A Z E R B A I J A N
INTRODUCTION Azerbaijan is the largest of the three South Caucasus states, bordered by Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Iran, and Turkey. The Greater Caucasus mountain range runs in the north of the country, and flat plains lie in the centre. Azerbaijan experiences nine out of the 13 world climate classifications and has more mud volcanoes than any other country. Since regaining its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Azerbaijan has emerged as a vibrant society with a dynamic economy. In recent years, it has boasted one of the fastest-growing GDPs in the world, booming across all sectors. Azerbaijan remains an intriguing and attractive prospect, both for tourists and multinational corporations seeking investment and growth opportunities. This brochure provides an overview of modern Azerbaijan. It has been prepared by The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS), established to raise the profile of Azerbaijan within the international community, and to promote relations between Azerbaijan and the rest of the world.
Q uic k F act s Official name: The Republic of Azerbaijan Capital: Baku Area: 86,600km2 Population: 9,100,000 Principal exports: Oil, gas, aluminium, caviar, carpets Interesting fact: Fastest-growing GDP in the world in three of the last five years, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Official language: Azerbaijani Business languages: English and Russian
Maiden Tower, Baku
HISTORY Azerbaijan was home to one of the world’s earliest Neolithic settlements and is acknowledged as a centre of ancient civilisation. Such sites as Gobustan are a testament to this. This is a unique landmark, featuring rock paintings (petroglyphs), and is the location of many archaeological discoveries. It has been included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The earliest Azerbaijani state emerged in the 3rd millennium BC, and from the 9th–6th centuries BC it developed as one of the foremost states in the ancient world, known as Manna, located on the banks of Lake Urmiya. Following the death of Alexander the Great and the dissolution of his empire, the state of Albania (Caucasus) emerged in the north, with Atropatena in the south. Albania was one of the first Christian states, known for its alphabet and writing systems and for its extensive trade links. Islam began to spread across Azerbaijan in the 7th century, and traditional culture benefited from the innovations of Islamic civilisation. Newly independent states were formed in Azerbaijan from the 9th–11th centuries, with the country later becoming part of the Seljuk Empire. From the 12th–13th centuries,
Empire of the Nadir Shah Afshar emerged after the
many strong states evolved within Azerbaijan, such as
fall of the Safavid State. Following the collapse of that
the Atabeis and Shirvanshahs.
empire, Azerbaijan split into a number of independent khanates. Thereafter, the territories of Azerbaijan were
The 9th–12th centuries are regarded as the Azerbaijani
divided between the Russian Empire and Iran under
renaissance period. At this time, Nizami Ganjavi
the provisions of the Gulustan (1813) and Turkmanchay
(1141–1209), the renowned poet, created his famous
Khamsa (five works). In addition, the eminent architect Ajami Abubakr established a school of architecture
After more than a century of Tsarist Russian rule in
in Nakhchivan, designing the Mausoleum of Momina
northern Azerbaijan, the first democratic republic in the
Khatun (1186) and other monuments. From the 13th–
East – the People’s Republic of Azerbaijan (1918–20) –
14th centuries, Azerbaijan occupied an important
position in the Mongol imperial system. Despite being recognised de facto by the international During the 15th century, the Qaraqoyunlu and
community, it was invaded by Soviet Russia, leading
Aghqoyunlu states emerged alongside the Shirvanshahs.
to the establishment of the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist
In 1501, Shah Ismail, the eminent statesman and thinker,
Republic. Azerbaijan SSR was part of the USSR from
created the centralised Safavid State (1501–1736) and
1922, redeclaring its independence on 18 October
Azerbaijani became the official state language. The
1991. Nizami statue, Baku
Old City, Baku (with Flame Towers under construction in background)
Modern Azerbaijan developed during the period 1993–
international law. Following this, a balanced foreign policy
2003, following civil unrest arising from the dangerous
was developed. The country was subsequently integrated
volatility of the post-Soviet period. This was swiftly
into the international community, achieving efficient co-
resolved, and political stability was established.
