Between Russia and Iran, with an eastern coastline lining the Caspian Sea, sits the country of Azerbaijan. This Transcaucasian nation, (meaning that is has territory in both Asia and Europe), gained its independence from the Soviet Union on August 30, 1981. Their oil rich lands have since allowed them to enjoy a period of prosperity, and from 2006 to 2008, Azerbaijan claimed the world’s fastest-advancing economy.
Forty percent of Azerbaijani land is covered in mountains. One of its most interesting geographical features is the presence of mud volcanoes, which are volcano-shaped land structures made from gases and liquids pushed up through the Earth’s surface. When they erupt, they explode with destructive amounts of mud and sediment rather than lava. Azerbaijan contains more than half of the Earth’s mud volcanoes.
Azerbaijani culture, specifically the music, is founded on ancient traditions that date back approximately a thousand years. Like many neighboring countries, Azerbaijanis value lyricism and spread poetry throughout their artistic communities. Western influences can be seen in pop culture. The official language of Azerbaijan is North Azerbaijani.
- Azerbaijan was originally a Christian country but has been Islamic since it was converted to Islam in the 700s AD.
- Azerbaijan is home to the Azykh cave, which is thought to be one of the earliest caves in which we have evidence for human settlement.
- Azerbaijan’s capital Baku was a very important commercial stop on the Silk Road as traders traveled from Europe to China.
- Baku was the site of the first oil well, drilled in 1823, during the oil boom.
- A staple in the Azerbaijani diet is soup containing meat and sheep fat.
- Zoroaster, the founder of Zoroastrianism, is said in Arabic sources to have been born in modern day Azerbaijan.
- Azerbaijan experiences nine out of Earth’s 11 types of climate. Visitors can travel through the desert, roam lush forests and shiver in the freezing temperature of the mountains in the same day.
- Though most occupants are Shiite Muslims, this country does not have an official religion, and their political parties present themselves as secular.
- The country’s national animal is the Karabahk horse, which symbolizes intellect and refinement. Unfortunately, the horse is an endangered species.
- The Lesser Caucasus mountain range provides the economy with copper, gold, silver, iron and other essential minerals and metals.
- Azerbaijan puts much of its focus on agriculture. Over half of the country’s land is cultivated to support the growth of crops, wineries, medical herbs and cattle.