Situated on the western coast of the Caspian Sea, it was the first Soviet republic to declare independence in 1991. Territorial disputes with Armenia have dominated politics since.
Geography: Caucasus Mountains in west, including Naxçivan exclave south of Armenia. Flat, low-lying terrain on the coast of the Caspian Sea.
Climate: Low rainfall. Continental, with bitter winters, inland. Subtropical in coastal regions.
People and Society; Azeris, a Muslim people with ethnic links to Turks, form a large majority. Thousands of Armenians, Russians, and Jews have left since independence. Influx of half a million Azeri refugees fleeing war with Armenia over the disputed enclave of Nagorno Karabakh. Armenians there operate with de facto independence. The status of women deteriorated after the fall of communism but they are slowly regaining their position.
The Economy: Oil and natural gas exports drive economic growth. Pipeline to Ceyhan, Turkey, has opened up European market. Severe pollution in Baku.
Insight: The fire-worshipping Zoroastrian faith originated in Azerbaijan in the 6th century BCE
Official Name: Republic of Azerbaijan
Date of Formation: 1991
Population: 8.83 million
Total Area: 33,436 sq. miles (86,600 sq. km)
Density: 264 people per sq. mile
Languages: Azeri*, Russian
Religions: Shi’a Muslim 68%, Sunni Muslim 26%, Russian Orthodox 3%, Armenian Orthodox 2%, other 1%
Ethnic Mix: Azeri 91%, other 3%, Lazs 2%, Russian 2%, Armenian 2%
Government: Presidential system
Currency: New manat = 100 gopik