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Azərbaycan Respublikası
Republic of Azerbaijan
Flag of Azerbaijan Emblem of Azerbaijan
Flag Emblem
Anthem: Azərbaycan marşı
(English: March of Azerbaijan)

Location of Azerbaijan

Location of Azerbaijan

Capital Baku
40°25′N 49°50′E
Largest city capital
Official languages Azerbaijani
Government Presidential republic
 - President Ilham Aliyev
 - Prime Minister Artur Rasizade
Statehood formation  
 - Atabegs of Azerbaijan
 - Azerbaijan Democratic Republic
28 May 1918 
 - Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic
28 April 1920 
 - Independence
from the Soviet Union

30 August 1991
18 October 1991 
 - Total 86600 km² (113th)
33436 sq mi 
 - Water (%) 1.6%
 - 2010 estimate 9,047,000[1]
 - 1999 census 7,953,438
 - Density 103/km²
264.1/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2011 estimate
 - Total $94.318 billion[2]
 - Per capita $10,340[2]
GDP (nominal) 2011 estimate
 - Total $72.189 billion[2]
 - Per capita $7,914[2]
HDI  (2010) Green Arrow Up (Darker).png 0.713[3] (high)
Currency Manat (AZN)
Time zone AZT (UTC+04) (UTC{{{utc_offset}}})
 - Summer (DST) {{{time_zone_DST}}} (UTC+5)
Internet TLD .az
Calling code +994

Azerbaijan [ɑ:zɚbai'ʤɑ:n] (Azerbaijani: Azərbaycan), officially the Republic of Azerbaijan (Azerbaijani: Azərbaycan Respublikası), is situated in the Caucasus region of Eurasia, north of Iran and east of the Caspian Sea.

The location of human and pre-human habitation dating back two million years, remnants of Azerbaijan's history include Bronze Age petroglyphs and medieval minarets and mosques. Azerbaijan was also once a major stopover on the Great Silk Route.

The culture of Azerbaijan has been influenced by its Turkic peoples, Persian, Islamic, and Central Asian heritage, as well as Russian influences due to its former status as a Soviet republic. Today, Western influences, including globalized consumer culture, are strong.

The site of numerous invasions over the centuries, Azerbaijan was briefly independent from 1918 to 1920, and regained its independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

An early source of oil, discovered there in 1873, its capital city of Baku is famous for its wealthy oil reserves.


Detailed map of Azerbaijan

There are two theories for the etymology of the name Azerbaijan. One view is that since the word azer means "fire,” the name means "land of fire," referring to the natural burning of surface oil deposits, or to the oil-fueled fires in temples of the Zoroastrian religion. The other theory is that the name is a derivative of Atropaten, an ancient name of the region, named after Atropat, who was a governor for Alexander the Great in the fourth century B.C.E.


Three physical features dominate Azerbaijan: the Caspian Sea, whose shoreline forms a natural boundary to the east; the Greater Caucasus mountain range to the north; and the extensive flatlands at the country's center.

About the size of Portugal or the state of Maine in the United States, Azerbaijan has a total land area of approximately 33,436 square miles (86,600 square kilometers), less than 1 percent of the land area of the former Soviet Union. Of the three Transcaucasian states, Azerbaijan has the greatest land area.

Special administrative subdivisions are the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic, which is separated from the rest of Azerbaijan by a strip of Armenian territory, and the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region, entirely within Azerbaijan.

The Caspian Sea, viewed from Baku.

Located in the region of the southern Caucasus Mountains, Azerbaijan borders the Caspian Sea to the east, Georgia and Russia to the north, Iran to the south, and Armenia to the southwest and west. A small part of Nakhichevan also borders Turkey to the northwest.

The elevation changes over a relatively short distance from lowlands to highlands; nearly half the country is considered mountainous. Notable physical features are the gently undulating hills of the subtropical southeastern coast, which are covered with tea plantations, orange groves, and lemon groves; numerous mud volcanoes and mineral springs in the ravines of Kobustan Mountain near Baku; and coastal terrain that lies as much as 92 feet (28 meters) below sea level.

