About Azerbaijan
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Learn more about the country of Azerbaijan including facts about the Azerbaijani people & their history, geography & maps of Azerbaijan, and the Azerbaijani economy & government. Basic Azerbaijan demographics including population, religion, GDP, topography, languages and more.

Azerbaijan Country Profile

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History of Azerbaijan

The historical territories of Azerbaijan, bordered on the Great Caucasus from the North, the Alagoz chain, the basin of the lake Goycha and the Eastern Anatoly from the west, the Caspian Sea from the East and Sultaniye-Zanjan-Hamadan from the south, is a place of the primary cultures which gave the start to modern civilization. In those territories historically belonged to Azerbaijan people they established rich distinctive culture and the state system.

The sounding of ‘Azerbaijan’ regularly changed along the history. Historical sources reflect former names of Azerbaijan as Andirpatian, Atropatena, Adirbijan and Azirbijan.

The history of ancient Azerbaijan is built on archeological, ethnographic, anthropological and written historical resources. Archeological funds gave the excellent opportunity to study the history of material culture of Azerbaijan, while ethnographic materials revealed in historical sources and expeditions inform about traditions, material-moral culture, former forms of ruling, family relations, etc.

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 prove that first primitive men settled here 1.7-1.8 million tears ago.

The territory of Azerbaijan is rich with archeological monuments which prove it to be one of the regions of the primitive men’s first settlement. Archeological finds of the caves of Azikh, TAglar, Damjili, Dashsalahli, Gazma(Nakhchivan) and other monuments, the shin-bone of the most ancient Azikh man (Azikhantrop) lived 300-400 thousand years ago in the Age of Asheul prove the abovementioned theory.

In addition, Azeri people has the ancient state system establishment which dates to 5 000 years. The first states or ethic-political unions in Azerbaijan appeared round Urmiya at the end of 4th and at the beginning of 3rd millennium BC. Newly established ancient Azerbaijan states played great role in military-political history of the whole region. They had closed relations with the Shumer, Akkard and Ashur(Assuria) states, located on the valleys of Tigris and Euphrates and also with Het state located on Asia Minor.

Great states such as Manna, kingdom of Iskit(Skit, Skif), Atropatena and Albania appear on the lands of Azerbaijan in the 1st millennium BC and the 1st millennium AD. Those states played distinctive role in perfection of ruling traditions, in history of the economy and culture of the country and in formation of united people.

The beginning of AD is characterized with difficulties for our country; it was occupied first by the empire of Sasani-Iran in the 3rd and later by Arabic khilafet(kind of ruling) in the 7th centuries. Many people of Iranian and Arabic origin migrated here 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. Oguz Turks prevailed among Turkic ethnic groups.

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. The belief to the head God of the Turks did not prevailed over other spread religions. Zoroastrianism, fire-worship, belief in the Sun, the Moon, the Sky, the stars, ground, water etc. still existed. Christianity was widely spread in the northern part of the country, i.e. in some places of Albania, especially in western mountainous regions. Free Albanian church existed together with Armenian and Georgian churches.

Islam
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, aimed to keep the whole South Caucasus under the influence of Christianity and against Armenian and Georgian feudal lords under its subordination as well.

In the middle of the 9th century Azerbaijan re-establishes its traditions of the state system and in the lands of the spread of Islam we see new states: Sajis, Shirvanshakhs, Salaris, Ravvadis, Shaddadis.

Prosperity touched all the spheres of the politics, economy and culture with the appearance of the independent states. Thus starts the period of Azerbaijan Renaissance. The establishment of native states (Sajis, Shirvanshakhs, Salaris, Ravvadis, Shaddadis, of Shaki dominion) after 600 year long Sasani and Arabic occupation and victory of Islam over the whole territory as the only monotheist religion, plaid an important role in ethnic evolution of Azerbaijan people and formation of unique language and culture.

In the period when separate feudal dynasties ruling Azerbaijan changed each-other, Islam played a prominent role in unification against foreign invaders of all Azerbaijan people, i.e. Turkic tribes, founding the base of our nation and non-Turkic ethnic groups integrated with them.

After Arabic Khilafet fell into decay since the mid of the 9th century Turkic-Islamic empires increased their role in the Caucasus, in all the Near and the Middle East. States ruled by such Turkic-Islamic dynasties as Sajis, Shirvanshahs, Salaris, Ravvadis, Shaddadis, Shaki governors, Saljugis, Eldanises, Mongols, Elkhanis-Hulakus, Chobanis, Jalayirs, Teymuris, Osmans, Garagoyunlus, Aggoyunlus, Safavis, Afshars, Gajars and others remained in the history of the state system of Azerbaijan, of the whole South Caucasus and the Near and the Middle East.

State system establishment of Azerbaijan progressed between the 15th and the 18th centuries and later. The great empires of the period Garagoyunlu, Aggoyunlu, Safavi, Afshar and Gajar were directly ruled by the Azerbaijan dynasties.

This fact found its positive reflection in the internal and the international relations of Azerbaijan; widened influence of the country and the people in military and political spheres, also intensified the usage of Azerbaijan language and thus created favorable conditions for the development of material and moral culture of Azerbaijan people. In that historical period Azerbaijan states plaid important role in the international relations and military and the political life of the Near and the Middle East, take active part in the relations between the Europe and the East.

In the reign of the great statesman of Azerbaijan Uzun Hasan (Hasan the High)(1468-1478) the emperor of Aggoyunlu appeared as a great military-political entity in the whole Near and the Middle East. State system establishment of Azerbaijan had been developing. Uzun Hasan aimed to create strong centralised state embracing the territory of the whole Azerbaijan. For this purpose he composed ‘Ganunname'(the about the Law). He made one to translate Gurani-Kerim (Koran) into azeri, ordered Abu Bekr Tehrani to write Oguzname (Oguz epic) in the name of ‘Kitabi-Diyarbekerriye’.

The distinctive importance carries out the period of the late 15th and early 16th , when the prominent statesman and the grandson of Uzun Hasan Shah Ismail Khatai(1501-1524) realized his grandfather’s wish and united all the territories of Azerbaijan under his control. He created a centralized Azerbaijan state -Safavi; the capital was Tebriz. During the reign of the Safavis state system establishment in Azerbaijan progressed. Azerbaijani had been the sate language.

Reforms carried out by Shah Ismail, Shah Tahmasib and Shah Abbas and other Safavi rulers, their internal and foreign policy changed the state of Safavi to one of the greatest empires of Near and the Middle East. After Savafi fell into decay Nadir shah Afshar(1736-1747), a prominent Azerbaijani commander, continued ruling traditions in Azerbaijan territories after Savafi fell into decay. Being of Turkic-Afshar origin from Azerbaijan, he strengthened the borders of the former empire and in 1739 occupied the Northern India including Deli. Despite of his great efforts he couldn’t establish the great centralized state. After Nadir Shah’s death his great empire fell into decay and in the second part of the 18th century the struggle of Azerbaijan for freedom gave the birth to new smaller states; khanates and sultanates appeared in the territory of Azerbaijan.

At 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–the Garagoyunlus, the Aggoyunlus, the Safaviz and by Nadir shah and Azerbaijani khanates as well, under their government. This gave the start to long lasting wars between the Gajars and Russia, aimed to occupy the Southern Caucasus. Azerbaijan was 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 joined to Russia, while the south of it to Iran kingdom ruled by the Gajars. 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 in the Southern Caucasus, Russia on mass scale resettled Armenians from abroad in to the territories of Azerbaijan, especially to the mountainous regions of Karabakh and the regions of the former Iravan and Nakhchivan khanates and thus in the bordered on Turkey western lands of Azerbaijan, i.e. in the territories of the former Iravan and Nakhchivan khanates appeared ‘Armenian province’, artificially established for the definite purpose. Such was laid the foundation of future Armenian state on Azerbaijan lands.

In 1836 Russia liquidated free Albanian church, subordinated it to Armenian Grigorian church and thus created a favourable condition to grigorianization and armenianization of the ancient population of Azerbaijan–the christian Albans. Armenians started claims to our lands. Later the tsarist Russia made the next effort: it armed armenians and began mass genocide against Turkic-Moslem Azerbaijanis and gave start to the genocide of all Azerbaijanis and the Turkic-Moslem population of the southern Caucasus.

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.

In the period of Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan parliamentary experience had been gained in two stages. The First period lasted from May 27th till November 19th of 1918. In may 28th the Parliament declared about independence of Azerbaijan, assumed governing of the country and adopted historical Declaration of Independence. During 6 month period the Parliament composed of 44 turkic-moslem members, functioned under the name of the National Board of Azerbaijan and adopted very important historical decisions.