operation with worldwide organisations. The concept of statehood introduced during this period remains in
A new Constitution was adopted in 1995; free market
relations were initiated; and advantageous conditions were created to attract foreign capital investment. A
Azerbaijan is undergoing a period of national resurgence.
broad oil exploitation strategy, including the Contract of
In 2007, the country’s GDP increased by a staggering 25
the Century (1994), was prepared and implemented. The
per cent, with per capita income rising by 38 per cent.
revenues which this created enabled the government to
This has resulted in a building boom across the country,
invest in new educational, scientific and cultural projects.
particularly in Baku, the capital.
A ceasefire in the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-
Present-day Azerbaijan is a key country in the East–West
Karabakh conflict was negotiated in 1994, and steps
energy corridor. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and
were taken to resolve the conflict within the norms of
Baku-Tbilisi-Arzurum gas pipeline deliver Azerbaijani
hydrocarbon resources to Europe. They serve to connect
essentially Turkic, yet Eurocentric. A tradition of hospitality
the rich resources of the Caspian basin with the world
prevails at every strata of society, and all visitors are
guaranteed a warm welcome.
Azerbaijan is also poised to be a major contributor to the
Armenia continues to occupy the formerly autonomous
network of pipelines comprising the proposed Southern
region of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding
Corridor, which will ensure secure energy transit from
districts, amounting to nearly 20 per cent of Azerbaijani
Central Asia to Europe for many decades to come. The
territory. This illegal military incursion has subsequently
planned projects include the Nabucco Pipeline; the
created nearly one million Internally Displaced Persons
Trans-Anatolian Gas Pipeline; and Interconnector Turkeyâ€“
(IDPs) and refugees.
Greeceâ€“Italy (ITGI). Azerbaijan is renowned for its ethnic diversity and Against the background of this economic prosperity lies a
religious tolerance. In addition, there are over 20m
deeply traditional ethos with a strong sense of the family.
ethnic Azerbaijanis living in Iran, and strong relations are
The unique culture and history of Azerbaijan has resulted
maintained between them and other Azerbaijani diaspora
in an intriguing national character â€“ moderate Muslim and
P o l iticS A N D E conomic s Politics & Economics â€“ Azerbaijan is a secular, unitary
resulting from the signing of the Contract of the Century
republic. There is division of power in the country, with
an Executive, a legislative body (the Milli Majlis) and an independent judiciary. The Milli Majlis is elected every
Overseas observers have noted the improvement
five years, with elections being supervised by the OSCE
in transparency in each successive election since
and other international observers.
international conventions on human rights. It has also There are around 40 political parties in the country. Major
made great progress towards adopting related standards,
economic decisions affecting the future of the country
including abolishing the death penalty and establishing
were brokered during the first independent government,
an Ombudsmanâ€™s Office. An extensive range of non-
following the collapse of the Soviet Union, which existed
governmental organisations has been formed.
from 1993â€“2003. This included such significant projects as construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline,
Baku at night
B U S I N E SS , T R A D E A N D INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
Flame Towers, Baku (currently under construction)
Business and trade – There are numerous opportunities
International relations – Azerbaijan has a westward-
for European businesses in Azerbaijan, with the economy
looking foreign policy. It strives to achieve and maintain
experiencing a high level of growth. UK Trade and
excellent relations with its neighbours, and has successfully
Investment (UKTI), the European Commission (EC), and
worked with Georgia, Russia and Iran. It has particularly
The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS), an international
strong cultural and historical ties with Turkey. Azerbaijan
NGO, promote and support investment in Azerbaijan.
is a member of the UN, the OSCE, the European Neighbourhood Policy and Council of Europe. It is
Economy – Economic growth in the Azerbaijani economy
negotiating to join the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
has been boosted by international investment, linked to its oil and gas reserves. It experienced the highest GDP
Azerbaijan has active agreements and strong engagement
growth rate in the world in 2006 at 34.5 per cent, reaching
with NATO and the EU. Many European countries have
25 per cent in 2007. According to Reuters, Azerbaijani
representative embassies in Baku that, with the EU, are
GDP would achieve 7.6 per cent growth in 2011, having
very dynamic in the country. Azerbaijani soldiers have
attained 6 per cent in 2010.
