərbaycan Marşı
(English: March of Azerbaijan)

Capital
(and largest city)
Baku
Official languages Azerbaijani
Demonym Azerbaijani
Government Presidential republic
 -  President Ilham Aliyev
 -  Prime Minister Artur Rasizade
Independence
 -  Azerbaijan Democratic Republic established
May 28, 1918 
 -  Independence
from the Soviet Union
Declared
Completed


August 30, 1991
October 18, 1991 
Area
 -  Total 86,600 km2 (113th)
33,436 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 1.6%
Population
 -  2009 estimate 8,832,000[1] (92nd)
 -  1999 census 7,953,438[2] 
 -  Density 102/km2 (100th)
264.1/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $74.734 billion[3] (77th)
 -  Per capita $8,620[3] (88th)
GDP (nominal) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $46.378 billion[3] (77th)
 -  Per capita $5,349[3] (88th)
Gini (2006) 36.5 (58th)
HDI (2007) 0.746 (medium) (98th)
Currency Manat (AZN)
Time zone  
 -  Summer (DST)  (UTC+5)
Drives on the right
Internet TLD .az
Calling code 994

Azerbaijan (pronounced /ˌæzərbaɪˈdʒɑːn/ (Speaker Icon.svg listen); Azerbaijani: Azərbaycan), formally the Republic of Azerbaijan (Azerbaijani: Azərbaycan Respublikası), is a country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe,[4] it is bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west, and Iran to the south. The exclave of Nakhichevan is bounded by Armenia to the north and east, Iran to the south and west, while having a short borderline with Turkey to the northwest. The Nagorno-Karabakh region in the southwest of Azerbaijan proper declared itself independent from Azerbaijan in 1991, but it is not recognized by any nation and considered a legal part of Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan, a nation with a majority Turkic[5][6] and Shi‘ite Muslim[7] population, is a secular and unitary republic. The Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was the first successful attempt to establish a democratic and secular republic in the Muslim world.[8][9] Azerbaijan is one of the founder members of GUAM and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and joined the Commonwealth of Independent States in September 1993.[10] A Special Envoy of the European Commission is present in the country, which is also a member of the United Nations, the OSCE, the Council of Europe, and the NATO Partnership for Peace (PfP) program.

Contents

Etymology of the name

The name of Azerbaijan derives from Atropates,[11][12] a satrap of Persia under the Achaemenid Empire, who was later reinstated as the satrap of Media under Alexander of Macedonia.[13][14] The original etymology of this name is thought to have its roots in the ancient Iranian religion of Zoroastrianism. In Avestan Frawardin Yasht ("Hymn to the Guardian Angels"), there is a mention of âterepâtahe ashaonô fravashîm ýazamaide, which literally translates from Old Persian as "we worship the Fravashi of the holy Atare-pata".[15] Atropates ruled over the region of Atropatene (present-day Iranian Azerbaijan). The name "Atropates" itself is the Greek transliteration of an Old-Iranian, probably Median, compounded name with the meaning "Protected by the (Holy) Fire". The Greek name is mentioned by Diodorus Siculus and Strabo, and it is continued as ādurbādagān in the Pahlavi geographical text Shahrestānihā i Erānshahr.[16] The word is translatable as both "the treasury" and "the treasurer" of fire in Modern Persian.[17]

History

Petroglyphs in Gobustan dating back to 10,000 BC indicating a thriving culture. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site considered to be of "outstanding universal value".

The earliest evidence of human settlement in the territory of Azerbaijan dates to the late Stone Age and is related to the Guruchay culture of the Azykh Cave, where archeological evidences promoted the inclusion of Azerbaijan into the map of the ascent man sites of Europe.[18] The Upper Paleolithic and late Bronze Age cultures are attested in the caves of Tağılar, Damcılı, Zar, Yataq-yeri and in the necropolises of Leylatepe and Saraytepe. The area was conquered by the Achaemenids around 550 B.C.E., leading to the spread of Zoroastrianism. Later it become part of Alexander the Great's Empire and its successor Seleucid Empire. Caucasian Albanians, the original inhabitants of the area, established an independent kingdom around the fourth century B.C.E.

The Maiden Tower in Old Baku is a UNESCO World Heritage Site build in the 11th-12th century.

Early Iranian settlements included the Scythians in the ninth century BC.[19] Following the Scythians, Iranian Medes came to dominate the area to the south of the Aras.[14] The Medes forged a vast empire between 900-700 BC, which was integrated into the Achaemenids Empire around 550 BC.

