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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.
Ilham Heydar oglu Aliyev is the fourth and current President of Azerbaijan, serving since 31 October 2003. The son of the former Azerbaijani leader Heydar Aliyev, Ilham Aliyev was elected president of Azerbaijan.
In June of 1918, the government of the Azerbaijani Democratic Republic (ADR) enacted a law declaring Turkish the state language. In a periodduring which romantic ethnic nationalism was a part ofthe ongoingnationalbuildingprocess, this was a naturaldevelopment and it reflectedhistorical realities as well.
For example, poet and educator Mirza Shefi Vazeh, who lived in Azerbaijan in the19th century titled his instructive linguistic manual of local vernacular language “Kitabi – Turki” (Book of Turkish). Abbaskuli agha Bakikhanov, a writer, educator, and linguist from the 19th century, alsosaid that the language of the majority of Muslims of South Caucasus is Turkish. Mirza Fatali Akhundov and other educators considered the language spoken by the majority in Azerbaijan as “the Turkish language” as well. However, the Soviets that succeeded the ADR changed and modified their policies on the language issue of Azerbaijan severaltimes.
The conflict has clearly unnerved Iran. Tehran is geopolitically allied with Armenia even as it feigns neutrality or even to favor the position of Azerbaijan. In a speech broadcasted live on state television on November 3, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said, “Azerbaijani lands occupied by Armenia should be liberated and returned to Azerbaijan,” according to state television. But he also demanded that the warshouldendquickly and that the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh be protected.
In the volatile Middle East, Iran’s key allies include Iraq, Lebanon and Syria. Outside of the region, Iran also has strategic relationships with Russia and Venezuela. The U.S. was one of its closest allies until the 1979 revolution toppled the pro-American Shah regime.