The oil and gas-rich Azerbaijan is located in
the southeastern Caucasus, with the east coast facing
the Caspian Sea. The former Soviet
Republic has a close relationship with its powerful
neighbor Russia. With Armenia in the west, war permits
exist because of the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave.
Azerbaijan is ruled as a dictatorship by the Aliyev
family dynasty, and society is badly corrupt. Regime
critics are often persecuted and sentenced to long
Brief profiles of Azerbaijan, including geography, history, politics, economics as well as common acronyms about this country.
Geography and climate
Between the Black Sea to the west and the
Caspian Sea to the east runs the mighty mountain range
of the Caucasus. The whole area that includes the
mountain range is called the Caucasus. This area
formerly belonged to the Soviet Union. Today, the North
Caucasus, with the majority of the Caucasus, is
considered Russia. South Caucasus is divided into the
three independent states of Georgia, Armenia and
The South Caucasus was formerly called Transcaucasia,
"the land beyond the Caucasus" - thus viewed from
Moscow's point of view.
Somewhere in the regions around the Caucasus, it is
thought that Europe is separated from Asia. Here,
however, there is no sharp natural boundary - neither
geographically nor culturally - between the continents.
Azerbaijan is located in southeastern Caucasus, with
coast to the east facing the world's largest lake, the
Caspian Sea. In the north, the country borders Georgia
and the Russian Republic Dagestan.
According to the Constitution, Azerbaijan is a
unified state, but two areas have had special status
since the 1920s. The Autonomous Republic of Nachichevan
(Naxçıvan) in the southwest is a 5,500 square kilometer
area separated from the rest of the country. Nachichevan
is sandwiched between Armenia and Iran, with a very
short border in the northwest to Turkey. In contrast,
within Azerbaijan itself lies Nagorno-Karabakh (see
Nagorno-Karabakh was an autonomous oblast (area with
a lower degree of autonomy) until 1991 when the
Armenians living there proclaimed an independent state.
Formally, however, Nagorno-Karabakh is still part of
Azerbaijan. Armenian troops hold about a fifth of
Azerbaijan's land area occupied - in addition to
Nagorno-Karabach, also a surrounding buffer zone and a
mile-wide land corridor, the Latin corridor, to Armenia.
To the north, the Caucasus mountain range enters
Azerbaijan. The country's highest mountain is at the
border of Dagestan. The end of the Caucasus can be said
to be the considerably lower peninsula of Abşeron (Apsjeron)
where the capital Baku (Bakı) is located. To the west,
foothills of the Armenian Mountains, "Little Caucasus,"
enter Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh. Nachichevan is
also largely mountainous. Most of Azerbaijan, however,
The central parts consist of dry but otherwise
fertile plains around the river Kur (or Kura; in Georgia
called Mtkvari), which flows throughout the country from
northwest to southeast. In several places along Kur,
dams have been constructed for irrigation and electric
power generation. A tributary to the Kur is Araz, the
border river to Iran in the south. On the mountain sides
some forest grows, while the natural vegetation of the
plains is often steep.
The Caspian Sea is in the world's largest sink,
significantly lower than the world's oceans. Having
previously decreased in size in the 20th century, the
Caspian Sea is now growing, and some of the beach areas
are affected by flooding.
The climate is mostly temperate and dry, but with
quite large differences between high and low countries.
In the lowlands, winters are mild and summers are
often hot. The annual rainfall is usually 250–500
millimeters, but on the coast at the bottom of the south
it rains considerably more.
86 600 km2 (2018)
Swedish + 3 hours
Adjacent country (s)
Armenia, Georgia, Russia, Iran 1
Capital with number of inhabitants
Baku ca 2 100 000 (2012)
Other major cities
Ganja 313,000, Sumqayit 310,000 (Census 2009)
Bazardjuzju (4,466 m asl)
- Turkey (short border with
Raid against radio editing
Police and prosecutors raid the editorial board of Baku for US-funded Radio
Free Europe / Radio Liberty. According to RFE / RL staff, computers and radio
equipment are seized. Telephone and internet connections are switched off and
staff are forced to leave the premises. The council is seen as yet another step
in the ongoing crackdown on free media in Azerbaijan.
