Azerbaijan’s culture has evolved as a consequence of a variety of factors. Despite Western influences, such as globalized commercial culture, native traditions are largely maintained in the country today. Music, literature, traditional dances and art, food, architecture, cinematography, and Novruz Bayram are all important aspects of Azerbaijani culture. The latter is taken from the ancient Iranian religion of Zoroastrianism’s traditional New Year festival. Novruz is a festival celebrated by families.
Azerbaijani folk comprises of Azerbaijanis, who make up the majority of the population, as well as countries and ethnic groups who live in close proximity in different parts of the country. Chokha and Papakhi are Azerbaijani national and traditional garments. The state funds radio transmissions in Russian, Armenian, Georgian, Kurdish, Lezgian, and Talysh languages. Avar and Tat broadcasts are organized by a few local radio stations in Balakan and Khachmaz. Several newspapers in Russian, Kurdish (Dengi Kurd), Lezgian (Samur), and Talysh are published in Baku. The newspaper Aziz is published by the Jewish organization “Sokhnut.”
Music and folk dances
Azerbaijan’s music is based on almost a thousand-year-old folk traditions. Azerbaijani music has developed under the banner of monody for centuries, resulting in rhythmically varied tunes. The branchy mode system in Azerbaijani music emphasizes the chromatization of major and minor scales. There are 14 string instruments, eight percussion instruments, and six wind instruments among the national musical instruments. “In terms of race, culture, and religion, the Azerbaijanis are musically far closer to Iran than Turkey,” according to The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.
Azerbaijan’s musical traditions include mugham, meykhana, and ashiq art. Mugham is often a poetry-based composition with musical interludes. The vocalists must channel their emotions into singing and melody while performing mugham. Azerbaijani mugham is more free-form and less strict than the mugham traditions of Central Asian nations; it is frequently likened to the improvisational realm of jazz. On November 7, 2003, UNESCO designated the Azerbaijani mugham tradition as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Meykhana is a kind of unaccompanied traditional Azerbaijani folk song, typically sung by many individuals improvising on a certain topic.
Ashiq is a traditional performance art that blends poetry, narrative, dance, and vocal and instrumental music into an emblem of Azerbaijani culture. The saz is sung and played by a mystic troubadour or wandering bard. The origins of this practice may be traced back to ancient Turkic peoples’ Shamanistic beliefs. The songs of Ashiqs are semi-improvised and based on similar themes. On September 30, 2009, UNESCO included Azerbaijan’s ashiq art on its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Since the mid-1960s, Western-influenced Azerbaijani pop music has grown in popularity in different forms in Azerbaijan, while alternative music genres such as rock and hip hop have been promoted. With the worldwide success of artists like as Alim Qasimov, Rashid Behbudov, Vagif Mustafazadeh, Muslim Magomayev, Shovkat Alakbarova, and Rubaba Muradova, Azerbaijani pop and folk music flourished. Azerbaijan takes part in the Eurovision Song Contest with zeal. Azerbaijan competed in the Eurovision Song Contest for the first time in 2008. In 2009, the country’s submission was ranked third, then sixth the following year. With the song “Running Scared,” Ell and Nikki took first place in the Eurovision Song Contest 2011, earning Azerbaijan the right to host the contest in Baku in 2012. They have never failed to appear in a Grand Final.
Azerbaijani traditional dances number in the hundreds. They are performed at ceremonial occasions, and the dancers dress in traditional national attire such as the Chokha, which is well-preserved in national dances. The majority of dances have a fast-paced beat. The national dance depicts the Azerbaijani nation’s qualities.
Nizami, known as Ganjavi after his birthplace of Ganja, was a Persian poet and philosopher who wrote the Khamseh (“The Quintuplet”), a collection of five love poems including “The Treasure of Mysteries,” “Khosrow and Shrn,” and “Leyli and Mejnn.”
