Religion in Azerbaijan

Religion in Azerbaijan

The religions of Azerbaijan comprise different religious trends spread among the people and ethnic groups residing in the country. There are several confessions in Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan is a secular country, in article 48 of its Constitution ensures the liberty of worship to everyone. Everyone has a right to choose any faith, to adopt any religion or to not practice any religion, to express one's view on the religion and to spread it. According to paragraphs 1-3 of Article 18 of the Constitution the religion acts separately from the government, each religion is equal before the law and the propaganda of religions, abating human personality and contradicting to the principles of humanism is prohibited. At the same time the state system of education is also secular.

The law of the Republic of Azerbaijan (1992) "On freedom of faith" ensures the right of any human being to determine and express his view on religion and to execute this right.


After the collapse of the Soviet Union all religious organizations fell into depression and split into pieces while the Religious Organization of Transcaucasia Muslims headed by akhund Allanshukur Pashazade elected the sheyhulislam in 1980 intensified its operation and tried to spread its influence to the entire Caucasus under the name of the Caucasus Muslims Department. The measures to implement these attempts were undertaken at the tenth session of the Caucasus Muslims held in Baku in 1998. The opening of CMD representations in Georgia and Dagestan was one of the significant steps in this field.

The chair of CMD ensures the consequent contacts with Islamic organizations and manages to establish close religious relations with neighbor Muslim countries. To date CMD controls the Islamic communities of Azerbaijan within its power, oversees the proper fulfillment of the rules of Shariat, progresses in breeding religious workers through the Islamic University of Baku, founded in 1991 and is responsible for all religious events occurring in the country. The faculty of theology of the State University of Baku has been training Islam and theology scientists since 1992.

Islam is represented by sects such as Shi'ism and Sunnism in Azerbaijan. The policy of openness recently conducted in the country created conditions for the spread of a number of other trends and Sufi sects in the regions of the country.

Through the years of independence the worshipping of holies strengthened in Azerbaijan and the new holy places were set up along with old ones. Bakhailism created its own assembly and expanded yearly.

The relations the state-religion are regulated by the State Committee for the Work with Religious Associations of Azerbaijan established by the decree of President Heydar Aliyev in 2001.

More recently, many Azerbaijani youths have drawn been increasingly drawn to Islam. [ [ ISN Security Watch - Azerbaijan young increasingly drawn to Islam ] ] Additionally, many young women in Azerbaijan have decided to dress in Islamic attire despite the risks associated including being rebuked by university personnel for wearing the hijab. [ [ Headscarves provoke controversy in Azerbaijan | Spero News ] ]


Christianity is represented by Orthodoxy, Catholicism and Protestantism as well as a number of sectarian communities in Azerbaijan.

Orthodoxy is currently represented in Azerbaijan by the Russian and Georgian Orthodox churches. The Russian Orthodox Churches are grouped in the Eparchy of Baku and the Caspian region.

Azerbaijan also has eleven Molokan communities related to the old rituals of orthodoxy. These communities do not have any church; their dogmas are fixed in a special book of rituals. They oppose the church hierarchy which has a special power.

Albanian-Udi Church

Though the number of people belonging to the Albanian-Udi Christian religious community differs from that of others yet it's distinguished for its nature, content, religious and political importance. To date of 6,000 of 10,000 people of Udi ethnic community live in Azerbaijan including 4,400 people compactly residing in the Nich village of Gabala district.

The Udis who resided on the territory of Karabakh and Caspian sea shore, later accepted Christianity and spread this religion in the Caucasus Albania. The church of Kish (the Kish village of Shaki district)-the first Christian church-was considered the forefather of the Christian churches.

Tsarist Russia, incited by of Armenians, resettling to Karabakh signed a decree which abolished the Albanian church in 1836 and transferred Albanian praying-houses, all equipment and documents, belonging to the church to Armenian apostolic church. Under such conditions the udis would either accept the Gregorian religion thus turning to Armenians or become lonely dervishes. However, they had remained truthfully devoted to their faith, traditions and historical motherland through displaying great courage for over 160 years did not turn into Armenians on the contrary they tried to remove the historical injustice initiated from 1836. With the restoration of Albanian-Udi Christian community the theoretically proven historical facts were materialized and the rights of just Udis were partially restored.


There is a Roman Catholic community in Baku.

