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Azerbaijan is located on the western shore of the Caspian Sea at the southeast extremity of the Caucasus. The region is a mountainous country, and only about 7% of it is arable land. The Kura River Valley is the area’s major agricultural zone.
Location: South Caucasus; bordered by Russia to the north, the Caspian Sea to the east, Iran to the south, and Georgia and Armenia to the west. Area: 33,774 sq. mi. Capital – Baku. Terrain: Caucasus Mountains to the north, lowland in the central area through which the Kura River flows. Climate: Dry, subtropical with hot summers and mild winters; forests, meadows, and alpine tundra in the mountains.


Azerbaijan combines the heritage of two venerable civilizations–the Seljuk Turks of the 11th century and the ancient Persians. Its name is thought to be derived from the Persian phrase “Land of Fire,” referring both to its petroleum deposits, known since ancient times, and to its status as a former center of the Zoroastrian faith. The Azerbaijani Republic borders the Iranian provinces of East and West Azerbaijan, although they have not been united into a single state in modern times.

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Northern Azerbaijan was known as Caucasian Albania in ancient times. The area was the site of many conflicts involving Arabs, Kazars, and Turks. After the 11th century, the territory became dominated by Turks and eventually was a stronghold of the Shiite Muslim religion and Islamic culture. The territory of Soviet Azerbaijan was acquired by Russia from Persia through the Treaty of Gulistan in 1813 and the Treaty of Turkamanchai in 1828.

After the Bolshevik Revolution, Azerbaijan declared its independence from Russia in May 1918. The republic was reconquered by the Red Army in 1920 and was annexed into the Transcaucasian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1922. It was later reestablished as a separate Soviet Republic on Dec. 5, 1936. Azerbaijan declared independence from the collapsing Soviet Union on Aug. 30, 1991.Since 1988, Azerbaijan and Armenia have been feuding over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. The majority of the enclave’s inhabitants are Armenian Christians agitating to secede from the predominantly Muslim Azerbaijan and join with Armenia. War broke out in 1988 when Nagorno-Karabakh tried to break away and annex itself to Armenia, and 30,000 died before a cease-fire agreement was reached in 1994, with Armenia regaining its hold over the disputed enclave. Final plans on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh have yet to be determined.

Due to its location on the shore of the Caspian Sea and astride the trade routes connecting Europe to Central Asia and the Near East, Azerbaijan was fought over by Russia, Persia, and the Ottomans.

Following the collapse of the Russian Empire in 1917, an independent republic was proclaimed in 1918 after an abortive attempt to establish a Transcaucasian Republic with Armenia and Georgia. The first democratic republic in the Muslim world, it gave women the right to vote in 1919. Azerbaijan received de facto recognition by the Allies as an independent nation in January 1920, an independence terminated by the arrival of the Red Army in April. Incorporated into the Transcaucasian Federated Soviet Socialist Republic in 1922, Azerbaijan became a union republic of the U.S.S.R. (Soviet Union) in 1936. The late 1980s were characterized by increasing unrest, eventually leading to a violent confrontation when Soviet troops killed 190 nationalist demonstrators in Baku in January 1990. Azerbaijan declared its independence from the U.S.S.R. on August 30, 1991.

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