|Republic of Azerbaijan|
Area 86,600 sq.km. Caucasian republic on the Caspian Sea, including a 5,632 sq.km. enclave, Nakhichevan, between Armenia and Iran, and the disputed 4,400 sq.km. region of Nagorno-Karabakh currently controlled by Armenia.
Capital Baku 1,946,000. Urbanites 53%.
Turkic 89%. Azerbaijani 6,830,000; Tatar 33,000; Turkish 20,000. One million Azeri live in other parts of the fSU, and a further 15m in Iran.
Indo-European 6.6%. Russian 230,000; Armenian 155,000; Ukrainian 30,000. In decline through emigration.
Caucasus peoples 3.4%. Lezgi 173,000; Avar 50,000; Georgian 16,000; Tsakhur 14,000; Udi 3,000.
Indo-Iranian 1%. Tat (Jewish and Muslim) 33,000; Talysh 22,000; Kurds 14,000.
Literacy 97%. Official language Azerbaijani (with 20 dialects). All languages 16. Languages with Scriptures 2Bi 6NT 4por 6w.i.p.
Oil-dominated economy with large reserves under the Caspian Sea. Baku was the world's original oil-boom city a century ago. The post-Communist switch to a market economy has been marred by bureaucracy, organized crime, rampant corruption, collapse of oil prices, ecological disasters and the effects of the war with Armenia. The majority of the population live in poverty. Living standards are steadily deteriorating. HDI 0.695; 103rd/174. Public debt 6% of GNP. Income/person $480 (1.6% of USA).
A long history of subjugation by Arabs, Mongols, Persians, Turks and Russians. Independent in 1991 from the USSR. It's first decade has been difficult internal coups and war with Armenia over the largely Armenian-populated enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in West Azerbaijan. Armenia occupies 20% of Azeri territory. Over one million Azeris have become refugees. Pan-Turkism and affinity with Turkey and the West, as well as a desire to escape Russian political manipulation, determine government policy.
Official religious freedom is tempered by reaction against 'Christian' Russian and Armenian hostility, and fears of Islamist extremism. Foreigners are prohibited from engaging in 'religious propaganda'. Muslims are largely either Shi'a (70%) or Sunni (30% in the north).
1 Azerbaijan's political situation is complex and potentially dangerous. The unresolved conflict with Armenia and the growing international confrontation between Armenia, Russia and Iran on one side and Azerbaijan, Turkey, Georgia and NATO countries on the other over the exploitation and transport of oil could lead to war. Pray for peace with a just resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflicta legacy of Stalin's border re-alignments.
2 Christianity is associated with Russian imperialism and Armenian occupation of much of Azeri territory. Post-independence openness to the gospel has been diminished by resentment, rising nationalism, legal restrictions on proselytising and the propaganda of Islamists. Pray that these hindrances may be bound in the name of Jesus and that many Azeris find peace with God.
3 Azerbaijani believers continue to increase in number. Many are in Baku where there are several congregations with a majority of Azeris. Pray for the maturing of upcoming Azeri leaders, their growth in ministry and for good fellowship among them. There are several small Bible schools in Baku. There needs to be better coordination of training ministries. Pray for a strong Church with an effective witness to non-Christians.
4 The majority of Christians are Russian-speaking or from other ethnic minorities. Some evangelical churches have had great difficulty in obtaining official recognition and permission to find places for worship. Pray for their witness to the majority Muslim population that it may be with humility, sensitivity and love.
5 Nagorno-Karabakh and its surrounding area is almost entirely Armenian. Armenia began the expulsion of Azeris from Armenia in 1987-88, then the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh attempted to have its sovereignty transferred to Armenia. Due to the unstable situation created by the influx of refugees from Armenia, and the death throes of the Soviet Union, agitators were able to exploit the situation. This led to the massacre of Armenians in Sumgayit in 1989, provoking the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh to declare independence in 1990, culminating in warfare. Armenia wants to annex the region which is impoverished and deeply affected economically and socially by the war. Orthodox churches have been re-established but there is little known non-Orthodox evangelical witness. Pray for the gospel to be proclaimed, forgiveness given and received and a Christian lifestyle to be manifested to their Muslim neighbours.
6 Expatriate Christians have difficulty obtaining visas, but a number are seeking to live for the Lord through secular openings and NGO projects. They are forbidden to engage in 'religious propaganda'. Pray for the calling and entry of new workers and the long-term fruitfulness of their ministries despite the restrictions.
a) Christian literature. The Azeri NT and Children's Bible as well as the Russian Bible are widely available for sale. There are 11 Azeri Christian titles printed and 25 in preparation. It is hard to import adequate stocks of new publications or to print them locally. Pray for obstacles and restrictions to be removed and permission to publish books to be granted. A Christian bookstore has opened in Baku.
b) Bible translation. The Azeri Bible in both N. and S. Azeri should be completed by 2002. There are 5 languages that need assessment for NT translation. Work is in progress in Avar, Jewish and Muslim Tat, Lezgi and Tsakhur. Pray for their successful publishing and distribution.
c) Christian radio. World by 2000 languages: Azeri (FEBA ¾ hour), Kurmanji (TWR ½ hour) and Georgian (HCJB ¼ hour) are broadcast weekly. IBRA Radio has enabled local recording and distributing of audio and video cassettes. Pray for local and national opportunities to broadcast Christian material regularly. A major need is a radio station to deliver medium wave signals internationally.
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