Azerbaijan is a country that can be regarded as being in Europe or in Asia. This country is in the Caucasus Mountains. It is beside the Caspian Sea. The climate is cool in winter and warm in summer. It is cold and snowy atop the mountains.
This country has neighbours – namely – Georgia, Russia, Armenia, Turkey and Iran. The Nakhchivan Exclave is an area of Azerbaijan which does not connect to most of Azerbaijan by land. Nakhchivan is separated from the rest of the country by Armenia. It is Nakhchivan that borders Turkey and not the main part of Azerbaijan that does.
There is oil below the ground. Where it seeps up it goes on fire. In ancient times some people here were Zoroastrians – as in they followed the faith preached by the Prophet Zarathustra. This country’s name means ”Land of Fire.”
The people of this country have mixed routes. Many centuries ago they were called Albanians but were in no wise connected to the country that is now called Albania. They were Christians in the Dark Ages. Then Islam came in the 8th century AD. They people converted en bloc. They practiced the Sunni version of the faith. They were part of the Islamic Empire. At time the land was ruled by Arabs. Later it became part of Iran.
The Turks passed through 900 years ago. The language of Azerbaijan is Azerbaijani. This is the same as Old Turkish. Then the Mongols passed through.
When the Iranians came back in the 17th century they had most of the people change to Shia Islam. Later this country became part of the Ottoman Empire. Then Azerbaijan became independent again. By the 18th century the country had fallen apart into many different emirates.
In the late 18th century the Russians persuaded some Azerbaijani emirs to be their liege men. The Azerbaijani emirs often fought each other.
In the 1820s Russia and Iran signed a treaty. Azerbaijan was divided along a river. Two-thirds of the country went to Iran and the remainder became part of the Russian Empire. Tabriz, the historic capital, is in Iran.
Russian was introduced as the official language. Russians moved in especially when the railway was built. The Russians did not interfere with the Islamic faith. Most Azerbaijanis were highly traditional. They were traders and farmers. The land was famed for its carpets.
Oil was discovered at a fishing port called Baku. Baku became the capital. In the 1860s oil started to be pumped. The Nobel brothers from Sweden came here. They made a fortune. One of them was Alfred Nobel who started the Nobel Prize. Britishers and Frenchmen came too. There is still a street in Baku that bears Nobel’s name.
More Russians and Ukrainians moved into the country in the late 19th century. There were many Armenians too. These foreigners were concentrated in Baku.
Socialist and liberal ideas were spread. The oil workers often labored in terrible conditions. Some Azerbaijanis spoke of independence from the Russian Empire. However, the Tsar would not permit free expression or elections. Many Azerbaijanis felt little loyalty to Russia. They were not Russian, were not Christian and in some cases could not speak Russian. They believed their country to be occupied. Most of its wealth was expatriated.
There was much revolutionary activity. Joseph Stalin organized a bank robbery there to raise funds for the Bolsheviks (communists). An Armenian socialist named Stephan Shaumpanian was there – agitating for revolution.
In 1914 the First World War broke out. Some Azerbaijanis volunteered for the Russian Army. In 1917 there were two revolutions in Russia. The Russian Government’s authority in Azerbaijan was severely weakened.
In October 1917 the Communists seized power in St Petersburg which was then the Russian capital. The new Prime Minister was Lenin. He said that non-Russian countries were allowed to become independent.
On 28 May 1918 Azerbaijanis met in Ganja and proclaimed the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. The country was independent! However, Baku was still controlled by Russia. Half the population of the city was not Azerbaijani.
The Azerbaijani Army wanted to liberate Baku. In 1918 the Ottoman Empire formed the Army of Islam. This was an army for all Turkic Muslims whether Sunni or Shia. Muslims in Turkey, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and so on were to unite. The Army of Islam came to Baku to try to wrest the city from the foreigners.
Baku was held by a bizarre alliance of Red Russians, White Russians, British, Indians, Armenians and Georgians. The Battle of Baku was fought in August and September 1918. The Army of Islam was beaten back at the Wolf’s Gate – the highest point in Baku. A British general named Dunster commanded Baku. He did not want his enemy to capture the Wolf’S Gate because then they could bombard Baku Harbour.
Dunster then decided to evacuate. He shipped his men out. There were 28 communist commissars in the city. Among them was an Armenian named Stepan Shaumpanian. He and his comrades sailed to Turkmenistan. There they were seized by White Russians and executed. They were later buried in Baku with great honour in the middle of the city.
