The Republic of Azerbaijan covers an area of 86,600 square km (forests accounting for 11.5%, water basins-1.6%, sown area-50%, including 27% pastures, 36.9%-other lands). The country extends between longitude 44° and 52° east and latitude 38° and 42°, with Baku situated at the latitude of 40°.
It borders with Iran (765 km) and Turkey (15 km) on the south, Russia on the north (390 km), Georgia-on the north-west (480 km) and Armenia on the west (1007 km). The length of the coastline is 713 km. The distance between Baku and North Pole is 5550 km, the distance between Baku and equator is 4440 km.
The climate is dry, subtropical with hot summers and mild winters. The average temperature during January is 0۫ C to +4۫C and July +25۫ C to +28۫ C.
The Caspian Sea-covers an area of 400 000 square kilometers with a depth of 1,025 meters.
The highest peak – the territory of Azerbaijan is Bazarduzu (4466m).
The population in the Republic of Azerbaijan is 8,500,000 people with 4,500,000 people or 51.5% living in urban areas and 4,011,000 people or 48.5% residing in rural areas.
Men form 49% or 4,058,000 of the population, and women – 51% or 4,207,000.
Azerbaijan is a multinational country with Azerbaijanis comprising of 90.6% of the population. Ethnic groups are: Dagestan is 2.2%, Russians 1.8%, Armenians 1.5%, others 3.9% (Talishes, Jews, Ingiloi, Tatars, Ukrainians, Byelorussians, Udins, and Kurds etc.)
Azerbaijan is a democratic republic. The government is divided into the legislative, executive and judicial branch. Each of them acts in accordance with the constitution and other legislative acts. The constitution of Azerbaijan was adopted on November 12th, 1995. The constitution established Azerbaijan as a democratic, constitutional, secular and unitary republic.
Azerbaijan has a strong executive system. The president is the chief of state, bearing the ultimate responsibility for both internal and external matters of the nation. The president appoints and discharges members of the Cabinet, including the Prime Minister. The President is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. The president is elected in nationwide general elections for a term of five years and can serve a maximum of two consecutive terms. To be elected, a presidential candidate must receive at least two-thirds of the votes of the participants in the election. If this amount is not ascertained in the first round of elections, a second round is held. During the interim, the Prime Minister performs the duties of the President.
The legislative power is held by Milli Majlis. It is a 125-member unicameral parliament. Members are elected for a 5-year term, all of them stemming from territorial districts. Executive power is carried out by the president, while the judicial power is held by the courts of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
The Republic of Azerbaijan also recognizes state authority in the autonomous Republic of Nakhchevan. The constitution defines the autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan as an autonomous state within the Republic of Azerbaijan. Its legislative power is held by the Supreme Mejilis of the Nakhchevan Autonomous Republic, executive power – by the Cabinet of Ministers of the Nakhchevan Autonomous Republic, and the judicial power is vested in the courts of the autonomous Republic of Nakhchevan. The chair of the Supreme Medjis of Nakhchivan AR is the senior official of the autonomous republic.
The political system of the Republic of Azerbaijan reflects the characteristics of the national and historical profile. Its establishment was and still is influenced by a variety of factors. Another important factor is the political culture of the population. Like all contemporary political systems, the political system of Azerbaijan is characterized by pluralism – the existence of more than one political party. The political parties participate in political life through representatives in the legislative and local self-governing bodies. Major political parties are: New Azerbaijan Party, Popular Front Party, Musavat Party, Azerbaijan Democratic Party, National Independence Party, Social Democratic Party, Communist Party, Islamic Party, plus 52 others parties.
Self-governing municipalities also play an important role in the political system of Azerbaijan. These are newly established, yet highly prospective institutions.
Suffrage age is 18.
THE NATIONAL SYMBOLS OF THE REPUBLIC OF AZERBAIJAN
THE NATIONAL FLAG
The flag of the Azerbaijan Republic consists of three horizontal stripes. Top to bottom: blue, red and green. There is a white crescent and an eight-pointed star (Rub El Hizb) in the middle of the red stripe on both sides of the Flag. The proportion of the width to the length is 1 by 2.
The flag in use is the same as that used by the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic from 1918 until it was occupied by the Soviets in 1920. The eight-pointed star stands for the eight Turkic peoples; light blue is a traditional color of these peoples; green is for Islam; red is for modernization and progress.
THE NATIONAL EMBLEM
The National Emblem of the Azerbaijan Republic symbolizes the independence of Azerbaijan. The national emblem is the image of an oriental shield and a semicircle formed by the branches of an oak-tree and ears resting on it.
The coat of arms of Azerbaijan incorporates the same symbols and colours as the flag, but here acting merely as a frame for the ancient symbol of the land: fire.
The flames in the center resemble the world “Allah” in Arabic.
