Historical Background

Azerbaijan Table of Contents

UNDER THE DOMINATION of the Soviet Union for most of the twentieth century, Azerbaijan began a period of tentative autonomy when the Soviet state collapsed at the end of 1991. A culturally and linguistically Turkic people, the Azerbaijanis have retained a rich cultural heritage despite long periods of Persian and Russian domination. In the 1990s, the newly independent nation still faced strong and contrary religious and political influences from neighbors such as Iran to the south, Turkey to the west, and Russia to the north. Despite the country's rich oil reserves, Azerbaijan's natural and economic resources and social welfare system have been rated below those of most of the other former Soviet republics. Furthermore, in the early 1990s a long military and diplomatic struggle with neighboring Armenia was sapping resources and distracting the country from the task of devising post-Soviet internal systems and establishing international relations.

The territory of modern Azerbaijan has been subject to myriad invasions, migrations, and cultural and political influences. During most of its history, Azerbaijan was under Persian influence, but as the Persian Empire declined, Russia began a 200-year dominance, some aspects of which have persisted into the 1990s.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress