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, country, Asia

Azerbaijan (äˌzərbījänˈ, ăˌzər–), Azeri Azərbaycan, officially Republic of Azerbaijan, republic (2020 est. pop. 10,110,000), 33,428 sq mi (86,579 sq km), in Transcaucasia. Strategically situated at the gateway to SW Asia, Azerbaijan is bounded by Iran on the south, where the Aras (Araks) River divides it from Iranian Azerbaijan; by the Caspian Sea on the east; by Russia's Dagestan Republic on the north; and by Armenia on the west. Bakı (Baku) is the capital; other major cities include Ganja and Sumqayit.

Land and People

Azerbaijan occupies the western ranges of the Greater and Lesser Caucasus and the Kura River valley. The republic includes the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic (or Naxçivan, an exclave separated from Azerbaijan proper by Armenia) and Nagorno-Karabakh (an ethnically Armenian region that now has de facto independence; see under History). The Azeri (Azerbaijani), a Turkic-speaking, Shiite Muslim people of Persian culture, make up about 90% of the republic's population; Dagestanis, Russians, and Armenians (largely in Nagorno-Karabakh) are the largest minorities. Prior to the Russian Revolution, the country, like much of Transcaucasia, was ethnically more mixed, but Azeris and other ethnic groups became more concentrated in ethnically based republics and regions during the Soviet period, especially in the fighting the fighting during 1917–20 and again beginning in the late 1980s. Azerbaijani (Azeri) is the country's official language. The republic's educational institutions include Bakı State Univ., Khazar Univ. and the Azerbaijan Academy of Sciences.


The Kura River valley is the region's chief agricultural zone. Wheat, barley, corn, fruits and vegetables, wine grapes, and potatoes are the leading food crops, and cotton, silk, and tobacco the foremost industrial crops. The subtropical Lankaran Lowland produces tea and rice. The Absheron peninsula is one of the richest oil regions of the world. Although production of Caspian Sea oil and gas had declined for several years, it began growing again in the late 1990s under production-sharing agreements with multinational corporations, and natural gas exports to the European Union began in 2020. The republic's other mineral resources include natural gas, iron ore, copper, lead, zinc, limestone, pyrites, cobalt, and alumina. Widespread salt springs have enabled health resorts to flourish. Among the chief manufactures are petroleum products, oilfield equipment, steel, chemicals and petrochemicals, and textiles. The old craft of carpet weaving is still practiced. Azerbaijan's main trading partners are Italy, Russia, and Turkey.


Azerbaijan is governed under the constitution of 1995 as amended. The president is the head of state and is elected by popular vote to a seven-year term. He appoints the prime minister, who is the head of government; the prime minister is confirmed by the National Assembly. The members of the popularly elected, 125-seat unicameral National Assembly serve five-year terms. The country is divided into 59 administrative divisions or rayons, 11 cities, and one autonomous republic.


The Republic of Azerbaijan comprises the Transcaucasian or northern part of the historic region called Azerbaijan. Long inhabited, it is the site of archaeological remains dating back over a million years. Known to the ancients as Albania, the area was located at the crossroads of East and West on the historic Silk Road. Conquered by Alexander the Great and later by the Roman Pompey, it was linked to the history of Armenia and Persia, particularly after its conquest (4th cent.) by Shapur II. The area was invaded by Muslim Arabs in the 7th cent. and was a province of the Arab caliphate for the next two centuries. In the 11th cent. it became part of the Turkish Seljuk Empire. Overrun by Mongols in the 13th cent., it was divided after the fall (15th cent.) of Timur into several principalities (notably Shirvan).

At the beginning of the 19th cent. Russia began its occupation, acquiring the territory of the present Azerbaijan from Persia through the treaties of Gulistan (1813) and Turkamanchai (1828). By the latter date, the territory had been split into two parts, the N portion of which constitutes modern Azerbaijan. The area became a major oil producer in the middle of the 19th cent.

Soon after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 (see Russian Revolution), Russian Azerbaijan joined Armenia and Georgia to form the anti-Bolshevik Transcaucasian Federation. After its dissolution (May, 1918), Azerbaijan proclaimed itself an independent state with a democratic and secular government, but it was conquered by the Red Army in 1920 and made into a Soviet republic. In 1922, Azerbaijan joined the USSR as a member of the Transcaucasian Soviet Federated Republic. With the administrative reorganization of 1936, it became a separate republic. Immediately after World War II, Azerbaijan was used as a base for Communist rebels in Iranian Azerbaijan; Azeri nationalists still press claims to Iran's Azerbaijan province.

