Azerbaijan (UK: (listen), US: ; Azerbaijani: Azərbaycan [ɑːzæɾbɑjˈd͡ʒɑn]), officially the Republic of Azerbaijan (Azerbaijani: Azərbaycan Respublikası [ɑːzæɾbɑjˈd͡ʒɑn ɾespublikɑˈsɯ]), is a country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, it is bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, the Russian republic of Dagestan to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia and Turkey to the west, and Iran to the south.
The Azerbaijan Democratic Republic proclaimed its independence from the Russian Empire in 1918 and became the first secular democratic Muslim-majority state. In 1920, the country was incorporated into the Soviet Union as the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic. The modern Republic of Azerbaijan proclaimed its independence on 30 August 1991, shortly before the dissolution of the USSR in the same year. In September 1991, the Armenian majority of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region seceded to form the Republic of Artsakh. The region and seven adjacent districts outside it became de facto independent with the end of the Nagorno-Karabakh War in 1994. These regions are internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan pending a solution to the status of the Nagorno-Karabakh through negotiations facilitated by the OSCE.Azerbaijan is a unitary semi-presidential republic. It is one of six independent Turkic states and an active member of the Turkic Council and the TÜRKSOY community. Azerbaijan has diplomatic relations with 182 countries and holds membership in 38 international organizations, including the United Nations (since 1992), the Council of Europe, the Non-Aligned Movement, the OSCE, and the NATO Partnership for Peace (PfP) program. It is one of the founding members of GUAM, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Azerbaijan also holds observer status in the World Trade Organization.While around 97% of the population is Muslim, the Constitution of Azerbaijan does not declare an official religion and all major political forces in the country are secularist. Azerbaijan is a developing country and ranks 87th on the Human Development Index. It has a high rate of economic development and literacy, as well as a low rate of unemployment. However, the ruling party, the New Azerbaijan Party, in power since 1993, has been accused of authoritarian leadership and deteriorating the country's human rights record, including increasing restrictions on civil liberties, particularly on press freedom and political repression.