Wikijunior Europe: Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan is a medium-sized country in the South Caucasus region. Mostly the country is located in West Asia, but a small part in the North is considered European because the Caucasus Mountains are a division between Eastern Europe and Western Asia. Until 1991, Azerbaijan was a part of the Soviet Union (USSR). The capital city is Baku and the country shares borders with Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Iran and Turkey. The country is a member of the Council of Europe, but it is not a member of the European Union. Azerbaijan is one of the six independent Turkic states and an active member of the Turkic Counsil and the TÜRKSOY community. Azerbaijan uses the Azerbaijani Manat as its currency.
The area of present-day Azerbaijan was settled beginning in about the 8th century BC by the Medes, an ancient Aryan tribe. It became part of the Persian Empire in the 6th century BC. Between the 1st and 3rd centuries AD, the Romans conquered the area of present-day Azerbaijan. Christianity began to spread there in the 3rd century. It was part of the Sassanid empire from 252 until the Muslim conquest of Persia, then it became under Umayyad rule. The Umayyad Caliphate spread Islam in the region. At the beginning of the 11th century, the territory was gradually seized by the waves of Oghuz Turks from Central Asia, who adopted a Turkoman ethnonym at the time. The first of these Turkic dynasties established was the Seljuk Empire, who entered the area now known as Azerbaijan by 1067. Notorious was the Shirvanshah dynasty, they stayed in the region untill the Safavids took control in 1501. Azerbaijan remained under Iranian rule from the earliest advent of the Safavids up to the course of the 19th century. In 1920 the Azerbaijani were taken over by the Soviet Union or the USSR. In 1991 Azerbaijan became independent from the Soviet Union. After becoming independent, Azerbaijan and Armenia fought as war called the Nagorno-Karabakh War which killed more than 30,000 people on both sides. Since the 1990s Azerbaijan has become more prosperous, mostly because of large amounts of oil.
Azerbaijan covers an area of about 86,600 km2 (about 33,400 sq mi). Azerbaijan borders the Caspian Sea to the east, Georgia and Russia to the north, Iran to the south, and Armenia to the south-west and west. The capital of Azerbaijan is the ancient city of Baku, which has the largest and best harbour on the Caspian Sea.
Azerbaijan is located in both Europe and Asia. The highest mountain in the country is Bazardüzü which is 4466 metres above sea level. Another interesting feature of Azerbaijan are the mud volcanoes - half of all mud volcanoes in the world are situated in Azerbaijan.
The population of Azerbaijan is just under 10 million. Azerbaijani, Russian, Lezgin,and Talysh are the languages that are spoken by the people who live in the country. The national language is Azerbaijani or Azeri and almost 93 percent of the population speak it. Azerbaijani language is similar to Turkish language as they are both Turkic languages from the Oghuz tribe.
People from Azerbaijan are called Azerbaijani or Azeris, there is a significant amount of Azerbaijanis in the north of Iran (see: ; Talyshs and Lezgins the largest minority groups in Azerbaijan, followed by Armenians if the break-away Nagorno Karabakh region considered. The majority of people in the country are considered Muslim but there are also small numbers of Russian Orthodox Christians. However, Azerbaijan is one of the most secular countries in West Asia.
Education is required for the first eight years, but some children continue their education.
Azerbaijan has two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: The Walled City of Baku (and Shirvanshahs' Palace and the Maiden Tower) all in the capital, Baku and Gobustan Rock Art - a site full of ancient art from 4,000 to 40,000 years ago.
Tourism was extremely popular during the 1980s but because of wars in the 1990s tourists went elsewhere. Tourism has only recently become important again in Azerbaijan. Religious, spa and health care tourism is becoming more and more popular every year. Castles, national parks, two Heritage Sites, skiing in the winter and swimming in the summer are activities that tourists can do while visiting Azerbaijan.
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