The Second period of parliamentary experience of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan or the Baku period, started from December 7th of 1918 and lasted till April 27th of 1920; only 17 months. By its decision from September 1st of 1919 the parliament established the Baku State University. The establishment of the national University was the most important event in the history of our people. Though the fall of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, the Baku State University helped to preserve the ideas of Republic and played great role in re-gaining of the independence. In lifetime of the DRA the parliament gathered 155 times. 10 of them were in the period of the National Board of Azerbaijan (May 27th -November 19th 1918), the rest 145 in the period of the Parliament of Azerbaijan (December 7th 1918- April 27th 1920).

Parliament discussed over 270 drafts. 230 of them were adopted. Active and business-like disputes caused the adoption of the laws on the third reading. During its 23 month live the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan proved that no colonial or repression regime, how cruel it might be, is in power to crush liberty ideals and state traditions of Azerbaijan people. The Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan fell under the military attack of the 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. The system of the independent state government established in DRA had directly been liquidated after Soviet occupation.

The ‘Read Terror’ occupied the whole territory of Azerbaijan. Every one who struggled against Bolshevik regime was the victim of the ‘red terror’ under the names of the ‘national enemy’, the ‘anti-revolutionary’ or the ‘saboteur’. 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. The North Azerbaijan completely turned into the Soviet state after the call the first Soviet Conference of Azerbaijan SSR in May 6th of 1921. The first Constitution of Azerbaijan SSR was adopted in May 19th.

Deprivation of freedom followed by the robbery of Azerbaijan riches. The private property over the land was abolished; all the national resources of the country turned into the property of the state; control of the Oil Economy had been entrusted to specially founded Azerbaijan Oil Committee. The head of this Committee was A.P.Serebrovski appointed by V.I.Lenin. In his telegram: ‘Winning of Baku is too difficult for us’, sent to Military-Revolution Board of Caucasus Front from March 17th of 1920, V.I.Lenin ordered to occupy the Northern Azerbaijan. Soviet Russia owned the Petroleum of Baku.

In the thirties of the 20th century the Azerbaijani people met with repression. 29 000 people were subjected to repression in 1937. All of them were worthy sons of their Land. Among them were Huseyn Javid, Mikayil Mushfig, Ahmed Javad, Salman Mumtaz, Ali Nazmi, Tagi Shahbazi and other thinkers and intellectuals. Many years Azerbaijan remained under the influence of this process which took away the intellectual potentiality and honorable men of our people.

1948-1953 are characterized as new level of mass deportation of Azerbaijanis from their historical lands-the Western Azerbaijan (named as Armenia SSR). Armenians stabled their positions in the Western Azerbaijan and their quantity predominated on that area.

In the 60th of the 20th century for objective and subjective reasons Azerbaijan witnessed drawbacks in many spheres of its economy, industry and agriculture Despite of former successful achievements of Azerbaijan people. The situation changed in 1969 when Heydar Aliyev started his first period of governing Azerbaijan. To make Azerbaijan one of the most advanced republics of the Soviet Union under totalitarian regime, Heydar Aliyev being a great fanatic of his people implemented the programs of great reforms in all the spheres of life.

The first step of the great politician was the achievement of the adoption of favorable decisions, on the problems of great importance for his Motherland and the development of his people on different spheres of economy (agriculture as well) and culture, at the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, at Plenums of the Central Committee, at the Congresses of the Communist party. The next step was the mobilization of Azerbaijan people to implement achieved decisions and thus he did all his best for the prosperity of Azerbaijan. He wanted Azerbaijan to freely provide itself, be capable for independent life, highly developed in scientific and technical sphere country (or as with that time term ‘administrative-economic unit’). In a word, Heydar Aliyev stood at the head of the way leading to Independence of country. Hundreds of plants, factories and other production swatch established over the whole republic during 1970-1975. 213 great plant facilities started to function. In many important industrial spheres Azerbaijan won the first places in the Soviet Union. 350 kinds of products made in Azerbaijan were exported to 65 foreign countries.

All creative works carried out by Heydar Aliyev in the first period of his government stirred up the national pride, national self-consciousness, the feelings of freedom and independence and in the 70th of the 20th century Azerbaijan made the next step towards the national liberty movement-the step of progress. The late period of Azerbaijan state establishment has 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 and is still successfully going on. Azerbaijan states exercised the development and the fall, the internal breaking and many invasions along the history. Azerbaijan always kept peaceful relations with bordering countries. But Armenians settled in the Western Azerbaijan constantly took notice of our lands and never missed a chance to occupy some territories.

