Azerbaijan

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Azərbaycan Respublikası
Azerbaijan rel 2004.jpg
Flag of Azerbaijan.jpg
Arms of Azerbaijan.png
FlagCoat of Arms
CapitalBaku
GovernmentRepublic
LanguageAzerbaijani (official)
PresidentIlham Aliyev
Prime ministerArtur Rasizade
Area33,436 sq mi
Population 8,587,000 (2007)
GDP per capita$6.476 (2007)
CurrencyManat

Azerbaijan is a small oil-rich Muslim country in the Caucasus. Its capital is Baku. Azerbaijan is a former member of the USSR, and has been locked in struggles with neighboring Armenia.

Contents

Geography

Azerbaijan is located in southwestern Asia, bordering the Caspian Sea between Iran and Russia, with a small portion extending into Europe to the north of the Caucasus mountain range.

People

Azeri girls.

The majority of Azerbaijanis follow Islam. Over 90% of the people are ethnic Azerbaijanis. [1] The official language is Turkic.

  • Population (July 2005 est.): 7,911,974.
  • Population growth rate (2005 est.): 1.0%.
  • Net migration rate (2005 est.): -4.64 migrant(s)/1,000 population.
  • Ethnic groups (1999 census): Azeri 90.6%, Dagestani 2.2%, Russian 1.8%, Armenian 1.5%, other 3.9%. Note: the separatist *Nagorno-Karabakh region is populated almost entirely by Armenians.
  • Religion: Muslim 93.4% (majority Shi'a), Russian Orthodox 2.5%, Armenian Orthodox Church 2.3%, and other 1.8%.
  • Languages: Azerbaijani 89%, Russian 3%, Armenian 2%, and other 6%.
  • Education: Literacy--97%.
  • Health: Infant mortality rate--83.41/1,000 live births (2000 est.). Life expectancy (2007 est.)--65.96 years.
  • Work force (3 million): Agriculture and forestry--42.3%; industry--6.9%; construction--4.2%; other--46.6%.

Culture

Azerbaijan is an ancient nation rich with culture. Some of the works of art discovered are over 4000 years old. Azerbaijanis have been noted for their carpet making ever since the first century BC. Folk music and dances are very important to the people and are still performed today. Literature flourished in the middle ages.[2]

Religious Freedoms

To this day, religious freedoms are restricted in Azerbaijan.[3] However, Christian Missionary activity continues in the country.[4]

Government and Political Conditions

Although the Government of Azerbaijan consists of three branches, Azerbaijan has a strong presidential system in which the legislative and judicial branches have only limited independence. The executive branch is made up of a president, his apparat, a prime minister, and the cabinet of ministers. The legislative branch consists of the 125-member parliament (Milli Majlis). Members, all of whom are elected from territorial districts, serve 5-year terms. The judicial branch, headed by a Constitutional Court, is nominally independent.

Azerbaijan declared its independence from the former Soviet Union on August 30, 1991, with Ayaz Mutalibov, former First Secretary of the Azerbaijani Communist Party, becoming the country's first President. Following a March 1992 massacre of Azerbaijanis at Khojali in Nagorno-Karabakh (a predominantly ethnic Armenian region within Azerbaijan), Mutalibov resigned and the country experienced a period of political instability. The old guard returned Mutalibov to power in May 1992, but less than a week later his efforts to suspend scheduled presidential elections and ban all political activity prompted the opposition Popular Front Party (PFP) to organize a resistance movement and take power. Among its reforms, the PFP dissolved the predominantly Communist Supreme Soviet and transferred its functions to the 50-member upper house of the legislature, the National Council.

Elections in June 1992 resulted in the selection of PFP leader Abulfez Elchibey as the country's second President. The PFP-dominated government, however, proved incapable of either credibly prosecuting the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict or managing the economy, and many PFP officials came to be perceived as corrupt and incompetent. Growing discontent culminated in June 1993 in an armed insurrection in Ganja, Azerbaijan's second-largest city. As the rebels advanced virtually unopposed on Baku, President Elchibey fled to his native province, the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan. The National Council conferred presidential powers upon its new Speaker, Heydar Aliyev, former First Secretary of the Azerbaijani Communist Party (1969-81) and member of the U.S.S.R. Politburo and U.S.S.R. Deputy Prime Minister (until 1987). Elchibey was formally deposed by a national referendum in August 1993, and Aliyev was elected to a 5-year term as President in October with only token opposition. Aliyev won re-election to another 5-year term in 1998, in an election marred by serious irregularities. Presidential elections that took place on October 15, 2003 resulted in the election of Ilham Aliyev, the son of Heydar Aliyev. The election did not meet international standards. Ilham Aliyev assumed the office of president on October 31, 2003. Heydar Aliyev died December 12, 2003.

