Nestled in the Caucasus region of Eurasia at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, Azerbaijan, officially the Republic of Azerbaijan is one of the most fascinating countries in the world. For a small country, little-known Azerbaijan packs in a remarkable kaleidoscope of landscapes from vertiginous snow-covered Caucasus peaks and lush-green meadows to Caspian beaches and semi-deserts. Here are some interesting facts about Azerbaijan.
Facts about Azerbaijan
1. Azerbaijan is the 112th largest country in the world.
Azerbaijan has a total area of 86,600 km² (33,400 sq mi), which makes it slightly larger than Scotland, or slightly smaller than the US state of Maine.
2. Azerbaijan shares a land border with five countries.
It is bordered by Russia (338 km) to the north, Georgia (428 km) to the northwest, Armenia (996 km) and Turkey (17 km) to the west, and Iran (689 km) to the south.
3. A person from Azerbaijan is called an Azerbaijani or Azeri.
Azerbaijanis have a complex history being located in the center of Eurasia, at the global crossroads of people for millennia. They have a mixed cultural heritage and are part Iranian, part Turkic, and part descended from the indigenous tribes of the Caucasus.
4. The capital of Azerbaijan is Baku.
Located in eastern Azerbaijan on the shores of the Caspian Sea, Baku is also the political, economic, and cultural center of the country. A city of great beauty and contrasts, Baku is well-known for its UNESCO-listed Old Town, outlandish modern architecture, and its copious oil wells that have made the city wealthy and famous. Situated at -28 m (-92 ft) below sea level, Baku is the lowest lying national capital in the world.
5. Azerbaijan’s highest point is Bazardüzü.
Situated in the Greater Caucasus range on the border between Dagestan, Russia, and Azerbaijan, Mount Bazardüzü is Azerbaijan’s highest point and rises to an elevation of 4,466 m (14,652 ft) above sea level.
6. The currency of Azerbaijan is the Azerbaijani Manat (AZN).
The Manat is modeled on the Euro with similar sizes, colors, and fonts. Each note is themed with different aspects of national identity.
7. The official language of Azerbaijan is Azerbaijani.
Azerbaijani is a Turkic language which in Azerbaijan is written in the Latin script. It is closely related to Gagauz, Qashqai, Crimean Tatar, Turkish and Turkmen, sharing varying degrees of mutual intelligibility with each of those languages. Azerbaijani is spoken by over 90% of the population as a mother tongue.
8. Azerbaijan doesn’t observe daylight-saving time.
Clocks do not change in Azerbaijan and daylight-saving hasn’t been observed in the country since 2016.
9. Islam is the predominant religion in Azerbaijan.
Around 97% of Azerbaijan’s population are Muslims. 85% of the Muslims are Shia and 15% Sunni. One of the lesser-known Azerbaijan facts is that the nation is one of the four countries in the world with a majority Shia population.
Azerbaijan is one of the most secular Muslim-majority countries in the world. The remainder of Azerbaijan’s population is mostly Christian—mostly Russian and Georgian Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic.
10. Azerbaijan is known as the Land of the Fire.
Azerbaijan has a close relationship with fire, earning the nickname “The Land of Fire” and the historical significance of fire runs deep in the veins of Azerbaijanis.
The region in which modern-day Azerbaijan stands was originally called Atropatene and was ruled by the Atropates, a nobleman who served Alexander the Great. The word “Atropates” comes from the Greek transliteration of an Old Iranian language, possibly Median, for “The Land of the Holy Fire” or “The Protector of the Holy Fire” indicating that the area was home to the Holy Fire and those who inhabited it were protecting it.
Azerbaijan is also blessed with vast reserves of oil and subterranean natural gas. There is so much oil and natural gas under the Absheron Peninsula that the ground practically leaks all over. Throughout Azerbaijan, numerous fires have been burning since antiquity Soviet exploitation in the 20th century caused most natural fires to extinguish. Yanar Dag, Fire Temple of Baku, and Yanar Bulag are two places where one can observe Azerbaijan’s famous fires.
11. Azerbaijan was the first modern independent parliamentary republic in the Muslim world.
The Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR) was founded on 28 May 1918 after the collapse of the Russian Empire. The ADR was a forward-thinking secular entity that lasted barely two years as the Bolshevik Red Army invaded in 1920. Another one of the interesting facts about Azerbaijan is that the ADR was the very first majority-Muslim nation, to grant women equal political rights with men.
12. Azerbaijan was part of the Soviet Union for nearly seven decades.
In April 1920, the invasion of the Bolshevik Red Army led to the dissolution of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic and the establishment of the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic. The Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic was subsequently incorporated as one of the constituent republics of the Soviet Union between 1922 and 1991, the year it became independent.