During this period, Zoroastrianism spread in the Caucasus and Atropatene. Ancient Azaris spoke Ancient Azari language, which belonged to Iranian branch of Indo-European languages.[20]

In 252 C.E., the Sassanids turned it into a vassal state, while King Urnayr officially adopted Christianity as the state religion in the fourth century. Despite numerous conquests by the Sassanids and Byzantines, Albania remained an entity in the region until the ninth century. The Islamic Umayyad Caliphate repulsed both the Sassanids and Byzantines from the region and turned Caucasian Albania into a vassal state after the Christian resistance, led by Prince Javanshir, was suppressed in 667. The power vacuum left by the decline of the Abbasid Caliphate was filled by numerous dynasties such as the Sallarids, Sajids, Shaddadids, Rawadids and Buyids. At the beginning of the eleventh century, the territory was gradually seized by waves of Turkic Oghuz tribes from Central Asia. The first of these Turkic dynasties was the Ghaznavids, which entered the area now known as Azerbaijan by 1030. It is notable that Turkification of Azaris was completed only By the late 1800s. The old Iranic speakers found solely in tiny isolated recesses of the mountains or other remote areas (such as Harzand, Galin Guya, Shahrud villages in Khalkhal and Anarjan). Today, this Turkic speaking population is also known as Azeris.[21]

The highly decorated gate of the Mausoleum in the Palace of the Shirvanshahs.
Historical building in Baku

Locally, the possessions of the subsequent Seljuq Empire were ruled by atabegs, who were technically vassals of the Seljuq sultans, being sometimes de facto rulers themselves. Under the Seljuq Turks, local poets such as Nizami Ganjavi and Khagani Shirvani gave rise to a blossoming of Persian literature on the territory of present-day Azerbaijan. The next ruling state of the Jalayirids was short-lived and fell under the conquests of Timur. The local dynasty of Shirvanshahs became a vassal state of Timur's Empire and assisted him in his war with the ruler of the Golden Horde Tokhtamysh. Following Timur's death two independent and rival states emerged: Kara Koyunlu and Ak Koyunlu. The Shirvanshahs returned, maintaining a high degree of autonomy as local rulers and vassals from 861 until 1539. During their persecution by the Safavids, the last dynasty imposed Shia Islam upon the formerly Sunni population, as it was battling against the Sunni Ottoman Empire.

After the Safavids, the area was ruled by the Iranian dynasties of Afshar and Zand and briefly by the Qajars. However, while under Persian sovereignty[22] de facto self-ruling khanates[23][24][25][26][27] emerged in the area, especially following the collapse of the Zand dynasty and in the early Qajar era. The brief and successful Russian campaign of 1812 was concluded with the Treaty of Gulistan, in which the shah's claims to some of the Khanates of the Caucasus were dismissed by Russia on the ground that they had been de facto independent long before their Russian occupation.[28] The khanates exercised control over their affairs via international trade route between Central Asia and the West.[29] Engaged in constant warfare, these khanates were eventually incorporated into the Russian Empire in 1813, following two Russo-Persian Wars. The area to the North of the river Arax, amongst which the territory of the contemporary republic of Azerbaijan were Iranian territory until they were occupied by Russia.[30][31][32][33][34]

Bay of Baku in 18th-19th century.

Under the Treaty of Turkmenchay, Persia recognized Russian sovereignty over the Erivan khanate, the Nakhchivan khanate and the remainder of the Talysh Khanate.

Mammed Amin Rasulzade was one of the founding leaders and speaker of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic in 1918, widely regarded as the national leader of Azerbaijan.

After the collapse of the Russian Empire during World War I, Azerbaijan, together with Armenia and Georgia became part of the short-lived Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic. When the republic dissolved in May 1918, Azerbaijan declared independence as the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR). The ADR was the first democratic parliamentary republic in the Muslim world, but lasted only 23 months until the Bolshevik XIth Red Army invaded it in April 1920, establishing the Azerbaijan SSR on 28 April 1920. In 1922, Azerbaijan became part of the Transcaucasian SFSR (TSFSR), which itself became a constituent member of the newly-established Soviet Union. In 1936, TSFSR was dissolved and Azerbaijan SSR became one of the constituent member states of the Soviet Union. During World War II, Azerbaijan supplied much of the Soviet Union's oil on the Eastern Front while close to 600,000 Azerbaijanis fought against Nazi Germany. Operation Edelweiss carried out by the German Wehrmacht targeted Baku because of its importance as the energy (petroleum) dynamo of the USSR.[35] Following the politics of glasnost, initiated by Mikhail Gorbachev, civil unrest and ethnic strife grew in various regions of the Soviet Union, including Nagorno-Karabakh, a region of the Azerbaijan SSR. The disturbances in Azerbaijan, in response to Moscow's indifference to already heated conflict, resulted in calls for independence and secession, which subsequently culminated in the events of Black January in Baku. At this time, Ayaz Mütallibov was appointed as the First Secretary of the Azerbaijan Communist Party. Later in 1990, the Supreme Council of the Azerbaijan SSR dropped the words "Soviet Socialist" from the title; adopted the Declaration of Sovereignty of the Azerbaijan Republic and restored the modified flag of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic as a state flag. On 8 September 1991, Ayaz Mütallibov was elected president in nationwide elections in which he was the only candidate.

A painting by Enver Aliyev depicting Azerbaijani citizens digging entrenchments and antitank obstacles near Baku to prevent a possible Nazi invasion.

