Azerbaijan (bahasa Azerbaijani: Azərbaycan), secara rasmi dipanggil Republik Azerbaijan (bahasa Azerbaijani: Azərbaycan Respublikası), ialah sebuah negara di Kaukasus selatan. Terletak pada simpang jalan Eropah Timur dan Asia Tenggara, Azerbaijan menyempadani Laut Caspian di timur, Rusia di utara, Georgia di barat laut, Armenia di barat, dan Iran di selatan. Republik Autonomi Nakhichevan (sebuah enklaf Azerbaijan) menyempadani Armenia di utara dan timur, Iran di selatan dan barat, dan Turki di timur laut. Kawasan Nagorno-Karabakh di bahagian barat daya Azerbaijan Proper mengisytiharkan kemerdekaan daripada Azerbaijan pada tahun 1991, tetapi kemerdekaan itu tidak diakui oleh sebarang negara.
Azerbaijan ialah sebuah negara sekular, dan telah menjadi ahli Majlis Eropah sejak tahun 2001. Orang-orang Azerbaijani (atau dengan mudah, Azeris) merupakan penduduk majoriti yang kebanyakannya adalah penganut Syiah Islam. Secara rasmi, negara ini ialah sebuah demokrasi memuncul, tetapi dengan pemerintahan autoritarianisme yang kuat.
Maklumat lanjut mengenai negara Azerbaijan dalam bahasa Inggeris.
After gaining independence in 1991, Azerbaijan became a member of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Islamic Development Bank and the Asian Development Bank. The banking system of Azerbaijan consists of the Central Bank of Azerbaijan, commercial banks and non-banking credit organizations. The National (now Central) Bank was created in 1992 based on the Azerbaijan State Savings Bank, an affiliate of the former State Savings Bank of the USSR. The Central Bank serves as Azerbaijan’s central bank, empowered to issue the national currency, the Azerbaijani manat, and to supervise all commercial banks. Two major commercial banks are the state-owned International Bank of Azerbaijan, which is run by Dr. Jahangir Hajiyev, and the UniBank.
Pushed up by spending and demand growth, the 2007 Q1 inflation rate reached 16.6%. Nominal incomes and monthly wages climbed 29% and 25% respectively against this figure, but price increases in non-oil industry encouraged inflation in the country. Azerbaijan shows some signs of the so-called “Dutch disease” because of the fast growing energy sector, which causes inflation and makes non-energy exports more expensive.
In the early years of this century the chronically high inflation was brought under control and this led to the launch of a new currency, the new Azerbaijani manat, on January 1, 2006, to cement the acquisition of the economic reforms and erase the vestiges of an unstable economy.
In 2008, Azerbaijan was cited as one of the top 10 reformers by the World Bank’s Doing Business Report.
Azerbaijan led the world as the top reformer in 2007/08, with improvements on seven out of 10 indicators of regulatory reform. Azerbaijan started operating a one-stop shop in January 2008 that halved the time, cost and number of procedures to start a business. Business registrations increased by 40% in the first six months. Azerbaijan also eliminated the minimum loan cutoff of $1,100, more than doubling the number of borrowers covered by the credit registry. Also, taxpayers can now file forms and pay their taxes online. Azerbaijan’s extensive reforms moved it far up the ranks, from 97 to 33 in the overall ease of doing business.
Azerbaijan is also ranked 57th in the Global Competitiveness Report for 2010–2011, which is above other CIS countries.
Religion in Azerbaijan
The religions of Azerbaijan comprise different religious trends spread among the people and ethnic groups residing in the country. There are several confessions in Azerbaijan.
Approximately 93.4% of the population of Azerbaijan identifies as Muslim of whom most are Shia, although religious affiliation is still nominal in Azerbaijan and percentages for actual practicing adherents are much lower. Nevertheless, according to a 2009 Pew Research Center report, 99.2% of the population is Muslim. The rest of the population adheres to other faiths or are non-religious, although they are not officially represented. Among the Muslim majority, religious observance varies and Muslim identity tends to be based more on culture and ethnicity rather than religion; however, many imams reported increased attendance at mosques during 2003. The Muslim population is approximately 85% Shi’a and 15% Sunni; differences traditionally have not been defined sharply. Most Shias are adherents of orthodox Ithna Ashari school of Shi’a Islam. Other traditional religions or beliefs that are followed by many in the country are the orthodox Sunni Islam, the Armenian Apostolic Church (in Nagorno-Karabakh), the Russian Orthodox Church, and various Christian sects. Traditionally villages around Baku and Lenkoran region are considered stronghold of Shi’ism. In some northern regions, populated by Sunni Dagestani (Lezghian) people, the Salafi movement gained great following. Folk Islam is widely practiced but there is little evidence of an organized Sufi movement.
Azerbaijan is a secular country, in article 48 of its Constitution ensures the liberty of worship to everyone. Everyone has a right to choose any faith, to adopt any religion or to not practice any religion, to express one’s view on the religion and to spread it. According to paragraphs 1-3 of Article 18 of the Constitution the religion acts separately from the government, each religion is equal before the law and the propaganda of religions, abating human personality and contradicting to the principles of humanism is prohibited. At the same time the state system of education is also secular.
According to a recent Gallup Poll Azerbaijan is one of the most irreligious countries in the Muslim world, with about 53% of respondents indicating the importance of religion in their life as little or none. The same poll indicates that only 20% of the respondents has attended on religious services.
As Azerbaijan is a secular country the 1996 law stated that foreigners have freedom of conscience, but denied the right to “carry out religious propaganda”, i.e., to preach, under the threat of fines or deportation.
The law of the Republic of Azerbaijan (1992) “On freedom of faith” ensures the right of any human being to determine and express his view on religion and to execute this right.