Izzeddin Hasanoglu, who wrote a divan of Persian and Turkic ghazals, is the first known character in Azerbaijani literature. He wrote Persian ghazals under the pen name Hasanoghlu, and Turkic ghazals under his real name Hasanoghlu.
Classical Azerbaijani literature emerged in the 14th century, based on the different languages of Tabriz and Shirvan from the Early Middle Ages. Gazi Burhanaddin, Haqiqi (pen-name of Jahan-shah Qara Qoyunlu), and Habibi were among the poets of the time. Imadaddin Nesimi, one of the finest Turkic Hurufi mystical poets of the late 14th and early 15th centuries and one of the most important early divan masters in Turkic literary history, began his literary career towards the end of the 14th century. He also wrote poetry in Persian and Arabic. Poets Qasim al-Anvar, Fuzuli, and Khatai further refined the divan and ghazal genres (pen-name of Safavid Shah Ismail I).
The Book of Dede Korkut, which was copied in the 16th century from two manuscripts, was not written before the 15th century. It’s a compilation of 12 tales based on the Oghuz nomads’ oral tradition. Muhammed Fuzuli, a 16th-century poet, wrote timeless philosophical and lyrical Qazals in Arabic, Persian, and Azerbaijani. Fizuli was destined to become the main literary figure of his society, benefiting greatly from the rich literary traditions of his surroundings and building upon the heritage of his forefathers. The Divan of Ghazals and The Qasidas are two of his most famous compositions. With the emergence of the Ashik (Azerbaijani: Aşq) poetry genre of bards in the same century, Azerbaijani literature thrived even more. During this time, I composed around 1400 poems in Azerbaijani under the pen name Khat (Arabic: meaning sinner) Shah Ismail, which were subsequently published as his Divan. During this time, Shah Ismail and his son and successor, Shah Tahmasp I, established and developed a distinct literary style known as qoshma (Azerbaijani: qoşma meaning improvization).
Fizuli’s distinctive genres, as well as Ashik poetry, were taken up by renowned poets and authors such as Qovsi of Tabriz, Shah Abbas Sani, Agha Mesih Shirvani, Nishat, Molla Vali Vidadi, Molla Panah Vagif, Amani, Zafar, and others in the 17th and 18th century. Azerbaijanis, like Turks, Turkmens, and Uzbeks, commemorate the mythical folk hero Koroglu (from Azerbaijani: kor olu for blind man’s son). The Institute for Manuscripts of the National Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan has many recorded versions of the Koroglu epic.
In Azerbaijan, modern literature is mostly based on the Shirvani dialect, while in Iran, it is primarily based on the Tabrizi dialect. Akinchi, the first Azerbaijani newspaper, was first published in 1875. It was taught at Baku, Ganja, Shaki, Tbilisi, and Yerevan schools in the mid-nineteenth century. It has also been taught at Russia’s University of Saint Petersburg from 1845.
Azerbaijanis have a rich and unique culture, with ornamental and applied art playing a significant role. Chasing, jeweler, metal engraving, wood, stone, and bone carving, carpet-making, lasing, pattern weaving and printing, knitting, and embroidery are only a few examples of this kind of art. Each of these kinds of ornamental art, which are proof of the Azerbaijan nation’s and endowments, is extremely popular in this country. Several merchants, tourists, and diplomats who visited these locations at various periods recorded many fascinating details about the development of arts and crafts in Azerbaijan.
The Azerbaijani carpet is a traditional handmade textile of different sizes with a thick texture and a pile or pile-less surface, with designs unique to Azerbaijan’s numerous carpet-making areas. UNESCO designated the Azerbaijani carpet as a Masterpiece of Intangible Heritage in November 2010.
Since ancient times, Azerbaijan has been recognized as a hub for a wide range of crafts. Archeological digs on Azerbaijan’s land reveal well-developed agriculture, cattle rearing, metalworking, pottery, ceramics, and carpet weaving dating back to the 2nd century BC. Archeological sites discovered as part of the BTC pipeline at Dashbulaq, Hasansu, Zayamchai, and Tovuzchai have yielded early Iron Age items.
Azerbaijani carpets are divided into many major categories and several subdivisions. The name of Latif Kerimov, a renowned scientist and artist, is linked to scientific study on the Azerbaijani carpet. Guba-Shirvan, Ganja-Kazakh, Karabakh, and Tabriz were the four major groupings of carpets that he classified with the four geographical zones of Azerbaijan, Guba-Shirvan, Ganja-Kazakh, Karabakh, and Tabriz.
The quantity of vegetables and greens utilized seasonally in traditional cuisine is well-known. Mint, cilantro (coriander), dill, basil, parsley, tarragon, leeks, chives, thyme, marjoram, green onion, and watercress are all popular fresh herbs that are often served with main courses. The national cuisine reflect the land’s climatic variety and fertility, including seafood from the Caspian Sea, local meat (mostly sheep and cattle), and a plethora of seasonal vegetables and greens. In Azerbaijan, saffron-rice plov is the national dish, while black tea is the national drink. Because of their strong tea culture, Azerbaijanis often utilize traditional armudu (pear-shaped) glass. Bozbash (a lamb broth with various vegetables added to it), qutab (a fried turnover with a filling of greens or minced meat), and dushbara are some of the most popular traditional meals (sort of dumplings of dough filled with ground meat and flavor).
Azerbaijani architecture often incorporates aspects from both the East and the West. In contemporary Azerbaijan, several historic architectural masterpieces such as the Maiden Tower and Palace of the Shirvanshahs in Baku’s Walled City still exist. The Ateshgah of Baku, Momine Khatun Mausoleum, Hirkan National Park, Binegadi National Park, Lökbatan Mud Volcano, Baku Stage Mountain, Caspian Shore Defensive Constructions, Shusha National Reserve, Ordubad National Reserve, and the Palace of Shaki Khans are among the entries on the UNESCO World Heritage tentative list.
Quadrangular Castle in Mardakan, Parigala in Yukhary Chardaglar, a number of bridges crossing the Aras River, and numerous mausoleums are among the architectural gems. Little monumental architecture was produced in the 19th and early 20th centuries, although unique homes were erected in Baku and elsewhere. The Baku subways, which are among the city’s newest architectural landmarks, are known for their extravagant décor.
Contemporary Azerbaijani architecture faces a variety of challenges, including the application of modern aesthetics, the quest for an architect’s own creative style, and the integration of the existing historico-cultural context. Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center, Flame Towers, Baku Crystal Hall, Baku White City, and SOCAR Tower are only a few of the major projects that have changed the country’s skyline and promoted its modern character.
Azerbaijani art contains one of the world’s earliest art artifacts, the Gamigaya Petroglyphs, which were found in the area of Ordubad Rayon and date from the 1st to 4th century BC. On basalt rocks, about 1500 dislodged and carved rock paintings with pictures of deer, goats, bulls, dogs, snakes, birds, strange creatures, as well as humans, carriages, and other symbols were discovered. Thor Heyerdahl, a Norwegian ethnographer and explorer, believed that inhabitants from the region moved to Scandinavia about 100 AD and brought their boat-building abilities with them, transforming them into the Viking boats of Northern Europe.
Azerbaijani art has seen numerous stylistic variations throughout the ages. Traditional Azerbaijani painting is defined by a warm use of color and light, as seen in the works of Azim Azimzade and Bahruz Kangarli, as well as a focus on religious figures and cultural themes. For hundreds of years, Azerbaijani art dominated the Caucasus, from the Romanesque and Ottoman eras through the Soviet and Baroque periods, the latter two of which found culmination in Azerbaijan. Sattar Bahlulzade, Togrul Narimanbekov, Tahir Salahov, Alakbar Rezaguliyev, Mirza Gadim Iravani, Mikayil Abdullayev, and Boyukagha Mirzazade are some of the other famous artists from these eras.