On 18 October 1991, the Supreme Council of Azerbaijan adopted a Declaration of Independence which was affirmed by a nationwide referendum in December 1991, when the Soviet Union was officially dissolved. The early years of independence were overshadowed by the Nagorno-Karabakh War with neighboring Armenia. By the end of hostilities in 1994, Azerbaijan lost control of up to 16% of its territory, including Nagorno-Karabakh itself.[36][37] An estimated 30,000 people had been killed and more than a million had been displaced.[38] Four United Nations Security Council Resolutions (822, 853, 874, and 884) called for "the withdrawal of occupying forces from occupied areas of the Azerbaijani Republic".[39] In 1993, democratically elected president Abülfaz Elçibay was overthrown by a military insurrection led by Colonel Surat Huseynov, which resulted in the rise to power of the former leader of Soviet Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev. In 1994, Surat Huseynov, by that time a prime minister, attempted another military coup against Heydar Aliyev, but Huseynov was arrested and charged with treason. In 1995, another coup attempt against Aliyev, by the commander of the military police, Rovshan Javadov, was averted, resulting in the killing of the latter and disbanding of Azerbaijan's military police.

Although during his presidency Aliyev managed to reduce the country's unemployment, reined in criminal groups, established the fundamental institutions of independent statehood, and brought stability, peace and major foreign investment, the country was tainted by rampant corruption in the governing bureaucracy. In October 1998, Aliyev was reelected for a second term. Despite the much improved economy, particularly with the exploitations of Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli oil field and Shah Deniz gas field, Aliyev's presidency became unpopular due to vote fraud, widespread corruption and objection to his autocratic regime. The same harsh criticism followed the elections of former Prime Minister Ilham Aliyev, the second leader of New Azerbaijan Party after the death of his father Heydar.

Geography

Khinalug has a history of 5,000 years and is among the most ancient places in the world.
Murov mountain in Azerbaijan.
Five Finger Mountain is located in Absheron, Azerbaijan.

The total length of Azerbaijan's land borders is 2,648 km, of which 1007 are with Armenia, 756 with Iran, 480 with Georgia, 390 with Russia and 15 with Turkey.[40] The coastline stretches for 800 km, and the length of the widest area of the Azerbaijani section of the Caspian Sea is 456 km.[40] The territory of Azerbaijan extends 400 km from north to south, and 500 km from west to east. The three mountain ranges are the Greater and Lesser Caucasus, and the Talysh Mountains, together covering approximately 40% of the country.[41] The highest peak of Azerbaijan is mount Bazardüzü (4,466 m), while the lowest point lies in the Caspian Sea (-28 m). Nearly half of all the mud volcanoes on Earth are concentrated in Azerbaijan.

The main water sources are the surface waters. However, only 24 of the 8,350 rivers are greater than 100 km in length.[41] All the rivers drain into the Caspian Sea in the east of the country.[41] The largest lake is Sarysu (67 km²), and the longest river is Kur (1,515 km), which is transboundary. Azerbaijan's four main islands in the Caspian Sea have a combined area of over thirty square kilometres.

Climate

The formation of climate in Azerbaijan is influenced particularly by cold arctic air masses of Scandinavian anticyclone, temperate of Siberian anticyclone, and Central Asian anticyclone.[42] Azerbaijan's diverse landscape affects the ways air masses enter the country.[42] The Greater Caucasus protects the country from direct influences of cold air masses coming from the north. That leads to the formation of subtropical climate on most foothills and plains of the country. Meanwhile, plains and foothills are characterized by high solar radiation rates.

Nine out of eleven existing climate zones are present in Azerbaijan.[43] Both the absolute minimum temperature (-33 °C (-27.4 °F)) and the absolute maximum temperature (+46 °C (114.8 °F)) were observed in Julfa and Ordubad.[43] The maximum annual precipitation falls in Lankaran (1,600 to 1,800 mm) and the minimum in Absheron (200 to 350 mm).[43]

Nature and ecology

From the water supply point, Azerbaijan is below the average in the world with approximately 100,000 m³/year of water per km².[43] All big water reservoirs are built on Kur.

The main areas of plant diversity in Azerbaijan are the highlands of Nakhchivan (60% of the species occur here), the Kura-Araz plain (40%), the Dəvəçi-Quba region east of the Greater Caucasus (38%), the centre of the Lesser Caucasus (29%), Gobustan (26.6%), the Lankaran region in the Talysh Mountains (27%) and the Absheron region (22%).[41] Vast forest areas of Azerbaijan are located on the northern and eastern slopes of the Great Caucasus; the northern, northeastern, and eastern slopes of the Lesser Caucasus; and the Talysh Mountains.[44]

There are more than 400 endemic species of plants (including around 16 species of Caspian algae), seven reptiles, fifteen perch, and six subspecies of Gobiidae. Most of the endemic freshwater fish belong to Cypriniformes.[41] However, there are no strictly endemic mammals.[41] The major cause of biodiversity loss in Azerbaijan is the decrease in natural environments.

Administrative divisions

Azerbaijan is divided into 59 rayons (rayonlar, singular rayon), 11 city districts (şəhərlər, singular şəhər), and one autonomous republic (muxtar respublika) of Nakhchivan,[5] which subdivides into 7 rayons and a city. The President of Azerbaijan appoints the governors of these units, while the government of Nakhchivan is elected and approved by the parliament of Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic.


