Land and People

Azerbaijan occupies the western ranges of the Greater and Lesser Caucasus and the Kura River valley. The republic includes the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic (or Naxçivan, an exclave separated from Azerbaijan proper by Armenia) and Nagorno-Karabakh (an ethnically Armenian region that now has de facto independence; see under History). The Azeri (Azerbaijani), a Turkic-speaking, Shiite Muslim people of Persian culture, make up about 90% of the republic's population; Dagestanis, Russians, and Armenians (largely in Nagorno-Karabakh) are the largest minorities. Prior to the Russian Revolution, the country, like much of Transcaucasia, was ethnically more mixed, but Azeris and other ethnic groups became more concentrated in ethnically based republics and regions during the Soviet period, especially in the fighting the fighting during 1917–20 and again beginning in the late 1980s. Azerbaijani (Azeri) is the country's official language. The republic's educational institutions include Bakı State Univ., Khazar Univ. and the Azerbaijan Academy of Sciences.

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