Azerbaijan's first parliament was elected in 1995. The present 125-member unicameral parliament was elected in November 2005 in an election that showed improvements in democratic processes, but still did not meet international standards. A majority of parliamentarians are from the President's "New Azerbaijan Party," although the 2005 elections brought in a much more diverse parliament, with up to 10 opposition members and a sizeable number of independents. Many of these independents may have close ties to government, while as many as 20 others are business leaders whose political affiliations are not clear. According to the constitution, the speaker of parliament stands next in line to the president. The parliament, however, is historically a weak body with little real influence. The Speaker is Oktay Asadov.

Principal Government Officials

  • President--Ilham Aliyev
  • Prime Minister--Artur Rasizade
  • Foreign Minister--Elmar Mammadyarov
  • Ambassador to the U.S.--Yashar Aliyev
  • Ambassador to the UN--Agshin Mehdiyev

The 2005 election was widely criticized in the West. The media is mostly under state control, and dissenting journalists are frequently intimidated or killed.[5]

Foreign Relations

Azerbaijan is a member of the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), NATO's Partnership for Peace, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership, the World Health Organization, GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Council of Europe, the Community of Democracies, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank.

Nagorno-Karabakh

The major domestic and international issue affecting Azerbaijan is the dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly ethnic Armenian region within Azerbaijan. The current conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh began in 1988 when ethnic Armenian demonstrations against Azerbaijani rule broke out in both Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia, and the Nagorno-Karabakh Supreme Soviet voted to secede from Azerbaijan. In 1990, after violent episodes in Nagorno-Karabakh, Baku, and Sumgait, the Soviet Union's Government in Moscow declared a state of emergency in Nagorno-Karabakh, sent troops to the region, and forcibly occupied Baku. In April 1991, Azerbaijani militia and Soviet forces targeted Armenian paramilitaries operating in Nagorno-Karabakh; Moscow also deployed troops to Yerevan. Azerbaijan declared its independence from the U.S.S.R. on August 30, 1991. In September 1991, Moscow declared it would no longer support Azerbaijani military action in Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenian militants then stepped up the violence. In October 1991, a referendum in Nagorno-Karabakh approved independence.

see Nagorno-Karabakh War

More than 30,000 people were killed in the fighting from 1992 to 1994. In May 1992, Armenian and Karabakhi forces seized Susha (the historical, Azerbaijani-populated capital of Nagorno-Karabakh) and Lachin (thereby linking Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia). By October 1993, Armenian and Karabakhi forces had succeeded in occupying almost all of Nagorno-Karabakh, Lachin, and large areas in southwestern Azerbaijan. As Armenian and Karabakhi forces advanced, hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijani refugees fled to other parts of Azerbaijan. In 1993, the UN Security Council adopted resolutions calling for the cessation of hostilities, unimpeded access for international humanitarian relief efforts, and the eventual deployment of a peacekeeping force in the region. The UN also called for immediate withdrawal of all ethnic Armenian forces from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. Fighting continued, however, until May 1994 when Russia brokered a cease-fire.

Negotiations to resolve the conflict peacefully have been ongoing since 1992 under the aegis of the Minsk Group of the OSCE. The Minsk Group is currently co-chaired by Russia, France, and the U.S. and has representation from Turkey, the U.S., several European nations, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. Despite the 1994 cease-fire, sporadic violations, sniper fire, and landmine incidents continue to claim over 100 lives each year.

Since 1997, the Minsk Group Co-Chairs have presented a number of proposals to serve as a framework for resolving the conflict. One side or the other rejected each of those proposals, but negotiations have continued at an intensified pace since 2004.

