Azerbaijan

History of Azerbaijan

Archeological excavations in the territory of Azerbaijan Republic revealed patterns of rich material culture related to the first human settlement. Based on the abovementioned the territory of Azerbaijan has been referred to the areas of first human formation. Most ancient archeological and paleontological materials recently found in the territory of Azerbaijan lead us to believe that men first settled here 1.7-1.8 million years ago.

Many people of Iranian and Arabic origin migrated to Azerbaijan from Iran and Arabia. Turkic ethnic groups, the most organized and strong from the military and the political aspect, composed the majority of the population in the first centuries of the AD and played  important role in the formation of the people. Since the first centuries AD Turkic language was gaining priority among minor people and ethnic groups lived in the territory of Azerbaijan. Turkic language was the means of relation between the north and the south. This fact played  important role in formation of united folk for the reason that monotheism was absent in Azerbaijan at that time. Acceptance of Islam in the 7th century made a great change in the history of Azerbaijan.

Islam turned a strong push in the formation of unique people and the language and quickened this process. Common religion of Turkic and non-Turkic ethic groups brought to formation of the same traditions, widening of kinship relations and deepening of the integration process in the territory of Azerbaijan. Islam united all the Moslem Turkic and non-Turkic ethic groups in the struggle against the imperia of Byzantium. In the late 18th century the government of Iran passed to the dynasty of the Gajars (1796-1925) of Azerbaijani origin. Their main policy was to unite all the territories once ruled by their ancestors under their government. This gave the start to long lasting wars between the Gajars and Russia, aimed to occupy the Southern Caucasus. Azerbaijani khanates (Political entity ruled by a Khan) were oppressed in the middle of bloody struggle between two great states.

According to Gulustan (1813) and Turkmanchay (1828) agreements, Azerbaijan was divided between the two empires. The north part of Azerbaijan became part of Russia, while the south remained part of Gajar Empire. This marked the beginning of the Azerbaijani Genocide. This historical event determines the origin of new political-geographical notions: “The North Azerbaijan”(or “Russian Azerbaijan”) and “The South Azerbaijan” (or “Iranian Azerbaijan”).

Russia invaded Azerbaijan with the purpose to create support for itself a Christian only Southern Caucasus.  Russia on mass scale resettled Armenians from abroad in to the territories of Azerbaijan. This laid the foundation of future Armenian state on Azerbaijani lands. In 1836 Armenians started to claim Azerbaijani lands. Later Russia made the next effort: it armed Armenians and began mass genocide against Turkic-Muslim Azerbaijanis and gave start to the genocide of all Azerbaijanis and the Turkic-Muslim population of the southern Caucasus.

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. The liberty movement in Northern Azerbaijan concluded tragically.

In March 1918 the dashnak-bolshevik government with S.Shaumyan at its head executed the terrible genocide against Azerbaijanis. But the interference of Turkey brought victory to liberation movement in Azerbaijan. In May 28th of 1918 the northern Azerbaijan witnesses the establishment of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan – the first Parliamentary Republic in the history of the people of Azerbaijan, the first democratic, legal and secular state in the whole East and Islamic world. The Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan fell under the military attack of Soviet Russia. State independency of Northern Azerbaijan was liquidated. In April 28th of 1920 in the territory of Azerbaijan the Soviet Socialist Republic of Azerbaijan (SSRA) appeared instead of the Democratic Republic. So after the March genocide in 1918 Azerbaijan people had to bare the new one. The second genocide was directed to the prominent persons of Azerbaijan people – the prominent statesmen of the DRA, the generals, high rank officers of the National Army, the progressive intellectuals, the heads of the parties, the famous scientists. The band of Bolshevik-dashnaks purposed to abolished the cream of the society and leave it without a head. This was more cruel and terrible than March genocide of 1918.

 In the thirties the Azerbaijani people met with repression. 29,000 people were subjected to repression in 1937. All of them were reformists and intellectuals. For many years Azerbaijan remained under the influence of this process which took away the intellectual potentiality and honorable men of Azerbaijani people. The late period of Azerbaijan state establishment started with the adoption of the Constitution Act ‘about the State Independence of Azerbaijan Republic’ on October 18th of 1991, on the eve of the fall of the USSR. Separatist groupings of the Autonomous Provision of Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenian armed forces began military actions for invasion of Nagorno-Karabakh with the help of the military units of USSR Armed Forces in 1988. The regions of Nagorno-Karabakh with Azerbaijani population were invaded the first. The night from  February 25th to 26th of 1992 witnessed the most tragic events of modern history. Armenian military unions with the help of the soldiers of Russian 366th moto-shooting regiment carried out terrible genocide against Azerbaijanis in Khojaly. In the following two years  Armenia with the support of Russia managed to occupy 20% of Azerbaijan. However it should be noted that the main reason for the failure of Azerbaijan was not because of military defeat but due corruption and land-selling by high-ranking officials within the state.