Leading journalist is arrested
One of the country's leading independent journalists, Xədicə İsmayılova, is
jailed for two months, accused of having driven a colleague to attempt suicide
by dismissing him. İsmayılova has received several awards for revealing
corruption in the state administration. She faces up to seven years in prison.
Amnesty International describes the arrest as obviously politically based. The
arrest creates strong reactions internationally. The European Broadcasting Union
EBU, as well as the Swedish public service magazines SR and SVT, are among those
who protest against the arrest.
More money for the military
Parliament approves a sharp increase in defense spending in the budget for
2015. Increases in military spending by 8.6 percent to the equivalent of EUR
1.8 billion. The immediate cause is the worsening conflict with Armenia over
Helicopter is shot down
The Azerbaijani Army shoots down a Nagorno-Karabakh military helicopter that
should have entered the Azerbaijani airspace. According to a statement in Baku,
the helicopter was preparing an attack against Azerbaijani forces near the
border of the breakaway republic. All three on board perish. Authorities in
Nagorno-Karabach say the helicopter participated in an exercise and had no
weapons on board. The shooting is described as the single most serious incident
since the ceasefire formally entered into force in the area of 1994.
Summit without expectations
The Presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia meet in Paris in a new attempt to
breathe life into dialogue between the countries. The hope of a breakthrough is
minimal after the summer battles along the border and around Nagorno-Karabakh,
which required over 20 casualties. The two leaders agree to maintain the
dialogue and to exchange information on persons reported missing in connection
with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with the help of the International Red Cross
Renowned activist Leyla Yunus is arrested
A court extends the detention period of human rights activist Leyla Yunus
(see August 2014). She is to be detained until February 28, 2015. Two attorneys
are reported to have been denied by the Prosecutor General's Office on
applications to undertake her defense.
The president pardons imprisoned activists
Of all judging by foreign pressures, President Aliyev grants a number of
democracy activists who were imprisoned earlier this year. Common to many of
them is that they were convicted of non-political crimes such as drug possession
and assault. Among other things, the United States must have argued to the
regime that harassment against human rights organizations is unacceptable.
The UN calls for fewer prison countries
The UN Commission on Human Rights calls on the government to stop arresting
and imprisoning activists on false or exaggerated grounds.
Putin is trying to mediate
Armenian and Azerbaijan leaders meet with Russian President Putin in Sochi to
discuss the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Putin said after the meeting that both
presidents expressed a desire to solve the problem. As the meeting goes on, the
fighting continues and an Azerbaijani soldier must have been killed.
The toughest border battles in a long time
During two days of fighting along the border with Nagorno-Karabakh, 14
Azerbaijani soldiers are reported to have been killed, as well as three soldiers
from the Armenian-dominated breakaway republic. The Presidents of Armenia and
Azerbaijan agree on a soon meeting to try to cushion the conflict that has
escalated significantly recently.
Well-known MR activists are prosecuted
Two of the country's most well-known human rights activists, the genuine
couple Leyla and Arif Yunus, are being charged for cooperation with the Armenian
security service. They are accused of conspiring with former arrested journalist
Rauf Mirkadirov (see April 2014). Leyla Yunus is charged with treason, tax
fraud, fraud and forgery, while her husband is charged with treason and fraud.
Leyla Yunus has long worked with Armenian peace activists.
Lifetime prison for spying
Two men are sentenced to life imprisonment for spying on Iran's behalf. The
trial is being held in front of closed doors and no details about the case are
International concern over violence in the state of eruption
The Minsk Group (Russia, France and the United States) expresses "grave
concern" over the escalating violence in Nagorno-Karabakh, including the
intentional killing of civilians.
Concerns at the border
A soldier from Nagorno-Karabakh and a soldier from Azerbaijan are reported to
have been killed in a battle at the border of the breakaway area against the
actual Azerbaijan. The Nagorno-Karabakh authorities also claim to have captured
an Azerbaijani soldier, but the Baku Ministry of Defense denies that the named
man would be part of the country's army.