13. Azerbaijan is very homogenous.
Over 90% of Azerbaijan’s population is made up of ethnic Azerbaijanis. The remainder of the population is made up of Lezgians, Armenians, Russians, Talysh, Avars, Turks, Tatars, Ukrainians, Tsakhurs, and Georgians.
14. Azerbaijan is a transcontinental country.
Depending on who you ask, Azerbaijan is considered a part of Asia or a part of Europe. Although there is no definitive border between Europe and Asia, the Caucasus Mountains are generally regarded to form the southeastern border of Europe. Since Azerbaijani territory lies on both sides of the Caucasus Mountains, Azerbaijan is considered a transcontinental country.
15. Azerbaijan is a nation of tea drinkers.
Tea is Azerbaijan’s national drink and undoubtedly the most popular drink in the country. It is traditionally served in a pear-shaped glass and flavored with thyme, lemon, mint, or rosewater. Tea in Azerbaijan is often consumed through lumps of sugar or jam, held in the mouth.
16. More Azerbaijanis live in Iran than in Azerbaijan.
This is one of the most intriguing Azerbaijan facts. Azerbaijanis in Iran comprise by far the second-largest ethnic group in the country. Estimates vary but Iranian Azerbaijanis are thought to comprise about 15-25% of Iran’s population, which in any case is far greater than the number of Azerbaijanis in Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijanis in Iran are mostly concentrated in the country’s northwest and three Iranian provinces—West Azerbaijan, East Azerbaijan, and Ardabil form the historical region of Azerbaijan in Iran. Azerbaijanis in Iran are well integrated into Iranian society and even have their own TV and radio stations.
Some of the most well-known Iranian Azerbaijanis are Ali Khameini—the Supreme Leader of Iran, Tadj ol-Molouk—former Queen of Iran, and Hadi Saei—former Iranian taekwondo champion and dual Olympic gold medallist.
17. Azerbaijan is home to the only museum of miniature books in the world.
This is definitely one of the most random facts about Azerbaijan. The Museum of Miniature Books in Baku is the only museum in the world dedicated to miniature editions of books. Home to thousands of books, the museum opened to the public in 2002 with the hope of promoting childhood literacy. The smallest book in the museum is just 2mm x 2mm which can only be read with a special magnifying glass.
18. The national flag of Azerbaijan has four colors.
The national flag of Azerbaijan is a horizontal tricolor featuring three equal-sized bands of bright blue, red, and green, with a white crescent and an eight-pointed star in the center. It was first used between 1918 and 1920 when Azerbaijan was initially independent and has been in use ever since Azerbaijan regained independence in 1991.
The flag’s blue symbolizes Azerbaijan’s Turkic heritage, red reflects the modernization of society and development of democracy and green represents Islam. The crescent moon on the flag symbolizes Islam while the eight-pointed star either reflects the eight letters in the word “Azerbaijan” in the old Perso-Arabic alphabet.
19. Capital punishment is illegal in Azerbaijan.
Capital punishment has been abolished in Azerbaijan since 1998.
20. Azerbaijan is home to the world’s largest landlocked exclave
Stalin loved to play with the internal borders of the Soviet Union which led to endless complications in the countries that were once part of the Soviet Union. There are five Azerbaijani exclaves in Armenia, all these territories are currently under Armenian control.
The most famous Azerbaijani exclave is the autonomous republic of Nakhchivan. Geographically severed from Azerbaijan by an 80-130 km strip of Armenia, the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic is the world’s largest landlocked exclave. Home to over 450,000 people, Nakhchivan is bordered by Armenia to the east and north, Iran to the south and west, and Turkey to the northwest.
Largely unknown and hardly-ever visited, Nakhchivan is home to ancient monuments and picturesque villages along with awe-inspiring natural scenery.
21. Azerbaijan claims to be the landing place of Noah’s Ark.
One of the more outlandish Azerbaijan facts is that many believe Noah’s Ark to have landed atop Mount Ilandag in the south-central part of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. Nakhchivanis proudly refer to their motherland as the “land of Noah.” Many Azerbaijanis claim that the name “Nakhchivan” derives from Nakh (“Noah”) and chivan (“place”, meaning “Noah’s place”) in Old Iranian.
22. Azerbaijan once supplied half the world’s oil.
It’s a well-known fact that Azerbaijan is endowed with significant oil reserves and is ranked among the top 25 countries in the world by proven oil reserves. But few know that Azerbaijan was the site of the world’s first industrially drilled oil well and by 1901 Azerbaijan produced half of the volume of the world’s oil! Now that’s truly impressive.
23. Plov is the national dish of Azerbaijan.
Plov is the national dish of Azerbaijan and there are over variations to this mouthwatering specialty. This saffron-infused rice dish is mixed with a variety of different ingredients, from meats and nuts to dried fruit and aromatic herbs.
