Azerbaijan is located in the southern part of Caucasus, descending to the Caspian Sea, between Iran and Russia. As the Caucasus Mountains are the conventional border between Europe and Asia, the northeast half of the country is in Europe and the and the southwest half is in Asia.
Government: Constitutional republic
Total: 9.6 million
Capital : Baku
Administrative Divisions: 59 regions, 11 cities, and 1 autonomous republic (Nakhchivan)
The official language is Azerbaijani, which is spoken by approximately 92% of the population as a mother language, belongs to the Turkic language family. The large Armenian-speaking population of Nagorno-Karabakh is no longer under government control. There are a dozen other languages spoken natively in the country. English and Russian play significant roles as second or third languages of education and communication.
Around 95% of the population are Muslims. 85% of the Muslims are Shia Muslims and 15% Sunni Muslims, and the Republic of Azerbaijan has the second highest Shia population percentage after Iran. Under article 48 of its Constitution, Azerbaijan is a secular state and ensures religious freedom. Of the nation’s religious minorities, Christians are mostly Russian and Georgian Orthodox and Armenia Apostolic (almost all Armenians live in the break-away region of Nagorno-Karabakh).
Azerbaijan shares land borders with Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Turkey and Iran which forms a total of 2,648 kms. Of that Armenia shares 1007 kms, Iran 756 kms, Georgia 480 kms, Russia 390 and Turkey 15 kms. The boundary which Azerbaijan shares with the Caspian Sea extends to a total of about 456 kms. The country measures 400 kms from north to south and 500 kms from east to west. 40% of the country is covered by mountain ranges, of which the three major ones are Greater and Lesser Caucasus and the Talysh. The highest mountain is Bazardüzü Dağı which lies in Greater Caucasus range. More than half of the mud volcanoes in the world are located in Azerbaijan.
Oil Reserves and its trade has been the main strength of Azerbaijan’s economy for over a century and accounts for more than 10% of the country’s GDP. This is expected to double in the coming years. Some oil reserves that Azerbaijan shares with other bordering countries in the Caspian Basin are as large as the North Sea.
The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Pipeline which started in 2006 has generated the expected growth in oil trade with other countries. This pipeline transports oil from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean via Georgia and Turkey and is expected to generate as much as $160 billion in revenues for the country in the coming 30 years.
In 1994 the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) signed an agreement with other 13 oil companies for a total of 30 years. Today Azerbaijan is considered to be the most sought after hub for untouched oilfields reserves in the world. Oil and petroleum form the crux of Azerbaijan’s economy, but other than that, metals found in the Lesser Caucasus such as gold, silver, iron, copper, titanium, chromium, manganese, cobalt, molybdenum, complex ore and antimony account for the remaining part of the economy.
Two thirds of Azerbaijan is rich in oil and natural gas. The region of the Lesser Caucasus accounts for most of the country’s gold, silver, iron, copper, titanium, chromium, manganese, cobalt, molybdenum, complex ore and antimony. In September 1994, a 30-year contract was signed between the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) and 13 oil companies, among them Amoco, BP, ExxonMobil, Lukoil and Statoil. As Western oil companies are able to tap deepwater oilfields untouched by the Soviet exploitation, Azerbaijan is considered one of the most important spots in the world for oil exploration and development. Meanwhile the State Oil Fund of Azerbaijan was established as an extra-budgetary fund to ensure the macroeconomic stability, transparency in the management of oil revenue, and the safeguarding of resources for future generations. Azeriqaz, a sub-company of SOCAR, intends to ensure full gasification of the country by 2021.
Azerbaijan has the largest agricultural basin in the region. About 54,9 percent of Azerbaijan is agricultural lands. Azerbaijan’s agricultural scientific research institutes are focused on meadows and pastures, horticulture and subtropical crops, green vegetables, viticulture and wine-making, cotton growing and medicinal plants. In some lands it is profitable to grow grain, potatoes, sugar beets, cotton and tobacco. Livestock, dairy products, and wine and spirits are also important farm products.
The convenient location of Azerbaijan on the crossroad of major international traffic arteries, such as the Silk Road and the South-North corridor, highlights the strategic importance of transportation sector for the country’s economy. The transport sector in the country includes roads, railways, aviation, and maritime transport.
Azerbaijan is also an important economic hub in the transportation of raw materials. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline (BTC) became operational in May 2006 and extends more than 1,774 kilometers through the territories of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. The BTC is designed to transport up to 50 million tons of crude oil annually and carries oil from the Caspian Sea oilfields to global markets. The South Caucasus Pipeline, also stretching through the territory of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, became operational at the end of 2006 and offers additional gas supplies to the European market from the Shah Deniz gas field. Shah Deniz is expected to produce up to 296 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year. Azerbaijan also plays a major role in the EU-sponsored Silk Road Project.
In 2012, the construction of Kars–Tbilisi–Baku railway expected to provide transportation between Asia and Europe through connecting the railways of China and Kazakhstan in the east with Turkey’s Marmaray to the European railway system in the west. Broad gauge railways in 2010 stretched for 2,918 km (1,813 mi) and electrified railways numbered 1,278 km (794 mi). By 2010, there were 35 airports and one heliport.