  • Absheron (Abşeron)
  • Aghjabadi (Ağcabədi)
  • Agdam (Ağdam)
  • Agdash (Ağdaş)
  • Agstafa (Ağstafa)
  • Agsu (Ağsu)
  • Astara
  • Baku (Bakı)
  • Balakan (Balakən)
  • Barda (Bərdə)
  • Beylagan (Beyləqan)
  • Bilasuvar (Biləsuvar)
  • Dashkasan (Daşkəsən)
  • Davachi (Dəvəçi)
  • Fizuli (Füzuli)
  • Gadabay (Gədəbəy)
  • Ganja (Gəncə)
  • Gobustan (Qobustan)
  • Goygol (Göygöl)
  • Goranboy
  • Goychay (Göyçay)
  • Hajigabul (Hacıqabul)
  • Imishli (İmişli)
  • Ismailli (İsmayıllı)
  • Jabrayil (Cəbrayıl)
  • Jalilabad (Cəlilabad)
  • Kalbajar (Kəlbəcər)
  • Khachmaz (Xaçmaz)
  • Khankendi (Xankəndi)
  • Khizi (Xızı)
  • Khojali (Xocalı)
  • Khojavend (Xocavənd)
  • Kurdamir (Kürdəmir)
  • Lachin (Laçın)
  • Lankaran (Lənkəran)
  • Lankaran (Lənkəran)
  • Lerik
  • Masally (Masallı)
  • Mingachevir (Mingəçevir)
  • Naftalan
  • Neftchala (Neftçala)
  • Oghuz (Oğuz)
  • Qabala (Qəbələ)
  • Qakh (Qax)
  • Qazakh (Qazax)
  • Quba
  • Qubadli (Qubadlı)
  • Qusar
  • Saatly (Saatlı)
  • Sabirabad
  • Salyan
  • Samukh (Samux)
  • Shaki (Şəki)
  • Shaki (Şəki)
  • Shamakhi (Şamaxı)
  • Shamkir (Şəmkir)
  • Shirvan (Şirvan)
  • Shusha (Şuşa)
  • Shusha (Şuşa)
  • Siazan (Siyəzən)
  • Sumqayit (Sumqayıt)
  • Tartar (Tərtər)
  • Tovuz
  • Ujar (Ucar)
  • Yardymli (Yardımlı)
  • Yevlakh (Yevlax)
  • Yevlakh (Yevlax)
  • Zangilan (Zəngilan)
  • Zaqatala
  • Zardab (Zərdab)
In Nakhchivan
  • Babek (Babək)
  • Julfa (Culfa)
  • Kangarli (Kəngərli)
  • Nakhchivan (Naxçıvan)
  • Ordubad
  • Sadarak (Sədərək)
  • Shakhbuz (Şahbuz)
  • Sharur (Şərur)

Note: City districts in italics.

Major cities

Below are the 20 most populous cities of Azerbaijan:

Rank City Region Pop. Rank City Region Pop.

Baku
Baku
Ganja
Ganja

1 Baku (Bakı) Absheron 1,194,524 11 Khankendi (Xankəndi) Yukhari-Garabagh 55,282
2 Ganja (Gəncə) Ganja-Qazakh 323,760 12 Lankaran (Lənkəran) Lankaran-Astara 50,534
3 Sumqayit (Sumqayıt) Absheron 282,280 13 Rasulzadə (Rəsulzadə) Absheron 48,716
4 Mingachevir (Mingəçevir) Orta Kur 100,778 14 Baladjary (Biləcəri) Absheron 45,678
5 Qaraçuxur Absheron 78,730 15 Maştağa Absheron 42,635
6 Shirvan (Şirvan) Orta Kur 76,648 16 Agdam (Ağdam) Yukhari-Garabagh 42,587
7 Nakhchivan City (Naxçıvan) Nakhchivan 75,972 17 Barda (Bərdə) Orta Kur 40,741
8 Bakıxanov Absheron 71,836 18 Khachmaz (Xaçmaz) Quba-Khachmaz 40,391
9 Shaki (Şəki) Shaki-Zaqatala 65,616 19 Jalilabad (Cəlilabad) Lankaran-Astara 39,974
10 Yevlakh (Yevlax) Orta Kur 57,449 20 Hövsan Absheron 38,675
Note: Population figures are given according to 2009 estimates

Government and politics

Azerbaijani Government House in downtown Baku.
Baku City Council Building (the Parliament House of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic in 1918-1920).
Ilham Aliyev, the current president of Azerbaijan.

The structural formation of Azerbaijan's political system was completed by the adoption of the new Constitution on 12 November 1995. According to the Article 23 of Constitution, the state symbols of the Azerbaijan Republic are the flag, the coat of arms and the national anthem. The state power in Azerbaijan is limited only by law for internal issues, but for international affairs is additionally limited by the provisions of international agreements.

The government of Azerbaijan is based on the separation of powers among the legislative, executive and judicial branches. The legislative power is held by the unicameral National Assembly and the Supreme National Assembly in the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. Parliamentary elections are held every five years, on the first Sunday of November. The accuracy of the election results is checked and confirmed by the Constitutional Court. The laws enacted by the National Assembly, unless specified otherwise, go into effect on the day of their publication. The executive power is held by the President, who is elected for a 5-year term by direct elections. The president is authorized to form the Cabinet, an inferior executive body, subordinated to him. The Cabinet of Azerbaijan consists primarily of the Prime Minister, his Deputies and Ministers. The president does not have the right to dissolve the National Assembly, but he has the right to veto its decisions. To override the presidential veto, the parliament must have a majority of 95 votes. The judicial power is vested in the Constitutional Court, Supreme Court and the Economic Court. The President nominates the judges in these courts.

