Azerbaijan is a country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. The country is bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west and Iran to the south. Azerbaijan has a population of 9.8 million people, and its capital and largest city is Baku. Azerbaijan is a unitary semi-presidential republic. The country has developed a market economy and established close ties with the West, particularly through its membership in the Council of Europe and Partnership for Peace program of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Azerbaijan has also been a member of the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). Azerbaijan is a member of the Non-Aligned Movement, holds observer status in the World Trade Organization, and is one of the founding members of GUAM, a regional organization which also includes Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova. The earliest references to Azerbaijan are to the Achaemenid Empire of Persia (6th to 4th centuries BC). Azerbaijan was later conquered by Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC. After the decline of the Roman and Parthian empires, Azerbaijan was ruled by the Sasanian Empire of Persia (3rd to 7th centuries AD). Arab Muslims conquered Azerbaijan in the 7th century, and the area became a part of the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates. The Mongols and Timurids ruled Azerbaijan before the Safavid Empire of Persia conquered the area in the 16th century. The Safavids made Azerbaijan a part of their empire, and the area remained under Iranian rule until the 19th century. In the early 19th century, the Russian Empire began to expand into the Caucasus region, and in 1813, Russian forces captured Baku. Azerbaijan was incorporated into the Russian Empire, and remained a part of it until the empire's collapse in 1917. In 1918, Azerbaijan declared independence, and in 1920, the country was occupied by the Red Army. Azerbaijan was then incorporated into the Soviet Union, and remained a part of it until the country's independence in 1991. Since then, Azerbaijan has been an independent state. Azerbaijan is a Muslim-majority country, with a Shia majority. The country has a secular constitution, and Islam is not the state religion. The majority of Azerbaijan's population is Azerbaijani, with minorities of Armenians, Russians, and other ethnic groups. Azerbaijan has a Turkic culture, and the country's official language is Azerbaijani. Azerbaijan is a resource-rich country, with large reserves of oil and natural gas. The country's economy is largely based on the petroleum industry, and Azerbaijan is a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Azerbaijan is a developing country, and its human development index ranks above the world average. The country is considered to be a middle power, and is a member of the United Nations, the Council of Europe, and the Partnership for Peace program of NATO.

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