Exoploring The Former Soviet Reuplic, Azerbajin in 2018
Azerbaijan is a former Soviet republic in the Caucasus and variously considered part of Europe or Asia. The country lies on the Caspian Sea between Russia and Iran and is bordered to the west by Georgia and Armenia. The autonomous exclave of Nakhchivan lies between Armenia & Iran with a short border with Turkey.
Azerbaijan regained its independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The Nagorno-Karabakh enclave, which is part of Azerbaijan, was the subject of a war with Armenia that has left it a de facto independent republic, which is not internationally recognized, ironically including Armenia which "supports" it. Azerbaijan has lost 20% of its territory and must support some 800,000 refugees and internally displaced persons as a result of the conflict. Despite a 1994 cease-fire, Azerbaijan has yet to resolve its conflict with Armenia over the Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh enclave. Occupied by the local Armenian troops to this day, this conflict has not officially ended with minor skirmishes frequent and is a major source of contention among Azerbaijanis.
The majority of the population (over 90%) is composed of Azeris, who share a culture very similar to Turkey. History, with Russian and Persian influence, has left the Azeris of Azerbaijan and Iran with some moderate differences. Most inhabitants are Shia Muslim, although a long history of European and Russian colonialism has left many with very liberal, laisez-faire attitudes towards Islam and the country is staunchly secular.
Following independence in 1991, Azerbaijan has allowed western companies to develop its neglected, but extensive, oil fields and has seen oil production skyrocket especially since the mid-2000s. Despite this and related investments, most of the new-found wealth remains in the hands of a small number of people and the city of Baku. While Baku is full of new construction and a growing middle class, much of the country remains poor, rural agrarians and merchants. Corruption is ubiquitous compared with neighboring Georgia and Armenia.