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Spotlight Article

Azerbaijan, Land of Fire

Azerbaijan America Alliance
October 06, 2014

Azerbaijan has been known as “The Land of Fire” since as early as 5 A.D.; the Byzantine author Prisk of Pania describes flames underwater in Azerbaijan in a volume entitled "Stories." Azerbaijan does indeed have burning hillsides and eternal fires caused by gas seeping through fissures in the earth. The Azerbaijani phrase Odlar Yurdu, which translates to “The Land of Fire,” has long referred to Azerbaijan’s geographical region.

Azerbaijan’s flames were a source of spiritual inspiration in the region. The Baku Ateshgah or “Fire Temple” featured an eternal fire fed by a natural gas spring. The complex is pentagonal with a tetra-pillar alter in the center and was home to monks during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Flame fed by gas lines at The Fire Temple Credit: the National Geographic Society, Joeseph Petersburger

Because of this unique association with fire, the state emblem of Azerbaijan features a red flame at its center. The flame, once a descriptor for the geographical region, has become a symbol of sovereignty for the young country, subsequently the fire motif is very prevalent in modern Azerbaijani culture.

The Flame Towers are a very visible example. The tallest skyscrapers in Baku, the three towers stand at 190m (620 ft); their dramatic swooping design gives the impression the apartments, hotels, and offices are actually flames reaching into the sky. The towers were completed in 2012, and have since decorated Baku’s skyline with fire. The Flame Towers even feature more than 10,000 high-power LED Luminaries to transform the towers into gigantic display screens.

The Eurovision song contest also highlights the nation’s nickname. In 2014, Azerbaijan’s song submission was “Start a Fire.” When Azerbaijan hosted the event themselves in 2012, Azerbaijan’s design contest was centered on the theme “Light your Fire.”

Seal of Azerbaijan Credit: The Offical Website of The Parliment (Milli Mejlis) of Azerbaijan

The fire symbol is appropriate because of Azerbaijan’s history, but Azerbaijan the modern state is also deeply connected to the fires within its boarders. Since “The Contract of the Century” was signed twenty years ago, Azerbaijan has been able to extract great wealth from the same oil and gas reserves that feed the natural eternal fires. With this wealth the The State Oil Fund of the Republic of Azerbaijan (SOFAZ) has sponsored the education of their nation’s youth abroad, improved their citizen’s access to clean water, built housing for internally displaced persons, and saved for the nations future.

Azerbaijan’s history, culture, and modern standing have all been touched by its natural flames. Azerbaijan truly deserves its pseudonym, “The Land of Fire.”


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