Driving Directions Azerbaijan

AZERBAIJAN, a republic of the former USSR, declared itself independent in 1991. The country was plagued by political uncertainty and conflict with Armenia. It is situated on the southwest coast of the Caspian Sea and shares borders with Iran, Armenia, Georgia, and Russia. The River Araks separates Azerbaijan from the region known as Azerbaijan in northern Iran. Azerbaijan’s territory also includes the autonomous republic of Naxcivan, cut off from the rest of the country by southern Armenia, and the disputed Armenian enclave Nagorno-Karabakh. A mountainous, oil-rich country is bounded by the southeastern ranges of the Great Caucasus Mountains in the north and the Lesser Caucasus Mountains in the west, with the Talish Mountains in the extreme south. Rivers descend from the mountains and flow through lower-lying valleys to empty into the Caspian Sea.

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Azerbaijan has a generally arid climate with hot summers and cold winters, although this is less extreme in the Lankaran region, an important agricultural area. About 70 percent of the land was irrigated to produce cotton, wheat, maize, potatoes, tobacco, tea, and citrus fruits. In recent years, the country’s economy has revolved around developing its huge reserves of oil and natural gas found in the Baku area from where it piped to Batumi on the Black Sea. It also has rich mineral deposits of iron and aluminum. There is steel, synthetic rubber, and aluminum work at Sumqayit just north of Baku (the capital). However, further industrial development is hindered by the country’s dispute with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

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Azerbaijan is the easternmost country of Transcaucasia (the southern portion of the Caucasus region between the Black and Caspian Seas). It lies within the southern part of the isthmus between the Black and Caspian Seas. About half of Azerbaijan is covered by mountain ranges, primarily the Great Caucasus Mountains. These mountains surround the central Kura-Aras Lowlands on three sides. The shoreline along the Caspian Sea is essentially flat. The rise in elevation, from lowlands to highlands, occurs over a relatively small area. The Karabakh Uplands area in the west.

Both Armenia and Azerbaijan claim the land in the Azerbaijan-Naxcivan exclave (territory not connected to the mainland area of a country), surrounded by Iran in the southwest and Armenia the northeast. Most of the exclamation residents are exclaimed Armenian, but the area is generally considered part of Azerbaijan. The country also claims several small islands that lie in the Caspian Sea. As of 2002, the Caspian Sea countries – Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan – had not agreed on territorial limits and boundaries.

Azerbaijan has an 800-kilometer-long (500- mile-long) shoreline along the Caspian Sea. The Caspian Sea is a saltwater lake and the largest inland body of water in the world. The sea extends approximately 1,210 kilometers (750 miles) from north to south and between 210 and 436 kilometers (130 and 271 miles) from east to west. Its total area is 371,000 square kilometers (143,000 square miles). It’s mean (average) depth is about 170 meters (550 feet).

Although connected to the Baltic Sea, the White Sea, and the Black Sea by extensive inland waterways (primarily the Volga River), the Caspian Sea has no natural outlet. Pollution from agricultural chemicals (especially pesticides), industry, and oil drilling has had a severe adverse impact on the Caspian Sea shoreline environment.

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