Azerbaijan is an Eurasian nation located in the Caucus region that shares its borders with Russia, Iran, Armenia and Georgia. Due to its location, Azerbaijan is generally considered to be at the crossroads between the worlds of Eastern Europe and Western Asia.
Azerbaijan is best known to many for having the first truly secular and democratic political system in the Muslim world. Following the successes of the Azerbaijani Independence Movement during the 1990s that seperated the republic from the control of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan experienced a period of strife through a protracted war with neighboring Armenia. However, Azerbaijan is now enjoying a period of political stability and economic growth that is fueled largely by the exploitation of the nation's rich deposits of natural gas. Nevertheless, the recent leaders of Azerbaijan have been subject to harsh criticism and charges of corruption by the people of Azerbaijan, and politics remain a subject of heated debate in the homes of citizens across the country.
The capital of Azerbaijan is Baku, which is also the largest port in the entire Caucasus. Baku is one of the oldest existing cities in this part of the world and has been deemed the capital of Islamic culture by the Organization of Islamic Conference. The city of Baku is split into eleven separate districts located in two primary parts: the ancient Inner City and the more modern downtown area. The downtown area is a thriving hotbed of modern cultures and is considered to offer some of the best nightlife in the entire world. Many of this region's top musical performers call Baku home, and the annual Baku International Jazz Festival attracts the most important names in jazz on the planet. Baku also offers a wide range of examples of top notch architecture, varying from the medieval constructions in the Inner City to the cutting edge designs of the new buildings lining the port. Tourism is a major source of revenue in Baku, and the city is home to some of the finest luxury hotels in the East.
Outside of the city of Baku, Azerbaijan has a number of popular attractions to tempt the adventurous traveler. While the tourism industry is still recovering from the negative perception that was created of the area during the Nagorno-Karabakh war, Azerbaijan has long been considered to offer some of the best locations for exploring in the region. Vacationers with an interest in history should be sure to visit the Palace of Shaki Khans, a beautiful residence that was built during the 18th century that is located in Shaki. Unlike many of the neighboring countries in this region, Azerbaijan is home to a wide range of climates and biodiversity with a series of national parks that attract scientists, environmentalists and nature enthusiasts from all over the world. For example, the Altyagach National Park is home to a stunning array of wild animals, including foxes, roe dears, bears and a number of rare migratory birds. There are also dozens of museums in Azerbaijan that are dedicated to the rich cultural heritage of this part of the world.
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