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Azerbaijan, republic of western Asia, bordered on the north by Russia, on the east by the Caspian Sea, on the south by Iran, on the west by Armenia, and on the northwest by Georgia. Azerbaijan is the easternmost country of Transcaucasia (the southern portion of the region of Caucasia), which occupies the southern part of the isthmus between the Black and Caspian seas.
In Azeri, the official state language, the republic is called Azarbaijchan Respublikasy (Republic of Azerbaijan). The republic includes the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly Armenian-inhabited enclave in western Azerbaijan, and the autonomous exclave of Naxçývan (Nakhichevan’), which is separated from the rest of Azerbaijan by a mountainous strip of Armenian territory. Baku, a large port city on the Caspian Sea, is Azerbaijan’s capital and largest city.
Other Photos from Old Baku
After a mere two years of independence, Azerbaijan was invaded by the Bolshevik Red Army in 1920 and became part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1922.
Soviet style building
In 1991 it became independent again. The republic’s first years of renewed independence were troubled by political upheaval, economic decline, and a war in Nagorno-Karabakh.
memorial to those killed in Nagorno-Karabakh war
Monument on Martyr's Lane
soldiers grave marker
Until a cease-fire agreement effectively ended the war in May 1994, Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh fought for secession of the enclave. In 1995 Azerbaijan held its first legislative elections since independence and passed its first post-Soviet constitution.
remnants of Soviet Oil production
More Photos of Baku Oil Industry
The official language of Azerbaijan is Azeri, a Turkic language of the Altaic family that is closely related to the Turkish and Turkmen languages (see Altaic Languages). Azeri originally developed in the Arabic script, but in the 1920s a Latin (or Roman) alphabet was introduced. In 1939 the Soviet regime mandated the use of the Cyrillic alphabet, the script of the Russian language. After Azerbaijan gained independence, the government abandoned the Cyrillic alphabet and adopted a Turkish version of the Latin script. Russians and Armenians primarily use their own native languages.
fountain square in Baku
Other Photos from Baku
Azerbaijanis are traditionally Muslim. Islam was introduced in the area of present-day Azerbaijan during the 7th century AD, and Shiite Islam was established as the official religion of the Azerbaijanis in the 16th century (see Shiites).
During the Soviet period, religious leaders were persecuted, mosques were closed or destroyed, and religious practice was officially condemned. Islam has experienced a revival in Azerbaijan since the late 1980s, when political reforms allowed most of the Soviet restrictions on religion to be lifted. Nearly all Azerbaijanis now identify as Muslim, although few actively practice their religion. About 70 percent of Azerbaijanis are Shiites, and about 30 percent are Sunnites. Christianity is practiced to varying degrees among the Georgian, Armenian, and Slavic minorities.
Xan Sarayi, the Khan's Palace
Other Photos from Sheki
Tolstoy in the Caucasus
marker for Hadji-Murad
a folk hero
Tolstoy eventually returned to writing fiction, but with a growing audience of less educated people in mind. The novel Voskresenie (1899; Resurrection, 1899), with a hero who follows the promptings of his conscience and gives up his social position and property, has passages of great power but does not reach the level of Tolstoy’s two great novels. His last work of prose fiction, Hadji-Murad (written 1904; published 1911; translated 1912), returns to the Caucasus, where his stories of the 1850s were set, and includes relatively little moralizing.
image of Hadji-Murad
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