Azerbaijan

Official name : Republic of Azerbaijan

Area: 86,600 square kilometers (33,400 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Mount Bazardyuze (Bazarduzu Dagi) (4,485 meters /14,800 feet)

Lowest point on land: The shore of the Caspian Sea (28 meters/92 feet below sea level)

Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern

Time zone: 4 P.M. = noon GMT

Longest distances: Approximately 510 kilometers (320 miles) from east to west; 380 kilometers (240 miles) from north to south

Land boundaries: 2,013 kilometers (1,251 miles) total boundary length; Armenia (with Azerbaijan proper) 566 kilometers (353 miles); Armenia (with Azerbaijan-Naxcivan exclave), 221 kilometers (137 miles); Georgia, 322 kilometers (200 miles); Iran (with Azerbaijan proper), 432 kilometers (268 miles); Iran (with Azerbaijan-Naxcivan exclave), 179 kilometers (111 miles); Russia, 284 kilometers (176 miles); Turkey (with Azerbaijan-Naxcivan exclave), 9 kilometers (6 miles)

Coastline: 800 kilometers (500 miles) along the Caspian Sea

Territorial sea limits: None

1 LOCATION AND SIZE

Azerbaijan is located in southwestern Asia between Iran to the south and Russia to the north, with its eastern border along the Caspian Sea. With a total land area of 86,600 square kilometers (33,400 square miles), Azerbaijan is slightly smaller than the state of Maine. It is divided into fifty-nine rayons, eleven cities (administrative districts), and one autonomous republic.

2 TERRITORIES AND DEPENDENCIES

Both Armenia and Azerbaijan claim the land in the Azerbaijan-Naxcivan exclave (terri-tory not connected to the main land area of a country), surrounded by Iran on the southwest and Armenia on the northeast. Most of the exclave's residents are exclave Armenian, but the area is generally considered to be part of Azerbaijan. The country also claims several small islands that lie in the Caspian Sea. As of 2002, the countries surrounding the Caspian Sea—Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan—had not agreed on territorial limits and boundaries.

3 CLIMATE

In the central and eastern regions, the climate is generally dry and semiarid (little annual rainfall). In the southeast, it is humid and sub-tropical. Along the shores of the Caspian Sea it is temperate (moderate), while the higher mountain elevations are generally cold.

S EASON M ONTHS A VERAGE TEMPERATURE IN THE CAPITAL , B AKU
Summer June to August 25° C (77° F)
Winter November to March 4° C (39° F)

Most of Azerbaijan receives little rain-fall—only 15 to 25 centimeters (6 to 10 inches) annually. The greatest precipitation falls in the highest elevations of the Caucasus Mountains, but significant rainfall also occurs in the Lankaran Lowlands of the extreme southeast. The yearly average in these areas can exceed 100 centimeters (39 inches). Drought (lack of rainfall) is a natural and frequent hazard, as is flooding in some lowland areas by rising levels of the Caspian Sea.

4 TOPOGRAPHIC REGIONS

Azerbaijan is the easternmost country of Transcaucasia (the southern portion of the Caucasus region between the Black and Caspian Seas). It lies within the southern part of the isthmus between the Black and Caspian Seas. About half of Azerbaijan is covered by mountain ranges, primarily the Great Caucasus Mountains. These mountains surround the central Kura-Aras Lowlands on three sides. The shoreline along the Caspian Sea is essentially flat. The rise in elevation, from lowlands to highlands, occurs over a relatively small area. The Karabakh Uplands are in the west.

5 OCEANS AND SEAS

Seacoast and Undersea Features

Azerbaijan has an 800-kilometer-long (500-mile-long) shoreline along the Caspian Sea. The Caspian Sea is a saltwater lake and the largest inland body of water in the world. The sea extends approximately 1,210 kilometers (750 miles) from north to south and between 210 and 436 kilometers (130 and 271 miles) from east to west. Its total area is 371,000 square kilometers (143,000 square miles). Its mean (average) depth is about 170 meters (550 feet).

Although connected to the Baltic Sea, the White Sea, and the Black Sea by extensive inland waterways (primarily the Volga River), the Caspian Sea has no natural outlet. Pollution from agricultural chemicals (especially pesticides), industry, and oil drilling has had a serious adverse impact on the Caspian Sea shoreline environment.

Sea Inlets and Straits

The Bay of Baku is a natural harbor located in the wide curve on the southern side of the Apsheron Peninsula. The port city of Baku is the nation's capital.

Islands and Archipelagos

The islands of the Baku archipelago are located just off of the southern shore of the Apsheron Peninsula and form the partial boundary of Baku Bay. The islands include Nargin, Zhiloy, Bulla, Svinoy, and Glinyany, all of which were formed by underwater mud volcanoes.