The Vatican Foreign Minister Giovanni Lajolo visited Baku May 19, 2006. During the visit to last till May 25, he is scheduled to meet with President Ilham Aliyev and chairman of the Caucasus Clerical Office, Sheikh Allahshukur Pashazada.The prospects of ties between Azerbaijan and the Vatican will be discussed during the visit to take place with the support of the Azeri side. Lajolo is also due to participate at a number of ceremonies in Baku. [ ]

Giovanni Lajolo made the following statements: "We are satisfied with the level of friendly communications between Azerbaijan and Vatican". "Azerbaijan really is a place of merge of religions and cultures. We highly estimate tolerance existing here. And we are very glad with intensive development of Azerbaijan. Vatican is interested in expansion of relations with Azerbaijan, and the purpose of my visit to Baku consists in carrying out of exchange by opinions on the further development of our ties." [ ]

Unofficial opening of the first Catholic church in Baku is expected in April 2007. The construction started in September 2005. Official opening with the participation of Vatican officials is planned for the Summer of 2007.Fact|date=April 2007


There are three separate communities of Jews (Mountain Jews, Ashkenazi Jews, and Georgian Jews) in Azerbaijan, who total almost 16,000 combined. Of them, 11,000 are Mountain Jews, with concentrations of 6,000 in Baku and 4,000 in Guba, 4,300 are Ashkenazi Jews, most of whom live in Baku and Sumgayit, and 700 are Georgian Jews.


The history of Zoroastrianism in Azerbaijan goes back to the first millennium BC. Together with the other territories of the Persian Empire, Azerbaijan remained a predominantly Zoroastrian state until the Arab invasion in the 7th century AD. The name Azerbaijan means the "Land of The Eternal Fire" in Middle Persian, a name that is said to have a direct link with Zoroastrianism [ ] .

Today the religion, culture, and traditions of Zoroastrianism remains highly respected in Azerbaijan, and Novruz continues to be the main holiday in the country. Zoroastrianism has left a deep mark in the history of Azerbaijan. Traces of the religion are still visible in Ramana, Khinalyg, and Yanar Dag.


Hinduism in Azerbaijan has been tied to cultural diffusion on the Silk Road. In the Middle Ages, Hindu traders visited present-day Azerbaijan for Silk Road trade. The area was traversed by Hindu traders coming mostly from Multan and Sindh (Pakistan). Today there are over 500-600 Indians in Azerbaijan, the total number of Hindu followers is aroun 1,000 as some Azerbaijanis have converted to the religion.

Freedom of religion and religious tolerance

The constitution of Azerbaijan provides for freedom of religion, and the law does not allow religious activities to be interfered with unless they endanger public order. Cases of anti-semitism in Azerbaijan are rare, and the government of Azerbaijan maintains good relations with its Jewish community. The 2004 U.S. Department of State report on Human Rights in Azerbaijan noted some instances in which freedom of religion was violated, such as interference with the Juma Mosque due to the political activism of its Imam. All religious organizations are required to register with the government, and some groups claim that they have not been registered despite repeated applications. As a result of the Nagorno-Karabakh war, mosques in the Nagorno-Karabakh region have been abandoned or destroyed, and Armenian churches in Azerbaijan have likewise been inactive or damaged in the fighting. [ [ 2004 Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Azerbaijan] ] Recently, there has been various reports of intolerance against observant Muslims. For example, police take a dim view of men who grow beards, and often force them to shave. [ [ ISN Security Watch - Azerbaijan young increasingly drawn to Islam ] ] Additionally, women who wear hijab, the religious scarf, are often seem with suspicion by the authorities. [ [ ISN Security Watch - Azerbaijan young increasingly drawn to Islam ] ] Despite the government's denial into the matter, the Azerbaijani police drew sharp criticism from lawyers for infringing the rights of observant Muslims. [ [ ISN Security Watch - Azerbaijan young increasingly drawn to Islam ] ]

ee also

*Islam in Azerbaijan
*Christianity in Azerbaijan
*Roman Catholicism in Azerbaijan
*Judaism in Azerbaijan
*Hinduism in Azerbaijan
*Zoroastrianism in Azerbaijan
*Religion by country


External links

* [ Albanian-Udi Church restablished]
* [ Vatican in Baku]
* [ North American Azerbaijani Network] - an organization of over 90 groups and churches committed to seeing the Azerbaijani people reached with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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