The Republic of Azerbaijan occupies the southeastern part of the Caucasus isthmus and its small southern part. It covers the southeast of the Greater Caucasus, a part of the Lesser Caucasus, the Talysh Mountains with the vast Kura-Araks depression in between. Geographically the republic is located within the limits of the part of Eurasia, which is closely connected with the Aral -Caspian depression and is located near the conventional border between Europe and Asia.
In addition to the continental part, the republic’s territory also includes several islands located along the Caspian coastline. In terms of industrial development, the Republic of Azerbaijan is considered to be one of the most prospective countries among the newly independent states of Eurasia. The existence of natural resources and its favorable geographical location were the historic prerequisites in creating a base for the Republic’s social and economic complex in the past centuries. By the 19th century oil as the main wealth of Azerbaijan, and industries associated with oil had definitively determined the specifics of Azerbaijan industry and set priorities for many decades.
As part of the former Soviet Union Azerbaijan has always been considered to be part of Russia by most people in the western world. Azerbiajan is not a part of Russia and its people are for the most part not Russian but Azeri with different customs and origins. Other nationalities such as Talishes, Lezgies, Georgians, Kurds, Avars, Tats, Jews, Russians, Tatars and other ethnic groups also contribut to the cultural mosaic of Azerbaijan. Many of these groups have been able to preserve their cultural traditions, customs and religions in spite of extreme political conditions.
The official and most spoken language in Azerbaijan is Azeri from the Turkic language group but Russian and English is spoken in and around Baku.
Azerbaijan – a nation of Turkic Muslims – has been an independent republic since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Despite a cease-fire, in place since 1994, Azerbaijan has yet to resolve its conflict with Armenia over the Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh enclave (largely Armenian populated). Azerbaijan has lost almost 20% of its territory and must support some 750,000 refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) as a result of the conflict. Corruption is ubiquitous and the promise of widespread wealth from Azerbaijan’s undeveloped petroleum resources remains largely unfulfilled. The country’s economic troubles are expected to be transformed through Western investment in Azerbaijan’s oil resources, an untapped reserve whose estimated worth is trillions of dollars. Since 1994, the Azerbaijan state oil company (SOCAR) has signed several billion-dollar agreements with international oil companies. A total of 15 production-sharing agreements have been signed; only one, run by BP-led Azerbaijan International Operating Company (AIOC) is thus far producing crude oil. Azerbaijan’s pro-Western stance and its careful economic management have made it the most attractive of the oil-rich Caspian countries for foreign investment. In the years since its independence, the country has undergone rapid privatization and the IMF has given it high marks as one of the most successful economic overhauls ever.
The capital of Azerbaijan, Baku is located on the western shore of the Caspian Sea and is one of Azerbaijan’s largest cities. The center of Baku is the old town, which is also a fortress. Most of the walls, strengthened after the Russian conquest in 1806, survive. This section is picturesque, with its maze of narrow alleys and ancient buildings. Part of a palace, a mosque, and a minaret date from the 11th century. Modern Baku spreads out from the walls, its streets and buildings rising up hills that rim the Bay of Baku. Greater Baku is divided into 11 districts and 48 townships. Among these are townships on islands in the bay and one island built on stilts in the Caspian Sea, 60 miles (100 kilometers) from Baku proper. Baku is a major cultural and educational center, with a university and other institutions of higher education. One of these specializes in the petroleum and chemical industries. The basis of Baku’s economy is