Activist is imprisoned
19-year-old opposition activist Omar Mamedov is sentenced to five years in
prison for drug possession. The verdict is dismissed by his lawyer as
politically motivated. Mamedov is a member of an opposition party and has
criticized the government in a series of posts on Facebook. According to Human
Rights Watch, it is a standard method for the authorities to trap opposers for
drug possession. Small amounts of drugs are believed to be placed in their
apartments by the police in connection with the house search.
Deaths at the border
Azerbaijan soldiers kill two Armenian soldiers at the border between
countries, where tensions have increased in recent months. Since the turn of the
year, a total of 14 soldiers have been killed.
Prison for Independent Election Supervisor
The head of an independent election monitoring group is sentenced to five and
a half years in prison, while two of his employees receive three and a half
years. Crime classification is, among other things, tax evasion and abuse of
power, but human rights organizations protesting the verdict say the reason is
that the election monitoring body criticized the latest presidential election
when President Aliyev was re-elected for a third term. The next day, a
well-known regime-critical blogger is sentenced to five and a half years in
prison for drug possession. The blogger claims that he is subject to a plot and
that the drug was planted in his apartment by the police.
Opposition journalist is sentenced to prison
The day after the country became President of the Council of Europe,
journalist Pərviz Həşimli is sentenced to eight years in prison for illegal
weapons possession. Həşimli, who is also a blogger, human rights activist and
member of the Popular Front, says he was tortured in detention and that the
verdict is politically based. He has been in custody since September 2013.
Criticized presidency for human rights organization
Azerbaijan takes office as chairman of the Council of Europe's Council of
Ministers on May 14, the weeks after the Council's human rights commissioner
harshly criticized the country's regime. On the same day as the Presidency
begins, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) calls on the Council of Europe to press
Azerbaijan to release "government criticism on wrongful grounds and to implement
comprehensive judicial reform". According to the statement, over the past two
years, the country's authorities have brought at least 38 political activists,
journalists, bloggers and human rights activists to justice after unfounded
criminal charges. According to HRW, most of these are currently in prison.
Young democracy activists are imprisoned
Eight young democracy activists are sentenced to prison for between six and
eight years for "planning of riots, hooliganism and possession of explosives and
drugs". Everyone is a member of the democracy organization Nida and was arrested
in 2013 after organizing protest demonstrations in Baku.
Defamatory criticism from the Council of Europe
The Council of Europe's Human Rights Commissioner Nils Muižnieks says that
human rights are steadily weakening in Azerbaijan. He writes in a report that
freedom of expression, assembly and association are being eroded continuously
and describes how the authorities are engaging in unfair and arbitrary legal
interventions against persons who have presented critical views. According to
Muižnieks, journalists, bloggers and political activists are equally affected.
Journalist is accused of treason
A well-known journalist is accused of treason for spying on Armenia's behalf.
Journalist Rauf Mirkadirov is arrested the day after he was deported from
Turkey, where he worked for several years for the Russian-language newspaper
Zerkalo, which is published in Baku. He has criticized both the Turkish and
Azerbaijani governments. He is to be held in custody for three months while
prosecution is being prepared. The Committe to Protect Journalists organization
describes the arrest as part of silencing independent reporting from Azerbaijan.
Leading opposition prisoners
Two leading opposition politicians are sentenced to prison for stirring up
riots in the city of Ismayıllı in early 2013. İlqar Məmmədov of Republican
Alternative (Real) is sentenced to seven years, and Tofiq Yaqublu,
vice-president of Müsavat, to five years. Eight other people are sentenced to
prison for between two and a half and eight years.
Opposition party advisers are imprisoned
An adviser to Müsavat is sentenced to six years in prison for "hooliganism".
He is accused of abusing a war veteran. The verdict is regarded by the
opposition as purely political. Human rights groups say 145 people are currently
being held in prison for political reasons in Azerbaijan.
Opposition alliances split
The leadership of the party Müsavat announces that it has decided to withdraw
from the opposition alliance National Council (see Political system).