Geographically part of the Middle East.
Predominantly Iranian influence until influx of Turkic tribes in 11th century.
In 1828, Azerbaijan split along the Araz river. North became part of Russian Empire. South belonged to Persian Empire (more Azeris live in Iran than Azerbaijan).
Exploration began in the 19th century.
1918: Following the Russian revolution, Azerbaijan declared independence.
1920: Soviet Red Army seized Baku for its oil fields.
Second World War Battle of Stalingrad thwarted Hitler's aim of taking Caspian oil fields.
Lack of investment after the Second World War saw infrastructure decay. 1991: Collapse of USSR. Azerbaijan declares independence. War with Armenia begins.
1993: War ends. Azerbaijan loses one fifth of territory. Former communist party leader Heydar Aliyev comes to power.
1994: First oil deal signed with AIOC.
Good read: On Secret Service East of Constantinople by Peter Hopkirk, Oxford University Press (01865) 556 767.