THE NATIONAL CURRENCY
The national currency of the Republic of Azerbaijan is manat (1 Manat = 1.2 USD).
Since the Republic of Azerbaijan follows the secular form of governance, it mandates no official state religion, thereby allowing for all faiths to practice their religion freely. Following independence during 1991, there has been a revival of Islam and other religions. The majority of Azerbaijanis are Shia Muslims. In a spirit of tolerance, the mosques in Azerbaijan serve both the Shia and the Sunni religious communities. Muslims constitute 93.4% of the population, Russian Orthodox 2.5%, Armenian Orthodox Church 2.3% and others 1.8%.
Azerbaijan is divided into 76 administrative rayonlar or districts (65 rural districts and 11 cities), and the President appoints the governors of these districts. The cities in Azerbaijan are: Baku, Ali-Bayramli, Ganja, Khankandi, Lankaran, Mingachevir, Naftalan, Quba, Sheki, Shusha and Sumgayit. The local governments of cities Khankandi and Shusha and the districts of Aghdam, Fizuli, Jabrail, Kalbajar, Lachin, Qubadli and Zangilan, which are presently under the illegal occupation of Armenia but nevertheless continues to function in exile.
There are 65 towns, including eight with more than 50, 000 inhabitants. Slightly over half the population lives in urban areas. The capital, Baku, located on the western shore of the Caspian Sea, has a population of over two million. Azerbaijan’s two other main cities are Ganja (300, 000) and Sumgayit (270, 000). Other notable cities include Mingachevir (97,000) and Ali-Bayramli (70,000).
Within Azerbaijan, Nakhchevan is an autonomous republic and consists of seven districts: Babak, Julfa, Ordubad, Kengerli, Sadarak, Shahbuz and Sharur.
The present day citizens of Azerbaijan are the heirs to a rich history, they are the successors of a long progression of cultures and civilizations. Situated on the western coast of the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan is located at the strategic crossroads between East and West.
The discovery of the Azykh cave, one of the earliest habitations of humankind to be found in the world, and a number of habitations of the ancient Stone Age gives reason to believe that Azerbaijan is situated in one of the birthplace areas of the mankind. Gobustan, one of the most popular prehistoric cave dwellings excavated in Azerbaijan, is notable for its rock carvings.
The first state that emerged on the territory of Azerbaijan was Aratta in the 3rd Millennium B.C. that was followed by the states named Kutium and Lullubium. In the 9th century B.C., the Manna state emerged with high economic and cultural levels. In the first part of the 6th century B.C., the Manna was soon conquered by the Media where the official religion was Zoroastrianism, the spread of which was connected with Azerbaijan’s bountiful resources of oil and gas.
The 4th century B.C. was marked by the emergence of two Azerbaijani states: Atropatena in the south and Caucasian Albania in the north of Azerbaijan. The name of Atropatena taken from the name of its founder Atropat (satrap of Alexander of Macedonia), which was later changed into defining the name “Azerbaijan”.
By the 2nd century A.D., Caucasian Albania had developed into a major regional power. Its borders were essentially the borders of the present day Azerbaijan, and included the regions of Nakhchevan and Daghliq Garabagh (Mountains Garabagh). The kingdom of Caucasian Albania was home to the first Christian communities in the region. One of the first apostolic Christian churches in South Caucasus appeared in here. Caucasian Albania enjoyed a large degree of autonomy and was virtually an independent state. At the beginning of the 5th century the Albanian alphabet was introduced thus promoting the development of education.
By the beginning of the 8th century, Azerbaijan became a part of the Arab Caliphate. Islam became the dominating religion in Azerbaijan, creating new traditions and culture.
Centuries in medieval times, the Azerbaijani dynasties of Shirvanshahs, Sheddadis, Revvadis, Atabey, Eldegiz, Garagoyunly, Aghgoyunly, and Sefevids ruled in a succession.
Soon after, a rivalry between Russia, Iran and Turkey to involve Azerbaijan into the sphere of their interests resulted in striking internal destabilization in the 18th century. The tug-of-war between the regional powers deepened in the 18th to the 19th centuries where wars were waged over Azerbaijan. The Turkmanchay Treaty of 1828 concluded by Russia and Persia divided Azerbaijan and its people between these two states.
The 20th century marked the period of radical changes in socio-economic, political and cultural life for the Azerbaijani people. The industrial age was intensively developing in Azerbaijan. Baku soon became the world center for oil extraction and refinery. It yielded more than half of the worlds and 95% of Russia’s oil. Baku attracted investors and oil developers from all over the world, among them Alfred Nobel and his brothers. In fact, the fortune that Alfred Nobel acquired in Azerbaijan allowed him to establish the well-known Nobel Prize. In 1907, the Azerbaijani composer Uzeyir Hajibayli composed opera “Leyli and Majnun”, which was the first opera in the Muslim Orient. Formation of political societies, organizations and parties for dissemination of progressive, democratic ideas contributed to the process of developing a national identity and fuelled the growth of the liberation movement of the people.
