On Azerbaijani land, literary classics in
Persian were created between the 11th and 13th
centuries, such as Astronomy by Abul Hasan Shirvani and
the romantic verse collection Kamseh by Nizami Gəncəvi.
The Azeri also became an important literary language for
the following centuries, before the language gained
competition from the Ottoman Turkish.
In Baghdad, Mehmed bin Süleyman Fuzuli (1494–1556),
the most important Turkish writer of the time, lived,
although he also wrote in Persian and Arabic. In
Azerbaijani, he wrote both poetry and prose, including
Laila and Majnun and the satirical work Klagoboken.
Latest population statistics of Azerbaijan, including religious profiles and major languages spoken as well as population growth rates in next three decades.
Of the Azerbaijani architecture of this time, which
combines influence from the east and the west, there are
many remains in both Azerbaijan and Iran. Baku's old
town is cultural heritage protected by UNESCO. With the
help of oil money, that part of the city has been
refurbished, while building the skyscrapers called the
Flames, designed by Baghdad-born but London-based
architect Zaha Hadid (1950-2016).
Following the Russian conquest, Azerbaijan
experienced a cultural renaissance during the second
half of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th
century, partly backed by money from the growing oil
industry. One of the foremost figures of the time was
the playwright and the philosopher Mirzə Fətəli Axundov
(1812-1878). He wrote in Azerbaijani, as did Hüseyn
Cavid (1882-1941), playwright with historical motives.
Traditional Azerbaijani music has been passed down
through the centuries by special "verse singers", ashugs,
who performed songs for accompaniment by the string
instrument kobuz. Üzeyir Hacıbəyov (1885–1948) made
himself known by using traditional instruments and
themes in his compositions. He wrote, among other
things, the first operas in the Islamic world.
When Azerbaijan became part of the Soviet Union in
the 1920s, Azerbaijani culture was suppressed in
accordance with the cultural equality prevailing within
the Soviet system. Azerbaijan's monuments, mosques and
archives were destroyed. However, Azerbaijan became a
center for popular music that was spread to the
Turkish-speaking peoples of Soviet Central Asia. After
the liberation from the Soviet empire, cultural life is
said to have gained a boost again. However, modern
cultural life is highly concentrated in the capital,
In 2013, author Akram Aylisli was deprived of the
honorary title of "The People's Writer" and his special
cultural worker's pension - which he was awarded by the
president - for writing in the novel "Stendrömmar" about
violence between Azerbaijani and Armenians in the early
1990s. Aylisli was also excluded from the Azerbaijan
Writers' Union and his books were publicly burned. He
faced physical threats and was considering leaving the
A cultural event of a lighter kind was the victory in
the Eurovision Song Contest 2011 tune-up, with a song by
Swedish authors. The victory was described as a success
for Azerbaijani culture and meant that the 2012
competition was held in Baku.
In all three Caucasian countries, there are proud
textile traditions. The more industrialized
manufacturing that occurred during the Soviet era
degraded the quality of both the material and the
workmanship, but has made older rugs, saddlebags,
saltbags and other utensils in very diverse techniques
into internationally sought-after collectors and museum
objects. In the mainly Muslim Azerbaijan, the production
of prayer mats may have helped to preserve the
knowledge. In the present, the craft has been identified
as an industry with export potential. Half a dozen
weaving schools utilize traditions from places like
Shirvan, Gendje and Quba. There is a carpet museum in
Baku since the 1960s.
Journalist convicted of espionage
Journalist Rauf Mirkadirov (see April 2014, November 2015) is sentenced to
six years in prison for spying on Armenia's behalf. According to prosecutors, he
was recruited by human rights activists Leyla and Arif Yunus, who are both
sentenced to long prison terms but released during the fall for health reasons.
Big race for the value of the currency
The central bank abolishes the local currency's, mandated, fixed exchange
rate against the US dollar and allows the exchange rate to flow freely. This
immediately leads to the manate losing one third of his value. The bank explains
the measure with the falling oil prices and the devaluations that have taken
place in several of the country's trading partners. During the year, the central
bank has used more than half its foreign exchange reserve to support the
purchase of manat and does not consider itself able to continue with it.
Height rhetoric after summit
At the end of the month, the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan meet in
Switzerland to discuss Nagorno-Karabakh. The meeting results in a vaguely worded
statement of mutual good will. A few days later, a spokesman for the Armenian
Ministry of Defense said that there was no longer a ceasefire. He describes the
clashes at the border as "open war." In Baku, an Azerbaijani spokesman says the
crimes against the ceasefire are because Armenian forces are illegally located
on occupied Azerbaijani soil.
