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Welcome to Azərbaycan

When I first announced I would be living a year in Azerbaijan, I realized few people knew a lot about the country. And since arriving here I have also realized there is a lot I don't know about the country. So here is the brief introduction to the country.


Azərbaycan is located on the west banks of the Caspian sea, with the Caucasus mountains to the North. The country is about the size of Portugal and its neighbors are Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Turkey and Iran. The name Azərbaycan might stem from Āzar" (Persian: آذر‎) means Fire and Baijan was originally known as "Pāyegān" (Persian: پایگان‎) meaning Guardian/Protector. The meaning of Azerbaijan being the "Guardians of Fire").

To be honest I couldn't find reliable sources for this meaning, but I like the idea of this name origin, and it also builds on the next part about Azeri history. You see, Fire is a symbol that is important in Azeri tradition and in the first millennium B.C the religion Zorostranism was "fire-worshipers". The country also holds an interesting phenomena at Yanar Dag where a natural gas fire which blazes continuously on a hillside on the Absheron Peninsula near Baku. To this day the country is known as the "land of fire".

The country has fallen victim to numerous invasions over the centuries among others Persia, Russia and Soviet. Azerbaijan was briefly independent from 1918 to 1920, and regained its independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. It was also an important stop-point on the Silk Road between China and Europe. The culture that has bloomed in this meeting and mix of cultures and traditions is a unique one.


The local language Azerbaijani is a Turkish language (Imagine Norwegian-Swedish similarity) , but in the capital most people also speak Russian stemming from the 70 years under Russia. English is up and coming as well, but I think I would be hard-pressed to get by on English alone. In terms of religion Shia Islam is the predominant direction, though 70 years of secular communist rule suppressed religious expression.

Another point to mention is that Azerbaijan is technically in a war with Armenia over a region called Nagorno-Karabakh, however the countries are under cease-fire for the past 19 years. Despite this cease-fire there have been several violent clashes by the border.

The Key Facts
Capital: Baku
Population: 9 million
Relgion: 95% Muslim (Mainly Shia)
Language: Azeri (A Turkish language), Russian

Posted by CamillaS 10:39 Archived in Azerbaijan

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