Hi ASEANers! Have you ever heard about Azerbaijan before? In commemoration of 103 years of the founding of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic on May 28 this year, through this article, we will take you to travel virtually and share more information about this beautiful country.
Azerbaijan is a country located in the South Caucasus region. With Baku as its Capital city, the country covers an area of 86,600 km2. Geographically, it borders with the Russian Federation in the North, the Islamic Republic of Iran in the South, Turkey, Georgia, and Armenia in the West, and through the Caspian Sea on Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan in the East. If we look at the world map, Azerbaijan is located at the junction of Europe and Asia and the Southeast part of the South Caucasus. However, probably not many people, particularly in ASEAN countries know about Azerbaijan. This is understandable considering the fact that both are separated by huge geographical distances.
Although geographically separated, ASEAN and Azerbaijan have started to work closely and enhance relations with each other. In June 2012, ASEAN welcomed H.E. Mr. Tamerlan Karayev, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Azerbaijan to ASEAN (the First Official Ambassador of Azerbaijan to ASEAN). In his first time serving in ASEAN, Ambassador Karayev underlined the commitment of the Republic of Azerbaijan to pursuing closer cooperation with ASEAN, where he introduced some potential cooperation areas such as historical education, musical and cultural exchanges, oil explorations, agricultural exports, tourism, and investment.
Going further after almost a decade, H.E. Jalal Mirzayev, the current Ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan to ASEAN also re-emphasized Azerbaijan’s commitment to open more rooms for cooperation with ASEAN countries in some potential sectors, such as energy, defense industry, trade and investment, tourism, infrastructure and technology, as well as cooperation in socio-cultural aspects. Therefore, to enhance relations as well as cooperation between Azerbaijan and ASEAN, we have to first understand and identify potentials and challenges between both entities. In this article, we try to understand both Azerbaijan and ASEAN Countries potentials for cooperation through several similarities they have.
At least, there are four similarities that Azerbaijan and ASEAN have that will be further elaborated in this article. First, Azerbaijan is a country with diverse ethnicities. This is because Azerbaijan is located between Asia and Europe, where it has become a bridge for Eastern and Western civilizations. Thus, Azerbaijan becomes home to more than 15 ethnic groups, quite a large number considering that this country only has a total population of around 10.2 million inhabitants. Some of these ethnic groups include Azerbaijani (92% of the population), Lezgin (2% of the population), Russian (1% of the population), Talyshi (1% of the population), and other ethnic groups (2%. of the population). Although the majority ethnicity in the country is Azerbaijani, inter-ethnic harmony is preserved. It’s similar to ASEAN member states which also have ethnic diversity in each country. In this regard, Azerbaijan and ASEAN countries share similarities in ethnic diversity and the spirit to maintain inter-ethnic harmony and peace.
The second similarity comes from the terms of religious diversity. Azerbaijan is a country with a majority of Muslim population, where it is also a home to Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, and other religions. In ASEAN, each country also has religious diversity, although we can also see several religious groups become the majority. However, this does not become a barrier to coexistence among religious communities. Therefore, with its uniqueness, Azerbaijan is also known as “The Land of Religious Tolerance”. Since its establishment, Azerbaijan has never experienced a single religious conflict among the three major religions, namely Islam, Judaism, and Christian.
Third, similar to some ASEAN countries, such as Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand, Azerbaijan is also famous for its rich natural resources. The country is also known to have large reserves of oil (ranked 20th globally) and natural gas (ranked 25th globally), where it contributes to 0.4 percent of world oil reserves with around 7 billion barrels and 35 trillion cubic feet of total natural gas. Vast reserve oil and natural gas in Azerbaijan have been well known since ancient times. Records of the Byzantine empire in the 5th century even mention that ever-burning fires could be seen all over the lands and mountains of Azerbaijan. It occurs because the endless supplies of underground gas sometimes reach the surface and trigger the flames that will burn for as long as the gas supply remains. Until now, we can still see the eternal fire burning on the soil of Azerbaijan. Two places that can be visited to see the eternal fire are Yanar Dagh Mountain and Ateshgah Fire Temple, located in Baku City. Therefore, no wonder that Azerbaijan is also famous as ‘The Land of Fire’.
Fourth, Azerbaijan and ASEAN countries are alike in terms of attractive tourist destination spots. Tourist destination spots in Azerbaijan are diverse, ranging from natural, cultural or ancient civilizations to modern attractions. Baku City, for example, will spoil your eyes with beautifully blended architectural styles from ancient Azerbaijan civilization with modern styles of architecture. You will be amazed with the beauty of the Flame Towers, a trio of skyscrapers representing the spirit of the Land of Fire. The Old City of Baku is one of the most famous places recognized by UNESCO as the World Heritage Site. Moreover, you can find yourself entertained by the Formula 1 Grand Prix at certain times when visiting Baku. As mentioned earlier, tourists can visit natural attractions of Azerbaijan by visiting the Caspian Sea, Quba area, or, the beauty of Great Caucasus Mountains, Tenghi Canyon, and waterfalls.
Finally, the ASEAN Youth Organization would like to wish a very Happy Azerbaijan National Day! May Azerbaijan always be peaceful and prosper. We hope that the relations and cooperation between Azerbaijan and ASEAN member states can improve and get stronger in the future!
- Subsea7. 2019. Subsea 7 awarded contracts offshore Azerbaijan.
- ASEAN Secretariat. 2012. ASEAN Welcomes the First Official Ambassador from the Republic of Azerbaijan
- Sekretariat Nasional ASEAN-Indonesia. 2020. Azerbaijan Ingin Perkuat Kerjasama dengan Negara-negara ASEAN
- U.S. Department of State. 2019. Report on International Religious Freedom: Azerbaijan
- Handy Santoso in Azerbaijan States Ne Agency. 2020. ASEAN Youth Organization’s web portal highlights Azerbaijan’s tolerant environment.
- Laman Ismayilova, Laman. 2018. Azerbaijani dances that will get your feet tapping.
- Ibid. U.S. Department of State. 2019. Report on International Religious Freedom: Azerbaijan.
- International Energy Agency (IEA). Azerbaijan Energy Profile, Report extract, Energy security.
- Sam Bedford. Why is Azerbaijan Called ‘The Land of Fire’?.
- Sam Bedford. 20 Must Visiti Attractions in Baku Azerbaijan.
- Azerbaijan Travel. Khinaliq Tour.