Except for its eastern Caspian shoreline and some areas bordering Georgia and Iran, Azerbaijan is ringed by mountains. To the northeast, bordering Russia's Dagestan, is the Greater Caucasus range; to the west, bordering Armenia, is the Lesser Caucasus range. To the extreme southeast, the Talysh Mountains form part of the border with Iran. The highest elevations occur in the Greater Caucasus, where Mount Bazar-dyuzi rises 14,714 feet (4,485 meters) above sea level.

Eight large rivers flow down from the Caucasus ranges into the central Kura-Aras lowlands, alluvial flatlands, and low delta areas along the sea coast. The Mtkvari, the longest river in the Caucasus region, forms the delta and drains into the Caspian a short distance downstream from the confluence with the Aras. The Mingechaur Reservoir, with an area of 234 square miles (605 square kilometers), is the largest body of water in Azerbaijan. It was formed by damming the Kura in western Azerbaijan. The waters of the reservoir provide hydroelectric power and irrigation for the Kura-Aras plain. Most of the country's rivers are not navigable. About 15 percent of the land in Azerbaijan is arable.

The Nabran Forest has some of the oldest trees in the world; the average age is 500 years.

Azerbaijan contains nine of the 11 climatic zones. It is arid, dry, and subtropical with hot summers and mild winters. Temperatures vary by season and area. In the southeast lowland, temperatures average 43°F (6°C) in the winter and 80°F (26°C) in the summer—though daily maxima typically reach 89°F (32°C). In the northern and western mountain ranges, temperatures average 55°F (12°C) in the summer and 20°F (–9°C) in the winter.

Annual rainfall over most of the country varies from eight to 16 inches (200 to 400 millimeters) and is lowest in the northeast. In the far southeast, however, the annual rainfall can be as high as 51 inches (1300 mm). The wettest periods are in spring and autumn, with summers being the driest. Droughts are a natural hazard.

Azerbaijan has a rich flora, with more than 4,500 species of higher plants, and 240 endemic species, mainly as a result of the unique climate. About 67 percent of the species growing in the whole Caucasus can be found in Azerbaijan. Species include the iron tree (Parrotia persica), the Lenkoran acacia (Albizzia julibrissin), the basket oak (Quercus castaneifolia), the Caucasian persimmon (Diospyrus lotus), the evergreen shrub of Ruscus hyrcana, and the box tree (Buxus hyrcana).

Downtown Baku

The capital of Azerbaijan is the ancient city of Baku, which has the largest and best harbor on the Caspian Sea and has long been the center of the republic's oil industry. Modern Baku consists of three parts: the Old Town (İçəri Şəhər), the boomtown, and the Soviet-built town.

Yanar Dag, translated as "burning mountain," is a natural gas fire which blazes continuously on a hillside on the Absheron Peninsula on the Caspian Sea near Baku, which itself is known as the "land of fire." Flames jet out into the air from a thin, porous sandstone layer. It is a tourist attraction to visitors to the Baku area.

Beginning in the 1870s, the Absheron peninsula was the site of some of the world's earliest petroleum production. Much of the landscape remains scarred with rusting oil derricks. Despite serious problems with environmental damage and pollution, the Absheron is known for its flowers, horticulture, mulberries, and figs. The northern coast has wide though less-than-pristine beaches which are popular local tourist attractions.


Gold clothing appliqué, showing two Scythian archers, 400–350 B.C.E., British Museum.

The cave of Azykh in the Fizuli district in Azerbaijan is the site of one of the most ancient proto-human habitations in Eurasia. Remnants of a Stone Age culture dating back two million years were found in the lowest layers of the cave. This nomadic hunter-gatherer Paleolithic (Homo sapiens) period is represented by finds at Aveidag, Taglar, Damjily, Yatagery, Dash Salakhly, and some other Azerbaijani sites.

