Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan, also spelled Azerbaidzhan, officially Azerbaijani Republic, Azerbaijani Azärbayjan Respublikasi, country of eastern Transcaucasia. Occupying an area that fringes the southern flanks of the Caucasus Mountains, it is bounded 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.
The exclave of Naxçıvan (Nakhichevan) is located southwest of Azerbaijan proper, bounded by Armenia, Iran, and Turkey. Azerbaijan includes within its borders the predominantly Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, which from 1988 was the focus of intense conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia. The capital of Azerbaijan is the ancient city of Baku (Bakı), whose harbour is the best on the Caspian Sea.

In addition to its variegated and often beautiful terrain, Azerbaijan offers a blend of traditions and modern development. The people of its remoter areas retain many distinctive folk traditions, but the lives of its inhabitants have been much influenced by accelerating modernization, characterized by industrialization, the development of power resources, and the growth of the cities, in which more than half the people now live.
Industry dominates the economy, and more-diversified pursuits have supplemented the exploitation of oil, of which Azerbaijan was the world’s leading producer at the beginning of the 20th century. Fine horses and caviar continue as some of the more distinctive traditional exports of the republic.

Azerbaijan was an independent nation from 1918 to 1920 but was then incorporated into the Soviet Union. It became a constituent (union) republic in 1936. Azerbaijan declared sovereignty on September 23, 1989, and independence on August 30, 1991.

As a result of its broken relief, drainage patterns, climatic differences, and sharply defined altitudinal zoning of vegetation, Azerbaijan is characterized by a wide variety of landscapes. More than two-fifths of its territory is taken up by lowlands, about half lies at 1,300 to 4,900 feet (400 to 1,500 metres), and areas above 4,900 feet occupy a little more than one-tenth of the total area.

The highest peaks are Bazardyuzyu (Bazardüzü; 14,652 feet [4,466 metres]), Shakhdag, and Tufan, all part of the Greater Caucasus range, the crest of which forms part of Azerbaijan’s northern boundary. Magnificent spurs and ridges, cut into by the deep gorges of mountain streams, make this part of Azerbaijan a region of great natural beauty. At the same time, it lies within a region characterized by a high degree of seismic activity.

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