The Azerbaijani nationalists took control of Baku in September 1918. The later sent a delegate to Paris to the peace conference. They secured recognition of their state. This was the first secular Muslim state in the world. President Wilson of the USA professed himself deeply impressed by the Azerbaijani representatives whom he met.
In 1920 Lenin changed his mind about Azerbaijani independence. He wanted oil. The Red Army invaded Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani Army was defeated. The country was then declared to be part of the Transcaucasian Soviet Socialist Republic. This included Georgia and Azerbaijan. Baku was besieged at this time. A train of food to relieve the starving people was sent. It was intercepted at Volgagrad by Stalin who took all the food for his men.
In 1922 the country formed part of the Soviet Union. The General-Secretary of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan was a Russian named Sergei Kirov. The first few general-secretaries after him were also Russian. Only in 1936 did Azerbaijan become a union republic of the USSR.
The communists forced women to cast off the veil. Gender equality was enforced.. The secret police rooted out those suspected of wanting independence. They were labeled reactionaries, counter-revolutionaries, enemy agents, traitors, extremists and bourgeois nationalists. They were tortured and sent to slave labour camps. Many were executed.
Stalin moved other ethnicities into the country and he moved Azerbaijanis out. He gave Azerbaijani land to Georgia and Armenian land to Azerbaijan. Ganja was renamed Kirovabad after Kirov was assassinated in 1934.
In the Second World War many Azerbaijanis were conscripted into the Red Army. Some distinguished themselves by valorous deeds. The country’s oil was vital to the USSR.
After the Second World War oil production shifted to Kazakhstan. There was much development in Azerbaijan in the 1950s. Many apartment blocks were built.
In 1970 Heydar Aliyev was made General-Secretary of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan. He was effectively governor of the country.
In the 1970s there was an Islamic Revolution in Iran. The Soviet Government was very anxious in case it spread to Azerbaijan. It did not occur. In 1980 Aliyev became part of the Politburo and moved to Moscow.
In the late 1980s the government stopped sending people to prison for speaking their minds. The Azerbaijan Popular Front was formed. It campaigned for independence.
Fighting broke out between Azerbaijanis and Armenians. Dozens were killed.
On 20 January 1990 there confrontations between the Soviet Army and protestors. The army opened fire and over 100 people were killed. Aliyev resigned from the Politburo in protests. Many people left the Communist Party over the massacre.
In late 1991 the country declared independence. Armenia and Azerbaijan went to war over Nagorno Karabakh. This is now a frozen conflict.
The 1990s was a time of great upheaval. In 1994 Aliyev became president. He signed a truce with Armenia. The country suffered hyperinflation. He managed to right the economy. The country returned to stability.
In 2003 it was clear that Heydar Aliyev was terminally ill. In October he resigned the presidency and handed over to his son Ilham. In December Heydar died. He is interred at Honour Cemetery in Baku.
Ilham Aliyev has been re-elected several times.
The capital is Baku.
The currency is the Manat. This is derived from the Russian word for coin.
This is a resolutely secular country. Headscarves are not allowed for schoolgirls – no exceptions.
AZAL is the national airline.
The flag is blue, red and green horizontal bars from top to bottom. There is a nine pointed white star and crescent moon on the middle bar.
- Which two continents could this country be said to be part of? Two marks.
- This country is astride which mountain range?
- Which sea is this land beside?
- What is the capital city?
- What faith was the main one here before Islam?
- What is the main Muslim denomination here?
- Which three empires ruled this land?
- What was this country called that is also the name of another European country?
- Name the neighbours of Azerbaijan?
- What does Azerbaijan mean?
- Why might it have had that name?
- What is the name of the historic capital of Azerbaijan?
- Draw the flag. Five marks.
- What is the currency?
- What is the official language?
- What exclave is beside Turkey?
- What is the disputed area with Armenia?
- Who was the first secretary-general of the Azerbaijan CP?
- Who organized a bank robbery here before the First World War?
- Who was Shaumpanian? Three marks.
- What happened at the Battle of Baku? Five marks.
- Who was the secretary-general of the Azerbaijan CP in the 1970s?
- What is this country’s most important export?
- What is the name of the national airline?
- Which language is Azerbaijani most closely related to?
- Which country contains most of historic Azerbaijan?
- Who is the president of Azerbaijan?
- Which Swedish inventor lived in Baku?