Azerbaijan is a unique example of peaceful coexistence of many nationalities and faiths. Progressive national cultural and religious relationships, based on mutual trust and respect, historically existed in Azerbaijan.
In 2002, the head of the Roman Catholic Church John Paul II, during his visit to Baku, specifically mentioned the historical tradition of tolerance in Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan is a country where representatives of different nationalities and faiths live together and as a bridge between East and West, it pays great attention to the dialogue between cultures and civilizations.
Today, the Republic of Azerbaijan implements a policy of versatile integration into the world community as a multi-ethnic and religiously diverse state. Socio-political stability, civic solidarity and the environment of ethno-religious tolerance, which are present here, are a logical result of national policy, based on stable historical traditions.
Islam is the main religion in Azerbaijan; about 95% of the population are Muslims. Approximately 85% of them are Shia and 15% Sunni.
The Caucasian Muslims Office associates not only Muslims of Azerbaijan, but of the whole Transcaucasia region. To date, the country has 1,802 mosques.
Christianity in the territory of current Azerbaijan appeared approximately two thousand years ago and is associated with the Apostle Bartholomew, one o the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ, which according to the religious legends brought gospel to this country. In the first half of the first century, early Christians in Azerbaijan received a warm welcome. Christianity is widely spread in the Caucasian Albania, in whose territory the current Azerbaijan is situated, and in the 4th century an independent Albanian church was already founded.
The first Russian Orthodox Church in Baku was built in 1815. At present, Azerbaijan has six Orthodox churches; Orthodoxy is professed by 209,700 people (2.3% of the population).
In 2003, Albanian-Udin community was established in Azerbaijan. The world currently has about 10,000 representatives of the Udin ethnic group, with 6,000 of them living in the territory of Azerbaijan.
In Azerbaijan, there are also 11 Molocan municipalities that are Old Believers, which split off from orthodoxy. Molocans have no temples; their dogmas are contained in the special “book of rituals.”
The history of Judaism in Azerbaijan amounts to some 1,300 years. In the town of Shabran, archaeologists found a synagogue dating from the 7th century. Given that there had never been manifestations of anti-Semitism in Azerbaijan, since the 19th century, the Jews of the Russian Empire had been moving to Azerbaijan.
In Azerbaijan, there are three Jewish communities: 1 – the community of Mountain Jews (11 thousand people) living in Quba (Krasnaya Sloboda) and Baku; 2 – the community of Ashkenazi Jews (4,300 people), living in Baku and Sumgayit; 3 – the community of Georgian Jews (700 people), living in the Azerbaijan regions bordering Georgia.
In the Republic, there are seven synagogues, five Jewish schools (1,450 pupils), and there is a Hebrew Department at the Faculty of Eastern Sciences at Baku State University. The synagogue, built in Baku in 2003, is one of the largest in Europe.
The settlement of Krasnaya Sloboda in Quba district is the only place of a compact residence of Jews in the entire post-Soviet area. Krasnaya Sloboda was recognized as the centre of development and conservation of material and spiritual culture of the Mountain Jews. Not by accident is the settlement called the “Jerusalem of the Caucasus”. The basis of the social organisation of the Mountain Jews life is the community – kagal. Maintaining kagal helps to pass on the ethno-cultural, religious and social traditions from generation to generation. In the six-cupola synagogue, which is still in use, there is a large collection of instructions for reading the Torah.
Catholicism and Protestantism
Catholicism in Azerbaijan began to spread in the early 14th century. At present, an Apostolic Prefecture of the worldwide Roman Catholic Church is located in Azerbaijan. In May 2002, a significant event in the life of the Roman Catholic Church in Azerbaijan took place – Pope John Paul II came on an official visit to Baku. In the Republic, the Catholic Church and the Missionaries of Charity of Mother Teresa of Calcutta are active. Overall around 2,000 Catholics live here.
Lutheranism in the Caucasus began to spread at the beginning of the 1820s, after the relocation and creation of German colonies in the territory of Azerbaijan in Elenendorf (Chanlar) and Annenfeld (Shamkhor). In 1899, the Church of the Redeemer of the German-Swedish parish was built in Baku, which is popularly called “kirkha”. The Evangelical Lutheran community of Azerbaijan survived till 1937, when, as the result of Stalin’s repressions, the village activists who refused to become atheists were shot. The remaining Germans were deported to Central Asia by the Soviet government in 1941. An organ concert hall was opened in the kirkha building. Over 700 Germans currently live in Azerbaijan. They founded the cultural-historical society “Resurgence” and the Evangelical Lutheran community.
Currently, there are 25 local municipalities of Evangelical Christians – Baptists in Azerbaijan.