Carved drawings etched on rocks in Qobustan, south of Baku, demonstrate scenes of hunting, fishing, labor, and dancing, and are dated to the Mesolithic period (20,000 B.C.E. to 12,150 B.C.E.). Many Neolithic (c. 6000 B.C.E. to 4000 B.C.E.) settlements have been discovered in Azerbaijan, and carbon-dated artifacts show that during this period, people built homes, made copper weapons, and were familiar with irrigated agriculture.

The Sumerians and Elamites came through Azerbaijan. In the eighth century B.C.E., the semi-nomadic Cimmerians and Scythians settled in the territory of the kingdom of Mannai. The Assyrians also had a civilization that flourished to the west of Lake Urmia in the centuries prior to the creation of Media and Albania.

Ancient countries of Caucasus: Armenia, Iberia, Colchis, and Albania.

The South Caucasus was eventually conquered by the first Persian Achaemenid Empire around 550 B.C.E. During this period, Zoroastrianism spread in Azerbaijan. The Achaemenids in turn were defeated by Alexander the Great in 330 B.C.E.

The satrapies of Atropatene and Caucasian Albania were established in the fourth century B.C.E., and included the approximate territories of the present-day Azerbaijan nation-state and southern parts of Dagestan. Caucasian Albanians established a kingdom in the first century B.C.E. and largely remained independent until the Sassanids made the kingdom a vassal state in 252 C.E. Caucasian Albania's ruler, King Urnayr, officially adopted Christianity as the state religion in the fourth century C.E., and Albania would remain a Christian state until the eighth century. Sassanid control ended with their defeat by Muslim Abbasid Arabs in 642 C.E.

Median Empire.
Achaemenid Empire at its greatest extent.

Islam spread rapidly in Azerbaijan following the Arab conquests during the seventh and eighth centuries. After the power of the Arab Caliphate waned, several semi-independent states formed; the Shirvanshah kingdom being one of them. In the eleventh century, the conquering Seljuk Turks laid the ethnic foundation of contemporary Azerbaijan. In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the country sustained Mongol-Tatar invasions.

The first state with the name "Azerbaijan" was proclaimed in July 1501, when Shah Ismail Safavi, the founder of the Turkic-speaking Persian Safavid Dynasty, crowned himself as the shah of Azerbaijan. A year later, Azerbaijan became part of the larger Safavid state of Persia.

Azerbaijan underwent a period of feudal fragmentation in the mid-eighteenth to early nineteenth centuries, and consisted of independent khanates. Following the two wars between the Qajar Iranian Empire, as well as the Ganja, Guba, Baku and other independent khanates, and the Russian Empire, Azerbaijan was acquired by Russia through the Treaty of Gulistan in 1813, and the Treaty of Turkmenchay in 1828, and several earlier treaties.

In 1873, oil ("black gold") was discovered in the city of Baku, which, by the beginning of the twentieth century, supplied almost half of the oil used in the world. 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. The republic dissolved in May 1918, and Azerbaijan became independent as the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. This was the first parliamentary Muslim republic in the world and lasted only two years, from 1918 to 1920, before the Soviet Red Army invaded. In March 1922, Azerbaijan, along with Armenia and Georgia, became part of the Transcaucasian SFSR within the newly-formed Soviet Union. In 1936, the TSFSR was dissolved and Azerbaijan became constituent republic of the USSR as the Azerbaijan SSR.

During World War II, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Adolf Hitler sought to capture Azerbaijan's oil-rich capital of Baku. Soviet oil workers were obliged to work non-stop and citizens were to dig entrenchments and anti-tank obstacles in order to block an invasion. However, the German army was stalled in the mountains of Caucasus and were then defeated at the Battle of Stalingrad.

In 1990, Azeris began to push for independence in demonstrations that were brutally suppressed by Soviet intervention, in what Azeris refer to as Black January. In 1991, however, Azerbaijan reestablished its independence upon the collapse of the Soviet Union.

