The Republic of Azerbaijan is a country in the Caucasus region, situated at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia. It is bordered by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north, Georgia to the north-west, Armenia to the west, and Iran to the south. While it is located near in proximity with Europe, it is known as an Asian country, and is part of the western region of the continent. Azerbaijan's capital and largest city is Baku.
Azerbaijan, known then as the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, proclaimed its independence in 1918 and has the distinction as the first Muslim-majority democratic and secular republic. It was also the first Muslim-majority country to have modern universities, theatres, and operas. It was then incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1920 as the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic, and again proclaiming its independence by October 1991 before the complete dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Earlier, in September of the same year, the disputed Armenian-majority Nagorno Karabakh region re-affirmed its willingness to create a separate state, although this has not been diplomatically recognised by any other state. As such, the region has been considered as a de jure part of Azerbaijan until a final solution to its status is found through negotiations by the OSCE.
Today, Azerbaijan stands with a total population of 9.5 million, with a density of 105.8 persons per square metre. Its GDP slaps at around 74 billion US Dollars, setting a high human development index of 0.746 and a medium Gini ratio of 33.7. Although economically progressive, the country is still plagued with low unemployment rates and corruption, especially in the public service sector. The National Assembly also eliminated the presidential term limits in the controversial 2009 referendum.
What to see & do
Tourism-wise, Azerbaijan is a diversified state with the right amount of tradition and modernity. Baku, its capital, is the South Caucasus' largest and most cosmopolitan metropolis, and nowhere else in Eurasia do East and West blend as seamlessly like the city. It is a beautiful community – although somewhat chaotic – where battered lads run the streets along with SUVs, stone mansions sit beside shiny glass towers, and tatty old Soviet apartments quietly reminisce the time of the USSR. Baku's Old City is also worth the visit – especially when after something opulent, romantic, and splendid. Apart from Baku, Şəki is also one of the major tourism spots in the country. Set amid forested mountains, it is considered as Azerbaijan's loveliest town. It is filled with tiled-roof old houses, and lush surroundings, crowned with a glittering palace. When visiting Şəki, never miss the Xan Sarayi, Karavasaray, and the Khan's Palace, the royal palace set in a walled rose garden.
How to get around within Azerbaijan
Buses, minibuses, and taxis connect most cities in Azerbaijan. There is often a hub, such as a bus station near the bazaar in these cities, and fares are posted for each route. Taxis, meanwhile, require some negotiation skills – in Russian, Azeri, or Turkish language of course. Trains, on the other hand, connect the country to other parts of Asia and even Europe.
How to get there
The Heydar Aliyev International Airport in Baku is the main airport of Azerbaijan. Main carrier operations are covered by AZAL, British Airways, Turkish Airlines, and Qatar Airways.
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