Azerbaijani Turks - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities . Agriculture is a key component of the economy on both sides of the border; the region encompasses several climatic zones and produces tea, grapes, wheat, tobacco, and pomegranates, as well as mulberry trees and cocoons (for silk) and forest products. Sheep, cattle, and goats are kept. Among natural resources are copper, salt, iron ore, and, in the north, the most famous—oil. Black caviar is produced by the sturgeon off the Azerbaijan coast, but severe pollution in the Caspian Sea has virtually destroyed this industry and fishing. Industrial development, consisting of oil and petrochemical industries, is confined to the north. Pesticide use, especially on grapes and cotton, has been excessive and has caused serious health and environmental damage.

Industrial Arts. Azerbaijan has long been famous for its silks and carpets. Tabriz is known for carpets and has famous schools of miniatures and calligraphy; Shemakhi in the north was a major producer of silk cloth; various towns produced rugs. Machine production has largely, but not entirely, replaced handicrafts.

Trade. Trade in silk, carpets, wax, and oil has been important to the towns of Azerbaijan throughout its history. Baku is located on the south side of the Apsheron Peninsula and has the best natural harbor on the Caspian. It has been a commercial port for more than a millennium. Ruins of caravansaries reflect trade with South Asia as well as the Middle East. The towns of the south lay on major overland trade routes. Since the early nineteenth century the economy of each part of Azerbaijan has been integrated into the state of which it is a part.

Division of Labor. The traditional division of men's and women's work generally prevails, with the latter including unusually onerous tasks in nomadic and rural areas. In the twentieth century, especially with losses of male population in northern Azerbaijan after the abortive battle for independence, collectivization, purges, and World War II, women increasingly filled the work force. Intellectual or white-collar employment for females is acceptable in northern Azerbaijan, but physical labor is disdained by women and will be accepted only by the very poor.

Land Tenure. There was no private land in the Azerbaijan SSR, but in rural areas the population was able to use land to build houses and keep private gardens. There is sufficient flexibility in the system for a thriving black market in fruit and flowers. The republican government is committed to privatization of land, but the process is proceeding slowly. In the south, the abortive land reforms of the last Pahlavi shah did not alter the landowning pattern in Azerbaijan; land tends to be concentrated in the hands of the wealthy.

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