Alexander the Great, Romans, Persians, Arabs,
Turks, Mongols and Russians have invaded the area that
today constitutes Azerbaijan. At the beginning of the
19th century, the country was divided between Iran and
Tsar Russia. A short period of independence followed the
fall of the tsar, before Azerbaijan was invaded by the
Red Army and became a Soviet republic in 1920. Oil
deposits were discovered early in the region.
Comprehensive guide to and popular abbreviations of Azerbaijan, covering history, economy, and social conditions.
Azerbaijan's first inhabitants were perhaps Caucasian
people. Shooters have lived here, and the area was
included in the 8th century BC in the Urartu kingdom
(compare ARMENIA: Older history) and later in the Media.
In the 500s BC, the Medes were subjugated by their
In 330 BC, Azerbaijan was organized in Alexander the
Great's empire. The board was conferred on Persian
vassals. According to a tradition, the country got its
name after the vassal Atropates, whose name means
"protected by fire". Other sources derive the name from
a Persian word for "fire land". The name may refer to
fires that occasionally occur in superficial oil wells
or to the ever-burning fires in the Persian Zoroastrian
temples. (Possibly the Zoroastrian Prophet Zarathustra
was born in Azerbaijan).
Persians, Arabs and Turkmen
After the beginning of our era, Azerbaijan was
incorporated into the Roman Empire but came back under
Persian / Iranian rule (Sassanids) in the 20th century.
With the Arab conquest in the 600s came Islam. The
dominance of the Arabs lasted until the 11th century
when a Turkic people, the Seljuks, came from the east
and took over. The Seljuks were soon assimilated, but
their language and traditions gained entry into the
country's hitherto Persian-speaking inhabitants - the
ancestors of today's Azeri. Now a cultural flourishing
began that lasted until the 13th century.
After Mongol invasions in the 13th and 13th
centuries, the country returned under Iranian rule from
the beginning of the 16th century. At the same time, the
kingdom of Iran transitioned to the Azerbaijani dynasty
safavids, whose founder Ismail introduced Shia Islam as
a state religion. (Persians and Azeris were usually
Sunnis in the past.) During the Safavids' reign around
1500–1700, the Ottoman Empire made several attempts to
conquer Azerbaijan, but later expanded to Tsar Russia at
the expense of Iran. By peace treaty in 1813 and 1828,
Azerbaijan was divided between Russia and Iran. The part
north of the Araz river, which now forms the independent
Azerbaijan of today, came to Russia.
Oil had since been extracted and sold as lamp oil,
lubricating oil or, from the 18th century, as a raw
material for kerosene, but only with the advent of
industrialism and the emerging motorism did the value in
Azerbaijan's oil resources be realized. Around 1870, the
oil recovery in Baku started in earnest. A new
bourgeoisie emerged, largely consisting of immigrant
Russians, Western Europeans and Armenians. In 1876, the
Swedish brothers Ludvig and Robert Nobel founded an oil
company in Baku. At the turn of the last century more
than half of all crude oil in the world was recovered in
the area around Baku.
More and more money-rich foreigners moved in. Partly
as a reaction, a nationally minded Azerbaijani
intelligentia emerged. Many dreamed of uniting Turkish
or Muslim people across national borders, which led to
contradictions with the Christian Armenians living in
the country. In the chaos following Tsarist Russia's
defeat in the Russo-Japanese War in 1905, violent
conflicts erupted between Azeri and Armenians. Many
villages were destroyed and thousands of people on both
sides lost their lives.
Soon after the October Revolution in Russia 1917, a
nationalist government took over and proclaimed
Azerbaijan's independence on May 28, 1918. The country
became the world's first Muslim-populated republic.
However, the barely two years of independence became
chaotic. The oil-rich country was occupied by the armies
of various countries, and Baku in particular became the
scene of bloody settlements between Armenians and
Azeris. In 1920, Azerbaijan was invaded by the Red Army,
and the country was transformed into a Soviet republic.
The Communist Party became the only allowed party and
regime criticism was not tolerated. The Security Police
were given powers to curb all protests.
In 1922, Azerbaijan merged with Armenia and Georgia
into the Transcaucasian Soviet Republic, but in 1936
Azerbaijan again became its own Soviet republic.
Soviet rule went harder against Azerbaijani culture
than, for example, Armenian. Many mosques and memorials
were blown up and religious leaders were persecuted. The
change of alphabet - from Arabic to Latin writing and
later to Cyrillic - isolated the country from Iranian
Azerbaijan and cut off the roots of ancient culture.
Azerbaijan was also hit by Soviet leader Joseph
Stalin's collectivization of agriculture and purges in
The collectivization of agriculture meant that all
land was nationalized and transformed into so-called
colchoses, which on paper were collectively owned, or in
large state farms, sleeping choses. Well-to-do farmers,
so-called kulaks, were banished with their families to
remote areas where the majority died.
At the same time, intensive industrialization was
started, with special emphasis on the heavy industry. A
system for central plan control of the entire economy
was built up. This "revolution from the top" shattered
the former economic and social structure of society and
made all people dependent on the state for their
The Stalinist terror against so-called enemy enemies
in the years 1934-1938 hit all sectors of social life.
People were executed, deported or died in camps. Many
prominent members of the Communist Party in Azerbaijan
were affected by Stalin's terror.
The task of Azerbaijan in the Soviet Union was to
supply other Soviet republics with oil, agricultural
products and lighter industrial products.
During World War II, oil from Azerbaijan was the
basis for fuel in the Soviet tanks, and the Nazis made
several unsuccessful attempts to conquer the Azerbaijan
oil wells, but in general Azerbaijan avoided fighting
during the war.
At the end of the war, the Soviet Red Army occupied
Iranian Azerbaijan in an attempt to reconcile the
Azerbaijani population of northern Iran with Soviet
Azerbaijan, but the Soviet occupation forces were forced
to retreat following British-American pressure.
Amnesty criticizes the arrests
Amnesty International harshly criticizes the regime for a wave of arrests,
loosely-based prison sentences and threats against the opposition and free media
following protests earlier this year.
Azerbaijan enters the Security Council
For the first time, Azerbaijan is elected to the UN Security Council. The
mandate is valid for two years and Azerbaijan is awarded the Eastern European
place after a tough battle with Slovenia.
Regime opponents are imprisoned
Six regime opponents are sentenced to prison for up to three years for
participating in an illegal demonstration in April. The protest meeting in Baku
was inspired by the democratic riots in the Arab world but was quickly defeated
by the security police. Five of those convicted belong to the National Front and
the sixth is a member of Müsavat.
Prison for activist
Opposition activist Şahin Hasanlı is sentenced to two years in prison for
possession of weapons and ammunition. He claims that the ammunition is placed in
his pockets. At the same time, other opposition activists are accused of
interfering with public order.
Activist is imprisoned
Opposition activist Baxtiyar Hacıyev is sentenced to two years in prison,
formally for failing to do military service. He has used Facebook to call for
protests against the regime.
Police raid against opposition party
After holding an opposition meeting without permission, the police carry out
a raid against the opposition party's Müsavat office, where documents are
Hundreds of oppositional tonic arrests
Hundreds of oppositionists are arrested in connection with or before
demonstrations against the regime. Most are released after questioning, but a
number are sentenced to a few days' detention for "resistance to police".