24. 9 out of 11 of the world’s climate zones can be found in Azerbaijan.
Given the country’s small size, it’s rather remarkable that nine of the world’s eleven existing climate zones are found in Azerbaijan.
25. Azerbaijan is home to more than 40% of the world’s mud volcanoes.
Often found in subduction zones, mud volcanoes are a unique natural phenomenon. They never grow to the size of a normal volcano, topping out at around 10 km in diameter and 700 m in height. Because they are not caused by magma, mud volcanoes can be very cold, often just above freezing, unlike lava-spewing igneous volcanoes.
There are more than 400 volcanoes in Azerbaijan making it the mud volcano capital of the world. Usually dormant the mud volcanoes bubble and pop, oozing gurgling mounds of once-subterranean sludge and methane.
26. Azerbaijanis are big on horses.
Since ancient times, the horse has played a major role in the lives of Azerbaijanis. Particularly beloved is the Karabakh horse which is also the national animal of Azerbaijan. It frequently appears in literature and on postage stamps. The breed is noted for its good temperament, stamina, and speed.
27. Azerbaijan’s national sport is played to music.
This is one of the more obscure Azerbaijan facts. Chovqan is a traditional horse-riding game, a bit like Polo in fact, which is played on a flat, grassy field by two competing teams of players mounted on Karabakh horses. Chovqan is thought to have originated more than 2,000 years ago and is regarded as Azerbaijan’s national sport.
In chovqan, skilled horsemen wearing large astrakhan hats, long tight-fitting coats, and special pantaloons use wooden mallets to try to drive a small leather or wooden ball into their opponents’ goal. The most unique thing about the game is that it is interspersed with instrumental folk music.
28. Azerbaijan is home to three UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
With a history as rich as Azerbaijan’s, it is not surprising that Azerbaijan is home to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These include the Walled City of Baku with Shirvanshah’s Palace and Maiden Tower, the Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape, and the Historic Center of Sheki with the Khan’s Palace.
29. Azerbaijan is home to a city built on stilts.
Far out into the Caspian Sea, 100 km away from Baku, lies one of the most extraordinary settlements in the world. Neft Daşları is a fully functional city of about 3,000 living in a network of oil platforms and artificial islands connected by 300 km of trestle bridges.
Neft Daşları began life in 1949 as an offshore oil platform and gradually grew into a small town as oil production increased. It is home to numerous shops, bakeries, hotels, apartment blocks, a beverage factory, a football field, library, bakery, laundry, a 300-seat cinema, and a bathhouse. However, with 30 million more tons of oil reserves left, it’ll be interesting to see what happens to Neft Daşları and its residents in the future.
30. Azerbaijan is famous for its carpets.
Azerbaijani carpets are well-known all over the world for their quality and high artistic value. With their vivid colors, imaginative tribal patterns such as animal, plant, and architectural motifs, Azerbaijani carpets are also a reflection of rural Azerbaijani life.
Carpet making is a centuries-old family tradition transferred orally and through practice. The traditional art of Azerbaijan carpet weaving was declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO, recognizing its continued importance and place in world culture.
31. Azerbaijan’s relations with neighbors Armenia are strained.
Azerbaijan has been embroiled in a decades-long conflict with its neighbor Armenia since the late 1980s. At the heart of the conflict is Nagorno-Karabakh, a landlocked region internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but is home to ethnic Armenians.
Ever since the region’s ethnic Armenian majority voted to be a part of Armenia, tensions have simmered between the two nations. Rising tensions between the two have led to sporadic low-intensity conflicts and two full-blown wars, first in 1992–1994 and the second one in 2020. An estimated 15,000-25,000 Azerbaijani civilians have perished in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and thousands of ethnic Azerbaijanis have been displaced from their ancestral homes.
Today, Nagorno-Karabakh is mostly controlled by separatist ethnic Armenians backed by the Armenian government. Needless to say, deep animosity has remained. Just mentioning Armenia might elicit a hostile look from Azerbaijanis.
32. Bread is sacred in Azerbaijan.
This is probably my favorite of all the unique facts about Azerbaijan. Bread is considered holy in Azerbaijan. Bread is deeply entrenched in Azerbaijani culture and has been a symbol of abundance and prosperity for centuries. Friendships in Azerbaijan often begin with eating bread together.
Wasted bread isn’t thrown away, as it’s considered too important to be discarded. When bread goes stale or when there’s leftover bread from a meal, Azerbaijanis don’t just toss it in the garbage: they hang it up in bags or on a tree to signify their respect. Bread is so deified in Azerbaijan that if you drop bread on the floor, it’s customary to kiss it, as an apology.