Title: The Republic of Azerbaijan

Population: 10,282,283

Population Change: 0.91

National Average Age: 32

Urban Percentage: 56

Christian Population: 280,000

Christian Percentage: 3.1

Introduction: Azerbaijan the nation and former Soviet republic is bounded by the Caspian Sea and Caucasus Mountains which span Asia and Europe. Its capital Baku is famed for its medieval walled Inner City. Within the Inner City lies the Palace of the Shirvanshahs a royal retreat dating to the 15th century and the centuries-old stone Maiden Tower which dominates the city skyline.

Overview: Azerbaijan - a nation with a majority-Turkic and majority-Shia Muslim population - was briefly independent (from 1918 to 1920) following the collapse of the Russian Empire; it was subsequently incorporated into the Soviet Union for seven decades. Azerbaijan has yet to resolve its conflict with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh a primarily Armenian-populated region that Moscow recognized in 1923 as an autonomous republic within Soviet Azerbaijan after Armenia and Azerbaijan disputed the territory's status. Armenia and Azerbaijan began fighting over the area in 1988; the struggle escalated after both countries attained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. By May 1994 when a cease-fire took hold ethnic Armenian forces held not only Nagorno-Karabakh but also seven surrounding provinces in the territory of Azerbaijan. The OSCE Minsk Group co-chaired by the United States France and Russia is the framework established to mediate a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Corruption in the country is widespread and the government which eliminated presidential term limits in a 2009 referendum has been accused of authoritarianism. Although the poverty rate has been reduced and infrastructure investment has increased substantially in recent years due to revenue from oil and gas production reforms have not adequately addressed weaknesses in most government institutions particularly in the education and health sectors.