participated in NATO operations in Afghanistan, Kosovo and Iraq. Since 2001, military aircraft and supply trucks
Alongside this spectacular growth, the Government has
have carried US and NATO forces to Afghanistan via
implemented a new Poverty Reduction and Development
Plan. This programme includes measures to boost the non-oil sector, continuance of strong monetary policy monitoring,
There has been close Azerbaijani–UK collaboration in the
governance initiatives (such as reforming the Cabinet of
energy sector, resulting in regular high-level visits. The UK
Ministers), and expenditure control improvement.
is the largest western investor in Azerbaijan, having long recognised the potential in the country. The UK topped
The World Bank and International Finance Corporation
the Foreign Direct Investment table into Azerbaijan during
rated Azerbaijan as 69th amongst 183 countries in its Doing
January–July 2010 with £401.3m, equating to a 30.8 per
Business 2012 report.
cent increase on the previous year.
C U LT U R E A N D A R T
Education and science – High-quality education has
Music – Azerbaijani ‘mugham’ has been recognised
ancient roots in Azerbaijan. A new chapter was opened
since 2003 by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and
in the 19th century with the foundation of European-style
Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
educational institutions. In 1919, Baku State University was established, being one of the first institutions of its
This highly complex art form, performed in a passionate
type in the East, thereby introducing further education to
the country. During the Soviet era, the national educational
policy was substituted for that of the Soviet system.
International Mugham Centre has opened in Baku, and the
International Mugham Festival is regularly organised. Following the regaining of Azerbaijani independence in 1991, the Educational Reform Programme was launched.
A modern incarnation of mugham is ‘jazz-mugham’,
Implemented in 1999, the government developed an
developed by pianist and composer Vagif Mustafazadeh.
educational methodology that conforms to world standards.
Some of the world’s leading musicians perform at the Baku
The current system comprises pre-school establishments,
International Jazz Festival.
comprehensive schools, vocational schools, junior colleges and universities.
Another indigenous form is ashiq music, performed by travelling bards who accompany themselves on the saz, a
New educational legislation, adopted in 2009, established
traditional stringed instrument.
a legal basis for a renewed education system. In addition to state schools, a network of private educational
Uzeyir Hajibeyov is the founder of Azerbaijani classical
organisations has also been created. The higher education
music. His Leyli and Majnun (1908) was the first opera in
institutions of Azerbaijan actively participate in the Bologna
the Orient. The first Eastern ballets and symphony orchestras
Process. Thousands of youths from countries across the
also emerged in Azerbaijan. The appreciation of classical
world currently study in the country’s higher education
music is promoted, and the resident orchestra for the fourth
institutions. The Azerbaijani educational system also makes
Gabala International Music Festival will be the London-
provision for top students to study in the world’s leading
based Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Audiences and
musicians from across the world are expected to attend.
Azerbaijani scientific discovery has a long history. Scientific
Cinema – Cinema emerged in Azerbaijan in 1898. Since
research is currently undertaken by the Azerbaijani National
this time, cinematography has evolved as an art-form.
Academy of Sciences (ANAS), founded in 1945, together
Azerbaijani Rustam Ibrahimbayov won an Oscar for his
with a range of other universities. There are specialist schools
script for Burnt by the Sun, and Ayaz Salayev’s The Bat was
for sciences, covering mathematics, physics, oil chemistry,
awarded the Grand Prix at the International Film Festival
geology, biology and other disciplines. The Azerbaijan
in Angers, France. Azerbaijani producer Vaqif Mustafayev
State Oil Academy is renowned for its scientific research
was elected as a member of the European Cinema and
and innovations in the oil extraction industry. Furthermore,
Television Academy for his film Good-for-Nothing.
research undertaken in humanitarian and social sciences has enriched understanding and appreciation of Azerbaijani literature, history, philosophy and other humanities.
