Azerbaijan–Italy relations

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Azerbaijani–Italian relations
Map indicating locations of Azerbaijan and Italy



Azerbaijani–Italian relations have lasted for centuries and today remains strong. Azerbaijan has an embassy in Rome. Italy has an embassy in Baku. Both countries are full members of the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).


Roman influence in Caucasian Albania[edit]

Roman inscription in Gobustan, about 55 km away from Baku

An ancient Latin inscription on the rocks in the territory of Qobustan testifies that the Roman legions crossed through Albania in the old times. In 75 AD, XII Fulminata was in Caucasus, where Emperor Vespasian had sent the legion to support the allied kingdoms of Caucasian Iberia (Georgia) and Caucasian Albania. Even though Roman Empire controlled Albania as a vassal state, Albania, unlike Armenia and Iberia didn't turn out to be as an actual part of the Roman Empire and protected its independence. Caucasian Albania also signed a peace treaty with Roman Republic as Strabo attested.[1][2] Sara Ashurbeyli's book about history of Baku brings a possibility of settlement of Ramana was that possibly founded by the Roman troops of Lucius Julius Maximus from Legio XII Fulminata in c. 84-96 AD and derives its name from the Latin Romana.[3]

The Roman Empire has left a notable influence on Albania. Christianity remains as one of them. According to Strabo, who traveled to the region in the 1st century BC, the local tribes practiced polytheism but Christianity entered into Caucasian Albania in early 1st century[citation needed]. In the 4th century, Eastern Roman Empire accepted Christianity as a state religion, but Christianity didn't spread among nation that strongly. During Arab invasions, Azerbaijani people[citation needed] had to accept Islam because polytheist and Zoroastrian religious views were a sin according to Islamic rule; however, the Christian minority were able to protect their belief (monotheist views are respected among Muslims) and still certain parts of Albania remain Christian.[4][5] Despite the Islamisation of Albania, the oldest Christian church in the Caucasus[citation needed], the Albanian Church founded by the apostle Yelisey in Sheki, near Kish, as well as the Gandzasar[citation needed], Targmanchats[citation needed] and Amaras[citation needed] monasteries in Karabagh have reached our times in relatively good shape. Christianity was not the only thing of a huge cultural legacy Rome left to Albania; it also left the Latin alphabet and the western-oriented society of contemporary Azerbaijanis[citation needed]. After Arab invasions, Azeri people[citation needed] stuck to the Arabic alphabet. However, a Latin-based alphabet was adopted in 1928 but soon, in 1939, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin ordered the Azerbaijanis to use the Cyrillic alphabet (which is used for the Russian language). When Azerbaijan gained its independence again[citation needed] in 1991, head of state Ayaz Mutallibov and its parliament adopted a Latin-based alphabet.[6]

Side view of the Church of Kish, which has functioned at different times as a Chalcedonian church within the Georgian Orthodox Church and as an Armenian Apostolic church

Archaeological works have proved that Caucasian Albania used Rome coins and dinars.[7][8] Azerbaijan protects such ancient founds in their museums.

Aq Qoyunlu - Italian states[edit]

The Republic of Venice tried independently or together to build both political and military alliance with Ruler of Persia and Azerbaijan Aq Qoyunlu (White Sheep Turkomans) Uzun Hassan against the Ottoman Empire. Many diplomatic missions were exchanged between 1463 and 1477 [9] In December 1463, the Venetian senate opted to enter an alliance with Hassan. Lazzaro Quirini was sent to Empire and, in the same year, the Aq Qoyunlu ambassador Haji Mohammad was sent to Rome for the inception of the pontificate of Sixtus IV and then to Venice. Caterino Zeno was dispatched by the senate on a similar mission to the empire. Zeno was married to a niece of Uzun Hassan's wife [10] and in a way counted as a member of his family and was very well liked at his court.

Pope Sixtus IV was among the major supporters of establishing connections with Aq Qoyunlu. Soon afterw the alliance between the Italian States and Iran & Azerbaijan were established, they were many times confirmed and reinforced with military supplies. Hassan was promised control of whole Anatolia on the condition that he would not construct any fortresses on the coastline and would allow free passage for Venetian ships.[11] but his hesitations and rare successes at war put him out of the international arena. Uzun Hassan died in 1478 which is the day that can be noted as the end of possible alliance between Italian states and Azerbaijan (Iran).

Safavid Empire[edit]

In July 1501, Ismail I was enthroned as Shah of Azerbaijan.[12] and later on, he became the Shah of Iran. Diplomatic relations were reestablished with Italian states [13] Friendship and an intention for an alliance was repeatedly affirmed but there was never any strong alliance during the time of Ismail nor with his successor Tahmasp I. However, strong commercial ties between Safavid Empire and many Italian states remained, especially during the reign of Shah Abbas.

Azerbaijan Democratic Republic[edit]

Russo-Perso War resulted with the invasion of present-day Azerbaijan territory by Russian Empire. After the collapse of the Russian Empire, Azerbaijan Democratic Republic established the first democratic and secular state in the whole Muslim world. Italy was one of the countries that was able to establish diplomatic relations with Azerbaijan. Italy opened its consulate and military office in Baku. In that time, official visits of the Azerbaijani delegation to Italy and the Italian delegation to Azerbaijan were realized.

