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Nakhichevan, isthmus, Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenians, secession

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Azerbaijan, republic in western Asia. Azerbaijan is the easternmost country in the South Caucasus (the southern portion of the region of the Caucasus), which occupies the southern part of the isthmus between the Black and Caspian seas. The country is bordered 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. Azerbaijan also shares a short border with Turkey through its autonomous exclave of Naxcivan (Nakhichevan), which is separated from the rest of Azerbaijan by a mountainous strip of Armenian territory. Azerbaijan includes the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly Armenian-inhabited enclave in western Azerbaijan. In Azeri, the official state language, the country is called Azarbaijchan Respublikasy (Azerbaijan Republic). Baku, a large port city on the Caspian Sea, is Azerbaijan’s capital and largest city.

After a mere two years of independence, Azerbaijan was invaded by the Bolshevik Red Army in 1920 and became part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1922. In 1991 it became independent again. The republic’s first years of renewed independence were troubled by political upheaval, economic decline, and a war in Nagorno-Karabakh. Until a cease-fire agreement effectively ended the war in May 1994, Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh fought for secession of the enclave. In 1995 Azerbaijan held its first legislative elections since independence and passed its first post-Soviet constitution.



Curtis, Glenn E. Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia: Country Studies. Federal Research Division, L.O.C., 1995. Concise overview of geography, history, culture, economy, and political structure.

Goltz, Thomas. Azerbaijan Diary: A Rogue Reporter's Adventures in an Oil-Rich, War-Torn, Post-Soviet Republic. Rev. ed. Sharpe, 1998. The story of a Western journalist's entry into Azerbaijan during the last phase of Soviet rule.

Swietochowski, Tadeusz, and Brian C. Collins, eds. Historical Dictionary of Azerbaijan. Scarecrow, 1999. Reference work on an Islamic country formerly ruled by the USSR.

Swietochowski, Tadeusz. Russia and a Divided Azerbaijan. Columbia University Press, 1995. Historical analysis of the two Azeri cultures: Russia and Iran.


Suny, Ronald Grigor, B.A., M.A., Ph.D. Professor of Political Science, University of Chicago.

Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation.

Article key phrases:

Nakhichevan, isthmus, Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenians, secession, Azeri, Baku, Azerbaijan Republic, western Asia, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, South Caucasus, USSR, economic decline, enclave, largest city, Russia, Turkey, Iran, capital, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Black, war, agreement

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