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State

Capital

Azerbaijan

Baku

Currency unit

Manat

Connections

Armenia

Central Asia

Iran

Islam

USSR

War

 Politics

 Economics

 Green

 Rights

History

Name means "Land of eternal fire" in ancient times from its oil fields. Refining is said to have begun in the 13th century. Zoroastrian Fire Worshipers believed it was a sacred place from the burning gas seepages.

Kerosene refining began in 1832 and in 1900 the area produced half the world's oil.

Its importance in the former Soviet Union depended on its oil deposits. Its refineries were also used for Siberian oil (now in Russia).

The people are Turkic speaking Muslims straddling the border of Iran and the former Soviet Union, but before 1813 when it was conquered by Russia it was part of the Persian Empire (Qajar monarchy).

The former Soviet republic is now independent and a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States. The Azeri people in Iran have been in dispute with the central government. Their former leader Ayatollah Shariatmadari was an opponent of Ayatollah Khomeini. It is possible that the Azeris of Iran may wish to join the independent Azeris, especially if Azerbaijan develops a modern secular state with a wealthy economy.

The former Soviet Azeris are in dispute with Armenians, some of whom live in an enclave, Nagorno-Karabakh, within the Republic. There has been a guerrilla war going on between the two groups, followed by an active conflict. There is also an Azeri enclave, Nachikhavan, separated by Armenian territory. At present the only route to it is through Iranian territory. However, Iran may be assisting Christian Armenia. The Iranian government may wish to weaken Azerbaijan by continuing the war, to prevent Azeri reunion, or indeed may wish to regain control of the whole of Azerbaijan.

The influence of Turkey is being exerted through Turkish television and publications. Independence was first recognized by Turkey. The script of the language is being changed to the Roman script used in Turkey rather than the Cyrillic imposed by Stalin, or the Perso-Arabic of Iran. Turkey can be expected to wish to control the oil or at least gain access to it and is already setting up many joint ventures including oil field development and rebuilding communications, as well as training the army.

It is the only Shi'ite state of the former Soviet Union. However, the fanaticism seems to be less than in Iran and reporters say there is no desire to set up an intolerant Islamic Republic of Iranian type.

Russia is pressuring the country to rejoin the CIS and accept Russian troops on the border with Iran. Thus independence may not last.

The Ayatollahs in Iran would like to control these Azeris. Relations with Iran are bad. Some politicians - possibly the ruling family - wish to claim the territory in Iran occupied by Azeris, referring to that area as South Azerbaijan, even to rename their own state as "North Azerbaijan".

The Iranians object to Azerbaijan's close relations with the United States and Israel - it is the only Muslim state that has military relations with Israel - buying weapons from Israel and probably allowing Israelis to spy on Iran at close quartersl. There are US bases in connection with the war in Afghanistan.

Languages

Azeri (a Turkic language)

Russian

Kurdish (minority)

Russian

 History

 Economics

 Green

 Rights

Politics

Although the Communist party dissolved itself its former members still controlled the government until June 1992 when multi-party elections took place and the Communist government fell to a coalition of nationalist and Islamic parties. This new group wanted to take the country out of the CIS and ally with Turkey. There may also be extreme right wing Turkish groups (Gray Wolves). Islamic fundamentalists so far seem not very influential.

By 1993 there was a civil war between the former communists, the elected president and other groups. The situation is exceptionally uncertain. Heidar Aliyev, the former communist leader became president in October 1993. He handed it on to his son. An attempted coup and civil war in September 1994 may have been instigated by Russian interests opposed to western oil deals.

Elections in November 2005 were "won" by the party of Haider Ali's son. International observers reported that fraud was common. Thus the government is in fact a dynastic tyranny.

March 2009 saw a referendum on removing term limits for the president, showing he too would like to be "president for life" - a monarchy rather than democracy.

 History

 Politics

 Green

 Rights

Economics

As with Iran to the south it is an important oil producing area, though the techniques used are not efficient. Following independence western companies have been invited to improve techniques. Turkey is very active in this. Russia is attempting to prevent western influence by claiming ownership of the oil.

Western oil companies are probably by now (2005) the main economic contributors to the state. Azerbaijan is seen by the western powers as an important alternative to oil in the Arabian Gulf countries. At a time of prospective peak oil the oil fields of this area are becoming important to the oil consumers and a competition between Russia, the United States, Europe, China and India is underway to decide which bloc will gain control of the oil.

 History

 Politics

 Economics

 Rights

Green/Ecology

Serious pollution from cotton growing and petrochemical and oil industries.

 History

 Politics

 Economics

 Green

Human Rights

Still bad.

Journalists investigating such matters as the gross corruption of the ruling family are assassinated and otherwise badly treated.

Climate effects

Last revised 25/07/12


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Since 16/04/12

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