Azerbaijan is an ancient, majority Turkic, majority Shia Muslim nation that for centuries was
under Turkic, Persian and then Russian rule. When the ruling Russian Empire collapsed during World War I the Azeris joined the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic but when that failed Azerbaijan declared itself independent–the first secular, democratic republic in the Muslim world. Unfortunately for the Azeri independence movement, in 1920 the newly-formed Soviet Union invaded, taking Azerbaijan and its substantial oil fields, into the USSR. Azerbaijan had to wait until 1991 to go out on its own.

After the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991 Azerbaijan declared independence but at the same time escalated a complicated war with Armenia. The war was over a mainly Armenian region within Azerbaijan called

underline; font-weight: normal;” target=“_blank” href=”″ target=”_blank”>In 2010 Azerbaijan ranked 135 out of 167 countries in The Economist’s “Democracy Index.”) Protests in 2011 calling for democratic reforms effectively ended after a crackdown by Ailyev’s security force.

For better or worse, Azerbaijan still has oil, and a lot of it. With

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