Tank fire against breaker state
The Ministry of Defense in Nagorno-Karabakh says that Azerbaijan tanks have
fired areas inside the breakaway republic for the first time since the ceasefire
in 1994. A soldier must have been killed. The Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan
claims that it was Armenian forces that started by shooting villages inside the
Leyla Yunus free for health reasons
A court orders Leyla Yunus (see November) to be released for health reasons.
Her sentence of 8.5 years in prison is conditional on 5 years.
Journalist risks life imprisonment
Journalist Rauf Mirkadirov (see April 2014) faces trial in Baku. He is
charged with treason and risks life imprisonment. According to prosecutors, he
has provided secret information to the Armenian security service. His lawyer
describes the trial as part of the crackdown on critical media.
Arif Yunus is released
Human rights activist Arif Yunus is released from prison on order by an
appeals court. He was sentenced in August to 7 years in prison and his wife
Leyla Yunus at the same time to 8.5 years, both for fraud and tax evasion. His
wife, who is considered the country's foremost advocate for human rights, is not
Elections without democratic conditions
Parliamentary elections will be held on November 1. The election is boycotted
by all major opposition parties and the OSCE does not send any observers, as
these would not be allowed to operate freely. The organization also criticizes
the persecution of "independent and critical voices". None of the elections that
took place in Azerbaijan since Heydar Aliyev came to power in 2003 have been
internationally recognized as free and honorable. According to the preliminary
results, the New Azerbaijan government gets 71 out of the 125 parliamentary
seats. The other mandates go to parties or individuals who generally support the
government. While a delegation from the Council of Europe says they have not
found any major flaws in the election process itself, Human Rights Watch (HRW)
and Amnesty Internationalharsh criticism of the attacks on oppositionists who
preceded the election. According to Amnesty, at least 20 people are in jail for
criticizing the government's policies. HRW accuses the authorities of resorting
to sweeping reasons such as drug or arms possession, tax fraud or treason for
imprisoning political activists or critical journalists. Almost 56 percent of
those entitled to vote are said to have participated in the election.
Ministerial resignation surprises
President Aliyev dismisses Security Minister Eldar Mahmudov. The message
surprises everyone, as Mahmudov has had a great influence and is considered
extremely loyal to the president. Opposition politicians say that the dismissal
shows the total lack of transparency in the regime's policies. Three days later,
seven officials are arrested at the Ministry of Security for alleged abuse of
power. They are said to be suspected of "illegal interference with business
The Council of Europe cancels MR cooperation
The Council of Europe cancels its participation in an Azerbaijani working
group on human rights issues. Secretary-General Thorbjörn Jagland says that
respect for human rights in Azerbaijan has decreased dramatically despite the
group's activities. The working group has otherwise consisted of Azerbaijani
civil servants, members of parliament and human rights activists. One of the
members was the journalist Xədicə İsmayılova, who was sentenced to prison in
Increasingly border crossings
The conflict with Armenia is escalated again. Armenia and the outbreak state
of Nagorno-Karabakh accuse Azerbaijan troops of having killed three Armenian
civilians and four soldiers of Nagorno-Karabakh for two days. Armenia threatens
artillery fire of Azerbaijani military positions. Azerbaijan accuses Armenia of
using civilians as human shields by shielding Azerbaijani territory from
civilian settlements. A day later, Azerbaijan says that three of the country's
soldiers were killed in fierce fighting at the border with Nagorno-Karabakh.
OSCE boycotts of choice
The OSCE decides not to send any observers to the parliamentary elections in
November. The organization points out that the restrictions that apply make it
impossible to do a credible job.
Jail damages the relationship with the EU
Azerbaijan threatens to "review" its relations with the EU, after the
European Parliament called on the government to release Xədicə İsmayılova and
other human rights activists. The Baku government is stopping a planned visit by
a delegation from the European Commission, citing the EU Parliament's "unsavory"
Long prison sentence for İsmayılova
On September 1, journalist Xədicə İsmayılova is sentenced to seven and a half
years in prison for corruption. Organizations such as Human Rights Watch and
Amnesty International say the verdict is based on false claims and revenge needs
against a person who revealed corruption within the country's top leadership.
