Azerbaijan, formally the Republic of Azerbaijan, is a South Caucasus nation located at the crossroads of Southwest Asia and Southeastern Europe. It is bordered to the east by the Caspian Sea, to the north by Russia, to the northwest by Georgia, to the west by Armenia, and to the south by Iran. The exclave of Nakhchivan is bordered to the north and east by Armenia, to the south and west by Iran, and to the north and west by Turkey.
In 1918, the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic declared its independence. In 1920, the nation was admitted to the Soviet Union as the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic. Prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991, the modern Republic of Azerbaijan declared its independence on August 30, 1991. The Armenian majority in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh area seceded in September 1991 to establish the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. With the conclusion of the Nagorno-Karabakh War in 1994, the area and seven neighboring districts became de facto autonomous. These areas are internationally recognized as being part of Azerbaijan awaiting a solution to the status of Nagorno-Karabakh, which will be determined via OSCE-facilitated talks.
Azerbaijan is a semi-presidential unitary republic. The nation is a member of the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the NATO Partnership for Peace (PfP) program. It is one of six autonomous Turkic nations, a member of the Turkic Council, and a member of the TÜRKSOY community. Azerbaijan has diplomatic ties with 158 countries and is a member of 38 international organizations. It is a member of GUAM, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Azerbaijan has been a member of the United Nations since 1992, and on May 9, 2006, the United Nations General Assembly elected Azerbaijan to membership in the newly formed Human Rights Council. Its tenure started on June 19, 2006. Azerbaijan is also a member of the Non-Aligned Movement, a World Trade Organization observer, and an International Telecommunication Union reporter.
Azerbaijan’s constitution does not designate an official religion, and the country’s main political parties are all secularist. However, Shiite Muslims constitute the vast majority of the population. Azerbaijan has a high level of human development that is comparable to that of the majority of Eastern European nations. It boasts a strong economic development and literacy rate, as well as a low unemployment rate.
However, corruption is prevalent in Azerbaijan, particularly in the governmental sector. The governing New Azerbaijan Party has been accused of authoritarianism and violations of human rights.