AZERBAIJAN History, Religious Beliefs Traditions and Customs


A review of the customs and traditions of Azerbaijan, a Caucasian country.



There are regional differences in the selection and preparation of food due to the availability of agricultural products and belonging to different ethnic groups. A mixture of meat and vegetables and various types of white bread constitute the main foods.

In rural areas, there is a tradition of baking flat white bread (“churek”, “lavash”, “tandyr”). Kufte bozbash (meat and potatoes in a fine sauce) is a popular dish. Stuffed peppers, grape leaves, and soups are also part of the daily meals.

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Different types of green herbs, including coriander, parsley, dill, and chives, are served during meals as a garnish and as a salad. Pork is not popular due to Islamic dietary rules, but it was consumed in sausages during the Soviet period.

Beet soup and other Russian dishes are also part of the cuisine. Restaurants offer many varieties of kebabs and, in Baku, an increasingly international cuisine. Some restaurants in Baku’s historic buildings have small rooms for families and private groups.


Pulov (steamed rice) garnished with apricots and raisins is a main dish in ritual celebrations. It is consumed together with meat, fried chestnuts and onions. During the Novruz festival, wheat is fried with raisins and nuts (“gavurga”).

Each household should have seven types of nuts on a tray. Sweets like paklava (a thin-layered diamond cake filled with walnuts and sugar) and shakarbura (a thin-crust cake filled with walnuts and sugar) are an indispensable part of the celebrations.

At weddings, the pulov and various kebabs are accompanied by alcohol and sweet non-alcoholic drinks (“shyra”). At funerals, the main course is usually pulov and meat, served with shyra and followed by tea.


Even in rural areas, marriages are increasingly organized according to the wishes of couples. In some cases, girls in rural areas may not have the right to oppose a candidate chosen by their parents; It is also not unusual for parents to disapprove of the chosen partner.

Marriages between Azeri and non-Azaeri non-Muslim ( Russian , Armenian ) girls in the Soviet period were very rare, but non-Muslim Westerners apparently now have a different status. Men, on the other hand, could more easily marry Russians and Armenians .

Both men and women marry to have children and raise a family, but economic security is another major concern for women. In addition to the civil marriage ceremony, some couples now go to a mosque to get married according to Islamic law.


Sex and body issues are generally not discussed openly in public. Depending on the age of the person speaking, some men may refrain from using words like “pregnant”; if they must use them, they apologize.

It is not considered appropriate for adults to openly mention going to the bathroom; In private homes, people of the same age and gender or children may be asked how to get to the bathroom. Women rarely smoke in public or at parties or other gatherings, and an Azerbaijani woman who smokes on the street would be looked down upon.

To show respect for older people, it is important not to smoke in front of older people of both sexes. Young men and women are circumspect in their behavior towards older people.

Body contact between people of the same sex is common as part of the interaction when talking or in the form of walking from arm to arm. Men usually greet each other by shaking hands and also hugging if they haven’t seen each other in a long time.

Depending on the occasion and the degree of closeness, men and women can greet each other with a handshake or just words and a nod. In urban settings, it is not unusual for a man to kiss a woman’s hand as a sign of reverence.

Consciousness of space is greater between the sexes; men and women prefer not to be near each other in lines or in crowded places. However, all of these trends depend on age, education, and family history.

Activities such as drinking more than a token amount, smoking, and being in the company of a man are associated more with Russian women than Azeri. Azeri women would be criticized more harshly, as it is accepted that Russians have different values.



Among the total population, 93.4 percent are Muslim (70 percent Shiite and 30 percent Sunni). Christians ( Russian Orthodox and Apostolic Armenians ) make up the second largest group. Other groups exist in small numbers, such as the Molokans, the Baha’is and the Krishnas.

Until recently, Islam was predominantly a cultural system with little organized activity. Funerals were the most persistent religious ritual during the socialist era.

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In 1980, Sheikh-Islam (head of the Muslim junta) was appointed. The mullahs were not very active during the Soviet period , as the role of religion and mosques was limited. Even today, mosques are more important for conducting funeral services.

Some practitioners read passages from the Quran in the company of women on these occasions.