Defense

In July 1992, Azerbaijan ratified the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), which establishes comprehensive limits on key categories of conventional military equipment and provides for the destruction of weaponry in excess of those limits. Although Azerbaijan did not provide all data required by the treaty on its conventional forces at that time, it has accepted on-site inspections of forces on its territory. Azerbaijan approved the CFE flank agreement in May 1997. It also has acceded to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear weapons state. Azerbaijan participates in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO) Partnership for Peace.

Economy

Azerbaijan is an economy in transition in which the state continues to play a dominant role. It has important oil reserves and a significant agronomic potential based on a wide variety of climatic zones. During the late 1990s, in cooperation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Azerbaijan pursued a successful economic stabilization program, with annual growth exceeding 10% since 2000. Real GDP grew by 36.2% year-on-year in the first half of 2006 (predominantly driven by the hydrocarbon sector) while non-oil GDP grew by 8.5%. Output expansion has been largely driven by oil-sector foreign direct investment (FDI) and related spillover effects in the construction and transportation sectors, although there have also been substantial gains in agriculture. Inflation, which peaked at 13.7% year on year in April 2005 before easing to 11.9% year on year in September 2005, is a major risk and could accelerate in the context of further increases in fiscal spending, high oil prices, and an inflexible exchange rate. Importantly, the higher inflation also reflects customs restrictions that are in place due to supply constraints that limit import competition and monopolies that continue to control many sectors of the economy. The national currency, the manat, is stable against the dollar, but was allowed to strengthen in 2005 by 5%. The IMF has warned that significantly more appreciation (roughly 10%) will be necessary to prevent inflation from increasing.

  • GDP (2007 est.): $33.0 billion.
  • GDP real growth rate (2007 est.): 26.4%.
  • Per capita GDP (2007 est.): $3,862.
  • Inflation rate (2006 average): 11%.
  • Unemployment rate (est.): 15%-20%.
  • Natural resources: Petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, nonferrous metals, alumina.
  • Agriculture: Products--cotton, tobacco, grain, rice, grapes, fruit, vegetables, tea, cattle, pigs, sheep, goats.
  • Industry: Types--petroleum and natural gas, petroleum products, oilfield equipment, steel, iron ore, cement, chemicals, petrochemicals.
  • Trade: Exports--$3.77 billion: oil and gas, chemicals, oilfield equipment, textiles, cotton. Imports--$4.98 billion: machinery and parts, consumer durables, foodstuffs, textiles. Major trade partners--Italy, Russia, Turkey, Israel, U.S., Iran, other EU, and other countries formerly part of the Soviet Union.

The 2006 budget increased spending (in dollar terms) by 84% with the bulk going to the military, wages, infrastructure projects, and social assistance. Part of the increase in expenditures was financed by revenues from the oil fund. The IMF has expressed concern about the impact in inflation and macroeconomic stability as well as governance if the capital budget is not well managed. The State Oil Fund (SOFAZ) was established as an extra-budgetary fund to ensure macroeconomic stability, transparency in the management of oil revenue, and the safeguarding of resources for future generations. All oil revenue profits from the development of new oil fields now flow into SOFAZ, and are held offshore. SOFAZ assets amounted to $1.5 billion as of February 2007. Nevertheless, SOFAZ's sterilization effect is limited since it does not cover SOCAR, the State Oil Company.

Progress on economic reform has generally lagged. The government has undertaken regulatory reforms in some areas, including substantial opening of trade policy, but inefficient public administration, in which commercial and regulatory interests are co-mingled, limits the impact of these reforms. The government has largely completed privatization of agricultural lands and small and medium-sized enterprises. Azerbaijan is still plagued by an arbitrary tax and customs administration, a weak court system, monopolistic regulation of the market, and corruption.

Oil

For more than a century the backbone of the Azerbaijani economy has been petroleum. Since becoming independent in 1991, Azerbaijan has attracted significant international interest in its oil and natural gas reserves. Foreign investors are helping the country develop its rich oil and natural gas reserves in the Caspian Sea basin, making Azerbaijan to an important energy exporter over the next decade.

Oil production growth in Azerbaijan is coming primarily from the Azeri Chirag Guneshli (ACG) field, and is expected to increase to almost 1 million barrels per day by 2008.

With the addition of the Shah Deniz natural gas and condensate field and the South Caucasus Pipeline (SCP), Azerbaijan will become a large natural gas provider to Turkey and to Europe in the upcoming decade.