Separatist- terrorist groupings of the Autonomous Provision of Nagorny Karabakh and Armenian armed forces began military actions for invasion of Nagorny Karabakh (the Mountainous Karabakh) with the help of the military units of USSR Armed Forces located in Armenia and the Autonomous Provision of Nagorny Karabakh in 1988. The regions of Nagorny Karabakh with Azerbaijani population were invaded the first. On January 15th Karkijahan, on February 10th of 1992 villages Malibayli and Guschular were invaded, peace and disarmed residence were inflicted reprisals, Khojaly and Shuhsa were surrounded. In mid of February Armenian and the Soviet united military forces invaded the village of Garadagli. 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. The head of the Republic A. Mutallibov resigned in March 1992 when the national movement reached its pick. The absence of the ruling weakened the protection of the Azerbaijan Republic. This gave the opportunity to Armenian and soviet military arms to occupy Shusha in May 1992 and Armenians actually occupied the whole territory of Nagorny Karabakh. The next step was the invasion of Lachin-the tie of Armenia with Nagorny Karabakh. New internecine dissension in the period of the National Front of Azerbaijan ( May 1992- June 1993) much weakened our positions. In 1993 Kalbajar was occupied. The June was the period of deep political crisis. On people demand Heydar Aliyev came to power. Heydar Aliyev’s return was decisive in salvation of Azerbaijan. He prevented the risk of the Civil War.

The position of Heydar Aliyev in the solution of the problem of war was correct. As a wise strategist he took into consideration the real conditions. He realized the strength of our enemies and their supporters, plans and dangerous position of Azerbaijan among them and found the way out in cease-fire. National leader of Azerbaijan people Heydar Aliyev saved his people from national-moral degradation and insolvency. His decisions were not the result of emotions, which might bring to wrong solution; his decisions rested on drawbacks of “former” rulers, realities of changing world, the realities of life and international realities. He returned the ancient and eternal name of ‘Azerbaijan’ to out land, nation and language. The patriotism, name and language of our people and Turkic-Islam unity re-established, disappeared the danger of ethic collision.

The authority and fame of Azerbaijan in the international world is growing continuously. Azerbaijan Republic is known all over the world as democratic, legal and secular state. The constitution of our state, being the result of Heydar Aliyev’s mind, is one of the most democratic and perfect one in the world. The stability in our country and carrying out internal reforms positively affect the extension of the international relations. Azerbaijan Republic, basing its foreign policy on principles of equality and mutual interest, is an open act state for all the states of the world.

People of Azerbaijan

Nationality: Noun–Azerbaijani(s), Azeri. Adjective–Azerbaijani, Azeri.

Population (April 2010): 9.077 million. (State Statistical Committee of Azerbaijan (SSCA))

Population growth rate (2009): 1.1%. (SSCA)

Net migration rate (2009 est.): -1.4 migrants/1,000 population.

Ethnic groups (1999 census): Azeri 90.6%, Dagestani 2.2%, Russian 1.8%, Armenian 1.5%, other 3.9%. Note: the separatist Nagorno-Karabakh region is populated almost entirely by ethnic Armenians.

Religion: Muslim 93.4% (majority Shi’a), Russian Orthodox 2.5%, Armenian Orthodox Church 2.3%, and other 1.8%.

Languages: Azeri 89%, Russian 3%, Armenian 2%, and other 6%. (Much of the population, particularly in Baku, is bilingual–Azeri and Russian.)

Education: Literacy rate–99.5%. (2010 UN Human Development Report)

Health: Infant mortality rate (2010)-52.84 1,000 live births. Life expectancy (2009 est.)-71.34/62.53 years (women/men).

Work force (April 2010): 4.333 million. Agriculture and forestry–38.3%; wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles, personal and household goods–16.1%; education–8.5%; public administration and defense, social security–6.8%.

Government of Azerbaijan

Although the Government of Azerbaijan consists of three branches, Azerbaijan has a strong presidential system in which the president dominates the legislative and judicial branches. The executive branch is made up of a president, his administration, a prime minister, and the cabinet of ministers. The legislative branch consists of the 125-member parliament (Milli Majlis). Members, all of whom are elected from territorial districts, serve 5-year terms. The judicial branch, headed by a Constitutional Court, is only nominally independent.

