Republic of Azerbaijan
President: Ilham Aliyev (2003)
Prime Minister: Artur Rasizade (2003)
Land area: 33,436 sq mi (86,600 sq km); total area: 33,436 sq mi (86,600 sq km)
Population (2014 est.): 9,686,210 (growth rate: 0.99%); birth rate: 16.96/1000; infant mortality rate: 26.67/1000; life expectancy: 71.91
Capital and largest city (2011 est.): Baku, 2.123 million
Other large cities (2004 est.): Ganja, 303,000; Sumgait, 280,500
Monetary unit: Manat
Azerbaijan is located on the western shore of the Caspian Sea at the southeast extremity of the Caucasus. The region is a mountainous country, and only about 7% of it is arable land. The Kura River Valley is the area's major agricultural zone.
Northern Azerbaijan was known as Caucasian Albania in ancient times. The area was the site of many conflicts involving Arabs, Kazars, and Turks. After the 11th century, the territory became dominated by Turks and eventually was a stronghold of the Shiite Muslim religion and Islamic culture. The territory of Soviet Azerbaijan was acquired by Russia from Persia through the Treaty of Gulistan in 1813 and the Treaty of Turkamanchai in 1828.
After the Bolshevik Revolution, Azerbaijan declared its independence from Russia in May 1918. The republic was reconquered by the Red Army in 1920 and was annexed into the Transcaucasian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1922. It was later reestablished as a separate Soviet Republic on Dec. 5, 1936. Azerbaijan declared independence from the collapsing Soviet Union on Aug. 30, 1991.
Since 1988, Azerbaijan and Armenia have been feuding over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. The majority of the enclave's inhabitants are Armenian Christians agitating to secede from the predominantly Muslim Azerbaijan and join with Armenia. War broke out in 1988 when Nagorno-Karabakh tried to break away and annex itself to Armenia, and 30,000 died before a cease-fire agreement was reached in 1994, with Armenia regaining its hold over the disputed enclave. Final plans on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh have yet to be determined.