Republic of Azerbaijan (or simply Azerbaijan) is a country located South Caucasus and in the left shore of the Caspian Sea. In north, it shares a border with Russia, in north-west – with Georgia, in west – Armenia, in south-west – with Turkey, and in south – with Iran. Due to the strategically beneficial geographical location (located between Europe and Asia, or the so called Great Silk Road), Azerbaijan has always been in the middle of other countries’ interests. Since the end of the XIX century, Azerbaijan has been important due to its rich oil resources.
The area of Azerbaijan is 86 600 km² (86 100 km² of land and 500 km² of water). The shore line of the Caspian Sea is 213 km.
Almost half of the Azerbaijan’s territory is covered by mountains – the Greater Caucasus Mountain Range in the north, the Lesser Caucasus Mountain Range in the south-west and the Talysh Mountains in the south-east. In the central region of the country, the Kura-Aras Lowland is located, but in the south-east – the Lankaran Lowland. The Caspian Sea is 28 metres below the sea level, but the highest peak is Mount Bazarduzu (4485 metres) within the Greater Caucasus Mountain Range. The longest river is Kura (915 km in the Azerbaijan’s territory, in total – 1515 km). The largest lake is Sarysu (67 km²).
The climate in Azerbaijan is various – a warm and humid subtropical climate in the Lankaran Lowland and an alpine tundra in the Greater Caucasus Mountain Range. Caucasus is protecting himself from a direct influence of the cold air masses, thus, in the lowlands and at the foot of the mountain, the climate is subtropical. The lowest temperature there is below -30°C, but in summers it can reach up to +45°C.
According to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the population of Azerbaijan in 2020 was 10.407 million, of which 49.5% were men and 50.5% were women.
According to the national composition, Azerbaijanis (91.6%), Lezgians (2.00%), Armenians (1.4%), Russians (1.3%), Talis (1.3%), Avars (0.6) live in Azerbaijan, as well as Turks, Tatars, Ukrainians, Georgians, Kurds and other nationalities.
Virtually all Armenians in the aftermath of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict live in the territory of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, which is not under the control of the Azerbaijani authorities and where no census is conducted. In the 1999 and 2009 censuses of Azerbaijan, the amount of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh was estimated at about 120,000. According to the data of the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, its population as of January 1, 2013 was 146,600, almost all of whom are Armenians.
In Azerbaijan, the official state language is Azerbaijani. In terms of religion, about 99.2% of Azerbaijan's population is Muslims, most of whom – about 85% – Shia, the rest 15% – Sunnis.
Taking into account the economic and geographical location, natural resources, density of population, the administrative territorial division and the specific features of the historical development, Azerbaijan is divided in ten economic regions: Absheron, Ganja-Gazakh, Shaki-Zaqatala, Lankaran, Guba-Khachmaz, Aran, Yukhari Garabakh, Kalbajar-Lachin, Daghlig Shirvan, Nakhchivan.
The administrative territory is divided in 59 districts and 11 cities ( Absheron District (1), Aghjabadi District (2), Agdam District (3), Agdash District (4), Agstafa District (5), Agsu District (6), Shirvan (7), Astara District (8), Baku (9), Balakan District (10), Barda District (11), Beylagan District (12), Bilasuvar District (13), Jabrayil District (14), Jalilabad District (15), Dashkasan District (16), Shabran District (17), Fizuli District (18), Gadabay District (19), Ganja (20), Goranboy District (21), Goychay District (22), Hajigabul District (23), Imishli District (24), Ismailli District (25), Kalbajar District (26), Kurdamir District (27), Lachin District (28), Lankaran District (29), Lankaran (30), Lerik District (31), Masally District (32), Mingachevir (33), Naftalan (34), Neftchala District (35), Oghuz District (36), Qabala District (37), Qakh District (38), Qazakh District (39), Gobustan District (40), Quba District (41), Qubadli District (42), Qusar District (43), Saatly District (44), Sabirabad District (45), Shaki District (46), Shaki (47), Salyan District (48), Shamakhi District (49), Shamkir District (50), Samukh District (51), Siazan District (52), Sumqayit (53), Shusha District (54), Shusha (55), Tartar District (56), Tovuz District (57), Ujar District (58), Khachmaz District (59), Khankendi [Armenian name – Stepanakert] (60), Goygol District (61), Khizi District (62), Khojali District (63), Khojavend District (64), Yardymli District (65), Yevlakh District (66), Yevlakh (67), Zangilan District (68), Zaqatala District (69), Zardab District (70). There is also the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic (Capital – Nakhchivan) that is divided in eight districts (Babek District (1), Julfa District (2), Kangarli District (3), Nakhchivan (4), Ordubad District (5), Sadarak District (6), Shahbuz District (7) and Sharur District (8)).
