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Azerbaijan – language

azerbaijan language; azerbaijani language, azeri language, official language, cyrillic alphabet, northern iran, native language

Azerbaijan is a country situated on the borderland of Europe and Asia. Due to historical ties with the Soviet Union, it is considered one of the most laic Muslim nations. The oriental character of the countryside and the European atmosphere of the capital, Baku, attract tourists from all over the world.

Have you ever wondered what the main language of Azerbaijan is? Are you curious why so many residents of Baku speak Russian? If the Caucasus is in the scope of your interest, we invite you to take part in our virtual trip through the languages of the region.

Azerbaijan: Europe or Asia?

Baku was the host of the 2015 European Games. This event triggered a wave of controversy surrounding the geographical affiliation of Azerbaijan. Is it a European or Asian country? The answer, however, isn’t easy. The border between two continents is just a matter of agreement. Moreover, there are at least a few dividing lines taken into consideration. It is possible to find advocates of all concepts. 

The most popular way of dividing Europe and Asia is a line that runs from the Kara Sea in the North to the Caspian Sea in the South. After reaching its waters, it changes direction toward the West with the Ural River and ends on the north coast of the Black Sea. According to this border concept, the Caucasian region belongs to Asia.

However, to make matters more complicated, some theories situate the European border much further South than the previous one. The most inclusive one states that our continent is delimited by the old Southern USSR border. Accordingly, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan are a part of Europe.

Although the doubts related to Azerbaijan’s geographic affiliations with Europe are common (and probably they will stay for a long time), the country traditionally has been considered Europe for cultural, geopolitical and economic reasons.

Languages of Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan has one official language: Azerbaijani (also known as Azeri), and the majority of its population uses it. Due to historical reasons, Russian is a common language in the country. Minority languages with the highest number of speakers are Armenian, Georgian, Lezgian, Talysh, Avar, Budukh, Juhuri, Khinalug, Kryts, Jek, Rutul and Tsakhur. Many of them are on the brink of extinction. So far, the Azerbaijani government hasn’t ratified the European Charter for Minority or Regional Languages, due to prolonging conflict with Armenia.

Azerbaijani language

Azeri and Turkish languages have a lot in common. They both belong to the Turkic language family and are mutually intelligible to a large degree. It is possible to meet Azerbaijani speakers in other countries: northern parts of Iran, Eastern Turkey, Russian republics or other regions of the Caucasus. An estimated number of 22.5 million people can fluently communicate in that language (source:

In 1922, Azeri users switched from the Arabic to the Latin alphabet. Nevertheless, they haven’t enjoyed the new way of writing for a long time; in 1933, due to political reasons, Cyrillic script was introduced. It stayed for a long period, until 1992 when the government decided to go back to the Latin alphabet.

azerbaijan language; azerbaijani language, azeri language, official language, cyrillic alphabet, northern iran, native language
azerbaijan language; azerbaijani language, turkic languages, cyrillic alphabet, turkish language
azerbaijan language; azerbaijani language, iranian language, official language of azerbaijan, minority languages

Russian language

Although no official statistics showing data about Russian proficiency among Azeris are available, the experts claim that between 50 to 70% of the country’s population speaks it fluently (source: RadioFreeEurope). Most Russian users choose Azeri for their daily communication.

Russian influence has been present in the Caucasus since the beginning of the 19th century. It used to be the language of instruction in many schools. In Soviet times, many attempts to Russify the inhabitants of the region were made. Occasionally, they proved successful: many significant artists and authors residing in Baku decided to switch to the language of the occupant.

The collapse of the USSR was a turning point in the position of the Russian language in the region. Slowly, it began to lose its users, particularly in the countryside. In 2002, president Heydar Aliyev decided to remove bilingual signs from public spaces. In the same year, obligatory Russian classes in schools ceased. From that moment, students could pick the language of their preference.

Useful Azeri phrases

According to the English proficiency ranking conducted by Education First, Azerbaijan has the lowest number of English speakers in Europe. For that reason, unless you know Russian, learning a few phrases in Azeri before your trip may be useful.

  • Hello Salam
  • Good morning – Sabahınız xeyir
  • Good afternoon – Hər vaxtınız xeyir
  • Good evening – Axşamınız xeyir
  • Goodbye – Sağ olun
  • See you soon – Görüşərik
  • Good night – Geceniz xeyrə qalsın
  • Please – Buyurun
  • Thank you – Sağ Ol / Təşəkkür edirəm
  • Sorry – Bağışlayın
  • Good luck – Müvəffəqiyyətlər
  • Bon appétit – Nuş olsun
  • All the best – Mübarək
  • How are you? – Necəsiniz?
  • Do you speak English/Russian? – İngiliscə/ rusca danışırsınız?
  • I don’t speak Azeri – Mən azərbaycanca bilmirəm
  • Yes – Bəli/
  • No – Heyir/Yox
  • I understand – Başa düşürəm
  • Please, repeat – Təkrar edin
  • I don’t understand – Başa düşmürəm

Discover Azerbaijan

The easiest way to get from Europe to Azerbaijan is by plane. If you choose this mode of transportation, there is a high chance you will land at Baku International Airport. It is also possible to cross the Azeri border by train from Georgia, however, travelling from Armenia isn’t an option, due to prolonging conflict between the two countries.

When you reach Azerbaijan, you will enjoy its breathtaking views (don’t forget to visit the mountains!), the stunning architecture of Baku, sweet baklava and delicious meals. The Azeri cuisine is known (and loved) for aromatic spaces, tasty local lamb and mutton, and fresh bread. Give it a chance, enjoy the hospitality of the people, and discover the country’s diverse culture.

Are you looking for an Azeri to Russian translator? The good news is: you almost found it! Contact us, tell us more about the job, and we will choose the best-suited professional from our highly skilled team.

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