10,046,516 (Jul 2018)
In the nineteenth century, the territory of present-day Azerbaijan was divided between Russia and Persia. An independent Azerbaijani republic was declared in 1918, but the country was invaded by the Soviets just two years later. Azerbaijan remained part of the Soviet Union until it voted to restore independence in 1991. Ethnic strife between Armenians and ethnic Azeris began in 1988, and during the 1990s this escalated into all-out war over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, a territory claimed by neighboring Armenia. Fighting briefly broke out in the disputed area in 2016.
Azerbaijan is a republic, with the incumbent president, Ilham Heydar oglu Aliyev, having been in office since 2003. In 2008 the President amended the constitution to remove the two-term limit on the presidency, effectively allowing him to remain head of state for life.(1)
The state of emergency put in place in 1992 was lifted in February 2011 in response to the Arab uprisings taking place throughout the region.
The ongoing dispute with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region has caused much political turmoil in the region. Because of the conflict, Azerbaijan has an estimated 393,000 Internationally Displaced Persons (or people that have been forced to relocate within their own country).
Declining oil prices have hurt Azerbaijan's economy in recent years. Higher inflation, a weak banking sector, and recent currency devaluations accompanied the decline. Additionally, widespread corruption in the private and public sectors have stagnated long-term growth. Unemployment is relatively low at 5% and just under 5% live below the poverty level.(3)
Freedom of expression and assembly is limited in Azerbaijan, which has seen a government crackdown on activists, journalists, and bloggers who oppose the ruling party. In 2015, the main opposition parties boycotted the national elections, accusing the ruling New Azerbaijan Party of jailing its opponents.
Azerbaijan is 146th in Global Press Freedom rankings.(4) Satellite television is widely accessible and 78% of the population has Internet access according to the CIA World Factbook.
The state reports that 96 percent of Azerbaijan’s population are Muslim and that two thirds of this community are Shia. Christians, Jews, and Baha’is together make up the remaining four percent. Although the constitution protects freedom of religious expression, the government is still able to restrict freedom of worship and religious literature is heavily censored. In 2009, a religion law was passed requiring all religious groups to go through a difficult government registration process. In the time since then, religious persecution has escalated in Azerbaijan.
It is estimated there are 280,000 Christians living throughout Azerbaijan(5).
- Pray that true democracy and human rights will be established in Azerbaijan.
- Pray that registration problems that prevent some churches from operating freely will be resolved, and that God will give His strength and peace to members of churches facing restrictions on their activities.
- Ask that the dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh will be resolved without any further hostilities.
 CIA World Factbook
 CIA World Factbook
 Reporters Without Borders 2009
 Pew Research Center