Azerbaijan declared its independence from the former Soviet Union on August 30, 1991, with Ayaz Mutalibov, former First Secretary of the Azerbaijani Communist Party, becoming the country’s first President. Following a March 1992 massacre of Azerbaijanis at Khojali in Nagorno-Karabakh (a predominantly ethnic Armenian region within Azerbaijan), Mutalibov resigned and the country experienced a period of political instability. The old guard returned Mutalibov to power in May 1992, but less than a week later his efforts to suspend a scheduled presidential election and ban all political activity prompted the opposition Popular Front Party (PFP) to organize a resistance movement and take power. Among its reforms, the PFP dissolved the predominantly Communist Supreme Soviet and transferred its functions to the 50-member National Council.

Elections in June 1992 resulted in the selection of PFP leader Abulfez Elchibey as the country’s second President. The PFP-dominated government, however, proved incapable of either credibly prosecuting the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict or managing the economy, and many PFP officials came to be perceived as corrupt and incompetent. Growing discontent culminated in June 1993 in an armed insurrection in Ganja, Azerbaijan’s second-largest city. As the rebels advanced virtually unopposed on Baku, President Elchibey fled to his native province, the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan. The National Council conferred presidential powers upon its new Speaker, Heydar Aliyev, former First Secretary of the Azerbaijani Communist Party (1969-81) and member of the U.S.S.R. Politburo and U.S.S.R. Deputy Prime Minister (until 1987). Elchibey was formally deposed by a national referendum in August 1993, and Aliyev was elected to a 5-year term as President in October with only token opposition. Aliyev won re-election to another 5-year term in 1998, in an election marred by serious irregularities. A presidential election that took place on October 15, 2003 resulted in the election of Ilham Aliyev, the son of Heydar Aliyev. The election did not meet international standards. Ilham Aliyev assumed the office of president on October 31, 2003. Heydar Aliyev died December 12, 2003.

Ilham Aliyev won re-election on October 15, 2008, taking 88.7% of the vote in an election boycotted by the major opposition parties. While the presidential election marked progress toward meeting Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) commitments and other international standards with regard to some technical aspects of election administration, the election process failed to meet some OSCE standards, according to the final report of the OSCE/Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) election monitoring mission. In December 2008, the Azerbaijani parliament approved a measure calling for the abolition of presidential term limits. After limited public debate, the measure passed in a March 18, 2009 referendum on constitutional amendments. Observers noted serious shortcomings in voting procedures, and in the counting and tabulation process.

Azerbaijan’s first parliament was elected in 1995. The present 125-member unicameral parliament was elected in November 2005 in an election that did not meet a number of international standards. A majority of parliamentarians are from the President’s New Azerbaijan Party. The parliament also includes up to 10 opposition members and a sizeable number of nominal independents. Many of these independents are believed to have close ties to government, while as many as 20 others are business leaders whose political affiliations are not clear. Under the 1995 constitution, the speaker of parliament stands next in line to the President. However, constitutional amendments approved in a flawed process in August 2002 included a provision replacing the speaker of parliament with the prime minister in the line of succession to the presidency. The parliament remains a weak body with little real influence. Parliamentary elections in November 2010 did not meet international standards. They were marred by a deficient candidate registration process, limits on freedom of assembly and expression, a restrictive political environment, unbalanced media coverage of candidates, and problems in vote counting and tabulation. No opposition parties were elected in November 2010.

The human rights situation in the country remains poor, with backsliding in some areas, especially media freedom, religious freedom, and political participation. Restrictions on freedom of assembly, expression, and religion continue, as do arbitrary arrest and detention, and the imprisonment of persons for politically motivated reasons. Over the last few years, political space for opposition voices has become more limited. Arrests and detention for unregistered religious activity continues in some localities. In recent years, authorities have also destroyed or closed a number of mosques. Corruption remains pervasive, as does the lack of accountability for torture of individuals in detention, violence against journalists, and excessive use of force against peaceful demonstrators.

Type: Republic.

Constitution: Approved in November 1995 referendum.

Independence: August 30, 1991 (from Soviet Union).

Branches: Executive–president (chief of state), prime minister (head of government), Council of Ministers (cabinet). Legislative–unicameral National Assembly (parliament). Judicial–Supreme Court.

Administrative subdivisions: 78 rayons, 11 cities, and 1 autonomous republic.