Coastal Features

The Apsheron Peninsula juts out into the Caspian Sea. The northern shore of the peninsula boasts beautiful orchards and vineyards, with land particularly suited for agriculture and cattle breeding. The oil and gas fields of this peninsula region are the most important natural resources of Azerbaijan.

6 INLAND LAKES

There are more than 250 lakes in Azerbaijan; however, most of them are very small. Many of them were formed as a result of runoff water used in industry or agriculture. This is particularly true of those located along the Apsheron Peninsula. The Mingechevir Reservoir is the largest inland body of water totally within the borders of Azerbaijan. It is a man-made lake, formed by a dam built on the Kura River, and covers an area of 605 square kilometers (234 square miles). The largest natural lake is Lake Gadzhikabul, which only covers 16 square kilometers (6 square miles). Lake Goygol is another natural lake located on the northeastern slope of the Murovdag Range in the Caucasus Mountains.

7 RIVERS AND WATERFALLS

There are more than 8,350 rivers in Azerbaijan's river system, but most of them are very small. Most of the country's rivers flow down from the Caucasus ranges into the central Kura-Aras Lowlands. The Kura River (1,500 kilometers / 940 miles) flows through Turkey, Georgia, and Azerbaijan and enters the Caspian Sea south of Baku. It is the longest river of the Transcaucasia Region. The Aras River, which is 914 kilometers (568 miles) long, flows from the east through Armenia and Azerbaijan until it joins the Kura River. Several canals connect the Kura to the Aras River.

8 DESERTS

There are no desert regions in Azerbaijan.

9 FLAT AND ROLLING TERRAIN

The country's only flatlands can be found along the shore.

The Kura-Aras Valley (lowlands) lies in the center of the country, between the mountain ranges and the Caspian Sea. It is primarily an area of wetlands that includes alluvial flatlands (flatlands containing deposits of clay, silt, sand, or gravel deposited by running water, such as a stream or river) and low seacoast deltas. Since the area is naturally arid, water is often supplied through irrigation. Mineral springs in the valleys are particularly high in iodine.

10 MOUNTAINS AND VOLCANOES

Azerbaijan is nearly surrounded by mountains. The Greater Caucasus range, with the country's highest elevations, lies to the northeast along the border with Russia. The country's highest peak, Mount Bazardyuze (Bazarduzu Dagi), rises 4,485 meters (14,800 feet) above sea level. The Greater Caucasus mountains extend into northeastern Azerbaijan and run southeast to the Apsheron Peninsula on the Caspian Sea. The Lesser Caucasus range, with elevations up to 3,500 meters (11,500 feet), lies to the west along the border with Armenia. The Talysh Mountains form part of the border with Iran at the southeast tip of the country. There are several hot and cold mineral springs located in these mountains. Kobustan Mountain, located near Baku, contains deep ravines, from which bubble mineral springs and very active mud volcanoes.

11 CANYONS AND CAVES

There are many small caves in the mountainous regions of the Caucasus. The most notable one in Azerbaijan is Azykh, located in the southern part of the Karabakh region, where archeologists have found a number of stone tools left by the ancient cave dwellers. Ancient artifacts also have been found in the Taglar, Damjyly, and the Dashsalakhly Caves of the western Kazakh region. The Gobustan Cave, located near Baku, and other caves located on the Apsheron Peninsula contain numerous petrographs (rock drawings) that have helped scientists learn about the customs and culture of the area's earliest inhabitants.

12 PLATEAUS AND MONOLITHS

A number of plateaus exist in Azerbaijan near the country's mountain regions. The major ones include the Baku and Guzdek. Several lava plateaus also form part of the Karabakh Uplands.

13 MAN-MADE FEATURES

A dam built in 1953 on the Kura River created the Mingechevir Reservoir. The Upper Karabakh Canal channels water from this reservoir to the Kura and Aras Lowlands to irrigate farmlands during the dry summer months. More than fifty additional water reservoirs in Azerbaijan have been designed for irrigation.

14 FURTHER READING

Books

Edwards-Jones, Imogen. The Taming of Eagles: Exploring the New Russia . London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1993.

Richards, Susan. Epics of Everyday Life: Encounters in a Changing Russia . New York: Viking, 1991.

Streissguth, Thomas. The Transcaucasus . San Diego, CA: Lucent Books, 2001.

Web Sites

The United Nations Environment Programs, Azerbaijan. http://www.grida.no (accessed June 17, 2003).

The U.S. Embassy, Baku, Azerbaijan. http://www.usembassybaku.org (accessed June 17, 2003).

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