Part of the territory is controlled by the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (with a direct support from Armenia).
The Capital of Azerbaijan is Baku. According to 2015 data, 2.374 million people live in Baku, including, 200 000 people, who were re-located within the country and who have arrived at the city temporarily. Baku is the largest city and port by the Caspian Sea. Other large cities are Ganja, Sumqayit, Lankaran and Shaki.
According to the World Bank calculations, the average annual GDP growth rate of Azerbaijan in 2020–2022 will be 2.2% (in 2018 the GDP was 1.4%, in 2019 – 2.2%, but in 2020 the GDP is projected to 3 %, In 2021 – 3.7% and in 2022 – 3.1%).
In 2019, the growth of the non-oil sector GDP was 3.5%, the growth of industrial production – 1.5%, including the growth of non-oil industrial production – 14%, the growth of the agricultural sector – 7%, inflation – 2.6%, the nominal population increase in cash income – 7.4%.
According to official data from Azerbaijan, in 2019, Azerbaijan's foreign currency reserves increased by USD 6.4 billion, reaching a record level of USD 51 billion.
Foreign trade: Azerbaijan's foreign trade turnover in 2019 amounted to 33.3 billion USD, which is 7.7% more than in 2018. At the same time, exports amounted to USD 19.6 billion (+ 0.9%) and imports to USD 13.7 billion (+ 19.2%) during the reporting period. Thus, the foreign trade profit was 5.9 billion USD, which is 25.4% less than in 2018.
The structure of exports decreased mainly in oil (75.45%), oil products (2.36%), natural gas (12.05%), fruits and vegetables (3.09%).
In the structure of imports – machinery, mechanisms, electrical apparatus, equipment and spare parts accounted for 19.47%, food products – 12.03%, vehicles and spare parts – 9.15%, ferrous metals and articles thereof – 7.67%.
In 2019, Azerbaijan's largest export partners were Italy (28.72% of total exports), Turkey (14.58%), Israel (6.78%), India (4.87%), and Germany (4.75), as well as China (3.83%) and Russia (3.73%).
The main import partners of Azerbaijan were Russia (16.76%), Turkey (12.05%), China (10.48%), Switzerland (8.95%), the USA (5.62%), Germany (5, 2%), Ukraine (3.42%), Iran (3.31%) and Canada (2.91%).
President Ilham Aliyev
Azerbaijan is a presidential republic. According to the constitution, the head of state is the president. He is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and has extensive legislative and executive functions.
On April 11, 2018, the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev was elected for a fourth term and will rule in Azerbaijan for another seven years - until 2025. Prior to that, he was elected President in 2003, 2008 and 2013 (previously the term of office was five years, but according to the constitutional amendments adopted in the September 2016 referendum, the term of President’s office will be seven years).
I.Aliyev was born on December 24, 1961 in the family of Heydar Aliyev, the head of the Counter-Intelligence Division of the Baku Azerbaijan SSR of USSR State Security Committee, and Zarifa Aliyeva, an ophthalmologist.
