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Azerbaijan at the Crossroads of Eurasia

The Tumultuous Fate of a Nation Caught Up Between the Rivalries of the World’s Major Powers

Fazil Zeynalov

Modern Azerbaijan came into being in 1991 following a national struggle for the re-establishment of its independence, initiated long before the collapse of the Soviet Union. It is situated in a unique geographic location, at the crossroads of Eurasia and on the famous Silk Road that links Europe and Asia. It has been the stage of particularly rich historical events, testament to its ancient State traditions, the wealth of its cities, the violence of the imperial invasions. Today this secular country, facing war with Armenia, is central to the geopolitical stakes in the region, whether in terms of the international strategies of major powers or the geo-economic considerations of oil and gas exports to Europe. It has put in place a multi-faceted foreign policy and initiated political and economic reforms as it moves towards a better future.

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Chapter I – The first States on the territories of Azerbaijan


Chapter IThe first States on the territories of Azerbaijan

There is not much available information concerning Azerbaijan during the Antiquity, but its strategic location at the crossroads of Eurasia ensured it attracted great interest. No author of ancient history took a special interest in Azerbaijan’s state structures, to which they referred simply as part of their description of conquests by the major powers. The borders of these States were defined within the territories of Azerbaijan, but they had an impact on the balance of power and played an important role in the region’s destiny. It is worth providing a brief description of Mannaea, Atropatena and Caucasian Albania.

1.1. The Mannaean Kingdom

Cuneiform scripts reveal the existence of ancient States on the territories of Azerbaijan and prove that they had economic and political ties with Mesopotamia. Aratta is the first State recorded in the scripts. It was located on the southern territories of Azerbaijan (south-east of Lake Urmia)1 during the first half of the third millennium BC.2 It was the first state structure which managed to maintain its independence and preserve close economic ties with Sumer. Relations between the two States are recorded in the legendary tale of “Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta”, according to which King Enmerkar asked the Lord of Aratta to submit and pay a tribute for the construction of a temple. His request was refused. What happened next is not described in detail in ancient records. Following the fall...

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