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BakuThe Republic of Azerbaijan 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.

Baku is the capital and largest city of Azerbaijan, as well as the largest city on the Caspian Sea and of the Caucasus region. It is located on the southern shore of the Absheron Peninsula, which projects into the Caspian Sea. The city consists of two principal parts: the downtown and the old Inner City (21.5 ha). Baku’s urban population at the beginning of 2009 was estimated at just over two million people. Officially, about 25 percent of all inhabitants of the country live in the metropolitan city area of Baku. Baku is divided into eleven administrative districts (raions) and 48 townships. Among these are the townships on islands in the Baku Bay and the town of Oil Rocks built on stilts in the Caspian Sea, 60 km (37 mi) away from Baku. The Inner City of Baku along with the Shirvanshah’s Palace and Maiden Tower were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. According to the Lonely Planet’s ranking, Baku is also among the world’s top ten destinations for urban nightlife. The city is the scientific, cultural and industrial center of Azerbaijan. Many sizeable Azerbaijani institutions have their headquarters there, including SOCAR, one of the world’s top 100 companies and others.The Baku International Sea Trade Port, sheltered by the islands of the Baku Archipelago to the east and the Absheron Peninsula to the north, is capable of handling two million tons of general and dry bulk cargoes per year.Baku hosted the 57th Eurovision Song Contest in 2012.

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