Azerbaijan

 

History of Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan Flag
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The Republic of Azerbaijan comprises the Transcaucasian or northern part of the historic region called Azerbaijan. Known to the ancients as Albania, the area was linked to the history of Armenia and Persia, particularly after its conquest (4th cent.) by Shapur II. Overrun later by Mongols, it was divided after the fall (15th cent.) of Timur into several principalities (notably Shirvan). The territory of the present Azerbaijan was acquired by Russia from Persia through the treaties of Gulistan (1813) and Turkamanchai (1828).

Soon after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, Russian Azerbaijan joined Armenia and Georgia to form the anti-Bolshevik Transcaucasian Federation. After its dissolution (May, 1918), Azerbaijan proclaimed itself independent but was conquered by the Red Army in 1920 and made into a Soviet republic. In 1922, Azerbaijan joined the USSR as a member of the Transcaucasian Soviet Federated Republic. With the administrative reorganization of 1936, it became a separate republic. Immediately after World War II, Azerbaijan was used as a base for Communist rebels in Iranian Azerbaijan; Azeri nationalists still press claims to Iran's Azerbaijan province.

Azerbaijan declared itself independent of the USSR in Aug., 1991, and became a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States. In 1992, Abulfaz Elchibey, leader of the Popular Front party, was elected president, but he was ousted by the parliament a year later, after a military mutiny. Heydar Aliyev, leader of the Azerbaijan Communist party from 1969 to 1982, assumed power and was confirmed in office by an election. Aliyev promoted exploitation of the country's oil resources through agreements with Russia and several Western oil companies for development of oil fields in the Caspian Sea. In the Nov., 1995, elections, which were condemned by outside observers as rigged, voters elected a new parliament that was dominated by Aliyev's party and approved constitutional changes that expanded his power. Aliyev was reelected in 1998, and his New Azerbaijan party retained power in the Nov., 2000, parliamentary elections. In Aug., 2003, the ailing president appointed his son, Ilham Aliyev, as the country's prime minister. The president withdrew from the Oct., 2003, election in favor of his son, who was elected by a landslide; the balloting was criticized by independent observers as neither free nor fair. The elder Aliyev died two months after the election.

During the late 1980s ethnic Armenians in the Nagorno-Karabakh region had pressed for its unification with Armenia, leading to a guerrilla war. A large-scale conflict broke out between the two republics in 1992; the Armenian side gained effective control of the region and some adjoining Azerbaijani territory by 1994, when a cease-fire was reached with Russian mediation. Some one million Azeris were made refugees within Azerbaijan as a result of the conflict. Attempts to resolve the conflict have proved unsuccessful. Azerbaijan has offered the region a high degree of autonomy, but the Armenians there have insisted on independence or union with Armenia.

Relations with Russia and Iran have also been strained at times. Russia has forcefully sought Azerbaijan's cooperation on military and other matters, which President Aliyev has resisted giving. Iran has supported Islamic groups in Azerbaijan and has challenged the country's right to drill for oil in parts of the Caspian.

Cities

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  • Baku - The capital and largest, most cosmopolitan city of the Caucasus
  • Ganja - Azerbaijan's second largest city has a long history and some important sites
  • Lankaran - Southern city near the Iranian border
  • Mingechivir - A mid-sized city on the large Mingechivir Reservoir
  • Naftalan - A town best known for its special petroleum oil baths (spas)
  • Nakhichevan City - The administrative capital of Azerbaijan's Nakhchivan exclave
  • Sheki - A beautiful city in the forested Caucasus Mountains with lots to see and do
  • Sumqayit - Azerbaijan's third largest city, on the Absheron Peninsula
  • Khachmaz - This is the largest tourist destination in Azerbaijan with great beaches and beautiful forests.

Culture

Azerbaijani culture is undoubtedly one of the most diverse in the world – combining aspects of its European and Islamic heritage, as well as its more recent Soviet and Western influences. It is this diversity that contributes to the wide variety of endeavors in which Azerbaijan excels, from dance, to classical music, to the much-celebrated local cuisine.

Religion. Around 70% of Azerbaijani citizens are Shia Muslims, the main driving force behind their cultural bonds with Iran. Consequently, Islam remains the dominant religion, though despite repeated Soviet attempts to wipe it out, but Azerbaijan remains a strictly secular state, in contrast to much of the region.

Music and Popular Culture. While predominantly folk-based, the most globally popular music from Azerbaijan has been its muğam(classical music). Uzeyir Hajibeyov and Gara Garayev, in particular, have received much acclaim for the pieces they composed, with the former having a statue unveiled in his honor in June 2011. The quality of Azerbaijani music was there for all to see in 2011, as 115 million people watched their national entry, Ell and Nikki, defeat global superstars such as Blue in the Eurovision Song Contest. As a result, Azerbaijan will host the competition in 2012.

Food. Due to the fact that 9 of the world's 11 climate zones can be found in Azerbaijan, its fertile land produces an abundance of fresh herbs and vegetables which contribute to the quality of the local food. Beyond the variety of soups and kebabs, Azerbaijan's most distinctive dish is the plov, a saffron rice-based dish which is traditionally accompanied with a variety of herbs and fresh vegetables.

Weather and Climate

Azerbaijan Climate
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The cold artic winds of Scandinavian and temperate winds from Siberia and Central Asia contribute the extreme temperature in Azerbaijan. The influence of these winds is somewhat reduced due to the Greater Caucasus mountain ranges, which block the cold winds, leading to a subtropical climate.

Nine out of eleven climate zones are present in Azerbaijan. Temperatures vary within the country depending upon the region's proximity to sea, regional landscape and effect of artic and temperate winds. As we go towards the Caspian Sea temperatures do not seem so harsh due to the effect of nautical winds. But towards the mountains, warmth begins to lose its importance and temperature drops to an average of 4-5°C. At its extreme, temperatures can reach a maximum of 46°C, and in winters can get harsh at -33°C.

Public Holidays

Azerbaijan Public Holidays Year 2014
New Year January 1, 2014
Martyrs' Day January 20, 2014
Women's Day March 8, 2014
Novruz March 20-26, 2014
Victory Day May 9, 2014
Republic Day May 28, 2014
National Salvation Day June 15, 2014
Army and Navy Day June 26, 2014
Ramadan (Eid al-Fitr) July 28-29, 2014
Gurban Bayramy(Eid al-Adha) October 4-5, 2014
National Independence Day October 18, 2014
National Flag Day November 9, 2014
Constitution Day November 12, 2014
National revival Day November 17, 2014
Azerbaijanis' Solidarity Day December 31, 2014

Travel Advisory

Foreign nationals are strictly advised against travelling to Nagorno-Karabakh and the military area surrounding it as the area is a subject of dispute between Azerbaijan and Armenia. There have been regular ceasefire violations and sporadic clashes, resulting in deaths. Those who still want to visit the disputed republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, ask the authorities there to issue a visa on a separate piece of paper. Insist on this, since any proof of travel on your passport, will result in permanent ban on entry to Azerbaijan, even though you hold a valid visa.

In addition, foreign nationals are not allowed to cross over to Russia from the Dagestan border. However, if you hold a valid visa, you are allowed to cross the Iranian border at Astara.

Tourists should keep away from attending political rallies and gatherings of political nature as they are subject to clashes between communities and terrorist attacks.