Located in the Caucasus region, Azerbaijan 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. The Azerbaijan Democratic Republic proclaimed its independence in 1918 and became the first secular democratic Muslim-majority state, although incorporated into the Soviet Union for most of the 20th century.
It is an oil-rich nation that uses its energy revenues to create a government-run fund involved in international projects. It has also used its resources to rebuild its army. Despite its wealth and increased influence in the wider region, poverty and corruption continue to overshadow the country’s development.
The majority of its population is Shia Muslim and its official language is Azerbaijani, a Turkic language. Saffron-rice plov is the flagship food in Azerbaijan and black tea is the national beverage. Azerbaijanis often use a traditional armudu (pear-shaped) glass as they have a very strong tea culture.