The Security Council is the deliberative body under the president, and he organizes it according to the Constitution. It was established on 10 April 1997. The administrative department is not a part of the president's office but manages the financial, technical and pecuniary activities of both the president and his office.

Foreign relations

The short-lived Azerbaijan Democratic Republic succeeded in establishing diplomatic relations with six countries, sending diplomatic representatives to Germany and Finland.[45] The process of international recognition of Azerbaijan's independence from the collapsing Soviet Union lasted roughly one year. The most recent country to recognize Azerbaijan was Bahrain, on 6 November 1996.[46] Full diplomatic relations, including mutual exchanges of missions, were first established with Turkey, Pakistan, the United States, Iran[45] and Israel[47].

Azerbaijan has diplomatic relations with 158 countries so far and holds membership in 38 international organizations.[48] It holds observer status in the Non-Aligned Movement and World Trade Organization and is a correspondent at the International Telecommunication Union.[48] The Azerbaijani diaspora is found in 36 countries,[49] and in turn there are dozens of centers for ethnic minorities inside Azerbaijan, including the (German cultural society "Karelhaus", Slavic cultural center, Azerbaijani-Israeli community, Kurdish cultural center, International Talysh Association, Lezgin national center "Samur", Azerbaijani-Tatar community, Crimean Tatars society, etc.).[50] On 9 May 2006 Azerbaijan was elected to membership in the newly established Human Rights Council by the United Nations General Assembly. The term of office began on 19 June 2006.[51]

Azerbaijani peacekeepers during the Iraq War.

Foreign policy priorities of Azerbaijan include: first of all, the restoration of its territorial integrity; elimination of the consequences of the loss of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven other regions of Azerbaijan;[52] development of good-neighbourly and mutually advantageous relations with neighbouring countries; promotion of security and stability in the region; integration into European and Transatlantic security and cooperation structures; and promotion of transregional economic, energy and transportation projects.[53] The Azeri Government, in late 2007, stated that the long-standing dispute over the Armenian-occupied territory of Nagorno-Karabakh is almost certain to spark a new war if it remains unresolved.[54] The Government is in the process of increasing its military budget, as its oil and gas revenues bring a torrent of cash into its coffers. Furthermore, economic sanctions by Turkey to the west and by Azerbaijan itself to the east have combined to greatly erode Armenia's economy, leading to steep increases in prices for basic commodities and a great decline in the Armenian state revenues.

Azerbaijan is an active member of international coalitions fighting international terrorism. The country is contributing to peacekeeping efforts in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. Azerbaijan is an active member of NATO's “Partnership for Peace” program. It also maintains good relations with the European Union and could potentially one day apply for membership.

Military

Azerbaijani MiG 29 flying over Absheron.
Azerbaijani and American soldiers during Individual Partnership Action Plans (IPAP) in Georgia.

The history of the modern Azerbaijan army dates back to Azerbaijan Democratic Republic in 1918, when the National Army of the newly formed Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was created on 26 June 1918.[55][56] When Azerbaijan gained independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Armed Forces of the Republic of Azerbaijan were created according to the Law on the Armed Forces of 9 October 1991.[57] The original date of the establishment of the short-lived National Army is celebrated as Army Day (26 June) in today's Azerbaijan.[58]

Initially, the equipment and facilities of Azerbaijan's army were those of the Soviet Fourth Army. The Armed Forces have four branches: Land Forces, Air Force and Air Defence Force (a united branch), Navy and Peacekeeping Forces. Besides the Armed Forces there are several military sub-groups that can be involved in state defence when needed. These are the Interior Troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and forces of the State Border Service, which includes the Coast Guard as well.[59] The Azerbaijan National Guard is the first component of the Azerbaijan Army. It operates as a semi-independent entity of the Azerbaijan Defense Department.

Azerbaijan adheres to the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe and has signed all major international arms and weapons treaties. Azerbaijan closely cooperates with NATO in programs such as Partnership for Peace and Individual Partnership Action Plan. Azerbaijan has deployed 151 of its Peacekeeping Forces in Iraq and another 100 in Afghanistan.[60]

The military expenditures of Azerbaijan for 2009 are set at $2.46 billion USD.[61] Azerbaijan has its own Defense Industry, which manufactures small arms, artillery systems, tanks, armors and noctovision devices, aviation bombs, pilotless vehicles, various military vehicles and military planes and helicopters.[62][63][64][65]

Azerbaijan's Armed Forces have a training cooperation partnership with the Oklahoma Army National Guard.[66]

Economy

The oil industry in Azerbaijan dates back to early 19th century.

After gaining independence in 1991, Azerbaijan became a member of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Islamic Development Bank and the Asian Development Bank.[67] The banking system of Azerbaijan consists of the Central Bank of Azerbaijan, commercial banks and non-banking credit organizations. The National (now Central) Bank was created in 1992 based on the Azerbaijan State Savings Bank, an affiliate of the former State Savings Bank of the USSR. The Central Bank serves as Azerbaijan's central bank, empowered to issue the national currency, the Azerbaijani manat, and to supervise all commercial banks. Two major commercial banks are the state-owned International Bank of Azerbaijan and the United Universal Joint-Stock Bank.