When Azerbaijan declared its independence from the former Soviet Union on August 30, 1991, Ayaz Mutalibov, the former first secretary of the Azerbaijani Communist Party, became the country's first president.

Following a massacre of Azerbaijanis at Khojali in Nagorno-Karabakh in March 1992, Mutalibov resigned, to be returned to power in May 1992. But less than a week later his efforts to suspend scheduled presidential elections and ban all political activity prompted the opposition Popular Front Party (PFP) to organize a resistance movement and take power. The PFP dissolved the predominantly communist Supreme Soviet and transferred its functions to the 50-member upper house of the legislature, the National Council.

Elections in June 1992 resulted in the selection of PFP leader Abülfaz Elçibay as the country's second president. The PFP-dominated government, however, proved incapable of managing the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, or managing the economy. Growing discontent culminated in June 1993 in an armed insurrection in Ganja, Azerbaijan's second-largest city. President Elçibəy fled to his native province of Nakhichevan. He died in 2000.

The National Council conferred presidential powers upon its new speaker, Heydar Aliyev, former first secretary of the Azerbaijani Communist Party (1969–1981) and later a member of the USSR Politburo, the KGB, and USSR Deputy Prime Minister (until 1987). Elçibəy was formally deposed by a national referendum in August 1993, and Aliyev was elected to a five-year term as president in October. Aliyev won reelection to another five-year term in 1998, in an election marred by serious irregularities.

Azerbaijan's first parliament was elected in 1995. The second 125-member unicameral parliament was elected in November 2000 in an election that did not meet international standards as free and fair. Most members are from the president's New Azerbaijan Party. Opposition parties are represented, but are not free to campaign before elections.

The constitution was changed, at the end of 2002, to make it possible for the son of the ailing 80-year-old Heydar, İlham Aliyev, to become president. In August, 2003, İlham was appointed as premier, though Artur Rasizade, continued as prime minister. In the 2003 presidential elections, İlham was announced winner while international observers reported irregularities. He was sworn in as president at the end of the month, and Rasizade became premier again.

Government and politics

Azerbaijan is a presidential republic, in which the legislative and judicial branches have only limited independence. The president is an absolute ruler. Demonstrations are often suppressed with violence; there are reports of torture and a strong censorship exists.

The president is elected by popular vote to a five-year term, and is eligible for a second term. The prime minister and first deputy prime ministers are appointed by the president and confirmed by the National Assembly. The Council of Ministers, or cabinet, is appointed by the president and confirmed by the National Assembly.

Ilham Aliyev, the president of Azerbaijan.

Members are elected to the 125-seat unicameral National Assembly, or Milli Mejlis, by popular vote to serve five-year terms. Azerbaijan has universal suffrage to those above the age of 18.

The judicial branch is headed by a constitutional court, which is a high court whose main role is to rule on challenged laws. The Supreme Court supervises the lower courts and applies the law as established by the constitution. There is also an economic court. The chair of the Supreme Court and the Economic Court are appointed and dismissed by the National Assembly on the recommendation of the president. The chair and deputy chair of the constitutional court are appointed solely by the president. The judiciary is only nominally independent. The justice system has changed little since the Soviet era. Although citizens' rights are guaranteed by the constitution, people have little faith that they will receive a fair trial or honest treatment unless they belong to the right circles.

A map of Azerbaijan showing the location of its cities and regions.

Azerbaijan is divided into 59 “rayons,” 11 cities, and one autonomous republic, Nakhichevan. Nakhichevan itself is subdivided into seven “rayons” and one city. The city of Baku is the capital of Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan is a secular state, and has been a member of the Council of Europe since 2001, an EU's European Neighborhood Policy partner since 2006, a NATO Partnership for Peace (PfP) member since 1994, a member of the NATO Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) since 2004, and a Commonwealth of Independent States's member since 1991. The nation was elected to the newly established Human Rights Council of the United Nations in 2006.

