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History and culture

 Azerbaijan was destined to be a land dividing the East and the West and as such, was exposed to mighty influences of both the western and oriental civilizations. Moreover, there is much evidence that Azerbaijan is located among the few regions known as cradles of mankind. That this area was inhabited by prehistoric human has been proven through Azykhanthropus fossils found at the cave site of Azykh. Rock paintings and petroglyphs in Gobustan and Gyamigaya, the discoveries of the Kura-Araz and Khodzhalin cultures, and excavations of burial mounds are all suggesting that early human cultures existed in Azerbaijan thousands of years before the beginning of modern history.
During the end of the 1st century BC and the beginning of the 1st century AD, Azerbaijan found itself under a complex mixture of influence of many cultures and religions. Apparently the high degree of religious tolerance, a historic feature of our nation originates from this period. Inspired strongly by ancient Greek and Roman civilizations, Azeri science, literature and art acquired their peculiar shape and spirit very early. Other important influences, which emerged at various stages of Azeri history, were Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Lying on a crossroad of caravan routes and serving as one of the centers of the "Great Silk Road", Azerbaijan naturally digested a variety of political concepts, economic relationship and philosophies.
During the second millennium AD the people of Azerbaijan developed a most original and distinctive culture. Two thousands years of this new era witnessed many important contributions by the Azeri to this universal spiritual heritage. Our ancestors managed to facilitate a splendid cultural environment as well as inclusive social value system. These achievements have included material artifacts, folklore and literary work.
A great love for life and an inspiration for freedom and independence are the intrinsic features of the Azeri literary tradition from folk literature to great works by the most famous Azeri authors, including Khatib Tabrizi, Afzaleddin Hagani, Nizami Gyandzhevi, Imadeddin Nasimi and Muhammed Fizuli, who advocated the ideals of truth, justice and humanism.
As centuries passed, the Treaties of Gulustan (1813) and Turkmenchay (1828) divided Azerbaijan and its people into two parts - Southern (Russia) and Northern (Iran). However, today all Azeri who reside throughout the world regard the independent Azerbaijan Republic as their motherland and a citadel of national sovereignty, spirit and culture.
At the end of the 19th century with the start of a strong impetus in oil industry, Baku began to attract foreign investment, and its this capital flow grew steadily. Commissioning of the Transcaucasian Railroad in 1883, the construction of the Baku-Batum oil pipeline in 1896-1906 implied a sudden development in oil output. It was Azerbaijani oil, which allowed Russia to become the world leader in terms of oil output, and Baku became a huge industrial city and economical heart of the Caucasus.
The economic boom implied a revival in education, science, art and literature. Reforms in the sphere of education, foundation of national press, theatre, opera, cinema were important events not only for Azerbaijan but also for all the Orient.
After the fall of Tsarist Russia (early 19th century) Azerbaijan gained its first independence. The Azerbaijani Democratic Republic (ADR), a newly proclaimed sovereignty, set a course toward large-scale reform and soon was in possession of all state assets, including the parliament, the army and currency. In January 1920, Azerbaijan's independence was recognized de facto. Under any criteria, the ADR may be regarded as the earliest democratic republic of the Orient.
The Azerbaijani Democratic Republic existed only 23 months within intensive and hard socio-political terms. The proclamation of the USSR on 30 December 1922 put an end to independence. Although Azerbaijan was granted state attributes, including a flag, an emblem, an anthem and even a constitution, it effectively ceased being an independent nation in the context of international law.
From 1922 to 1991, Azerbaijan was part of the vast Soviet Empire. During this period, the country accumulated rich economic and intellectual potential. Along all these successes, political purges had a devastating impact on science and culture in Azerbaijan - more than 50.000 people were killed, and another 100.000 exiled to Siberia and Kazakhstan. The regime destroyed many outstanding talents, including Husein Dzhavid, Mikail Mushfig, Tagi Shahbazi, Salman Mumtaz and others.
During the war, the Azeri made apparent many examples of true fortitude and bravery both on the battlefield and on the labor front. The whole of the Azerbaijan's economy was restructured in order to accommodate the requirements of the armed forces. It's sure that oil from Baku was one of the crucial factors of the victory over the Nazis. 71.4% of the total Soviet output of oil was produced in Azerbaijan, also four fifth of all Soviet planes, tanks and automobiles were fuelled with gasoline produced in Baku from local oil.
The period from 1920 to 1991 was characterized by a flourishing of Azeri education, science and culture. Although the foundation of the secular theatre, modern schooling and democratic press in Azerbaijan took place earlier in the 19th century, it was during the Soviet time that illiteracy was eradicated, secondary school was made compulsory, the higher education system enhanced, the Academy of Science was founded, women's right to participate in the socio-economic life were protected, dozens of theatres were opened, a filmmaking industry was developed, and numerous newspapers and magazines were founded.
Unfortunately, this vast potential was nearly lost during the time of political turmoil, a result of tragedy of Garabakh, which Azerbaijan was doomed to.
Starting from 1988, the collapse of the USSR resulted in independence of the post-Soviet countries.
18th October 1991, the enactment date of constitutional law on independence, marked the beginning of the forth stage in the history of Azerbaijan in the 20th century. Now we live in freedom since that time on and we are an independent state.
At this new stage of historic development the Azerbaijan Republic has faced historically important tasks such as strengthening statehood, building a democratic, legal and secular government, the restoration of territorial integrity of the country, coming to a workable solution to the Upper-Garabakh problem in accordance with national interests providing the security and welfare of the world population