Azerbaijan (Azeri: Azərbaycan; the end is actually pronounced "John") is a smallish, mostly Shi'a Muslim country in the Caucasus bordering Turkey, Armenia, Georgia, Russia, and Iran. It was originally part of the Soviet Union, as with the other two tiny Caucasian countries. Despite its large Muslim population and its geographic location, it is a fairly secular state and only 21% of Azeris consider religion to be important in their daily lives. It is generally pro-Western in comparison to its neighbors and has frosty relations with Russia (and its ally Armenia) as a result, while the also moderately pro-Western Georgian government has found an ally in Azerbaijan.
Although Azerbaijan is secular and ostensibly a democracy, it has all but become a one-party state at this point, with the authoritarian statist New Azerbaijan Party being the only party with any real chance of taking power. The former president of Azerbaijan and the person who started the NAP, Heydər Əliyev, has a significant cult of personality that extended to his son (the current president) upon his death. The government of Azerbaijan has made arbitrary arrests and taken political prisoners, and the conditions within prisons are awful. Elections tend to use the same tactics as Vladimir Putin, ensuring that the New Azerbaijan Party stays in power. Sound familiar?
Despite rampant government corruption, Azerbaijan has a HDI on par with most Eastern European countries and its economy is doing quite well due to the rich oil deposits found there.
Nagorno-Karabakh (Armenian: Լեռնային Ղարաբաղ, Azeri: Dağlıq Qarabağ) is a disputed territory in western Azerbaijan. Although Azerbaijan technically owns it and is internationally recognized as the rightful owner, the de facto owner of most of the territory is Artsakh, a primarily Armenian (ethnically and linguistically) state with limited international recognition. Armenia has aided Artsakh in its secession from Azerbaijan, and some consider it to essentially be a territory of Armenia, despite Armenia keeping its distance from the idea of uniting the two. Several US states and subdivisions of other countries have recognized Artsakh, but no UN member states have recognized it as independent aside from Armenia. So far, there has been no compromise, though not for lack of trying.
Following the transfer of power from Serzh Sargsyan to Nikol Pashinyan as PM, Pashinyan said he would make Nagorno-Karabakh part of Armenia. He expressed interest in three-way diplomatic discussions between Artsakh, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, but Azerbaijan was opposed to Artsakh being part of the discussions.
|—Hacıbala Abutalıbov, mayor of Baku, while in Bavaria (2005)|
Armenophobia (anti-Armenian sentiment) is prevalent in Azeri society, with hate speech toward and stereotypes about Armenians being commonplace. This is primarily due to ethnic Armenians being used as a scapegoat for the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute, and many Armenians have fled Azerbaijan as a result. At the start of the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute in 1988, the problem was even worse: an extremely violent pogrom took place in the city of Sumgait in late February, and at least 53 people were killed (exact counts vary) while others identified as Armenians were raped and tortured. Soviet authorities were slow to react to the massacre, while Azerbaijani officers were even worse at responding. In 2004, an Azeri army lieutenant murdered an Armenian lieutenant in his sleep at a NATO program in Hungary; he was given a presidential pardon, promoted to the rank of major, and given all of the pay that he lost. People may be turned away from Azerbaijan for having Armenian-sounding names, even if they aren't actually Armenian.
- Secularism in Azerbaijan and the Threat of Radicalisation in the Region
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- What It's Like To Be A Political Prisoner For 17 Months In A Third World Country
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- Monitors criticise Azeri elections
- General Assembly Adopts Resolution Reaffirming Territorial Integrity of Azerbaijan, Demanding Withdrawal of all Armenian Forces
- Armenia - Human Rights Developments
- Armenia expects Russian support in Karabakh war
- Armenia government approves bill on recognition of Karabakh independence
- No Progress at Kocharian-Aliyev Meeting in Bucharest
- He Was a Protester a Month Ago. Now, Nikol Pashinyan Leads Armenia.
- Armenia's new PM signals continuity on Karabakh, seeks talks with Azerbaijan
- ECRI Report on Azerbaijan (pp. 19 – 20)
- A Genocide Gone Unpunished - Pogroms of Armenians in Sumgait
- Massacre of Armenians in Sumgait
- Azeri killer Ramil Safarov: Concern over Armenian anger
- Citing ethnicity, Azerbaijan bars photojournalist
- Soyadı 'Ermeni' Diye Azerbaycan'a Sokulmadı (in Turkish)