The Azerbaijan armed forces consist of four military branches: the army, navy, air force, air defense forces; and two independent branches: the Coast Guard and Border Guard. A further independent branch, the Interior Guard, would be used for emergencies.

Although Azerbaijan is a member of human rights bodies, several independent bodies, such as the Human Rights Watch, have deemed human rights there to be sub-par at best. Democratic and personal freedoms have been diminished by the government, wary of revolutions in Central Asia spreading to home turf.

Elections there have widely been contested as fraudulent and seriously flawed. Until June 2005, the Azerbaijani people did not enjoy freedom of assembly. Torture, police abuse, and excessive use of force are rife. Defendants are often subjected to severe beating to try to coerce a confession; electric shock, threats of rape, and threats against members of the defendant's family are also used as torture.

International pressure has been exerted on Azerbaijan to release its number of political prisoners. Since joining the Council of Europe, the Azerbaijani government has released one hundred political prisoners, but many remain in custody, and opposition supporters continue to be detained without proof of wrongdoing.

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 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 is considered a legal part of Azerbaijan.

Despite a 1994 cease-fire, Azerbaijan in 2007 had yet to resolve its conflict with Armenia over the Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh enclave (largely Armenian populated). Azerbaijan has lost 16 percent of its territory and must support some 528,000 internally displaced persons as a result of the conflict. Corruption is ubiquitous, and the promise of widespread wealth from Azerbaijan's undeveloped petroleum resources remains largely unfulfilled.


Azerbaijan's number one export is oil. Azerbaijan's oil production declined through 1997, but has registered an increase every year since. Negotiation of production-sharing arrangements with foreign firms, which have thus far committed $60 billion to long-term oilfield development, was expected to generate the funds needed to spur future industrial development. Oil production under the first of these agreements, with the Azerbaijan International Operating Company, began in November 1997. A consortium of Western oil companies began pumping one million barrels a day from a large offshore field in early 2006, through a $4 billion pipeline it built from Baku to Turkey's Mediterranean port of Ceyhan. Economists estimate that by 2010 revenues from this project will double the country's GDP, which was $38.71 billion in 2005.

Other industries include machine manufacture, 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 cotton, fruit, grain, tea, tobacco, and many types of vegetables. Silkworms are raised to produce natural silk for the clothing industry. Cattle, domestic sheep, and goats are raised near the mountain ranges. Seafood, including caviar and fish are obtained from the nearby Caspian Sea.

Azerbaijan shares the problems of the former Soviet republics in making the transition from a command to a market economy, but its considerable energy resources brighten its long-term prospects. Other obstacles include the need for stepped up foreign investment in the non-energy sector, the continuing conflict with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, and pervasive corruption. Trade with Russia and the other former Soviet republics is declining in importance while trade is building with Turkey and the nations of Europe. Long-term prospects will depend on world oil prices, the location of new pipelines in the region, and Azerbaijan's ability to manage its oil wealth.

In the Soviet period, there was no private land. As the country changed to a market economy, laws for private land ownership were introduced. Subsequently, houses and apartments may be privately owned.

Exports totaled $12.51 billion in 2006. Export commodities comprised oil and gas (which together constituted 90 percent), machinery, cotton, and foodstuffs. Export partners were Italy 30.3 percent, France 9.4 percent, Russia 6.6 percent, Turkey 6.3 percent, Turkmenistan 6.3 percent, Georgia 4.8 percent, Israel 4.5 percent, and Croatia 4.1 percent.

Imports totaled $5.176 billion in 2006. Import commodities comprised machinery and equipment, oil products, foodstuffs, metals, and chemicals. Import partners were Russia 17 percent, United Kingdom 9.1 percent, Singapore 9.1 percent, Turkey 7.4 percent, Germany 6.1 percent, Turkmenistan 5.8 percent, Ukraine 5.4 percent, and China 4.1 percent.

Per capital GDP was $4,601 in 2005, ranked 106 on a list of 181 countries.


