Azerbaijan (i// az-ər-by-jahn; Azerbaijani: Azərbaycan), officially the 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. Theexclave of Nakhchivan is bounded by Armenia to the north and east, Iran to the south and west, while having a short borderline with Turkeyto 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 as the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic. 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, Barkhudarlyand Sofulu. The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic emerged in Nagorno-Karabakh after the ceasefire of 1994 and is not diplomatically recognizedby any other state. As such, the region, effectively independent since the end of the war, is considered de jure a part of Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan is a unitary constitutional republic. It is one of the six independent Turkic states, being an active member of the Turkic Counciland 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 member of the Non-Aligned Movement, holds observer status in World Trade Organization and is a correspondent at the International Telecommunication Union.
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. Azerbaijan has a high level of human development which ranks lower than most Eastern European countries but ranks higher than the Central Asian countries. It has a high economic development and literacy, as well as a low rate of unemployment and intentional homicide. However, corruption in Azerbaijan is widespread and the country is widely regarded as among the most corrupt in the world. The government, which eliminated presidential term limits in a 2009 referendum, has been accused of authoritarianism and human rights abuses.
The first reports on the richness and diversity of animal life in Azerbaijan can be found in travel notes of Eastern travelers. Animal carvings on architectural monuments, ancient rocks and stones survived up to the present times. The first information on the animal kingdom of Azerbaijan was collected during the visits of naturalists to Azerbaijan in 17th century. Unlike fauna, the concept of animal kingdom covers not only the types of animals, but also the number of individual species.
Azerbaijan is also ranked 57th in the Global Competitiveness Report for 2010–2011, which is above other CIS countries.