Azneft Square in downtown Baku, named after historical "Azneft" ("AzOil") trust.
The Central Bank building amid Heydar Aliyev Square in downtown Baku.

Pushed up by spending and demand growth, the 2007 Q1 inflation rate reached 16.6%.[68] Nominal incomes and monthly wages climbed 29% and 25% respectively against this figure, but price increases in non-oil industry encouraged inflation in the country.[68] Azerbaijan shows some signs of the so-called "Dutch disease" because of the fast growing energy sector, which causes inflation and makes non-energy exports more expensive.

Two thirds of Azerbaijan is rich in oil and natural gas.[69] The region of the Lesser Caucasus accounts for most of the country's gold, silver, iron, copper, titanium, chromium, manganese, cobalt, molybdenum, complex ore and antimony.[69] In September 1994, a 30-year contract was signed between the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) and 13 oil companies, among them Amoco, BP, Exxon, LUKoil and Statoil.[67] As Western oil companies are able to tap deepwater oilfields untouched by the Soviet exploitation, Azerbaijan is considered one of the most important spots in the world for oil exploration and development.[70] Meanwhile the State Oil Fund was established as an extra-budgetary fund to ensure the macroeconomic stability, transparency in the management of oil revenue, and the safeguarding of resources for future generations.

At the beginning of 2007 there were 4,755,100 hectares of utilized agricultural area.[71] In the same year the total wood resources counted 136 million m³.[71] Azerbaijan's agricultural scientific research institutes are focused on meadows and pastures, horticulture and subtropical crops, green vegetables, viticulture and wine-making, cotton growing and medicinal plants.[72] In some lands it is profitable to grow grain, potatoes, sugar beets, cotton and tobacco. The Caspian fishing industry is concentrated on the dwindling stocks of sturgeon and beluga. In 2002 the Azerbaijani merchant marine had 54 ships.[73]

Some portions of most products that were previously imported from abroad have begun to be produced locally (among them are Coca Cola by Coca Cola Bottlers LTD, beer by Baki-Kastel, parquet by Nehir and oil pipes by EUPEC Pipe Coating Azerbaijan).[74]

Azerbaijan is also an important economic hub in the transportation of raw materials. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline (BTC) became operational in May 2006 and extends more than 1,774 kilometers through the territories of Azerbaijan (440 km), Georgia (260 km) and Turkey (1114 km). The BTC is designed to transport up to 50 million tons of crude oil annually and carries oil from the Caspian Sea oilfields to global markets. The South Caucasus Pipeline, also stretching through the territory of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, became operational at the end of 2006 and offers additional gas supplies to the European market from the Shah Deniz gas field. It is expected to produce up to 296 billion cubic metres of natural gas per year. Azerbaijan also plays a major role in the EU-sponsored Silk Road Project.

In 2008, Azerbaijan was cited as one of the top 10 reformers by the World Bank's Doing Business report:[75]

Azerbaijan led the world as the top reformer in 2007/08, with improvements on seven out of 10 indicators of regulatory reform. Azerbaijan started operating a one-stop shop in January 2008 that halved the time, cost and number of procedures to start a business. Business registrations increased by 40% in the first six months. Azerbaijan also eliminated the minimum loan cutoff of $1,100, more than doubling the number of borrowers covered by the credit registry. Also, taxpayers can now file forms and pay their taxes online. Azerbaijan’s extensive reforms moved it far up the ranks, from 97 to 33 in the overall ease of doing business.

Transportation and communications

Yacht Club in Baku Bay.

In 2002 Azerbaijan led the way in per capita mobile phone use within the CIS.[76] Public pay phones are available for local calls and require a purchase token from the telephone exchange or some shops and kiosks. Tokens allow a call of indefinite duration. As of 2005, there were 1,091,400 main telephone lines and 1,036,000 internet users.[77] There are three GSM: Azerfon (NarMobile), Bakcell and Azercell mobile network operators and one CDMA.

Broad gauge railways in 2005 stretched for 2,957 km and electrified railways numbered 1,278 km.[78] By 2006, there were 36 airports and one heliport.[78]

Demographics

Ethnic composition (1999)[2]
Azerbaijani 90.6%
Lezgins 2.2%
Russians 1.8%
Armenians 1.5%
Talysh 1.0%
Turks 0.6%
Other nations 2.3%

From the total population of about 8 million people as of April 2006, there were 4,380,000 (nearly 51%) city dwellers and a rural population of 4,060,000 (49%).[79] 51% of the total population were female.[79] The sex ratio for total population in that year was therefore 0.94 males per female.[80]

The 2006 population growth rate was 0.66%, compared to 1.14% worldwide.[80] A significant factor restricting the population growth is rather a high level of migration. As many as 3 million Azeris, many of them guest workers, live in Russia.[81] In 2006 Azerbaijan saw migration of -4.38/1,000 persons.[80] The highest morbidity in 2005 was from respiratory diseases (806.9 diseases per 10,000 of total population).[82] In 2005, the highest morbidity for infectious and parasitic diseases was noted among influenza and acute respiratory infections (4168,2 per 100,000 population).[83] 2007 estimate for total life expectancy is 66 years, 70.7 years for women and 61.9 for men.[84] With 800,000 refugees and IDPs, Azerbaijan has the largest internally displaced population in the region, and, as of 2006, had the highest per capita IDP population in the world.[85]