Azerbaijan had population of 8.5 million in 2005, 90.6 percent of whom are ethnic Azerbaijani (also called Azeris). Life expectancy for the total population was 63.85 years in 2006—59.78 years for males, and 68.13 years for females.


Azeris made up 90.6 percent of the population. The second largest ethnic group was Russians, who in 2006 formed roughly 1.8 percent of the population, most having emigrated since independence. Numerous Dagestani peoples live around the border with Dagestan. The main peoples are the Lezgis, Caucasian Avars, and the Tsakhurs. Smaller groups include the Budukh, Udis, Kryts, and Khinalug/Ketsh around the village of Xinalıq.

Azerbaijan contains numerous smaller groups of Georgians, Kurds, Talysh, Tatars, and Ukrainians. Around the town of Quba in the north live the Tats, also known as the mountain Jews, who are also found in Dagestan. Many Tats have emigrated to Israel in recent years. The country’s large Armenian population has mostly emigrated to Armenia and to other countries at the beginning of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, while there was a large influx of Azerbaijanis. Virtually all of Azerbaijan’s Armenians now live in the separatist Nagorno-Karabakh region.


A mosque in Baku.

Azerbaijan is a secular country. Article 48 of its constitution ensures the liberty of worship to everyone. The nation is 93.4 percent Muslim and most Azerbaijanis are Twelver Shia Muslim, representing about 60 percent of the Muslim population. Other religions or beliefs are Sunni Islam, the Armenian Apostolic Church (in Nagorno-Karabakh), the Russian Orthodox Church, and various other Christian and Muslim sects.

Jews have lived in Azerbaijan for centuries and can be divided into two groups: Ashkenazi and Jews of Persian origin. Ashkenazim settled in Azerbaijan in the nineteenth century during a Tsarist Russian attempt to infuse Russian culture into the region. Other Ashkenazim came to Azerbaijan during World War II to escape the Nazis. The Persian Jews, also known as Caucasian Mountain Jews, can be traced to Azerbaijan from before the fifth century B.C.E. Their history is more than 2,000 years long and Azerbaijan has historically been very welcoming toward them. Mountain Jews are said to be descendents of the Lost Tribes that left Israel after the destruction of the First Temple in 587 B.C.E. Their ancestors inhabited southern Azerbaijan, now the northwestern part of Iran, where they adopted the Muslim Tat language, but remained Jewish. The language has evolved to become a distinct Jewish dialect called Judeo-Tat or Judeo-Persian. Traditionally, anti-Semitism has not been an issue in Azerbaijan. Approximately 25,000 Jews live in the country.

Adherence to religious faiths is nominal and attitudes are secular. Traditionally, villages around Baku and the Lenkoran region are considered stronghold of Shi’ism, and in some northern regions populated by Sunni Dagestani people, the Salafi sect has gained a following. Folk Islam is widely practiced, but an organized Sufi movement is absent.

Zoroastrianism in Azerbaijan dates back to the first millennium B.C.E., and for at least a thousand years remained the predominant religion in Azerbaijan. Today the religion, culture, and traditions of Zoroastrianism remain highly respected, and Novruz continues to be the main holiday.


The official language of Azerbaijan is Azerbaijani, a member of the Oghuz subdivision of the Turkic language family, which is spoken by around 95 percent of the republic's population, as well as about a quarter of the population of Iran. Its closest relatives are Turkish and Turkmen. Russian is commonly spoken as a second language among the urbane. Two percent of the population speaks Armenian, and 6 percent speak other languages

Marriage and the family

Men are the breadwinners in Azerbaijan society. Although there are no restrictions on women's participation in work and in public life, women are most respected for their role as mothers. Women in rural areas usually control domestic and ritual life.

Marriages are increasingly arranged according the partners' wishes. Economic security is a concern for women. As well as a civil marriage ceremony, some couples marry according to Islamic law.

