Azerbaijan is a former Soviet republic, situated in the Eurasian landmass. It is bordered by several former Soviet republics, as well as Iran and Turkey. The disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region is still a prominent territorial issue, though it and several other areas have been occupied by Armenia for twenty years now.
Politically, Azerbaijan maintains non-member presence at the European Union and is a Partnership for Peace participant with NATO. However, it remains in the Russian sphere of influence via its participation in the Commonwealth of Independent States, which it joined in 1993. The majority of Azeris are Shia Muslims, though unlike neighboring Iran, Azerbaijan is a secular republic.
Azerbaijan contains a remarkable diversity of climate zones for a country its size. It boasts both a significant portion of mountainous terrain, due to the presence of the Caucasus and Talysh mountain chains. Nearly a third of the country's border area is coastline, the most significant portion along the Caspian Sea. The Caspian is the dominant water feature of the country, as all segments of the river system terminate there.
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