Is Azerbaijan in Europe?
The Republic of Azerbaijan, gained independence post the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, catalyzed by the policies of glasnost and perestroika.Historically, the country’s first claim as an independent nation was made in 1918, as a region of northwestern Iran, bordering Iraq. The area was conventionally part of ‘Persia,’ as claimed by the ancient Greeks.
Culture and Ethnicity:
Owing to the proximity, the Republic of Azerbaijan possesses both European and Asian cultures. A Muslim-dominated population, the nation has the second largest percentage of Shia population, after Iran. Although ‘Azerbaijani’ is declared the official language of the state, ‘Russian’ and ‘English’ are the most commonly used languages for communication and education.
Located in the Transcaucasia region of Eurasia, it is bound by the Caspian Sea on the East and Armenia to the West. The country is part of southwest Asia, sharing borders with both Eastern European as well as Western Asian countries. Topographically, the country is a mountainous region with the Caucasus mountain range standing tall in the North and Iran to the South. Attributing to its location, the nation lies in the subtropical zone, contributing to a climatological diversity.
Polity of The State:
The Republic of Azerbaijan is a unitary semi-presidential republic that has diplomatic relations with over 158 nations. The twin goal of democracy and prosperity for all bore the promise of Azerbaijan as a secular republic and a leading oil producer and exporter. Rooting for a long process of democracy, the late president Heydar Aliyev said, “Democracy is not a concept like an apple, that you can buy and make it happen.” The nation showed progressive patterns since its conception by adopting western like institutions and forming the first European like parliament, it is on a path to ongoing and progressing democracy.
Blessed with abundant natural resources, the country sits atop oil riches and untapped natural gas reserves, paving its geostrategic policies. Post the breakup of the U.S.S.R., the Caspian Sea region redefined its marine borders resulting in oil exports being the sole economic driver. The transition from a ‘Command’ to a ‘Market’ economy is brightened by the energy resources, swinging in between the oil boom and snags. The economic reforms post 1990, reflected in the state’s program “On Business Development in Azerbaijan (1993-1995,)” formed the prerequisites for macroeconomic stability.
Contemporarily, the region is making political advances parallel to economic developments. With a long-term aim of making efficient integration into the world economic system, it has maintained a balanced foreign policy. A key geopolitical player in the Caucasus region, it had formalized ties with the NATO, the EU (European Union) as well as OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe). European Union’s ‘Partnership and Cooperation Agreement’ (1991) with Azerbaijan has led to an expansion of cooperation in various areas. Resulting in an inclusion of the latter in the European Neighborhood Policy and European Partnership.
Linking the East to the West, this developing nation forms a buffer state between global powers. It attracts the USA’s interest in the region as well as brokers its ties with Russia. Whereas on the domestic front it is clutched between the concerns of state building in the backdrop of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to boost external legitimacy and stumbling oil prices leading to currency depreciation. It stands as the focal point between the developed and the developing nations.