The domestic unit is either a nuclear family, or two generations in one household, tending to include the husband's parents. In urban areas, newlyweds live with the man's parents. The head of the household is the oldest man in the family. In rural areas, an extended family may live in one compound or house shared by the sons' families and their parents. Women engage in food preparation, child rearing, carpet weaving, and other tasks within the compound, while men take care of the animals and do the hard physical work. Children inherit equally, although males may inherit the family house if they live with their parents.

Women seldom smoke in public. Bodily contact between the same sexes is usual while talking or walking arm in arm. Men usually greet each other by shaking hands and also by hugging if they have not seen each other for a while. Children of all ages are expected to be obedient, but boys' misbehavior is tolerated more. Girls are encouraged to help their mothers, stay calm, and have good manners.


The education system of Azerbaijan reflects its Soviet past, but was reformed in the early 1990s. Statistics for 1998–1999 show there were 691,259 pupils attending primary schools, 1,020,131 pupils attending secondary schools, 30,400 students receiving vocational and teacher training, and 170,678 students receiving higher education.

Higher education has been important for Azeris. Having higher education makes both boys and girls more attractive as prospective marriage partners. Parents go to great lengths to pay fees for higher education. Institutes of higher education include the Baku State University and the Azerbaijan Technical University.

Of the total population, 98.8 percent aged 15 and over can read and write—for males 99.5 percent, and for females 98.2 percent.


Under Soviet rule, the urban merchant class and industrial bourgeoisie lost their wealth. An urban-rural divide is the most significant social stratification, although educational opportunities and principles of equality of the Soviet period altered this. Russians, Jews, and Armenians were urban white-collar workers. Education and family background remain vital to social status. Higher government positions brought political power and wealth during the Soviet era. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, wealth became the basis for respect and power. Refugees and displaced persons with a rural background are considered the underclass.


Azeri musicians

The culture of Azerbaijan has been influenced by its Turkic peoples, its Persian, Islamic, and Central Asian heritage, as well as Russian influences due to its former status as a Soviet republic. Today, Western influences, including globalized consumer culture, are strong.


Urban dwellers traditionally lived in quarters that developed along ethnic lines. Modern Azerbaijan adopted the plain and anonymous Soviet style of architecture. Baku has the Maiden Tower and an old town with narrow streets as well as a mixture of European styles that date back to the beginning of the twentieth century. Soviet-era governmental buildings are large and solid with no ornamentation.


In rural areas, flat white bread is baked. Kufte bozbash (meat and potatoes in a thin sauce) is popular, as is filled pepper and grape leaves and soups. Green coriander, parsley, dill, and spring onions, are served during meals both as a garnish and as salad. Borscht soup and other Russian dishes are part of the cuisine. Restaurants offer varieties of kebabs and, in Baku, an increasingly international cuisine.

Celebrations are occasions to eat pulov (steamed rice) with apricots and raisins, with meat, fried chestnuts, and onions, as well as baklava, a diamond-shaped thinly layered pastry filled with nuts and sugar, and shakarbura, a pie of thin dough filled with nuts and sugar. During the Novruz holiday, wheat is fried with raisins and nuts (gavurga). Pulov and kebabs are accompanied by alcohol and sweet non-alcoholic drinks are part of weddings. At funerals, the main course is usually pulov and meat, served with shyra, a sweet non-alcoholic drink, and followed by tea.


Painted miniatures were an important part of Azerbaijan art in the nineteenth century, while the twentieth century was marked by examples of Soviet social realism and Azeri folklore. Sattar Bakhulzade painted landscapes in a style like "Van Gogh in blue." Togrul Narimanbekov depicted figures from Azeri folk tales in rich colors. Rasim Babayev cultivated his own "primitivism" to paint allegories on the Soviet regime in bright colors, with no perspective, and numerous characters inspired by folk tales and legends.