Political parties: New Azerbaijan Party, Musavat Party, Popular Front Party, Liberal Party, Democratic Party, National Independence Party, Democratic Reforms Party, Civil Solidarity Party, Hope Party, Justice Party, others. There are more than 40 registered political parties in Azerbaijan and many small, unregistered parties.

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal.

Principal Government Officials

President–Ilham Aliyev

Prime Minister–Artur Rasizade

Foreign Minister–Elmar Mammadyarov

Ambassador to the U.S.–Yashar Aliyev

Ambassador to the UN–Agshin Mehdiyev

Azerbaijan’s embassy in the United States is at 2741 34th Street NW, Washington, DC 20008; tel (202) 337-3500; fax (202) 337-5911

Economy of Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan is an economy in transition in which the state continues to play a dominant role. It has important oil reserves and significant agricultural potential based on a wide variety of climatic zones. During the late 1990s, in cooperation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Azerbaijan pursued a successful economic stabilization program, with annual growth exceeding 10% since 2000. In 2010 Azerbaijan’s gross domestic product increased by 5%. Output expansion has been largely driven by oil-sector foreign direct investment (FDI) and related spillover effects in the construction and transportation sectors, although there have also been substantial gains in agriculture. Inflation remains a major risk that could accelerate in the context of further increases in fiscal spending, high oil prices, and an inflexible exchange rate. Factors attributable to the global financial crisis may mitigate some of the inflationary trend, however. Importantly, the higher inflation also reflects customs restrictions that are in place due to supply constraints that limit import competition and to monopolies that continue to control many sectors of the economy. The national currency, the Manat (AZN), is artificially stable and was allowed to appreciate against the dollar by 6.1% in 2005, 5.4% in 2006, 3.4% in 2007, and 1.1% in 2008. By early 2009, one AZN was worth $1.24, an exchange rate that has remained steady ever since, increasing only slightly since late 2010.

The 2010 consolidated state budget set spending at 13.5 billion AZN, an increase of about 10% over 2009. The IMF has expressed concern about the impact on inflation and macroeconomic stability as well as governance if the capital budget is not well managed. The State Oil Fund (SOFAZ) was established as an extra-budgetary fund to ensure macroeconomic stability, transparency in the management of oil revenue, and the safeguarding of resources for future generations. All oil revenue profits from the development of new oil fields now flow into SOFAZ, and are held offshore. The State Oil Fund continues to play a critical role in promoting macroeconomic stability and in dampening the impact of massive energy revenues upon the economy. As of January 2011, SOFAZ reported assets of $22.7 billion. These assets constitute a 32% increase over SOFAZ’s January 2009 reported assets ($10 billion). In 2007, the United Nations awarded SOFAZ a public service award for its transparency, accountability, and responsiveness in the public sector. Nevertheless, SOFAZ’s effect is limited since it does not cover SOCAR, the State Oil Company. Both the IMF and the World Bank continue to emphasize the need to coordinate the budget planning process to integrate a medium-term spending framework with financing plans and the government’s broader oil-revenue management strategy.

Azerbaijan has made efforts to modernize and reform its economy. The government has undertaken regulatory reforms in some areas, including substantial opening of trade policy, but inefficient public administration, in which commercial and regulatory interests are co-mingled, limits the impact of these reforms. The government has largely completed privatization of agricultural lands and small and medium-sized enterprises. Azerbaijan is still plagued by an arbitrary tax and customs administration, a court system lacking independence, monopolistic regulation of the market, and systemic corruption.

Azerbaijan is considered one of the most important spots in the world for oil exploration and development. Proven oil reserves in the Caspian Basin, which Azerbaijan shares with Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Iran, are comparable in size to North Sea reserves several decades ago.

Azerbaijan has concluded 28 production-sharing agreements with various oil companies. Azerbaijan celebrated first oil for the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline in May 2005, and the official completion ceremony was held in Turkey in July 2006. The BTC pipeline is now operational and has a maximum capacity of one million barrels per day. A parallel Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas export pipeline opened in September 2006. In October 2008, the first tanker carrying oil from Kazakhstan’s Tengiz field departed for Azerbaijan. New pipeline and delivery route systems for natural gas through the southern corridor to Europe are currently being considered and negotiated.