Azerbaijan declared itself independent of the USSR in Aug., 1991, and became a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States. In 1992, Abulfaz Elchibey, leader of the Popular Front party, was elected president, but he was ousted by the parliament a year later, after a military mutiny. Heydar Aliyev, leader of the Azerbaijan Communist party from 1969 to 1982, assumed power and was confirmed in office by an election. Aliyev promoted exploitation of the country's oil resources through agreements with Russia and several Western oil companies for development of oil fields in the Caspian Sea. In the Nov., 1995, elections, which were condemned by outside observers as rigged, voters elected a new parliament that was dominated by Aliyev's party and approved constitutional changes that expanded his power. Aliyev was reelected in 1998, and his New Azerbaijan party retained power in the Nov., 2000, parliamentary elections, which like the 1995 balloting was not regarded as free and fair.

In Aug., 2003, the ailing president appointed his son, Ilham Aliyev, as the country's prime minister. The president withdrew from the Oct., 2003, election in favor of his son, who was elected by a landslide; the balloting was criticized by independent observers as neither free nor fair. The elder Aliyev died two months after the election. Parliamentary elections in Nov., 2005, returned the governing party to power, albeit with a reduced majority, but the vote was again criticized by European observers and denounced as fraudulent by the opposition.

Prior to the vote the government had blocked the return of exiled opposition leader Rasul Guliyev by having him held in Ukraine on corruption charges, and then arrested several current and former members of the government and others, charging them with plotting a coup against the government with Guliyev. These and subsequent government changes (into 2006) were seen as attempts by the president to consolidate his power. In the 2008 presidential election Aliyev was reelected by a landslide, but the vote was boycotted by the main opposition parties and marred by irregularites. The opposition also boycotted a referendum in 2009 that ended the presidential two-term limit.

In 2010 the parliamentary elections were again marred by fraud and other irregularities and were criticized by European observers; the ruling party increased its majority, and other government supporters won nearly all of the rest of the seats. Aliyev was reelected in 2013, again by a landslide. Although he benefited from improved living standards under his rule, the election was again marred by significant irregularities. The 2015 and 2020 parlimentary elections were handily won the ruling party but were criticized for shortcomings and, in 2020, irregularities. A referendum in 2016 approved several changes to the constitution, including increasing the presidential term from five to seven years, that greatly increased the powers of the president.

During the late 1980s ethnic Armenians in the Nagorno-Karabakh region had pressed for its unification with Armenia, leading to a guerrilla war. A large-scale conflict broke out between the two republics in 1992; the Armenian side gained effective control of the region and adjoining Azerbaijani territory to the south and west by 1994, when a cease-fire was reached with Russian mediation. Some one million Azeris were made refugees within Azerbaijan as a result of the conflict. Attempts to resolve the conflict proved unsuccessful, and sometimes intense border clashes recurred after 1994. Azerbaijan has offered the region a high degree of autonomy, but the Armenians there have insisted on independence or union with Armenia. Following Turkey's signing of protocols with Armenia that called for the establishment of relations between the two nations, Azerbaijan's relations with Turkey became strained. Though Turkey seemed unlikely to ratify the protocols in the absence of progress toward resolution the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, Azerbaijan threatened to end sales of subsidized natural gas to Turkey. In Sept., 2020, Azerbaijan attacked both Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenian-held parts of Azerbaijan, especially S of Nagorno-Karabakh, and captured significant territory in the south, including Shusha in Nagorno-Karabakh, before a cease-fire in November. Under the Russian-enforced cease-fire agreement, Azerbaijan retained its gains and also regained parts of Azerbaijan held by Armenian forces since 1994; Armenian forces retained control of areas in Nagorno-Karabakh they still held.

Relations with Russia and Iran have also been strained at times. Russia has forcefully sought Azeribaijan's cooperation on military and other matters, which Azerbaijan has resisted giving. Iran has supported Islamic groups in Azerbaijan and has challenged the country's right to drill for oil in parts of the Caspian.


See T. Swietochowski, Russian Azerbaijan, 1905–1920 (1985); L. Broers, Armenia and Azerbaijan: Anatomy of a Rivalry (2019).


, region, Iran

Azerbaijan (äˌzĕrbījänˈ, ăˌzər–), Iran. Azarbayejan, region, c.34,280 sq mi (88,785 sq km), NW Iran, divided into the provinces of East Azerbaijan, West Azerbaijan, and Ardabil. The chief cities include Tabriz (the capital of East Azerbaijan), Urmia (the capital of West Azerbaijan), Ardebil (the capital of Ardabil), Maragheh, and Khoy (Khvoy). The region is bounded in the N by Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan (from which it is separated by the Aras River) and in the W by Turkey and Iraq.

Azerbaijan, which includes Lake Urmia, is mountainous, with deep valleys and fertile lowlands. Grains, fruits, cotton, rice, nuts, and tobacco are grown. Wool, carpets, and metalware are produced. Industries include food processing, cement, textiles, electric equipment, and sugar milling. An oil pipeline runs through the region. The majority of the people of Azerbaijan are Turkic-speaking Azeris, who are Shiite Muslims. There are also Armenians, Kurds, Jews, and Persians.

In ancient times Azerbaijan was dominated by the kings of Van and Urartu (in Armenia). By the 8th cent. B.C. it had been settled by the Medes (see Media), and it later formed the province of Media Minor in the Persian Empire. Azerbaijan is the traditional birthplace (7th cent. B.C.) of Zoroaster, the religious teacher and prophet. After Alexander the Great conquered Persia, he appointed (328 B.C.) as governor the Persian general Atropates, who eventually established an independent dynasty. Later, the region, which came to be called Atropatene or Media Atropatene, was much disputed. In the 2d cent. B.C. it was taken by the Parthian Mithradates I, and c.A.D. 226 it was captured by the Sassanid Ardashir I. Shapur II enlarged Azerbaijan by adding territory in the north.

Heraclius, the Byzantine emperor, briefly held the region in the 7th cent., just before the Arabs conquered it; they converted most of its people to Islam and made it part of the caliphate. The Seljuk Turks dominated the region in the 11th and 12th cent., and the Mongols under Hulagu Khan established (13th cent.) their capital at Maragheh. After being conquered by Timur in the 14th cent., Tabriz became an important provincial capital of the Timurid empire. It was out of Ardebil that the Safavid dynasty arose (c.1500) to renew the state of Persia. There was fierce fighting between the Ottoman Empire and Persia for Azerbaijan. After brief Ottoman control, Abbas I, shah of Persia, regained control of the region in 1603.

Azerbaijan remained entirely in the possession of the shahs until the northern part was ceded to Russia in the treaties of Gulistan (1813) and Turkmanchai (1828). The remainder was organized as a province of Persia; in 1938 the province was divided into two parts. In 1941, Soviet troops occupied Iranian Azerbaijan; they were withdrawn (May, 1946) after a Soviet-supported, autonomous local government had been created. Iranian troops occupied the region in Nov., 1946, and the autonomous movement was suppressed.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



monthly literary and sociopolitical journal; organ of the Union of Writers of the Azerbaijan SSR. Published in Baku since 1923. From 1923 to 1927 it was called Maarif vämädäniyyät (Education and Culture); from 1928 to 1936 (nos. 1–5), Ingilab va mädäniyyät (Revolution and Culture); from 1936 to 1941, Revolyusiya vä kul’tura (Revolution and Culture); from 1941 to 1946, Vätän ughrunda (For the Homeland); from 1946 to 1952, Ingilab vämädäniyyät (Revolution and Culture); and since 1953 Azerbaijan. The journal discusses the main events of Azerbaijani cultural life and the development of social and literary critical thought. In its pages are printed works by Azerbaijani writers, translations from Russian and other foreign languages, and historical literary materials.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Official name: Republic of Azerbaijan

Capital city: Baku

Internet country code: .az

Flag description: Three equal horizontal bands of blue (top), red, and green; a crescent and eight-pointed star in white are centered in the red band

National anthem: “Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan!” lyrics by Ahmed Javad, music by Useyir Hajibeyov

Geographical description: Southwestern Asia, bordering the Caspian Sea, between Iran and Russia, with a small European portion north of the Caucasus range

Total area: 33,436 sq. mi. (86,600 sq. km.)

Climate: Dry, semiarid steppe

Nationality: noun: Azerbaijani(s) or Azeri(s); adjective: Azer­

baijani or Azeri

Population: 8,120,247 (July 2007 CIA est.)

Ethnic groups: Azeri 90.6%, Dagestani 2.2%, Russian 1.8%, Armenian 1.5%, other 3.9%

Languages spoken: Azerbaijani (Azeri) 90.3%, Lezgi 2.2%, Russian 1.8%, Armenian 1.5%, other and unspecified 4.3%

Religions: Muslim 93.4%, Russian Orthodox 2.5%, Armen­ian Orthodox 2.3%, other 1.8%

Legal Holidays:

Army and Navy DayJun 26
Constitution DayNov 12
Day of National RevivalNov 17
Day of Solidarity of Azerbaijanis throughout the WorldDec 31
Day of the MartyrsJan 20
International Women's DayMar 8
National Independence DayOct 18
National Salvation DayJun 15
New Year's DayJan 1
Novruz BayramiMar 21
Republic DayMay 28
Victory in World War II DayMay 9
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.


1. a republic in NW Asia: the region was acquired by Russia from Persia in the early 19th century; became the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic in 1936 and gained independence in 1991; consists of dry subtropical steppes around the Aras and Kura rivers, surrounded by the Caucasus; contains the extensive Baku oilfields. Language: Azerbaijani (or Azeri). Religion: Shiite Muslim. Currency: manat. Capital: Baku. Pop.: Pop.: 8 447 000 (2004 est.). Area: 86 600 sq. km (33 430 sq. miles)
2. a mountainous region of NW Iran, separated from the republic of Azerbaijan by the Aras River: divided administratively into Eastern Azerbaijan and Western Azerbaijan. Capitals: Tabriz and Orumiyeh. Pop.: 2 119 524 (2002 est.)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005