Ramadan, Ramadan Bayram, and Gurban Bayram (the Feast of Sacrifice) are not widely observed, especially in urban areas. Muharram is the period when there are restrictions on celebrations.

The ash is the day when the assassination of the first Shiite Imam, Huseyin, considered a martyr, is commemorated by men and boys who beat their backs with chains while the people watching them, including women, beat their chests with the chains. fists.

This ritual was not introduced until the early 1990s and attracts increasing numbers of people. People go to the mosque to pray and light candles and also visit the tombs of the pir (holy men) to make a wish.


Although people increasingly follow the Islamic tradition, due to the lack of organized religious education, people’s beliefs about life after death are not clearly defined. The idea of ​​paradise and hell is prominent, and martyrs are believed to go to heaven.

After a death, the first and the following four Thursdays are commemorated, as well as the third, seventh and fortieth days and the first anniversary. When there is very little space, a tent is set up in front of people’s houses for guests. Men and women often sit in separate rooms, food and tea are served, and the Koran is read.


The New Years party is celebrated on January 1, on January 20 it commemorates the victims killed by Soviet troops in Baku in 1990, on March 8 is International Women’s Day, and on March 21 and 22 is Novruz (the new year), an ancient Persian holiday celebrated on the day of the spring equinox.

Novruz is the most distinctive Azerbaijani holiday, accompanied by extensive cleaning and cooking in homes. Most households grow semen (green wheat seedlings), and children jump over small bonfires; celebrations are also held in public spaces.

Other holidays are May 9, Victory Day (inherited from the Soviet period ); May 28, Republic Day; October 9, Armed Forces Day; October 18, State Sovereignty Day; November 12, Constitution Day; November 17, Renaissance Day; and on December 31, Solidarity Day of the Azeris of the World.



State funds during the socialist era provided workshops for painters and other artists. These funds are now limited, but national and international sponsors encourage artistic activity.


Dede Korkut’s book and the Zoroastrian Avesta (dating back centuries but written in the 15th century), as well as the Köroglu dastan, are some of the oldest examples of oral literature (dastans are recitations of historical events in highly ornate language).

Works by poets such as Shirvani, Gancavi, Nasimi, Shah Ismail Savafi and Fuzuli, produced between the 12th and 16th centuries, are the most important writings in the Persian and Turkish languages . The philosopher and playwright Mirza Fath Ali Akhunzade (Akhundov), the historical novelist Hussein Javid, and the satirist MA Sabir produced works in Azeri in the 19th century.

Among the leading figures of the 20th century were Elchin, Yusif Samedoglu, and Anar, and some novelists also wrote in Russian.


The tradition of painted miniatures was important in the 19th century, while the 20th century was marked by examples of Soviet social realism and Azerbaijani folklore. Among the widely recognized painters, Sattar Bahlulzade worked primarily with landscapes in a way reminiscent of “Van Gogh in Blue.”

Tahir Salakhov painted in Western and Soviet styles, and Togrul Narimanbekov made use of figures from traditional Azerbaijani tales depicted in very rich colors.

Rasim Babayev cultivated his own style of “primitivism” with hidden allegories about the Soviet regime (bright, saturated colors, absence of perspective, and numerous non-human characters inspired by folk tales and legends).


The local and western musical tradition is very rich, and there has been a jazz revival in Baku in recent years. Pop music is also popular, having developed under Russian , Western and Azeri influences . The Soviet system helped popularize a systematic music education, and people from all sectors of society participate and perform music of different styles.

While classical and jazz music composers, performers and listeners are more common in urban settings, ashugs (who play saz and sing) and mugam (a traditional vocal and instrumental style) players can be found throughout the country. . It is not uncommon to find children playing the piano in their homes in the village.

Traditional string, wind and percussion instruments (tar, balaban, tutak, saz, kamancha, nagara) are widely used. Uzeyir Hacibeyov, who is said to have written the first opera (“Leyli and Madjnun”) in the Islamic East in the early 20th century, Kara Karayev and Fikret Amirov are among the best-known classical composers.

Both now and in the past, elements of Azerbaijani music have been incorporated into classical and jazz pieces (for example, pianist and composer Firangiz Alizade, who recently played with the Kronos Quartet). In addition to western ballet, traditional dances accompanied by accordion, tar and percussion are popular.

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