I.Aliyev graduated from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, in 1985 I.Aliyev obtained the degree of Candidate of Historical Sciences and started working as a lecturer at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. From 1991, I.Aliyev turned to work in commercial structures, managed the company "Orient", which was registered in Moscow, but its activities were mainly related to Turkey. In 1992, I.Aliyev moved to Istanbul, but at the end of 1993 he returned to Baku. In May 1994, I.Aliyev (six months after his father, Heydar Aliyev, became President of Azerbaijan) was confirmed as the first vice-president of the Azerbaijani State Oil Company, which at that time controlled 7 billion barrels of Azerbaijani oil. From 1995 to 2000, I.Aliyev was a Member of the Parliament of the Republic of Azerbaijan. In December 1999, I.Aliyev became the Deputy-Chairman of the ruling Azerbaijani party "Eni Azerbaijan" ("New Azerbaijan", the Chairman of the party was H.Aliyev), and in 2001 – I.Aliyev became the first Deputy of the Chairman of the party.
Thanks to the amendments made to the Azerbaijani Constitution in 2002, in fact Aliyev the Elder was given the opportunity to transfer power to his son: on August 4, 2003, by an order of H.Aliyev, an extraordinary sitting of the parliament was convened, in which I.Aliyev was appointed Prime Minister of Azerbaijan. In 2003, I.Aliyev ran in the presidential election as the formal head of state, while H.Aliyev withdrew his candidacy shortly before the election due to his deteriorating health and called on his supporters to vote for his son, I.Aliyev.
On October 15, 2003, Aliyev won the first round of the presidential election, gaining 82.6% of the support vote, but on December 12, 2003, H.Aliyev died at the Cleveland Clinic in the United States.
Vicepresident Mehriban Aliyeva
On February 21, 2017, the President of Azerbaijan I.Aliyev confirmed his wife Mehriban Aliyeva as the country's first Vice President. I.Aliyev explained his decision by the fact that Mehriban has played an important role in the socio-political and cultural life of the country for many years, she has been a member of the Parliament since 2005, the Head of the organizing committee of the first European Games in Baku in 2015 and participated in many charity projects. "This multifaceted and successful operation determined my decision," I.Aliyev proclaimed, confirming his spouse in the office.
The first post of Vice President in Azerbaijan could be created after the referendum held in the country on September 26, 2016, in which the people of the country supported all 29 changes in the country's constitution initiated by President I.Aliyev.
Prime minister of Azerbaijan Ali Asadov
Ali Asadov was confirmed in the post of Prime Minister of Azerbaijan on October 8, 2019. Prior to that, he was an economic adviser to the President of Azerbaijan I.Aliyev
A.Asadov was born in 1956, in 1978 he graduated from the Moscow Institute of National Economy. He began his career at the Institute of Economics of the Academy of Sciences of the Azerbaijan SSR, later was a member of the Azerbaijani Parliament, and for the last 20 years he is an adviser to the President of Azerbaijan.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Elmar Mamedyarov
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan Elmar Mamedjaros was born in 1960, and is the Minister of Foreign Affairs since April 4, 2004.
In 1982, E.Mamedjarov graduated from the Faculty of International Relations and International Law of Kiev State University. In 1991, he defended his doctoral thesis in history at the Diplomatic Academy of the USSR Ministry of Foreign Affairs. From 1989 to 1990, he studied at the Brown University's Center for Foreign Policy Planning. During his career, he has held various positions in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, including the post of an adviser in the Embassy of Azerbaijan in the United States and has been an ambassador to Italy.
Minister of Defence of Azerbijan Zakir Hasanov
The Minister of Defense of Azerbaijan, Colonel-General, was born in 1959 and has been in the post of the Minister of Defense since October 22, 2013.
