Azerbaijan, also known as the Land of Fire, is a country with a fascinating history and unique cultural heritage. Historically, the country has been both a Soviet Republic and a part of Persia. The country regained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, and modern Azerbaijan has emerged as a Western-looking, independent, secular state with a vibrant and diverse culture.
Azerbaijan has a total land area of 86,600km2 – roughly the same size as Austria. The climate, geography and topography of Azerbaijan are as diverse as its cultural heritage, with the country experiencing nine of the 13 world climate zones. The country has snowy mountainous regions (the Greater Caucasus mountain range runs through the north of Azerbaijan), flat wetlands, desert-like plains, mud volcanoes (the largest number of mud volcanoes in the world), woods and forests, nature reserves (2.5 per cent of the landmass of Azerbaijan is preserved across 11 state reserves and eight national parks) and beaches.
Azerbaijan is the largest of the three South Caucasus states (Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia), and is bordered by Russia to the north, Georgia to the north-west, Armenia to the west, Turkey to the south-west, Iran to the south, and the Caspian Sea to the east.
The country is the gateway between East and West, sitting on the edge of Europe and Western Asia. Azerbaijan played an important role as part of the Silk Road (the great 4,000 mile trade route that linked the East and the West.
Azerbaijani (or Azeri) is the official language of the country. Russian is also spoken widely throughout Azerbaijan. In the capital, Baku, young people speak good English and other European languages, such as French and German.
The Azerbaijani New Manat is the official currency of Azerbaijan. There are 100 Qepik in one Manat.