Baku, sometimes known as Baqy, Baky, Baki or Bakü,  is the capital, the largest city, and the largest port of Azerbaijan. According to its anciency, scale of territory and number of population Baku is one of the oldest and biggest cities in the East. Located on the southern shore of the Absheron Peninsula (a region in Azerbaijan), the city consists of two  principal parts: the downtown and the old Inner City. As of January 1, 2005 the population was 2,036,000 of which 153,400 were internally displaced persons (people forced to flee their homes but who, unlike refugees, remain within their country’s borders) and 93,400 refugees. 

More than 94% of the residents of Baku practice various forms of Islam (vast majority Shia (see below)). A small minority of the population (about 4%) are Christians (majority Russian Orthodox Church, Georgian Orthodox Church and Molokans). Baku also has three different Jewish communities, namely the Ashkenazim Jews, the Mountain Jews, and the Georgian Jews.

In 2007 Culture Ministers of the member-states of the Organization of Islamic Conference declared Baku to be the capital of Islamic Culture in 2009.

Baku was named the most dirty city in the world by Forbes magazine citing “the capital, suffers from life-threatening levels of air pollution emitted from oil drilling and shipping.”.

Baku is divided into eleven administrative districts, or regions (Azizbayov, Binagadi, Garadagh, Narimanov, Nasimi, Nizami, Sabail, Sabunchu, Khatai, Surakhany and Yasamal) and 48 townships. Among these are the townships on islands in the Baku Bay and the town of Oil Rocks built on stilts in the Caspian Sea, 60 km away from Baku.

The earliest evidence of human settlement in the  territory of Azerbaijan dates to the late Stone Age and is related to the Quruçay culture of Azykh Cave. The area was conquered by the Achaemenids around 550 B.C., leading to the spread of Zoroastrianism, while later become part of the Alexander the Great‘s Empire, and its successor Seleucid Empire (a Hellenistic Empire). Caucasian Albanians, the original inhabitants of the area established an independent kingdom around 4th century B.C.

Zoroastrianism is the religion and philosophy based on the teachings ascribed to the prophet Zoroaster, after whom the religion is named.

Zoroaster was an ancient Iranian prophet and religious poet.

Black January also known as Black Saturday or the January Massacre was a crackdown of Azeri protest demonstrations by the Soviet army in Baku, Azerbaijan SSR on January 20, 1990. In Azerbaijan, Black January is seen as the birth of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

Memorial for Black JanuaryAccording to official figures, 137 people died from wounds received that night and during subsequent violent confrontations and incidents that lasted in February (unofficial sources put this figure as over 300); the majority of these were civilians killed by Soviet soldiers. More than 700 civilians were wounded. Hundreds of people were detained, only a handful of whom were put on trial for alleged criminal offenses.

Shia Islam, is the second largest denomination of Islam, after Sunni Islam. ShÄ«‘ah Muslims, though a minority in the Muslim world, constitute the majority of the populations in Iran, Azerbaijan, Bahrain and Iraq, as well as a plurality in Lebanon and Kuwait.

Shi’a Muslims attribute themselves to the Qur’an and teachings of the final Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, and in contrast to other Muslims, believe that his family, including his descendants known as Imams, have special spiritual and political rule over the community and believe that Ali ibn Abi Talib, Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law, was the first of these Imams and was the rightful successor to Muhammad.

Shi’a Islam is divided into three branches. The largest and best known are the Twelver, named after their adherence to the Twelve Imams. They form a majority of the population in Iran, Azerbaijan, Bahrain and Iraq.The term Shi’a often refers to Twelver Shi’a only.