Now that Western oil companies are able to tap deepwater oilfields untouched by the Soviets because of poor technology, Azerbaijan is considered one of the most important spots in the world for oil exploration and development. Proven oil reserves in the Caspian Basin, which Azerbaijan shares with Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Iran are comparable in size to the North Sea, although exploration is still in the early stages.

Azerbaijan has concluded 21 production-sharing agreements with various oil companies. Azerbaijan celebrated first oil for the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline in May 2005, and the official completion ceremony was held in Turkey in July 2006. The BTC pipeline is now operational and has a maximum capacity of one million barrels per day. A parallel Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas export pipeline opened in September 2006, but, due to technical issues in the offshore Shah Deniz gas field, has operated only intermittently. Eastern Caspian producers in Kazakhstan also have expressed interest in accessing this pipeline to transport a portion of their production


Environmental Issues

Azerbaijan faces serious environmental challenges.

After years of misuse and mismanagement during the Soviet era, the Caspian Sea has become more and more polluted as oil and natural gas extraction activities continue. New pipeline construction will compound the region’s already existing environmental difficulties.

Soil throughout the region was contaminated by DDT and toxic defoliants used in cotton production during the Soviet era. Caspian petroleum and petrochemicals industries also have contributed to present air and water pollution problems. Several environmental organizations exist in Azerbaijan, yet few funds have been allocated to begin the necessary cleanup and prevention programs.

Over-fishing by poachers is threatening the survival of Caspian sturgeon stocks, the source of most of the world's supply of caviar. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has listed as threatened all sturgeon species, including all commercial Caspian varieties. CITES imposed a ban on most Caspian caviar in January 2006, but lifted it in January 2007.

History

Tomb in Bibi Heybat mosque.

Azerbaijan combines the heritage of two venerable civilizations--the Seljuk Turks of the 11th century and the ancient Persians. Its name is thought to be derived from the Persian phrase "Land of Fire," referring both to its petroleum deposits, known since ancient times, and to its status as a former center of the Zoroastrian faith. The Azerbaijani Republic borders the Iranian provinces of East and West Azerbaijan, although they have not been united into a single state in modern times.

Little is known about Azerbaijan's history until its conquest and conversion to Islam by the Arabs in 642 AD. Centuries of prosperity as a province of the Muslim caliphate followed. After the decline of the Arab Empire, Azerbaijan was ravaged during the Mongol invasions but regained prosperity in the 13th-15th centuries under the Mongol II-Khans, the native Shirvan Shahs, and under Persia's Safavid Dynasty. [6]

Due to its location astride the trade routes connecting Europe to Central Asia and the Near East and on the shore of the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan was fought over by Russia, Persia, and the Ottomans for several centuries. Finally, the Russians split Azerbaijan's territory with Persia in 1828 by the Treaty of Turkmenchay, establishing the present frontiers and extinguishing the last native dynasties of local Azerbaijani khans. The beginning of modern exploitation of the oil fields in the 1870s led to a period of unprecedented prosperity and growth in the years before World War I.

At the collapse of the Russian Empire in 1917, an independent republic was proclaimed in 1918 following an abortive attempt to establish a Transcaucasian Republic with Armenia and Georgia. Azerbaijan received de facto recognition by the Allies as an independent nation in January 1920, an independence terminated by the arrival of the Red Army in April. Incorporated into the Transcaucasian Federated Soviet Socialist Republic in 1922, Azerbaijan became a union republic of the U.S.S.R. (Soviet Union) in 1936. The late 1980s were characterized by increasing unrest, eventually leading to a violent confrontation when Soviet troops killed 190 nationalist demonstrators in Baku in January 1990. Azerbaijan declared its independence from the U.S.S.R. on August 30, 1991. [7]

References

  1. https://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/aj.html
  2. http://www.azerbaijan.az/_Culture/_GeneralInfo/_generalInfo_e.html
  3. http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2001/5545.htm
  4. http://www.gemission.org/Countries/Default.asp?ID=29
  5. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/country_profiles/1235976.stm
  6. http://www.mfa.gov.az/eng/azer/history.shtml
  7. http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/aztoc.html
Copyright Details
License: This work is in the Public Domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States Federal Government under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the U.S. Code
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