Democratic Republic. Gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Head of state:
President Ilham Aliyev since 2003.
Head of government:
Prime Minister Artur Rasizada since 2003.
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Azerbaijan is an Islamic former Soviet Republic on the Caspian Sea, an oil rich and strategically important nation that is the key geopolitical power in the Caucasus. Azerbaijan's location has always made it a gateway between east and west, and the country was an important stop on the Silk Route. Over the centuries, Azerbaijan has been incorporated into most major regional empires, including the Russian, Turkish and Persian and has been an independent republic since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Taking in the stunning Caucasus Mountains to the north, the lush green valleys of the south and large swathes of arid semi-desert in between, Azerbaijan is a beautiful country with superb scenery, although it remains virtually unknown to the average traveller. Visitors usually base themselves in the capital Baku, from where it is easy to visit most of the country's biggest attractions.