Environmental Issues

Azerbaijan faces serious environmental challenges. Soil throughout the region was contaminated by DDT and toxic defoliants used in cotton production during the Soviet era. Caspian petroleum and petrochemicals industries also have contributed to present air and water pollution problems. Several environmental organizations exist in Azerbaijan, yet few funds have been allocated to begin the necessary cleanup and prevention programs. Over-fishing by poachers is threatening the survival of Caspian sturgeon stocks, the source of most of the world’s supply of caviar. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has listed as threatened all sturgeon species, including all commercial Caspian varieties. CITES imposed a ban on most Caspian caviar in January 2006, but lifted the ban a year later in favor of quotas. A March 2010 CITES conference labeled Caspian beluga sturgeon as ‘critically endangered,’ but as of yet no changes have been made to current sturgeon fishing quotas.

GDP (2009 est.): $51.79 billion. (Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) Azerbaijan Country Report)

GDP real growth rate: 5% (2010); 9.3% (2009); 10.8% (2008). (EIU)

Per capita GDP (2010 est., PPP): U.S. $12,920. (EIU)

Inflation rate (2010): 5.7%. (EIU)

Unemployment rate: 6% (2010 est.); 6% (2009 est.); 7% (2008). (CIA World Factbook/IndexMuni)

Natural resources: Petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, nonferrous metals, alumina.

Agriculture: Products–cotton, tobacco, grain, rice, grapes, fruit, vegetables, tea, cattle, sheep, goats.

Industry: Types–petroleum and natural gas, petroleum products, oilfield equipment, steel, iron ore, cement, chemicals, petrochemicals.

Trade: Exports–$27.92 billion (2010); $19.9 billion (2009 est.); $30.6 billion (2008); $6.1 billion (2007): oil and gas, chemicals, oilfield equipment, textiles, cotton. Imports–$6.599 billion (2010); $6.8 billion (2009 est.); $7.6 billion (2008); $5.7 billion (2007): machinery and parts, consumer durables, foodstuffs, textiles. Major trade partners–Italy, Russia, Turkey, Israel, U.S., Iran, other EU, and other countries formerly part of the Soviet Union. (Government of Azerbaijan)

Geography of Azerbaijan

Location: Southwestern Asia, bordering the Caspian Sea, between Iran and Russia
Geographic coordinates: 40 30 N, 47 30 E
Map references: Commonwealth of Independent States
Area: total: 86,600 sq km land: 86,100 sq km water: 500 sq km note: includes the exclave of Naxcivan Autonomous Republic and the Nagorno-Karabakh region; the region’s autonomy was abolished by Azerbaijani Supreme Soviet on 26 November 1991
Area-comparative: slightly smaller than Maine
Land boundaries: total: 2,013 km border countries: Armenia (with Azerbaijan-proper) 566 km, Armenia (with Azerbaijan-Naxcivan exclave) 221 km, Georgia 322 km, Iran (with Azerbaijan-proper) 432 km, Iran (with Azerbaijan-Naxcivan exclave) 179 km, Russia 284 km, Turkey 9 km
Coastline: 0 km (landlocked) note: Azerbaijan borders the Caspian Sea (800 km, est.)
Maritime claims: none (landlocked)
Climate: dry, semiarid steppe
Terrain: large, flat Kur-Araz Ovaligi (Kura-Araks Lowland) (much of it below sea level) with Great Caucasus Mountains to the north, Qarabag Yaylasi (Karabakh Upland) in west; Baku lies on Abseron Yasaqligi (Apsheron Peninsula) that juts into Caspian Sea
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Caspian Sea -28 m highest point: Bazarduzu Dagi 4,485 m
Natural resources: petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, nonferrous metals, alumina
Land use: arable land: 18% permanent crops: 5% permanent pastures: 25% forests and woodland: 11% other: 41% (1993 est.)
Irrigated land: 10,000 sq km (1993 est.)
Natural hazards: droughts; some lowland areas threatened by rising levels of the Caspian Sea
Environment-current issues: local scientists consider the Abseron Yasaqligi (Apsheron Peninsula) (including Baku and Sumqayit) and the Caspian Sea to be the ecologically most devastated area in the world because of severe air, water, and soil pollution; soil pollution results from the use of DDT as a pesticide and also from toxic defoliants used in the production of cotton
Environment-international agreements:party to: Climate Change, Desertification, Ozone Layer Protection signed, but not ratified: Biodiversity
Geography-note: Both the main area of the country and the Naxcivan exclave are landlocked

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