The fall of the tsarist monarchy in Russia on February 18, 1917, created favorable conditions for the development of national movements in its provinces. On May 28, 1918, Azerbaijan restored its state structure – the independent Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was established in the northern part of Azerbaijan. Newly independent Azerbaijan was the first nation in the region to adopt a secular, democratic form of government. Azerbaijan received de facto recognition by the Allied Powers after World War I as an independent nation in January 1920. Having existed for only 23 months, it collapsed on the 28th of April when the troops of the Soviet Red Army invaded Baku and eventually all of the territory of the northern Azerbaijan and overthrew the government. With the Red Army occupying its territory, Azerbaijan was forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union on December 30, 1922.
For the next 70 years, Azerbaijan was within the Soviet state in the structure of the Soviet Socialist Republic. The Soviet authorities ceded the Azerbaijani territory of Zangezur to Armenia, thus cutting off the Azerbaijani province of Nakhchivan from the west of Azerbaijan. When Azerbaijan was forcibly annexed into the USSR, its total territory was 114,000 sq. km; on regaining its independence in 1991, Azerbaijan’s territory was 86,600 sq. km.
The late 1980s were characterized by increasing unrest, eventually leading to a violent confrontation with the communist regime when Soviet troops killed hundreds of peaceful demonstrators in Baku on January 20, 1990.
Azerbaijan gained its independence from the Soviet Union on August 30, 1991, when the Constitutional Act of State Independence was adopted. May-June 1993, when, as the result of extreme tension of the governmental crisis, the country was at the verge of civil war and loss of independence, the people of Azerbaijan demanded to bring to power Heydar Aliyev. The then leaders of Azerbaijan were obliged to officially invite Heydar Aliyev to Baku. On 15 June 1993, Heydar Aliyev was elected as the Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of Azerbaijan, and on 24 July – on resolution of the Milli Mejlis, he managed to fulfill powers of the President of Azerbaijan Republic. On October 3, 1993, as the result of nationwide voting, Heydar Aliyev was elected as the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The new Constitution of the independent Republic of Azerbaijan was adopted on November 12, 1995. This event marked a new stage in the history of Azerbaijan people – the epoch of democracy and progress. On October 11, 1998, having garnered at the elections, passed in high activeness of the population, 76,1 percent of the votes, he was re-elected as the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Heydar Aliyev, giving his consent to be nominated as a candidate at the 15 October 2003 presidential elections, Heydar Aliyev relinquished to run at the elections in connection with health problems.
In October 15, 2003 the Prime minister of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Mr. Ilham Aliyev was elected as the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan. More than 76% of voters supported Ilham Aliyev’s candidacy during the elections. He assumed his post in 31 October 2003.
Ilham Aliyev has been elected to the second term of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan by gaining 88% of votes of electorate in the elections held on October 15, 2008. He has started to execute the Office of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan on October 24, 2008.
Karabakh conflict: Beginning from 1988, Azerbaijan was faced with unjustified territorial claims by Armenia and forcibly involved into a military conflict. As a result of the Armenian aggression and military actions in Nagorno-Garabagh and adjoining districts – Kelbajar, Agdam, Lachin, Jabrayil, Gubadli, Zangilan and Fizuli – 20% of the national territory had been occupied, and the number of refugees and displaced persons had reached more than one million. As it was mentioned in the International Conference on refugees and displaced people in the South Caucasus (May 2001), organized by the PACE Committee on refugees, migration and demography, each eighth inhabitant of Azerbaijan is a refugee or displaced person. During the military conflict 20 000 people have been killed, 8 500 have become disabled, more that 100 000 have been injured; and approximately 900 settlements have been destroyed. As well as dwelling houses, industrial and agricultural buildings, there were numerous cultural institutions in the conquered zones: 927 libraries, 808 cultural centres, 85 music and art schools, 22 museums, 4 art galleries, 13 architectural and archeological world monuments, 242 of national and 434 of local importance. There were 6 architectural and 7 archeological monuments of world significance, such as 15-arched Khudaferin bridges (VII-XII centuries), Ganjasar and Khudavend monasteries (both – XIII century) in the Kelbajar district, a mausoleum in the Turbatli village of Agdam district (XIV century) and the ancient city-reserve of Shusha.
On 12 May 1994, the ceasefire was established. However, Armenia continues to violate the truce. Since summer of 2003 there has been an acute increase in the Armenian side’s violations of the cease-fire. In addition to shelling and killing Azerbaijani soldiers along cease-fire line, Armenians also attack civilians residing in the adjacent territories.