The Culture of Azerbaijan Is Fascinating

Azerbaijan, a country that sits between Asia and Europe, has a rich culture that is a reflection of its unique history, customs, religions, beliefs, and people. This nation has a population size of over 8 million individuals, whose national identity has been taking form since as far back as ancient times. During this era, the area of present-day Azerbaijan was inhabited by Turkic ethnic groups, Caucasian Albanians, Iranian language speakers, and Kurds. It became a hotbed for religious movements beginning with Christianity in the 4th century CE and later Islam during the 7th century CE. Throughout the years, this country has been influenced by its time under the Russian Empire, its control by communist governments, and its fight for independence. All of these events have come together to shape the people of modern-day Azerbaijan. This article takes a closer look at the culture of this country.

Social Beliefs and Customs

The social beliefs and customs of Azerbaijan are heavily influenced by a strong commitment to hospitable behaviors. Being friendly and welcoming to guests is one of the pillars of the culture here and as hosts, the people of Azerbaijan go out of their way to make sure visitors are comfortable. One of the ways the culture expresses hospitality is by sharing a cup of tea with guests. This custom is rather unique when compared to other tea drinking cultures around the world. In Azerbaijan, tea is served from a large, metal vessel with a pear-like shape. Instead of sweetening the tea directly in the cup, people in this country instead take a bite of a sugar cube followed by a drink of tea.

Religion and Festivals

The government of Azerbaijan has not identified any religion as the official religion of the country. Despite this, the vast majority of the population here identifies as a practicing Muslim. In fact, only around 5% of the population follows Christianity and the Russian Orthodox Church, specifically.

One of the biggest festivals celebrated in this country is the Novruz, which marks both the beginning of springtime and the beginning of the new year. Each of the four weeks leading up to the spring equinox are dedicated to one of the elements: water, fire, earth, and wind. People carry out festivities in honor of these elements each Tuesday. These activities could include planting a tree, cleaning the house, or baking pastries. The government has designated an entire week as a public holiday in recognition of Novruz.

Music and Dance

One of the best examples of the culture of music in Azerbaijan is expressed through mugams, which are traditional folk music songs. This type of music has been recognized by UNESCO as an example of Cultural Heritage. Mugam songs are performed in theater halls as a way to present traditional epic poems, the lyrics of which are sung in a particular style that is often compared to yodeling.

In addition to the mugam music, the people of Azerbaijan take part in a number of special dances that are used to celebrate history, festivals, and major life events. Some dances are performed only by men, such as the Choban Regsi, the movements of which are meant to symbolize the work of shepherds in the countryside. Another traditional dance performed in this country is the Asma Kasma, which is carried out by female wedding guests as they accompany the newlywed bride to her marital chambers.