Azerbaijan officially the Republic of Azerbaijan (Azerbaijani: Azərbaycan Respublikası) is the largest country in the Caucasus region located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe. It is bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west and Iran to the south. The exclave of Nakhchivan is bounded by Armenia to the north and east, Iran to the south and west, while having a short borderline with Turkey to the northwest.
Azerbaijan has an ancient and historic cultural heritage, including the distinction of being the first Muslim-majority country to have operas, theater and plays. The Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was established in 1918, but was incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1920.Azerbaijan regained independence in 1991. Shortly thereafter, during the Nagorno-Karabakh War, neighboring Armenia occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, its surrounding territories and the enclaves of Karki, Yukhary Askipara, Barkhudarly and Sofulu. The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, which emerged in Nagorno-Karabakh, continues to be not diplomatically recognized by any nation and the region is still considered a de jure part of Azerbaijan, despite being de facto independent since the end of the war.
Azerbaijan is a unitary constitutional republic. It is one of the six independent Turkic states as well as an active member of the Turkic Council and the TÜRKSOY community. Azerbaijan has diplomatic relations with 158 countries and holds membership in 38 international organizations. It is one of the founding members of GUAM, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. A member of the United Nations since 1992, Azerbaijan was elected to membership in the newly established Human Rights Council by the United Nations General Assembly on May 9, 2006 (the term of office began on June 19, 2006). The country is also a member of the OSCE, the Council of Europe, and the NATO Partnership for Peace (PfP) program. Azerbaijan is a correspondent at the International Telecommunication Union and member of the Non-Aligned Movement and holds observer status in World Trade Organization.
The Constitution of Azerbaijan does not declare an official religion, and all major political forces in the country are secular nationalist, but the majority of people and some opposition movements adhere to Shia Islam. Relative to other Eastern European and CIS states, Azerbaijan has reached a high level of human development, economic development and literacy, as well as a low rate of unemployment and intentional homicide. On 1 January 2012, the country started a two-year term as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.
The name "Āzar" (Persian: آذر) means Fire and Baijan was originally known as "Pāyegān" (Persian: پایگان) meaning Guardian/Protector. (Āzar Pāyegān = "Guardians of Fire") (Persian: آذر پایگان). Such name roots back to the "Zoroastrianism" era of Persia (Iran); However after the Arab invasion of Persia many Persian words lost their original form as in Arabic there are no letter for pronouncing "G / P / ZH / CH"; Hence "Azar Paigān" came to be known as Azarbaijan. (e.g. The Persian language in Persian is now both known as "Pārsi" (Persian: پارسی) & Fārsi due to the Arab invasion of "Greater Iran" and the great resistance of Iranians around the north.
According to an alternate etymology, the name of Azerbaijan derives from that of Atropates, a Persiansatrap under the Achaemenid Empire, who was later reinstated as the satrap of Media under Alexander the Great. The original etymology of this name is thought to have its roots in the once-dominant Zoroastrian religion. In the Avesta, Frawardin Yasht ("Hymn to the Guardian Angels"), there is a mention of âterepâtahe ashaonô fravashîm ýazamaide, which literally translates from Avestan as "we worship the Fravashi of the holy Atropatene".
Atropates ruled over the region of Atropatene (present Iranian Azerbaijan). The name "Atropates" itself is the Greek transliteration of an Old Iranian, probably Median, compounded name with the meaning "Protected by the (Holy) Fire" or "The Land of the (Holy) Fire". The Greek name is mentioned by Diodorus Siculus and Strabo. Over the span of millennia the name evolved to Āturpātākān then to Ādharbādhagān, Ādharbāyagān, Āzarbāydjān and present-day Azerbaijan. The word is translatable as "The Treasury" and "The Treasurer" of fire or "The Land of the Fire" in Modern Persian.