Christianity in Azerbaijan

In 252 A.D. the Sassanids (last pre-Islamic Iranian empire) turned Azerbaijan into a vassal state while King Urnayr officially adopted Christianity as the state religion in the 4th century A.D.. Despite numerous conquests by the Sassanids and Byzantines, Caucasian Albania remained an entity in the region until the 9th century A.D.. The territory of modern Azerbaijan roughly corresponds to that of the ancient kingdom. The Islamic Umayyad Caliphate repulsed both Sassanids and Byzantines from the region and turned Caucasian Albania to a vassal state after the Christian resistance, led by Prince Javanshir, was suppressed in 667 A.D. 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 11th century, the territory was gradually seized by waves of Turkic Oghuz tribes from Central Asia. The first of these Turkic dynasties were the Ghaznavids, who took over the area now known as Azerbaijan by 1030.

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.

Azerbaijan is a secular state, in 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. Christians comprise 3% to 4% of the   population, of whom most are Russian and Armenian           Orthodox. In 2003 there were 250 Roman Catholics. Other Christian denominations as of 2002 include Lutherans, Baptists and Molokans. 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. Zoroastrianism (see page 2) 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.

Christianity in Azerbaijan is a minority religion. 3.8% of the population (1998) belong to the Russian Orthodox Church (1998). The Russian Orthodox Church has the Eparchy of Baku and the Caspian region with a seat in Azerbaijan. There are eleven Molokan communities. The Molokans are a Christian minority which is centered on the Bible and who reject church hierarchy. There is only one Roman Catholic congregation – a Roman Catholic church in Baku has opened in 2007. The Albanian-Udi church is a minority of 6000 persons in Azerbaijan. The Armenian Apostolic Church has no communitiy outside Nagorno-Karabakh. There likely are less than 7000 Protestants.

The term vassal state commonly refers to any state that was subordinate to another in the pre-modern international system. The vassal in these cases was the ruler, rather than the state itself. Being a vassal most commonly implied providing military assistance to the dominant state when requested to do so

The Molokans (Russian: Молока́не) are a religious sect, among Russian peasants (serfs), who broke away from the Russian Orthodox Church in the 1550s. Molokans denied the Czar‘s divine right to rule and rejected icons. They also reject the Trinity as   outlined by the Nicene Creed, the Orthodox fasts, military service, the eating of unclean foods, and other practices, including water baptism. They claim to be the direct descendants of the ancient Armenian “Paulicians“, who became known as the “Bogomils” of Thrace, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Serbia. Molokan means “milk drinkers” in Russian, as they drank milk instead of fasting from it on Orthodox Fasts.

The Armenian Apostolic Church is the world’s oldest national church and one of the most ancient Christian communities.

The official name of the church is the One Holy Universal Apostolic Orthodox Armenian Church. It is sometimes referred to as the Armenian Apostolic Church or the Gregorian Church, however the latter name is not preferred by the church, as it views the Apostles Bartholomew and Thaddeus as the  founders, and St. Gregory the Illuminator as merely the first official head of the church.

Religion in Azerbaijan

The geographical position of Azerbaijan and the national composition of the population created favorable conditions for the spread of different religions in the country. Religions as Heathenism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam and others managed to spread over the country in different periods of time.

Zoroastrianism  emerged as an independent religion in Azerbaijan. According to several historians Zoroastrianism had been the most ancient among the prophetic religions. The Holy book of this religion Qatas that was part of Avesta was sent down to Zoroaster, religious teacher and prophet (6th century BC). According to most sources Zoroaster came from Azerbaijan. According to Zoroastrianism, the world lays on two components – the Good and the Evil, which lead constant struggle with one another. Fire occupied the important place in the Zoroastrian beliefs therefore Zoroastrians were often considered fire-worshippers. The Zoroastrian beliefs acquired the form of dogma in the 3rd century BC.  Zoroastrianism spread on the territory of Azerbaijan till Derbend due to the military and political progress of Sasanies. Iranian Zoroastrians were moved to the country for spreading the new religion. At the same time Zoroastrianism adopted local features in Azerbaijan. Today  Zoroastrianism, culture and traditions of Zoroastrianism remains highly respected in Azerbaijan, and Novruz continues to be the main holiday in the country. Zoroastrianism has left a deep history mark in the history of Azerbaijan. Traces of the religion are still visible in Surakhany,  Khinalyg, and Yanar Dag. It is estimated that the Zoroastrian community of Azerbaijan numbers around 2,000 – a  number that continues to increase as many Iranian Zoroastrians migrate to Azerbaijan in search of religious tolerance.

Judaism  Historically Judaism in Azerbaijan has been represented by the mountain Jews. Movses Kalankatvasi refers the arrival of mountain Jews in the Caucasus to the 1st century BC. Mountain Jews are one of the most ancient Jewish communities, generated from the people of Israel, driven away from Palestine by the shahs of Assyria and Babylon and settled in Midia. Their ancestors were amongst the first to establish Judaism and resided apart from Palestine and did not participate in the persecutions of Jesus Christ in the beginning of their formation as a single community. In the early 1920s during the Armenian and Russian genocidal campaigns in Azerbaijan, around 3,000 Azerbaijani Jews were murdered by Armenian and Russian soldiers, the entire Jewish community of Shamakhi  was wiped out. The total number of Jewish residents in Azerbaijan is 16,000 people. Azerbaijani Jews mainly reside in the cities of Baku, Sumqayit, Quba, Oguz and the town of Krasnaya Sloboda, the only town in the world where Mountain Jews constitute majority.

Islam – Azeri population were converted to Islam with by the early representatives of this religion in 639. Some regions were converted into Islam peacefully while others were made to accept the religion forcefully. When Caucasian Albania was overthrown, the independence by Albanian church lost its independence in 705. In the next century Zoroastrianism lost their actuality, Judaism managed to survive, the independence of Albania was restored, yet due to its weak influence the praying ceremonies were held in Armenian language and their followers were armenified. The consciousness of belonging to Islam strengthened at that period yet the ideas connected with the ethnic roots had not yet been completely lost. One of the best examples was Babek’s rebellion (816-838) during the first years of the ruling of Abbasies. The period of Azerbaijan’s  annexation to the Russian Empire can also be regarded as a new stage in the religious life of the country. This period is notable for the attempts of the government to subdue Muslim priests through the policy of establishing the religious structure of Islam similar to that of the Christian church. Following the establishment of the Soviet government tin Azerbaijan in 1920, Muslim clergymen were persecuted, most of the Mosques were closed down.  In the 90s when Azerbaijan regained it’s independence war broke out with Azerbaijan and Armenia with the backing of Russia, as a result of the Karabakh war, mosques in the Karabakh were destroyed. Today the majority of Azerbaijan is secular Muslim. Among the Muslim majority, religious observance is relatively low and Muslim identity tends to be based more on culture and ethnic

Christianity  influenced Azerbaijan by means of the Caucasus Albania in the first years of the new era in times of Christ’s apostils. One of the gospels started to spread the new religion by the benediction of the first patriarch of Jerusalem Yegub reached the land of Agvan and erected a church in Kish village. This church had been constructed before any other church in the Caucasus. When Roman emperor Constantine lifted veto from practice of Christianity in 313, Albanian ruler Urnayr declared Christianity the state religion. The priesthood and church hierarchy formed in the 3rd-4th centuries. Churches were built in the region and religious books were translated from Syrian, Arami and Greek language to Albanian. The book “In Albanian script and Albanian language is considered the most ancient public reader of the world Christianity. After the overthrow of Albanian meliks the role of Christianity weakened in the country the prayers were conducted in Armenian language in the churches, Albanian language was oppressed and led out. Albanian church restored its status of the autocephaly church during the formation of independent states on the territory of Azerbaijan in 8th-9th centuries. This state lasted till 18th century. Albanian church was abolished by instruction of Synod in 1836 and the hole property of the church was delivered to the Armenian church of Echmiadzin. The Albanian church was once more restored in the 1980-1990s. The Albanian-Udi Christian community was registered by the government in 2003, following the restoration of the Kish church in Sheki. The church of Nich village is currently being restored in Gabala district.  Today Christianity is represented by  Orthodoxy, Catholicism and Protestantism as well as a number of sectarian communities in Azerbaijan. The Albanian-Udi Church has some 8,000 followers in Azerbaijan of whom 4,400 residing in the Nich village of Gabala district.

Politics in Azerbaijan

Following the politics of glasnost  (Glasnost is the policy of maximal publicity, openness, and transparency in the activities of all government institutions in the Soviet Union, together with freedom of information – associated with free speech), 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 (see page 2) 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 as president in nationwide elections in which he was the only candidate running.

On 18 October 1991, 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.

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, wide-spread 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 Part after the death of his father Heydar.

The structural formation of Azerbaijan’s political system was completed by the acceptance of the new Constitution on 12 November 1995.

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 are checked and confirmed by the Constitutional Court. The laws enacted by the National Assembly, unless specified otherwise come into effect from the day of their publication. The executive power is carried out 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 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 ensuring of activity of both the president and his office.

Aliyev was born in Baku as the son of Heydar Aliyev, who was made head of the Azerbaijani KGB when Ä°lham was six and later became party leader for Azerbaijan and full member of Politburo, and Dr. Zarifa Aliyeva, a medical doctor and daughter of Soviet politician Aziz Aliyev. After completing school in Baku, Ä°lham attended Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), receiving a PhD in history, before starting to teach at MGIMO. He is married to Mehriban Aliyeva and has three children: Leyla, Arzu and Heydar. He also has an older sister, Sevil Aliyeva.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Aliyev worked as a businessman in Moscow and Istanbul from 1991 to 1994. Around that time, media reports spread of his lifestyle allegedly involving gambling and women, and heavy debts to a Turkish casino owner. His father, Heydar Aliyev was reportedly unhappy at his son’s image as a playboy and the harm he felt this would do to his son’s prospects of succeeding him. Heydar Aliyev ordered the closure of all casinos in Azerbaijan in 1998.

In May 1994, Ä°lham Aliyev was appointed vice-president of the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR). There was controversy that Aliyev had bribed his way into the ranks of the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan. The following year Ä°lham was elected to parliament (Milli Majlis) and later became president of the National Olympic Committee (still incumbent) and head of the Azerbaijan delegation to the Council of Europe. In August 2003, two months prior to the presidential elections, he was appointed prime minister. In October, Heydar Aliyev, suffering failing health, stepped down as president and in a controversial move, appointed his son, an independent candidate, as his party’s sole presidential candidate.

The official results of the October 15, 2003, elections gave victory to Ä°lham Aliyev, who earned 76.84% of the votes. However, the domestic opposition refused to accept the results and staged mass protests. The protests were due to alleged corruption and staging of elections. Hundreds of demonstrators were beaten, and later arrested. Aliyev took office on October 31, despite opposition complaints. The U.S. government supported Aliyev’s election.

Artur Tahir oÄŸlu Rasizada often spelled as Artur Rasizade (born 1935), is the Prime Minister of Azerbaijan. Rasizada was a long-time Communist Party member during the Azerbaijan SSR period. He was Prime Minister from July 20, 1996 until August 4, 2003, when he resigned, ostensibly due to health reasons, enabling President Heydar Aliyev‘s son Ilham Aliyev to assume the office. Rasizada continued to act as prime minister for Ilham Aliyev, however, and he formally returned to the post on November 4, after Ilham Aliyev was elected as president.

Other Tid Bits 

From the total population as of April, 2006 there were 4,380,000 (nearly 51%) city dwellers and a rural population of 4,060,000 (49%).

 51% of the total population were female

The estimate for total life expectancy is 66 years, 70.7 years for women and 61.9 for men.

The ethnic composition of the population according to the 1999  population census: 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), 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%.

Though Azerbaijani (also called Azeri) is the most widely spoken language in the country, there are 13 other languages spoken natively in the country. Some of these languages are very small communities, others are more vital. Azerbaijani is a Turkic language which belongs to the Altaic family and is 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). The changes in alphabet have been largely molded by  religious and political forces.

The people of Azerbaijan drive on the Right hand side of the road

Their currency is Manat

Independence was declared August of 1991 and completed October of 1991

Nine out of eleven existing climate zones are present in Azerbaijan.

Both the absolute minimum temperature (-33 °C (-27.4 °F)) and the absolute maximum temperature (+46 °C (114.8 °F))

From the water supply point, Azerbaijan is below the average in the world with approximately 100,000 m³/year of water per km².

Azerbaijan (Pronounced AzÉ™rbaycan), officially the Republic of Azerbaijan, is the largest and most populous country in the South Caucasus (a geopolitical region located between Europe, Asia, and the Middle East), located partially in Eastern Europe and partially in Western Asia. It is bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, Iran to the south, Armenia to the southwest, Georgia to the west and northwest, and Russia to the north. The Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan is bordered by Iran to the south and southwest, Turkey to the west, and Armenia to the north and east. The country’s territory also encompasses several islands in the Caspian Sea.

Azerbaijan, a nation with an ethnic Azeri and Shi‘ite Muslim majority population, is a secular and unitary republic – unitarisation is a process of uniting a political entity which consists of smaller regions, either by cancelling the regions completely or by transferring their power to the central government.

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