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Azerbaijan: Historical Background
Country Study > Chapter 1 > Historical Background


Under the domination of the Soviet Union for most of the twentieth century, Azerbaijan began a period of tentative autonomy when the Soviet state collapsed at the end of 1991. A culturally and linguistically Turkic people, the Azerbaijanis have retained a rich cultural heritage despite long periods of Persian and Russian domination. In the 1990s, the newly independent nation still faced strong and contrary religious and political influences from neighbors such as Iran to the south, Turkey to the west, and Russia to the north. Despite the country's rich oil reserves, Azerbaijan's natural and economic resources and social welfare system have been rated below those of most of the other former Soviet republics. Furthermore, in the early 1990s a long military and diplomatic struggle with neighboring Armenia was sapping resources and distracting the country from the task of devising post-Soviet internal systems and establishing international relations.

The territory of modern Azerbaijan has been subject to myriad invasions, migrations, and cultural and political influences. During most of its history, Azerbaijan was under Persian influence, but as the Persian Empire declined, Russia began a 200-year dominance, some aspects of which have persisted into the 1990s.

Data as of March 1994

Last Updated: March 1994

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Azerbaijan was first published in 1995. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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