Tough punishment for the Yunus couple
Two of the country's best known human rights activists, the real couple Leyla
and Arif Yunus (see August, October 2014), are sentenced to 8.5 and 7 years in
prison for fraud and tax evasion, respectively. Their lawyers and other
activists claim that the judges are purely politically-based and only aim to
stop the couple's work. Leyla Yunus heads the Institute for Peace and Democracy,
one of Azerbaijan's leading human rights organizations.
The journalist İsmayılova is on trial
The trial begins against journalist Xədicə İsmayılova. She is charged with,
among other things, embezzlement and tax evasion, but claims that she is being
tried for revealing corruption within the presidential family of Aliyev.
Protest to the UK
The government is handing over a protest to the UK for allowing the leader of
Nagorno-Karabach to visit London to speak to invited guests at a think tank. The
British ambassador to Baku says that the visit is private and that the British
government has not been involved.
Journalist receives diploma card to Switzerland
Journalist Emin Hüseynov is reported to have flown out of Azerbaijan to
Switzerland, after staying at the Swiss Embassy since August 2014. He, with good
memory of the authorities, flew with Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter's plan
since he participated in the opening ceremony of the European Games sports
competition in Baku. Hüseynov, a well-known citizen and media freedom activist,
sought protection at the embassy to avoid being arrested for charges of "illegal
entrepreneurship and tax evasion".
Prison for opposition leaders
Deputy chairman of the opposition party Müsavat, Fərəc Kərimli, is sentenced
to six and a half years in prison for serious drug crime. Kərimli dismisses the
verdict as politically motivated and points out that he, as the webmaster of the
party, has published a number of revelations about the corruption within the
Elections in Nagorno-Karabakh are voiced
The Government of Azerbaijan and the EU condemn the parliamentary elections
held in the Nagorno-Karabakh breakaway republic. No previous elections in the
area have been recognized by the outside world.
Regime-critical lawyer is imprisoned on standard charges
Human rights lawyer Intigam Əliyev is sentenced to seven and a half years in
prison for tax evasion, illegal business and abuse of power. These are exactly
the same charges that in March gave another activist, Rəsul Cəfərov, six and a
half years in prison. Yliyev has spent many years filing complaints against the
Azerbaijani state to the European Court of Human Rights. The cases have most
often dealt with cheating in the parliamentary elections of 2005 and 2010. It is
stated in the judgment that the sentence should be served in a prison camp.
Hard border battles
Hard battles erupt at the border of Nagorno-Karabakh, but the two sides give
completely different information about the number of killed and wounded and how
the fighting began. Neither the Defense Ministry in Baku nor the breakaway
republic admit their own losses, but both claim that the opponents lost
Prison for MR activist
Human rights activist Rəsul Cəfərov is sentenced to six years and a half in
prison. He is convicted of tax evasion, illegal business and abuse of power. He
was arrested in August 2014 after announcing plans to organize a campaign to
draw attention to human rights violations in Azerbaijan ahead of international
sporting competitions in the country in June 2015. He claims the verdict is
HRW representative expelled
A Human Rights Watch representative is expelled after being detained at Baku
Airport for 31 hours. He had come to Azerbaijan to follow the trial of two human
EU criticism of MRI crime
The EU is facing harsh criticism for degraded respect for human rights in
Azerbaijan in 2014.
İsmayılova is sentenced to a fine
Detained journalist Xədicə İsmayılova is sentenced to fines about SEK 25,000
for defamation. She is accused of describing a former opposition activist as an
agent for the Ministry of Security. She denies that she would ever have said so.
The central bank writes down the value of the country's currency, manat, by
about 33.5 percent against the US dollar as a result of the sharp decline in oil
prices. Oil and gas account for 95 percent of the country's exports and 70
percent of the state's revenue. The bank says the devaluation aims to broaden
the country's economy and strengthen its international competitiveness.
More charges against İsmayılova
New charges are brought against the detained journalist Xədicə İsmayılova.
She is now also charged with embezzlement, illegal business, tax evasion and
abuse of power. She risks up to 12 years in prison.
Activist imprisoned for "hooliganism"
The journalist and opposition activist Seymur Hezi is sentenced to five years
in prison for "hooliganism". He has already been detained since August 2014.
Hezi writes for the magazine Azadlıq and is a member of the People's Front.
Jopurnalist İsmayılova remains in custody
A court extends the detention period of journalist Xədicə İsmayılova (see
December 2014) for another two months to the beginning of April.