Azerbaijan has a rich literary heritage. The Book of Dede Korkut, written in the eleventh century, is the most famous epic story of the Oghuz Turks, and therefore of all of its direct descendant people in Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan, as well as to a lesser degree in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan

Its literature in the twentieth century was profoundly influenced by political events that took place early in the nineteenth century, mainly with Russia annexing Persia's Caucasian territories, which included the territory of present-day Azerbaijan. Under Soviet rule, Azeri writers who did not conform to the party line were persecuted, particularly while Josef Stalin was in power.

An influential piece of post-World War II Azerbaijani poetry, Heydar Babaya Salam (Greetings to Heydar Baba), was written by Iranian poet Mohammad Hossein Shahriar. This poem, published in Tabriz in 1954 and written in colloquial Azerbaijani, became popular among Iranians and the people of Azerbaijan Republic.


The music of Azerbaijan has a lot in common with Armenian and Persian music. The classical music of Azerbaijan is called mugam, and is usually a suite with poetry and instrumental interludes. The sung poetry sometimes includes tahrir segments, which use a form of throat singing similar to yodeling. The poetry is typically about divine love and is most often linked to Sufi Islam.

Stringed instruments in Azerbaijan include the tar (skin-faced lute), the kamancha (skin-faced spike fiddle), the oud (originally barbat), and the saz (long necked lute). Drums include the frame drum ghaval, the cylindrical double-faced drum naghara (davul), and the goshe nagara (Naqareh) (a pair of small kettle drums). Other instruments include the balaban (reed wind instrument), garmon (small accordion), tutek (whistle flute), garmon (accordion), daf, and dhol (drum).

Ashiqs are traveling bards who sing and play the saz, a form of lute. Their songs are semi-improvised around a common base.

The most famous contemporary Azeri musicians are perhaps jazz singer Aziza Mustafa Zadeh and her father, Vagif Mustafa Zadeh, who are quite popular internationally in jazz circles.


Football (soccer) is the main sport in Azerbaijan. The national football team competes in the FIFA World Cup. Other sports include martial arts and motor racing.

Azerbaijan has put in a bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics, with Baku as the host city.


Holidays in Azerbaijan include:

  • January 1: New Year’s Day
  • January 20: Commemorates victims killed by Soviet troops in Baku in 1990
  • March 8: International Women's Day.
  • March 21–22: Novruz (the new year), an old Persian holiday celebrated on the day of the vernal equinox. Novruz is the most distinctive Azeri holiday, accompanied by extensive cleaning and cooking in homes.
  • May 9: Victory Day
  • May 28: Day of the Republic
  • October 9: Armed Forces Day
  • October 18: State Sovereignty Day
  • November 12: Constitution Day
  • November 17: Day of Renaissance
  • December 31: Day of Solidarity of World Azeris.


  1. Население Азербайджана достигло 9 млн. 47 тыс. человек. News.Az (July 8, 2010). Retrieved July 8, 2010.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Error on call to template:cite web: Parameters url and title must be specified. International Monetary Fund. Retrieved April 12, 2011.
  3. Human Development Report 2010. United Nations (2010). Retrieved 4 November 2010.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Collins, Brian C. Historical Dictionary of Azerbaijan. Asian/Oceanian Historical Dictionaries, no. 31. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1999. ISBN 0810835509
  • Croissant, Cynthia. Azerbaijan, Oil and Geopolitics. Commack, NY: Nova Science Publishers, 1998. ISBN 1560725796
  • Leeuw, Charles van der. Azerbaijan: A Quest for Identity; A Short History. New York, NY: St. Martin's Press, 2000. ISBN 0312219032
  • Rupesinghe, Kumar, Peter King, and Olga Vorkunova. Ethnicity and Conflict in a Post-Communist World: The Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and China. New York, NY: St. Martin's Press, 1992. ISBN 0312085656
  • Suny, Ronald Grigor. Transcaucasia, Nationalism and Social Change: Essays on the History of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1996. ISBN 0472096176
  • Waal, Thomas de. Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan through Peace and War. New York, NY: New York University Press, 2003. ISBN 0814719449

External links

All links retrieved August 26, 2023.


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