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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 VIII – Azerbaijan: a place of trade between Europe and Asia

Extract

Chapter VIIIAzerbaijan: a place of trade between Europe and Asia

The appeal of azerbaijan lies not only in its strategic geographic location but also in its position in international trade. Throughout the various stages of its history, the successive States of Azerbaijan have maintained relations with the countries of both Europe and Asia. These relations, based on the mutual interests of the “parties”, are deep-rooted economically and can be traced back to the rise in trade between Europe and Asia and the development of craft skills and production techniques.

8.1. Azerbaijan’s role in trade

As early as Antiquity, the territory of Azerbaijan, located on the famous Silk Road, was used for the purposes of trade between Europe and India. Strabo wrote of a route linking India to the Black Sea, passing through Central Asia, the Caspian Sea and the river Kura, crossing Caucasian Albania and Georgia.1 When Genghis Khan created a vast Empire in the 13th century stretching from China to Europe, international trade via land intensified and the Silk Road gained in appeal.2 This transit route was the most frequented by trade caravans between the 13th and 15th centuries.3 It crossed Azerbaijan and was made even more important when Tamerlane destroyed Astrakhan4 in 1395 and expressed an interest in trading with Europe due to the benefits for State revenue. In a letter dated August 1402 and addressed to French King Charles VI (1380–1422), he emphasised that “it is also necessary for your...

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