Art and architecture – Prominent Azerbaijani artists include Sattar Bahlulzade (1909–74), who founded contemporary Azerbaijani landscape painting. He represented the countryside of his homeland in a surreal way, combining pastel colours and broad strokes. Exhibitions of his work have taken place across the world. Tahir Salahov (b.1928) was the main exponent of the ‘severe style’, being renowned for his portraits of workers and celebrities, such as composer Kara Karayev. On the other side of the spectrum, Togrul Narimanbekov (b.1930) depicted aspects of Azerbaijani folk life in rich, vibrant colours. Art is exhibited across the country, through a broad network of museums and galleries, and in Baku there are institutions dedicated to literature, fine arts, carpets, decorative arts and modern art. Azerbaijani architecture combines influences from many styles and periods. Hundreds of historic and modern structures are in existence, representing various aesthetic styles and architectural schools. The Caucasian Albanian legacy is particularly important, being represented by both civil buildings and Christian temples. One of these is located in Kish village, Sheki, and is regarded as the ‘mother of Albanian churches’. This is the most ancient Christian monument in the Caucasus and was recently renovated during a special project. Islam spread across the country during the 7th century, resulting in the adoption of Islamic styles. The quality of Azerbaijani architecture reached a new zenith during the 10th–12th centuries, and the Momina Khatun Mausoleum (1186), constructed in Nakhchivan under the leadership of Ajami Abubakr’s son, Nakhchivani, is both a pearl of Azerbaijani and world architecture. The jewels of Azerbaijani architecture include the Icheri Sheher walled city of Baku, which comprises over 50 historical and architectural monuments, such as the Shirvanshahs’ Palace and the Maiden’s Tower. These are included in the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List. In the late 19th–early 20th centuries, rapid development of the Baku oil industry stimulated the development of civil and industrial architecture. Following the re-establishment of independence, Soviet official architecture was replaced by a new, contemporary approach. Tombstone at Shirvanshahs’ Palace, Old City, Baku
C U LT U R E A N D A R T Cuisine – Azerbaijani food is renowned for being amongst the most delicious in the Caucasus. The richly fertile agricultural land and Caspian Sea provide a wide variety of meat, fish, fruit and vegetables. Caspian Sea caviar is an internationally sought-after delicacy. Azerbaijani cuisine incorporates more than 30 kinds of soup, and the most famous meal is plov. A wide variety of kebabs, using lamb, beef, chicken, and fish are prepared for special occasions. Dried fruits and walnuts are used in abundance. Azerbaijani cuisine is famous for its widespread use of seasonal vegetables and a range of herbs. Literature – Literature has a special place in Azerbaijani culture, with folklore at its heart. The Azerbaijani epic The Book of DadaQurqud is a significant literary piece that is more than 1,300 years old. In the Middle Ages, Azerbaijani poet Nizami created his world-famous Khamsa, and prominent prose writer Fizuli was recognised across national and regional borders. His Leyli and Majnun is renowned as a literary gem. Another great exponent of Azerbaijani literature was Mirza Fatali Akhundov, who refined dramatic form for the theatre during the 19th century. During the Soviet period, such brilliant Azerbaijani literary figures as Huseyn Javid, Ahmad Javad and Mikail Mushfiq fell victim to repression. Samad Vurgun, Suleyman Rustam, Ilyas Afandiyev and Mammed Ordubadi were particularly renowned. The Azerbaijani poet Shahriyar was of great importance to Azerbaijani and Iranian literature. Ali and Nino by Azerbaijani émigré writer Gurban Said is famous across the world. Modernday literary figures are Bakhtiyar Vahabzada, Anar and others. Chingis Abdullayev has become internationally recognised for his gripping detective novels and short stories.
Hasan bey Zardabi statue, Baku
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