Site Information:  Newly Independent States of the Former Soviet Union



Public Affairs Source: Bureau of Public Affairs, Office of Public Communication Description: Washington, DC Date: Jun 19, 19926/19/92 Category: Site Information Region: Eurasia Country: Azerbaijan, USSR (former) Subject: History, Democratization, Trade/Economics, Cultural Exchange Map: Central, Eastern Europe, and the former Soviet Republics [TEXT]


Today's Azerbaijanis combine the heritage of two venerable civilizations-the Seljuk Turks of the 11th century and the ancient Persians. The Azerbaijan Republic adjoins Iranian Azerbaijan, although the two have never been politically united in a single state. Azerbaijan was conquered and Islamized by the Arabs in 642 AD. Centuries of prosperity followed. Following the decline of the Arab Empire, Azerbaijan again found prosperity in the 13th-15th centuries under Mongol rule, under the native Shirvan Shahs, and under Persia's Safavid Dynasty. Because of its location astride the trade routes and on the shore of the Caspian Sea, Turkey, Persia, and Russia fought long wars to control the area. Finally, in 1828, the Russians split Azerbaijan's territory with Persia, along the present frontier. In the period of liberalization following the 1905 revolution in Russia, a local party, Musavat (Equality) became active in 1911. After the Bolshevik revolution in 1917, these local leaders allied with the Turks and attempted to form a Transcaucasus Federation with Armenia and Georgia. The attempt failed, and an independent republic was proclaimed in 1918. With Turkish help, Baku was recaptured and named as the capital. But, with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, British forces returned to the city and controlled the affairs of the republic until August 1919. Azerbaijan was recognized by the Allies as an independent state in January 1920. However, in April 1920, the Red Army invaded, and local leaders surrendered. Azerbaijan was incorporated into the Transcaucasus Federated Soviet Republic in 1922, and became a union republic in 1936. The Azerbaijanis declared their independence on August 30, 1991. Azerbaijan is both an agricultural and industrial center today. At the turn of the 19th century, it was the world's largest oil producer, and oil is still a major industry today. Azer-baijan also is known for its cotton, tobacco, grapes, and caviar

"Baku-The City of Winds"

Baku is a large and attractive city built in natural terraces which drop down to the horseshoe-shaped Gulf of Baku on the Caspian Sea. Although the climate is generally mild, a harsh, devastating wind, the "Nord of Baku," sometimes strikes. Most modern buildings are constructed on an east-west axis to lessen their exposure to the north wind. Baku was first mentioned in a 9th century AD chronicle and flourished as a trade center during the 15th and 16th centuries. The city was held briefly by the Russians from 1723-35, before they took final possession in 1806. Today, Baku's past can best be seen in the Castle District where the streets are so narrow and twisting that pedestrians can barely squeeze between the houses. The most important historic monuments include: * The Bastion of the Maiden, an 11th-century tower where, according to legend, a beautiful princess once leapt to her death; * Sinile-Kala, a minaret of the Mohammed Mosque, the oldest structure in the city, built in 1093; and * The Palace of the Shirvan Shahs, the local dynasty that ruled during the height of Azerbaijan's prosperity. Today, Baku is home to an ethnically mixed population-35% Azerbaijani, 35% Russian, 20% Armenian, and 10% other.

Principal Government Officials

President: Abdulfaz Elchibey Prime Minister: Rahim Huseynov Minister of Foreign Affairs-Tofig Kasymov Capital: Baku