Recent political relations[edit]

Italy recognized the independence of Azerbaijan from Soviet Union on January 1, 1992. The diplomatic relations between the two countries were established on May 8, 1992. The first embassy of Italy among the Southern Caucasian republics was opened in Azerbaijan in 1997 and the embassy of Azerbaijan to Italy has been functioning since 2003.[citation needed]

Heydar Aliyev paid his first official visit to Italy on September 1997 and, between 1998-2003 government officials of Italy visited Azerbaijan, which resulted with signed agreements on cooperation in different spheres. Italian ambassadors to Azerbaijan have stated that visas might have lift in soon between two countries.[14] In April 1999, Italy opened a new building of the Italian Embassy in Baku.

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict[edit]

Italy is notable for being the first chairman of OSCE Minsk Group's acting for the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. During Ilham Aliyev's official visits to Italy the subject was touched on again. President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi reminded that the attempts of the Minsk Group of OSCE had not produced any results yet and stated that he would do his best to strengthen the activity of the Minsk Group. In June 2005, during his visit to Azerbaijan, the head of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Migration of the Senate of Italy, said that Italy will protect the just position of Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict[15][16] to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Economic relations[edit]

Italy has become the biggest trade partner of Azerbaijan in importing crude oil and oil products. 51.9% of exportation from Azerbaijan has been directed to Italy since 2003. Italy mainly exports pipes for oil sector, tobacco, leather and furniture to Azerbaijan. The visits of the ministers of Economic Developments of both countries in 2007 resulted in signed agreements on the cooperation between Azerbaijan and Italy in the sector of natural gas.[17]

Co-operation in oil[edit]

In 2005 Azerbaijan exported 50% of its oil to Italy. The owner of a 5% share in the Contract of the Century, an Italian company Eni-Agip, is involved in the construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline. A number of other companies in Italy also participated in the construction of the pipeline on the basis of the contract. The official opening ceremony was held in July 2006. Eni-Agip is also active in the project Shahdeniz and in the oil field Kyurdashy. In June 2013, it was decided that the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) will go from Azerbaijan through Turkey and Greece to southern Italy.[18]

Cooperation in the field of viticulture[edit]

Azerbaijan also plans to collaborate with the Italian Vivai Cooperativi Rauscedo in the field of viticulture.[19] Italy's Manual Vivai Cooperativi Rauscedo and, in order to exchange experience, has invited officials of the Ministry of Agriculture of Azerbaijan economy to Italy.[20]

Cultural relations[edit]

During the Soviet era, in 1972, city of Italy, Naples, and the Azerbaijani capital, Baku, were declared sister cities. Since that time, the cultural ties between Italy and Azerbaijan have become more intense but relations between two countries have a long history which can be seen from travelers visiting Azerbaijan in the Middle Ages (including Marco Polo) and Nasreddin Tusi's book "Interpretation of Euclid's "Elements" being translated into Latin and published in 1594 in Rome. There are different paintings by well-known Italian painters in museums of Azerbaijan, and many carpets and jewelry articles made in Azerbaijan are in different museums and private collections in Italy. Since the end of 19th and the beginning of 20th century in Baku, different buildings were built by famous Italian architects.[21] The works of Dante and Petrarch were translated into Azerbaijani and published in great quantities.[22] Some legendary singers of Azerbaijan such as Bulbul and Muslim Magomayev mastered the bases of opera art in Italy. Many cultural events have been held in both countries. Italy is among those countries who render humanitarian assistance to Azerbaijan. The agreement on the humanitarian aid between Azerbaijan and Italy, signed on June 1, 2005, is directed at easing the hard life of refugees and IDPs settled in Azerbaijan. The Italian government helped a number of medical and social institutions in Azerbaijan as well.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Azerbaijan - Rohama
  2. ^ Caucasian Albania history
  3. ^ History 1
  4. ^ Religious beliefs in Azerbaijan
  5. ^ The Caucasus — article for the Encyclopedia of cultural anthropology by David Levinson & Melvin Ember, eds. Lakeville, 1996 - Kevin Tuite, Université de Montréal
  6. ^ Hatcher, Lynley. 2008. Script change in Azerbaijan: acts of identity. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 192:105-116.
  7. ^ Исмизаде О.Ш. О ювелирном ремесле в древней Кавказской Албании. МКА, VII, Баку, 1973.
  8. ^ Пахомов Е.А. Монетные клады Азербайджана и других республик, краев и областей Кавказа. Баку, вып. I-VI, 1926-1957
  9. ^ Berchet; Woods, pp. 18-19, 127-28, 271, n. 117).
  10. ^ Lockhart, Morozzo della Rocca, and Tiepolo, eds., p. 12; Caraci, p. 52
  11. ^ Woods, p. 271; Inalcik, p. 28
  12. ^ Encyclopaedia Iranica. R. N. Frye. Peoples of Iran.
  13. ^ the Diarii by Marin Sanudo (1531-32)
  14. ^ Interview with Mario Giorgio Stefano Baldi
  15. ^ Итальянский сенат рассмотрит документ, включающий положения об армяно-азербайджанском конфликте [1]
  16. ^ Сенат Италии принял резолюцию по Нагорному Карабаху
  17. ^ Official General Reference on bilateral relations of Azerbaijan and Italy
  18. ^
  19. ^ Director of the Azerbaijan Research Institute of Viticulture and Wine, Tariel Panahov, visited the famous Italian company «Vivai Cooperativi. Azerbaijan intends to cooperate with the Italian company in the field of viticulture
  20. ^ в целях обмена опытом пригласило сотрудников Министерства сельского Азербайджана хозяйства в Италию
  21. ^ Azerbaijani Embassy in Italy
  22. ^ Dante Aligyeri

External links[edit]