Azerbaijan (Azerbaijani: Azərbaycan) is a country in the Caucasus, in the crossroads of Europe and Southwest Asia, with an east coast on the Caspian Sea. It borders Russia on the north, Georgia and Armenia on the west, and Iran on the south. The Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic (an exclave of Azerbaijan) borders Armenia on the north, Iran on the south, and Turkey on the west.
The country is formally named the Republic of Azerbaijan (Azerbaijani: Azərbaycan Respublikası). Azerbaijan is a secular state, has been a member of the Council of Europe since 2001. The majority of the population are Muslim of Turkic descent. The country is formally an emerging democracy, however with strong authoritarian rule.
Origin and history of the name
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 Iranian 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, which is 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 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."
Main article: History of Azerbaijan
Historically Azerbaijan has been occupied by a variety of peoples, including Persians, Romans, Arabs, Turks, Mongols and Russians. The first state to emerge in the territory of present-day Republic of Azerbaijan was Caucasian Albania. It was established in IV c. BC and included approximately the territories of present-day Azerbaijan and southern parts of Dagestan. Islam spread in Azerbaijan following the Arab conquests in VII–VIII cc. In XI c. the Seljuk Turks became the dominant force in Azerbaijan and laid the ethnic foundation of contemporary Azerbaijanis. In XIII–XIV cc. the country underwent Mongol-Tatar invasions.
Azerbaijan was part of the Safavid state in XVI–XVIII cc. It also experienced a brief period of feudal fragmentation in mid-XVIII to early XIX cc. and consisted of independent khanates. In early XIX c., following the two subsequent wars between the Qajar dynasty of Iran and the Russian Empire, Azerbaijan was acquired by Russia through the Treaty of Gulistan in 1813, and the Treaty of Turkmenchay in 1828.
Following 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 existed only two years in 1918–1920 before the Soviet Red Army invaded Azerbaijan. Subsequently, Azerbaijan became part of the Soviet Union.
Azerbaijan re-established its independence with 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 Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh enclave (largely Armenian-populated). Azerbaijan has lost 16% of its territory and must support some 800,000 refugees and internally displaced persons as a result of the conflict.
Main article: Politics of Azerbaijan
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. However, the Azerbaijani government has been accused of widespread corruption (a kleptocracy, to some people).
Main article: Administrative divisions of Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan is divided into:
Abseron Rayonu, Agcabadi Rayonu, Agdam Rayonu, Agdas Rayonu, Agstafa Rayonu, Agsu Rayonu, Ali Bayramli Sahari*, Astara Rayonu, Baki Sahari*, Balakan Rayonu, Barda Rayonu, Beylaqan Rayonu, Bilasuvar Rayonu, Cabrayil Rayonu, Calilabad Rayonu, Daskasan Rayonu, Davaci Rayonu, Fuzuli Rayonu, Gadabay Rayonu, Ganca Sahari*, Goranboy Rayonu, Goycay Rayonu, Haciqabul Rayonu, Imisli Rayonu, Ismayilli Rayonu, Kalbacar Rayonu, Kurdamir Rayonu, Lacin Rayonu, Lankaran Rayonu, Lankaran Sahari*, Lerik Rayonu, Masalli Rayonu, Mingacevir Sahari*, Naftalan Sahari*, Naxcivan Muxtar Respublikasi**, Neftcala Rayonu, Oguz Rayonu, Qabala Rayonu, Qax Rayonu, Qazax Rayonu, Qobustan Rayonu, Quba Rayonu, Qubadli Rayonu, Qusar Rayonu, Saatli Rayonu, Sabirabad Rayonu, Saki Rayonu, Saki Sahari*, Salyan Rayonu, Samaxi Rayonu, Samkir Rayonu, Samux Rayonu, Siyazan Rayonu, Sumqayit Sahari*, Susa Rayonu, Susa Sahari*, Tartar Rayonu, Tovuz Rayonu, Ucar Rayonu, Xacmaz Rayonu, Xankandi Sahari*, Xanlar Rayonu, Xizi Rayonu, Xocali Rayonu, Xocavand Rayonu, Yardimli Rayonu, Yevlax Rayonu, Yevlax Sahari*, Zangilan Rayonu, Zaqatala Rayonu, Zardab Rayonu.
Main article: Geography of Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan has a temperate climate. Temperatures vary by season. In the southeast lowland , temperatures average forty degrees (Fahrenheit) in the winter and eighty degrees in the summer. In the northern and western mountain ranges, temperatures average fifty-five degrees in the summer and twenty degrees in the winter.
Main article: Economy of Azerbaijan
The economy is largely based on industry. Industries include machine building, oil 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 production of natural silk for the clothing industry. Azerbaijan's herders raise cattle, sheep and goats near the mountain ranges. Seafood and fish are caught in the nearby Caspian Sea. Azerbaijan is a highly dynamic economy, mainly because of oil, and has a GDP growth of up to 14% a year.
Main article: Demographics of Azerbaijan
According to the CIA World Factbook, about eighty-nine percent of Azerbaijan's population is ethnic Azerbaijani, and the rest of the population is Russian, Armenian, or another ethnicity of the area. Some people state that there are also large Talysh and Tat minorities, about thirty percent of the population together, whose existence is either denied (they are counted as Azerbaijanis) or their numbers are downplayed in the official announcements of the government. Most Azerbaijanis 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 Orthodox Church, the Russian Orthodox Church, and various secular beliefs (much of which are left over from the Soviet era of less tolerance for spirituality).
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 quarter of the population of Iran. It's 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.
External links and references