Azerbaijan is located on the western shore of the Caspian Sea at the southeast extremity of the Caucasus. The region is a mountainous country, and only about 7% of it is arable land. The Kura River Valley is the area's major agricultural zone. Relative to other Eastern European and CIS states, Azerbaijan has reached a high level of human development, economic development and literacy, as well as a low rate of unemployment. The Republic of Azerbaijan is the largest country in the Caucasus region and touches Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia in the north to the west, and Iran to the south. It touches the Caspian Sea to the east.

Although inflation reached 16.6 percent in 2007, leading to speculation that Azerbaijan’s fast growing energy sector had created a bubble, the chronic inflation was checked earlier this decade, leading to the release of a new currency, the manat.

Azerbaijan was formally the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic and part of the USSR.

Azerbaijan’s land borders extend 1,645 mi. Its coastline extends 479 mi. The territory of Azerbaijan extends 249 mi. north to south and 311 mi. west to east. Azerbaijan’s geographical features include the Caspian Sea to the east and three mountain ranges: the Greater and lesser Caucasus and the Talysh Mountains, all of which cover approximately 40 percent of Azerbaijan.

Essential Facts about Azerbaijan

  • 106 species of mammals, 97 species of fish, 363 species of birds, 10 species of amphibians and 52 species of reptiles have been classified in Azerbaijan.
  • Azerbaijan has the unique distinction of being the first Muslim-majority country to have operas, theatre and plays.
  • Azerbaijan has diplomatic relations with 158 countries and holds membership in 38 international organizations; it was elected to membership in the Human Rights Council by the United Nations General Assembly in 2006.
  • Azerbaijan is widely considered one of the most important up-and-coming spots in the world for oil exploration and development.
  • Fresh herbs form an important component in Azerbaijani cuisine, including dill, cilantro, basil, leeks, parsley, tarragon, thyme, chives, watercress and marjoram. The national dishes include those based on fish from the Caspian, local mutton or beef, and seasonal greens and vegetables. Black tea is widely consumed, as is saffron-rice plov, a traditional dish.

Azerbaijan is unique because nine of the Earth's 11 climatic zones all exist there. Because it is located at the northern end of a subtropical zone, the complicated geographical terrain, and the nearby Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan has a wildly varied climate.

The currency of Azerbaijan is called the manat. Each manat is divided into 100 qapik. It is subdivided into 100 qepik. The word “manat” derives from the Russian word for coin.

Approximately 95 percent of the Azerbaijani population are Muslims. Only 15 percent of the Muslims are Sunni, with 85 percent being Shia. 85 percent of the Muslims are Shia Muslims and 15 percent Sunni Muslims. Azerbaijan is a secular state, and its constitution guarantees religious freedom. Christian denominations include Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Molokan, Baptist, as well as Jewish, Bahai, Jehovah’s Witness and Hare Krishna.