The Azerbaijan Republic, unlike its Soviet predecessor, is characterized by various political and social organizations and parties. Its leaders have confirmed their willingness to grant cultural autonomy to ethnic minorities. Iran does not recognize ethnic or national differences nor grant autonomy to nationalities.
Social Organization. Although much of the society has been peasant and nomadic, the cities in Azerbaijan have produce a small but vigorous urban culture and merchant class. The upper class traditionally was composed of landowners or merchants, but in the north industrialization in the nineteenth century also created an industrial bourgeoisie. In the north, there was a secular cultural-intellectual movement in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Political Organization. The Azerbaijan Republic realized aspects of its sovereignty only slowly because of the continued control of the government by former Communists during its first months of independence. The 1978 constitution remained in force. During the spring of 1992, the former Communists lost power and were supplanted by the Azerbaijan Popular Front, the major opposition force since its founding in 1989. Its leader, Abulfez Elchibey, was elected president (7 June 1992) in the first democratic elections since 1919. The post-Communist government embarked on a program of social, political, and economic change.
Social Control. Traditional norms are enforced by the family and by community opinion. Religious values can be enforced by the religious establishment in the south. In the north, the pressure by the Communist party apparatus and Ministry of Internal Affairs is gradually being replaced by new laws.
Conflict. The main conflict is between Azerbaijani Turks and non-Azerbaijanis. The czar ist period was marked by continual but only sporadically violent resistance to Russian control, laws restricting non-Christians, and Christianization and Russification campaigns. Resistance to Russification continued under Soviet rule. The use of force by the Soviet state to mobilize the population at harvest time led to occasional violence against the authorities. Sporadic but intense periods of conflict with Armenians characterized the first quarter of the twentieth century and the late 1980s and early 1990s. The latter confrontation concerns a territorial dispute over Nagorno-Karabagh (the first word means "mountainous" in Russian, the second is "black garden" in Turkish), which both nations regard as their historic patrimony.