The ethnic composition of the population according to the 1999 population census:[2] 90.6% Azeris, 2.2% Lezgins, 1.8% Russians, 1.5% Armenians (Almost all live in the break-away region of Nagorno-Karabakh), 1.0% Talysh (disputed as too low by Talysh nationalists),[86][87] 0.6% Avars, 0.5% Turks, 0.4% Tatars, 0.4% Ukrainians, 0.2% Tsakhur, 0.2% Georgians, 0.13% Kurds, 0.13% Tats, 0.1% Jews, 0.05% Udins, other 0.2%. Many Russians left Azerbaijan during the 1990s. According to the 1989 census, there were 392,000 ethnic Russians in Azerbaijan, or 5.6% of the population.[88] According to the statistics, about 390,000 Armenians lived in Azerbaijan in 1989.[89]

Although Azerbaijani (also called Azeri) is the most widely spoken language in the country and is spoken by about a quarter of the population of Iran. There are 13 other languages spoken natively in the country.[90] Some of these languages are very small communities, others are more vital.[91] Azerbaijani is a Turkic language which belongs to the Altaic family and is mutually intelligible with Turkish. The language is written with a modified Latin alphabet today, but was earlier written in the Arabic alphabet (until 1929), in the Uniform Turkic Alphabet (1929-1939), and in the Cyrillic alphabet (1939-1991).[92] The changes in alphabet have been largely molded by religious and political forces.

Iranian Azeris are the largest minority in Iran. The CIA World Factbook estimates Iranian Azeris as comprising nearly 16 million, or 24% of Iran's population.[93]

Religion

Azerbaijan's etymology - Land of the Eternal Fire derives from its Zoroastrian history as seen here the Eternal Fire temple in Surakhani.

The religions of Azerbaijan comprise different religious trends spread among the people and ethnic groups residing in the country. There are several confessions in Azerbaijan.

Mosque in Baku

Azerbaijan is a secular state, and article 48 of its Constitution ensures the liberty of worship to everyone. Everyone has a right to choose any faith, to adopt any religion or to not practice any religion, to express one's view on the religion and to spread it. Freedom of religion is guaranteed by the Constitution. According to official figures, between 93.4% and 96% of the population is Muslim, of which 85% are Shia and 15% Sunni.[94] Christians comprise 3% to 4% of the population, of whom most are Russian, Georgian and Armenian Orthodox (Almost all Armenians live in the break-away region of Nagorno-Karabakh).[95] In 2003 there were 250 Roman Catholics.[96] Other Christian denominations as of 2002 include Lutherans, Baptists and Molokans.[97] There are also Jewish, Bahá'í, Hare Krishna and Jehovah's Witnesses communities, as well as adherents of the Nehemiah Church, Star in the East Church and the Cathedral of Praise Church.[97] Zoroastrianism had a long history in Azerbaijan, evident in sites such as the Fire Temple of Baku, and along with Manichean. It is estimated that the Zoroastrian community of Azerbaijan numbers around 2,000.

According to the recent Gallup Poll Azerbaijan is one of the most irreligious countries in the world with about 50% of respondents indicating the importance of religion in their life as little or none.[98]

Religious freedom has recently been threatened in Azerbaijan, though it continues a signatory to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. A number of nationals who are Jehovah's Witnesses have been harassed, detained, jailed and in some cases physically assaulted by police because of their religious activity. [99] Jehovah's Witnesses are entitled to protection of freedom of religion under Articles 9, 10, and 11 of the aforementioned Convention. In some cases the defendants have been cleared of all charges.[100]

Culture

Azerbaijani culture has developed as a result of many influences. Today, Western influences, including globalized consumer culture, are strong.

Azerbaijan folk consists of Azerbaijanis, the representative part of society, as well as of nations and ethnic groups, compactly living in various areas of the country. Azerbaijani national and traditional dresses are the Chokha and Papakhi. There are radio broadcasts in Russian, Armenian, Georgian, Kurdish, Lezgin and Talysh languages, which are financed from the state budget.[50] Some local radio stations in Balakən and Xaçmaz organize broadcasts in Avar and Tat.[50] In Baku several newspapers are published in Russian, Kurdish (Dengi Kurd), Lezgin (Samur) and Talysh languages.[50] Jewish society "Sokhnut" publishes the newspaper Aziz.[50]

Architecture

Philharmonic Hall of Baku.
Nizami Museum of Azerbaijan Literature in Baku at night.

Azerbaijani architecture typically combines elements of East and West. Many ancient architectural treasures such as the Maiden Tower and Palace of the Shirvanshahs in the Walled City of Baku survive in modern Azerbaijan. Entries submitted on the UNESCO World Heritage tentative list include the Gobustan State Reserve, the Fire Temple of Baku, the Momine Khatun Mausoleum and the Khan Palace in Sheki. Among other medieval architectural treasures reflecting the influence of several schools are the Shirvan Shahs' palace in Baku, the palace of the Shaki Khan's in the town of Shaki in north-central Azerbaijan, the Surakhany Temple on the Absheron Peninsula, a number of bridges spanning the Aras River, and several mausoleums. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, little monumental architecture was created, but distinctive residences were built in Baku and elsewhere. Among the most recent architectural monuments, the Baku subways are noted for their lavish decor.

