Azerbaijan, also known as the “Land of Fire”, is a rich country with a fascinating history and an extraordinary cultural heritage. From a historical point of view, the country has been part of the Soviet Republics as it has been part of Iran. It regained independence alongside the Soviet Union in 1991. Azerbaijan is a modern secular state, independent, Western-oriented and whose culture is dynamic and varied.
Azerbaijan extends over 86,600 square kilometers, which is roughly the size of Austria. The climate, geography and topography are as varied as its cultural heritage. There are 9 of the 13 classified climatic zones. The country has snowy mountainous regions (the chain of the Greater Caucasus Mountains lies north), wetlands flat desert plains, mud volcanoes (the largest number in the world), forests, nature reserves (2.5% of the territory is protected through 16 national reserves) and beaches.
As the largest and widest country in the three South Caucasus states (Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia), Azerbaïdjan is bordered to the north by Russia, to the north-west by Georgia, to the west by Armenia, to the southwest by Turkey, Iran to the south and finally the Caspian Sea to the east.
The country is the gateway between East and West, on the border of Europe and western Asia. He played an important role on the Silk Road (the great trade route 6 500 km linking the East to the West and which owes its name to the Chinese silk exchanged throughout the estimated merchants). It is of great importance today in the framework of the Europe-Caucasus-Asia transport corridor project (TRACECA).
The official language is Azerbaijani (or Azeri) is Russian, widely spoken throughout the territory. In the capital Baku, young people speak English and other European languages such as French and German, at a high and respectable level.
Land of Fire
One of the first references to Azerbaijan as Fuego dates back to the Persian era, where the Persian word “aturpatakan” meant “a place where a sacred fire is preserved” and which represents the country.
Moreover, Azerbaijan as in many places of the South Caucasus, natural fires arise because of the gas ignites when it escapes from the ground, creating a slope effect on fire. The fire worship was a traditional liturgical form in the ancient Azerbaijan, where Zoroastrianism (one of the most widespread religions at the time) was extended to the whole country. The influence of Zoroastrianism can be found on monuments across the country and feeds the superstitions that consider fire as a sacred element.
The culture of Azerbaijan, which is of Turkish heritage, developed itself over centuries of turbulent history and has acquired a unique character. Many of its aspects were also marked by the geographical setting in which it evolved. While maintaining its specificity, the culture of Azerbaijan has been influenced by Persian cultures, Islamic and European. Since the 18th century, when Azerbaijan became part of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, he was strongly influenced by Western culture to date.
The conversion to Islam of Azeris constitute the major event around which articulate the history of Azeri pagan art and the Turkic Azeris art mixed with Islamic art. It is in this context that the Azeri artistic genius has fully flourished.
The precise course the dogmas of Islam with its prohibition to the representation of live beings has led to the development of ornamental art. Carpets, miniatures, calligraphy, elegantly decorated portals of buildings, wall drawings similar to the lace, mosaics mausoleums and palaces are the works of art of the Azerbaijani Islamic culture. Despite the ban, the paintings and sculptures of living beings (humans, animals and mythological creatures) developed artistic refinement and flowers.
Food and cuisine
The Azerbaijani cuisine that does not include meal preparation, but it also summarizes the culinary culture, history, and habits. Climate plays an important role in the formation of the Azerbaijani cuisine. Climate diversity that the Azerbaijani cuisine is colorful and rich. The notes of foreign travelers visiting Azerbaijan, show that people grew wheat, rice, sesame, sugar beet, grapes, apples, tobacco, cotton, quince and produced meat (especially sheep) , caviar and fished.
The names of the national meals are rooted in their technical preparations and remind the regions where they come from. For example, the name of dolma comes from two words: doldurmaq means “fill” and dolamaq means “roll”.
Azerbaijan has oil wealth (the country today is the richest of the former USSR), but also its staggering social disparities. Oil wealth has continued to stoke the greed of powerful neighbors. Russia and Iran have ogled for decades on the wealth of this tiny country, trying to carve it the lion’s share. The result of these struggles: one third of Azerbaijanis live in Iran today, and much lives in Russia. This fact is causing the contrast that exists in Azerbaijan between a population of Turkish origin living in Persian land in a religious state, and the rest of the population, secularized during the communist occupation, that sucks now to turn to the West and modernity.