Extraordinary parliamentary elections were held in Azerbaijan on February 9, 2020 (on December 2, 2019, at the initiative of the Azerbaijani ruling party "Eni Azerbaijan". The Azerbaijani parliament approved by a majority of votes a call to President I.Aliyev to dismiss the parliament and hold new elections), which was the last stage in the reorganization of all branches of power in the country that had begun in October 2018 and is part of the general trend to weaken oligarchic influence groups and regional clans in order to concentrate power in the hands of President Aliyev's family.
As a result of the reorganization, long-serving Prime Minister Novruz Mamedov, two deputies, the head of the presidential administration Ramiz Mehtiyev, and the gray cardinal of Azerbaijani politics, assistant to the President on socio-political issues Ali Hasanov, who together with R.Mehtiyev had been H.Aliyev's associates.
On the February 9, 2019 during extraordinary parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan, the power party Eni Azerbaijan won 72 (out of 125) seats in the Parliament.
Despite the entry of some members of the opposition into the new Azerbaijani parliament, no significant changes in Azerbaijan's domestic politics are expected in the near future. The Azerbaijani opposition is fragmented and lacks a single leader. Even the smallest opposition activities do not go unnoticed and are stifled at the root.
Baku has always to keep to the principle of neutrality in its foreign policy and has called on other countries to do the same with regard to Azerbaijan.
The independent military-political course chosen by Azerbaijan, keeping apart from the Collective Security Treaty Organization, which is supported by its strategic partner Russia, as well as from NATO, has given it certain advantages. Baku is often used as a platform for various high-level meetings and summits, including high-level meetings between NATO and Russian officials.
In its foreign policy, Azerbaijan pays great attention to cooperation and development in the tripartite format - Russia-Azerbaijan-Turkey and Russia-Azerbaijan-Iran.
At the official level Baku has always emphasized good neighborly relations with Russia. In recent years, Azerbaijan and Russia have strengthened cooperation in many areas, including economic, cultural and military-technical cooperation. Trade and economic cooperation between Russia and Azerbaijan can also be assessed as successful. Azerbaijan is Russia's main trading partner among the CIS countries that are not members of the Eurasian Economic Union. Russia's direct investment in Azerbaijan is $ 1.5 billion. There are about 700 joint ventures in the Azerbaijani market, a third of which are 100% based on Russian capital.
Azerbaijan has traditionally had very close relations with Turkey.
Relations between Azerbaijan and the EU are not easy. Azerbaijan believes that the Association Agreement with the EU is not suitable for it and that it cannot offer the same to different countries because the motto - "One model for all" - does not work. In 2015, Azerbaijan offered to conclude an agreement on a strategic modernized partnership between Azerbaijan and EU instead of the Azerbaijan-EU Association Agreement, stipulating that the new document would not be a legal but rather a program, a road map to expand cooperation with the EU outside the energy sector. Partnerships, proposing news areas of partnership, such as education and other areas. Although Azerbaijan points to its advantage and independence, it has an interest in building an institutional partnership relations with the EU. According to Azerbaijan, over the last ten years, investments of EU countries in Azerbaijan have reached USD 20 billion. Including EU direct investment in non-oil sectors, it amounts to $ 2.7 billion, or 35% of total investments.
On 14 November 2016, the Council of Europe issued a mandate to the European Commission and the then High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, to open negotiations between the EU and Azerbaijan on the preparation and signing of a comprehensive agreement with Azerbaijan. Work on this document will continue in 2020. The new agreement is expected to replace the 1996 agreement on cooperation and partnership. This agreement will highlight the common goals and challenges that Azerbaijan and the EU are currently facing.
Baku emphasizes the independent foreign policy it pursues based on conditions favorable and acceptable to Azerbaijan, respecting and honoring the independence and territorial integrity of other peoples.
Baku's independent policy is based on Azerbaijan's natural gas reserves of 2.6 trillion cubic meters, which means that Azerbaijan will be able to supply natural gas not only to itself but also to neighboring countries and European countries in 100 years' time.