Cinema

The first film studio in Baku established in the 1919s.

The film industry in Azerbaijan dates back to 1898. In fact, Azerbaijan was among the first countries involved in cinematography. When the Lumière brothers of France premiered their first motion picture footage in Paris on December 28, 1895, little did they know how rapidly it would ignite a new age of photographic documentation. These ingenuous brothers invented an apparatus, patented in February 1895, which they called the "Cinématographe" (from which the word "cinematography" is derived). It's not surprising that this apparatus soon showed up in Baku – at the turn of the 19th century, this bay town on the Caspian was producing more than 50 percent of the world's supply of oil. Just like today, the oil industry attracted foreigners eager to invest and to work.[101] In 1919, during the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, a documentary called The Celebration of the Anniversary of Azerbaijani Independence was filmed on Azerbaijan's independence day, May 28, and premiered in June 1919 at several theatres in Baku.

After the Soviet power was established in 1920, Nariman Narimanov, Chairman of the Revolutionary Committee of Azerbaijan, signed a decree nationalizing Azerbaijan's cinema.
In 1991, after Azerbaijan gained its independence from the Soviet Union, first Baku International Film Festival East-West was held in Baku.

Cuisine

Light snacks of the Azerbaijani cuisine.

Azerbaijani cuisine, throughout the centuries, has been influenced by the foods of different cultures due to political and economic processes in Azerbaijan. Still, today's Azerbaijani cuisine has distinctive and unique features. Many foods that are indigenous to the country can now be seen in the cuisines of other cultures. For the Azerbaijanis, food is an important part of the country's culture and is deeply rooted in the history, traditions and values of the nation.

Azerbaijani cuisine is an important part of the country's culture. Climatic diversity and fertility of the land are reflected in the national dishes, which are based on fish from the Caspian Sea, local meat (mainly mutton and beef), and an abundance of seasonal vegetables and greens. Saffron-rice plov is the flagship food in Azerbaijan and black tea is the national beverage.

Folk dance

Azerbaijani dancers performing Yalli dance during Mugham Festival in Shaki.

There are a number of Azerbaijani dances, these folk dances of the Azerbaijani people are old and extremely melodious. It is performed at formal celebrations and the dancers wear festival clothes or Chokha cloaks. It has a very fast rhythm, so the dancer must have inherent skill.[102] Azerbaijan’s national dance shows the characteristics of the Azerbaijani nation. These dances differ from other dances with its quick temp and optimism. And this talks about nation’s braveness. The national clothes of Azerbaijan are well preserved within the national dances.[103]

Azerbaijan is a country where national traditions are well preserved. In Azerbaijan where are a lot of traditions. Novruz holiday (novruz is translated as "a new day") is the most ancient and cherished holiday of a New Year and spring. It is celebrated on the day of vernal equinox - March 21-22. Novruz is the symbol of nature renewal and fertility. Agrarian peoples of Middle East have been celebrating Novruz since ancient times.

Folk art

Azerbaijani carpet based on the Layla and Majnun novel by Nizami Ganjavi in 12th century.

The Azeris have a rich and distinctive culture, a major part of which is decorative and applied art. This form of art is represented by a wide range of handicrafts, such as chasing, jeweler, engraving in metal, carving in wood, stone and bone, carpet-making, lasing, pattern weaving and printing, knitting and embroidery. Each of these types of decorative art, evidence of the and endowments of the Azerbaijan nation, is very much in favor here. Many interesting facts pertaining to the development of arts and crafts in Azerbaijan were reported by numerous merchants, travelers and diplomats who had visited these places at different times.

Music

Uzeyir Hajibeyov merged traditional Azerbaijani music styles with Western styles early in 20th century.

Music of Azerbaijan builds on folk traditions that reach back nearly 1,000 years.[104] For centuries Azerbaijani music has evolved under the badge of monody, producing rhythmically diverse melodies.[105] Azerbaijani music has a branchy mode system, where chromatisation of major and minor scales is of great importance.[105] According to The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians "In terms of ethnicity, culture and religion the Azeri are musically much closer to Iran than Turkey."[106] The classical music of Azerbaijan is called mugam (more accurately spelled muğam), and is usually a suite with poetry and instrumental interludes. In contrast to the mugam traditions of Central Asian countries, Azeri mugam is more free-form and less rigid; it is often compared to the improvised field of jazz.[107] UNESCO proclaimed the Azerbaijani mugam tradition a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity on 7 November 2003. Meykhana and Mugham are one of the many musical traditions of Azerbaijan. During Mugam, the singers have to transform their emotions into singing and music. Mugham singer Alim Qasimov is revered as one of the five best singers of all time.[108] Meykhana is a kind of traditional Azeri distinctive folk unaccompanied song, usually performed by several people improvising on a particular subject. Among national musical instruments there are fourteen string instruments, eight percussion instruments and six wind instruments.[109] Azerbaijan made its debut appearance at the Eurovision Song Contest 2008, and placed 8th among 43 contestants.

See also

  • Index of Azerbaijan-related articles

References

External links

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