Oil-rich Azerbaijan gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 amid political turmoil and against a backdrop of violence in Nagorno-Karabakh.
It has been famed for its oil springs and natural gas sources since ancient times, when Zoroastrians, for whom fire is an important symbol, erected temples around burning gas vents in the ground.
In the 19th century this part of the Russian empire experienced an unprecedented oil boom which attracted international investment. By the beginning of the 20th century Azerbaijan was supplying almost half of the world’s oil.
In 1994 Azerbaijan signed an oil contract worth $7.4bn with a Western consortium. Since then Western companies have invested millions in the development of the country’s oil and gas reserves. However, the economy as a whole has not benefited as much as it might have done.
Caspian oil is now flowing through a pipeline running from Baku through Georgia to the Turkish port of Ceyhan, providing western countries with ready access to a vast new source of supply.
Azerbaijan has large gas reserves too.
As the Soviet Union collapsed, Armenian forces supported by Russia invaded the Nagorno-Karabakh region and occupied the territory, where they remain to this day.
In 1994 a ceasefire was signed. About one-seventh of Azerbaijan’s territory remains occupied, while 800,000 refugees and internally displaced persons are scattered around the country.
- Full name: Republic of Azerbaijan
- Population: 9 million (World Bank, 2010)
- Capital: Baku
- Area: 86,600 sq km (33,400 sq miles)
- Major language: Azeri, Russian
- Major religion: Islam
- Life expectancy: 68 years (men), 74 years (women) (UN)
- Monetary unit: 1 manat = 100 qapik
- Main exports: Oil, oil products
- GNI per capita: US $5,330 (World Bank, 2010)
- Internet domain: .az
- International dialling code: +994
President: Ilham Aliyev
Ilham Aliyev took over as president from his father, Heydar, in 2003.
Heydar Aliyev described his son as his “political successor”. When his father died, Ilham was already prime minister, vice chairman of the state oil company and deputy leader of the ruling New Azerbaijan Party (NAP).
He won the 2003 presidential elections by a landslide.
Ilham Aliyev was born in 1961 and has a doctorate in history. He is married with three children.
Azerbaijan’s state-run and public media compete with private and opposition publications and broadcasters. TV is the most-popular medium. A public broadcaster was established in 2005
Freedom of speech is guaranteed by the constitution.
Turkey’s state-run TRT TV is rebroadcast in Azerbaijan. Iranian and Russian channels can be seen in border areas.
There were 3.7 million internet users by June 2010 (InternetWorldStats). In 2010, RSF said it found evidence of a “vibrant and growing” online media, but criticised the government for failing to provide citizens with affordable, high-speed internet access.
- Azarbaycan – government daily
- Azadliq – daily
- Ekho – daily
- Ekspress – weekly
- Yeni Azarbaycan – in Azeri
- Yeni Musavat – in Azeri
- Zerkalo – in Russian and English
- 525 Qazet – weekly
- Baku Sun – English-language
- AzTV – state-run
- iTV – public
- ANS TV – established private network
- Space TV – private
- Lider TV – private
- Azad Azarbaycan (ATV) – private
- Azerbaijan Radio – state-run
- Public Radio – public
- ANS ChM – private
- Radio Lider – private
- Radio Azad Azerbaijan – private
- Mugham Radio
- Azartac – state-run, English-language pages
- Turan – private, English-language pages
- Trend – private, English-language pages