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About Azerbaijan


Stretching back nearly 700,000 years, the story of Azerbaijan is rooted deep in the origins of mankind and has been part of many milestones in history. Subjected to nomadic territorial disputes, religious conquest, imperial rule, and Soviet division, Azerbaijan has undergone many phases of change and emerged as a democratic nation. 

The history of Azerbaijan’s statehood is approximately five thousand years old. The first civilizations that appeared on the territories of Azerbaijan appeared around 4,000 or early 3,000 BC. In 1,000 BC the Manna, Iskim, Skit, Scyth tribes appeared in the region alongside the strong states of Caucasian Albania and Atropatena. These states played a big role in strengthening the culture of government, the economic culture of the country, and the formation of a uniform nation.

In the 3rd century AD Azerbaijan was occupied by the Iranian Sassanid Empire and in the 7th century by the Arab Umayyad Caliphate. The invaders populated the country with numerous Iranians and Arabs. The introduction of Islam in the 7th century was an important moment in the history of Azerbaijan. Islam greatly facilitated the formation of a uniform nation, language, and customs among the Turkic and non-Turkic peoples in the territory of Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan witnessed new political development: on Azerbaijani lands united by Islam the states of the Sadzhids, Shirvanshahs, Salarids, Ravvadids and Sheddadids were established. It was the beginning of a renaissance in Azerbaijan’s history.


The late 15th - early 16th century are a milestone in the history of Azerbaijan. The outstanding statesman Shah Ismail Hatai united all the northern and southern lands of Azerbaijan under his rule. He proclaimed the city of Tabriz the capitol of a Safavid state which later turned into one of the most powerful empires in the Middle East.

Nadir Shah, an outstanding Azerbaijani commander who came to power after the fall of the Safavid state, further expanded the boundaries of the former empire. This Azerbaijani ruler conquered Northern India, including Delhi, in 1739. After the death of Nadir Shah, however, his empire disintegrated. Thus, in the second half of the 18th century Azerbaijan broke up into smaller states, khanates, and sultanates.

At the end of the 18th century Iran was under the rule of the Qajars, an Azerbaijani dynasty. They began to pursue the policy of placing all the territories of Nadir Shah’s former empire and Azerbaijani khanates under centralized rule.

This attempted reunification was how the epoch of long wars between the Qajars and Russia, who strived to conquer the southern Caucasus, began. As a result of the Gulustan (1813) and Turkmenchay (1828) treaties, Azerbaijan was divided between two empires: northern Azerbaijan was attached to Russia and its southern part to Iran. 

In 1918, Azerbaijan won its independence from Russia after the collapse of the Czarist Empire and became the first Democratic Republic to be established in the Muslim world.  Just two years later in 1920, the Bolshevik movement gained popular support after the invasion of the Russian Red Army and Azerbaijan was declared a founding member of the Soviet Union.

By 1936, the country was given full Soviet Socialist Republic status and was governed by the central political leadership in Moscow.  During World War II, Azerbaijan played a key role in supplying oil and natural gas to the Allied Forces and Azerbaijani troops fought valiantly with the Red Army on the Eastern Front.  Azerbaijan flourished in the 1950s, reaping the benefits of a flourishing, industrial post-war economy.

Flaws in the Soviet model became apparently in the mid-1960s, however, and Moscow soon appointed Heydar Aliyev as the head of the Communist Party in Azerbaijan.  Aliyev helped stabilize the turbulent economy and brought the leadership required to make Azerbaijan flourish.


Troubles with the Nagorno-Karabakh region began stirring in 1988 as ethnic Armenians living in the territory called for reunification with Armenia.  At the same time, popular support for the Soviet Union was declining and opposition groups frequently clashed with Soviet troops in Baku.

On August 30, 1991, Azerbaijan had declared independence from the crumbling Soviet Union – for the second time in its history – and became a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).  Elections were held in September 1991 and 1992, but neither President succeeded in politically unifying the new Republic.  In June 1993, the struggling Parliament called Heydar Aliyev, who was thriving as the governor of Nakhichevan, to Baku.  He was officially elected President in October 1993 and served for nearly a decade.

Under the leadership of Heydar Aliyev, Azerbaijan began to flourish.  More oil and natural gas reserves were discovered and construction was begun on the oil and gas pipelines which currently export Azerbaijani resources.  In 2003, the revered President who unified Azerbaijan fell ill and passed away. 

A few months after his death, Heydar Aliyev’s son, Ilham, was elected President and continues to lead Azerbaijan today. 


Significant Historical & Public Holidays in Azerbaijan

January 20, 1990 - Martyr’s Day

On this day Soviet troops entered the city of Baku and killed more than 180 civilians. This date is celebrated as the rebirth of the Republic of Azerbaijan, as well as serving as a remembrance of the victims of the Nagorno-Karabakh War in 1988. The day is also known as Qara Yanvar (Day of National Mourning), Day of Shehids, or Remembrance Day.

February 25-26, 1992 - Khojaly Massacre

Hundreds of ethnic Azerbaijani civilians from the town of Khojaly were killed by Armenian armed forces during the Nagorno-Karabakh War.

May 28, 1918 - Republic Day

Azerbaijan declared independence from the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic, thus forming the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. Azerbaijan became the first democratic parliamentary republic in the Muslim world.

June 15, 1993 - National Salvation Day

Parliament invited Heydar Aliyev to Baku to lead the country.

August 30, 1991 Declaration of Independence

Azerbaijan declared its intention to once again become an independent nation.

October 18, 1991 - Independence Day

Since 1991, this has been the national day of celebration of the country’s independence.

November 12, 1995 - Constitution Day

The day the constitution was enacted is a public holiday in Azerbaijan.

December 31, 1989 - International Solidarity Day

Spurred by the fall of the Berlin wall, Azeri’s called for and led the removal of borders between Soviet Azerbaijan and Iran on December 31, 1989. This date has since been celebrated by Azeris around the world as the International Solidarity Day of Azerbaijanis.


© 2015 Azerbaijan America Alliance
This material is distributed by Azerbaijan America Alliance Corporation on behalf of our Board of Directors.  Additional information is available at the Department of Justice, Washington, D.C.
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