25 interesting facts about Azerbaijan

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The most interesting facts about Azerbaijan, from unique geographical features to the origins of the Vikings?

Interesting facts about Azerbaijan include its capital city Baku
Interesting facts about Azerbaijan include its capital city Baku (Shutterstock)

Fast facts

Official name: Republic of Azerbaijan
Population: 10.2 million
Area: 86,600 sq km
Capital city: Baku
Major languages: Azerbaijani (Azeri), Russian, Armenian
Major religions: Islam (predominantly Shia)
Time zone: UTC+4 (Azerbaijan Time)
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

Interesting facts about Azerbaijan

1. Azerbaijan is a landlocked country in Southwestern Asia bordering Armenia, Georgia, Iran, Russia and Turkey.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

2. Even though Azerbaijan is landlocked, and doesn’t have access to the open sea, it does have a 713km (443mi) coast along the Caspian Sea – the world’s largest inland body of water.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book, Britannica

3. Azerbaijan is also home to the world’s largest landlocked exclave, the autonomous republic of Nakhchivan. Severed from Azerbaijan by an 80-130km (50-80 mi) strip of Armenia, Nakhchivan borders Armenia, Iran and Turkey.
– Source: BBC Travel

A map of Azerbaijan showing its many quirks of geography
Several interesting facts about Azerbaijan stem from its geographical quirks (Shutterstock)

4. Azerbaijan is sometimes considered a transcontinental country as some of its northern districts are deemed to geographically be in Europe.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

5. As such, Azerbaijan hosted the Eurovision Song Contest in 2012 and the Baku European Games in 2015.
– Source: BBC News

6. Azerbaijan’s flag is horizontally striped light blue, red and green with a crescent and star in its centre. Blue represents the Turkic-speaking people of the region, green represents Islam and red represents Europe. The crescent is also an Islamic symbol while the eight-pointed star symbolises the different Turkic-speaking groups of people in the country.
– Source: Wanderlust (2021) Flags, Capitals and Countries of the World: The Complete Handbook. Wanderlust Press: London

Azerbaijan's flag flies in the wind
Azerbaijan’s flag (Shutterstock)

7. Azerbaijan was controlled by Russia from 1828 to 1991. It was briefly independent from 1918 to 1920 due to the Russian Revolution but was then invaded and absorbed into the USSR. It finally gained independence in 1991 following the collapse of the USSR.
– Source: BBC News

8. In 1848-49, the world’s first oil well was drilled in Azerbaijan to the south of Baku.
– Source: BBC News

9. Azerbaijan is known as “The Land of Fire” due to Yanar Dag (which means “burning mountainside”), an area where natural gas sometimes leaks to the surface causing several spontaneously occurring fires to break out.
– Source: CNN

people watch fires break out along an embankment in Yanar Dag
Fires break out in Yanar Dag (Shutterstock)

10. Archaeologists have found prehistoric tools and remains of early humans dating back 1.5 million years in Azokh Cave in western Azerbaijan.
– Source: Fernández-Jalvo et al (2016) Introduction: Azokh Cave and the Transcaucasian Corridor, Azokh Cave and the Transcaucasian Corridor. Springer International Publishing: New York

11. The historic Silk Road, the ancient trading route that connected China with Europe and the Middle East, ran through Azerbaijan.
– Source: UNESCO

12. The Azerbaijani city of Neft Daşları (meaning Oil Rocks) was built on stilts above the Caspian Sea and is the world’s oldest offshore oil platform. The city, located 55km (34mi) from the coast, was built by the Soviets in 1949 to drill for oil and is still in use today as a functioning town that includes hotels, hostels, a bakery, a power station and separate ‘islands’ connected by more than 200km (124mi) of trestle bridges, all supported on metal stilts.
– Source: Guinness World Records

An aerial view of Neft Daşları showing interconnecting stilt bridges over the Caspian Sea
Neft Daşları (Fair Use/Geozet)

13. Azerbaijan is part of Transcaucasia, a small mountainous region to the south of the Caucasus Mountains.
– Source: Britannica

14. Chovqan, a traditional horse-riding game, is played in Azerbaijan. The game is interspersed with instrumental folk music called janghi.
– Source: UNESCO

15. Azerbaijan is home to over 400 mud volcanoes – more than anywhere else in the world. Mud volcanoes are ‘geologically flatulent’ cone-like structures that belch out methane and a muddy mix of water and sometimes erupt with thick grey mud.
– Source: CNN

A mud volcano in Azerbaijan spewing mud
A mud volcano in Azerbaijan (Shutterstock)

16. The name of the capital city, Baku, comes from the Persian name “bad-kube” meaning “wind-pounded city” referring to the severe winds and snowstorms that can strike the city
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

17. Azerbaijan has repeatedly clashed with Armenia over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. The latest flare-up, in 2020, saw thousands of people killed before a peace deal was agreed upon.
– Source: BBC News

18. The UNESCO-listed Walled City of Baku in the capital features 12th-century defensive walls, the 12th-century Maiden Tower (Giz Galasy) as well as earlier structures dating from the 7th to 6th centuries BC.
– Source: UNESCO

Maiden Tower in Baku illuminated at night
Maiden Tower in Baku (Shutterstock)

19. The UNESCO-listed Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape is home to over 6,000 rock engravings dating back over 40,000 years.
– Source: UNESCO

20. One of the most striking landmarks in Baku is the Azerbaijan Carpet Museum. Designed like a stylised roll of carpet, the building houses an extensive collection of Azerbaijani carpets.
– Source: Lonely Planet

21. Another interesting museum in Baku is the Museum of Miniature Books. The museum houses a collection of thousands of books that are so small readers require a magnifying glass to make out the print. The smallest of which is just 2mm x 2mm!
– Source: Lonely Planet, Azerbaijan Tourism Board

The Azerbaijan Carpet Museum from the outside showing its unique design
The Azerbaijan Carpet Museum in Baku (Shutterstock)

22. There is a theory that suggests Vikings originated in Azerbaijan. The disputed theory stems from an 800-year-old Icelandic saga that mentions the Norse god Odin migrated to Scandinavia from an eastern land called “As-hov” or Aser” which has been interpreted as Azer-baijan. Local petroglyphs also depict ships similar to the longboats used by Vikings but it should be noted these pre-date Vikings.
– Source: National Geographic

23. Azerbaijan is home to the last Soviet-style collective farm. The Caucasus village of Ivanovka is the last kolkhoz a practice of socialised agriculture that is operated on state-owned land by peasants from a number of households who belonged to the collective
– Source: National Geographic

24. Azerbaijan is oil-rich. Its main exports are overwhelmingly oil and gas accounting for over 85% of its total exports.
– Source: BBC News, Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC)

Mountains in Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan is a mountainous country (Shutterstock)

25. Azerbaijan has had one Nobel prize Winner. Lev Landau won the 1962 prize for physics when “he applied quantum theory to the movement of superfluid liquid helium.”
– Source: Nobel Prize

We have verified these facts about Azerbaijan using primary sources. However, if you find an error or have any questions, please contact us.