Azerbaijan, situated at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and West Asia, is a transcontinental country. It forms part of the South Caucasus region, bordered by the Caspian Sea to the East, Russia (Republic of Dagestan) to the North, Georgia to the North West, Armenia and Turkey to the West, and Iran to the South.
There’s probably a lot that you don’t know about this country, but today my aim is to change that…
Here are 20 Interesting Facts You Might Not Know about Azerbaijan
1. Azerbaijan has a rich history dating back to ancient times, with various civilizations and cultures, including Iranian speakers, nomadic Turkic tribes, Kurds, and Caucasian Albanians, influencing the region.
The area experienced Arab incursions in the 7th century, leading to the establishment of Islamic polities under local rulers. The Seljuq invasions in the 11th century had a significant impact, altering the composition of the local population and establishing linguistic dominance of Oghuz Turkic languages.
2. In the early 16th century, Azerbaijan came under Persian rule during the Safavid era. The region adopted Shiʿi Islam, and Persian-ruled khanates in Shirvan, Baku, Ganja, Karabakh, and Yerevan played a dominant role in this frontier of Ṣafavid Iran.
3. The treaties of Golestān (1813) and Turkmenchay (1828) resulted from conflicts between the Russian Empire and Iran, leading to the establishment of a new border. Russia acquired territories including Baku (the capital city of modern day Azerbaijan), Shirvan, Ganja, Nakhichevan, and Yerevan.
4. In the late 19th century, the discovery of oil in Baku led to rapid economic development. Tens of thousands of workers from various ethnic backgrounds migrated to the region. Azerbaijanis on both sides of the border remained largely rural, but the emergence of a small merchant and working class marked social changes.
5. Following the collapse of the Russian Empire, Azerbaijan declared its independence in 1918 and established the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. It became the first secular democratic state in the Muslim world. However, its independence was short-lived as the country fell to Soviet forces in 1920.
6. Azerbaijan became a Soviet Socialist Republic in 1920 and remained part of the Soviet Union until its dissolution in 1991. During this period, Azerbaijan experienced industrialization and urbanization but also faced political repression and cultural assimilation policies.
7. Azerbaijan played a crucial role during World War II by contributing significantly to the Soviet war effort, particularly through its oil production. Baku became a key strategic city for the Soviet Union.
9. Tensions between Azerbaijanis and Armenians escalated in the late 1980s, leading to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The region sought independence from Azerbaijan, resulting in a protracted and violent conflict that continued beyond Azerbaijan’s independence (in 1991).
10. The country experienced an economic boom in the 2000s, driven by its significant oil and gas reserves. Major energy projects, such as the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, contributed to the country’s economic development.
11. In September 2020, a new armed conflict erupted in Nagorno-Karabakh, resulting in a decisive victory for Azerbaijan. The war concluded with a ceasefire agreement brokered by Russia, leading to territorial gains for Azerbaijan and reshaping the geopolitical landscape of the region.
12. Baku (the country’s capital city) is the largest city on the Caspian Sea and in the Caucasus region. More than 2.4 million people live in the city’s metropolitan region. The city is located at 28 metres (90 feet) below sea level, making it the lowest lying national capital in the world and also the largest city in the world below sea level.
13. According to 2024 estimates, the country has a population of 10.4 million.
14. The Old City of Baku, an area of great historical importance and recognized as a World Heritage Site, houses the inaugural Museum of Miniature Books. Remarkably, this museum is home to the most extensive collection of miniature books globally, featuring over 5,500 diminutive books exhibited for visitors.
15. The national dish of Azerbaijan is Plov, a savory delight featuring a rice-based pilaf richly seasoned with broth. This delectable dish combines saffron, lamb, dry chestnuts, apricots, cumin, and other flavorful ingredients. Widely enjoyed across the country, Plov is irresistibly delicious. Enhance your dining experience by savoring it alongside some bread and tea.
16. Ilham Aliyev is the president of the country. He’s been in office since 2003.
17. Covering an area of approximately 86,600 square kilometers (33436 square miles), Azerbaijan is comparable in size to Portugal or the US State of Maine.
18. Azerbaijan’s flag, adopted in 1918, features three horizontal stripes in blue, red, and green, with a central star and crescent. The blue represents the Turkic-speaking people, the green symbolizes Islam, and the red signifies Europe, reflecting the geographic positioning of some northern districts in Europe. The crescent, a symbol of Islam, is prominently displayed. The flag has become the primary and widely recognized symbol of the country.
19. In this country, the tea-drinking customs have a distinctive touch. Served in petite glasses akin to those in Turkey and Egypt, Azerbaijani tea is often accompanied by an unusual side – jam.
20. The Azerbaijan Carpet Museum stands as the custodian of the country’s national culture, dedicated to the research, preservation, and exhibition of carpets, carpet items, and applied art. With the most extensive collection of Azerbaijani carpets globally, featuring diverse weaving techniques and materials, the museum serves as a rich repository of the country’s cultural heritage.
Well, there you have it, 20 interesting facts you might not have known about Azerbaijan. If I’ve left out something important, feel free to comment below.
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