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Azerbaijan, a nation of Turkic Muslims, has been an independent republic since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Despite a cease-fire, in place since 1994, Azerbaijan has yet to resolve its conflict with Armenia over the Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh enclave (largely Armenian populated). Azerbaijan has lost almost 20% of its territory and must support some 750,000 refugees as a result of the conflict. Corruption is ubiquitous and the promise of wealth from Azerbaijan's undeveloped petroleum resources remains largely unfulfilled.

Historically, Azerbaijan included parts of what are now Iran, and the term is still used locally to describe those regions. Politically, this area is now divided into the Iranian provinces of West Azarbaijan (Azarbayjan-e Gharbi) and East Azerbaijan (Azarbayjan-e Sharqi).