Introduction / History Azerbaijan is located in the Caucasus Mountain region on the western shore of the Caspian Sea. It is there, in the land of the ancient Medes, that we find more than six million Azerbaijanis (also known as the Azeri). The name "Azeri" is thought to have come from the fourth century ruler, Atropat, who governed the area that is now northwestern Iran. However, it may have been derived from azer, the Persian word for fire.
The Azeri have been subjected to numerous invasions throughout history. The homeland of the Azeri was first conquered by the Persians in the sixth century B.C. Islam was introduced into the area during the seventh century A.D. and has been practiced there ever since. By the eleventh century, Persian influence was overpowered by Turkic influence. During the thirteenth century, this region of Asia fell under the dominion of the Mongol conqueror, Genghis Khan.
The Azeri language belongs to the southwestern (Oguz) branch of the Turkic language family. Azeri has a written tradition that dates back to the fourteenth century.
The highest number of Azeris live in Iran and Azerbaijan, the latter named after them. They also live in Eastern European countries, and small numbers live in the United States, Sweden and Germany. There are small numbers of Azeris living throughout the Central Asian nations including Afghanistan.
What are their lives like? Azerbaijani settlements were traditionally divided into villages made up of extended families. In an attempt to protect their culture, they encouraged marriage within the family. Azeris consider marriages between first cousins the most desirable. Marriage to a non-Azerbaijani was almost unheard of prior to the Soviet period. Polygyny (having more than one wife) was only allowed in cases of infertility.
The Azerbaijani diet consists mainly of rice pilaf and a variety of grilled and boiled meats including beef, goat, and lamb. Traditional dishes include bozartma (mutton stew), dovga (a soup made from yogurt), meat, and herbs. Other dishes are dolma, khingal, kabab, and dushbara. Tea and wine are popular drinks.
What are their beliefs? The Azerbaijanis are primarily Shia Muslims, but there are a number of Sunni Muslims as well. Islam among the Azerbaijani is a reflection of the historical ties that exist between Azerbaijan and Iran. Until the twentieth century, most Azeri identified themselves as Muslims rather than Azerbaijani or Turks. They believe that being a "spiritual community of Islam" was much more important than being a nation.
What are their needs? Like other peoples in Afghanistan, the Azeris suffer under a self-serving government. Opportunities to find life to the full are very spotty in this Islamic state.
Prayer Points Pray for the authority of Christ to bind hindering spiritual forces to lead them from darkness to light.
Pray for signs and wonders among them and for great breakthroughs with a rapid multiplication of disciples and house churches.
Pray for bold workers who are driven by the love of the Holy Spirit to go to them.
Pray for an unstoppable movement to Christ among them.