In the course of its long history, Azerbaijan has given the world a number of outstanding thinkers, poets, and scientists. Among the medieval scientists and philosophers, Abul Hasan Bakhmanyar (11th century), the author of numerous works on mathematics and philosophy, and Abul Hasan Shirvani (11th–12th centuries), the author of Astronomy, may be noted. The poet and philosopher Nẹzāmī, called Ganjavī after his place of birth, Ganja, was the author of Khamseh (“The Quintuplet”), composed of five romantic poems, including “The Treasure of Mysteries,” “Khosrow and Shīrīn,” and “Leyli and Mejnūn.”
The people of Azerbaijan have retained their ancient musical tradition. For example, the art of ashugs, who improvise songs to their own accompaniment on a stringed instrument called a kobuz, remains extremely popular. Mugams, vocal and instrumental compositions, are also widely known, the town of Shusha being particularly renowned for this art.
Azerbaijan’s cultural institutions, including museums, theatres, and public libraries, are located in Baku. Many of them were established after World War II. The city has museums devoted to the art, history, and literature of Azerbaijan.
The opera and ballet are widely attended. Some of Azerbaijan’s composers, notably Uzeir Hajjibekov (the operas Ker-Ogly and Leyli and Mejnūn and the operetta Arshin Mal ʾAlan) and Kara Karayev (the ballets Seven Beauties and The Path of Thunder), have international reputations. The latter’s symphonic music is also well known abroad.
Throughout the Soviet period Azerbaijani literature was controlled by a system that saw mortal danger in even a modicum of creative freedom. Azerbaijani writers and other intellectuals were closely supervised and subjected to varying degrees of persecution.
In 1992 the Azerbaijani government switched from the Cyrillic to the Roman alphabet.Baku has several radio stations, a television studio, and a film studio.
Azerbaijan is a country faithfully observing its national traditions. Traditions accompany Azerbaijani people from the moment of birth and throughout life: matchmaking, childbirth, holidays, harvesting and others. When visiting mosques and mausoleums, islamic ethics should be observed here.
The hospitality of Azerbaijanis is widely known – they are able to receive guests with a true Caucasian cordiality. Often the owner give gifts to the guest. There are some traditional ways of hospitality of high-ranking or distinguished guests among Azerbaijanis. In the past, a sheep was cut at a guest feet, while meeting at the gates of the house, by the way, the sheer ribbons were tied to the horns. There was a custom in ancient Azerbaijan: if a servant carried a full bag of food to the guest on the road, it was a hint that it was time for the guest to go back. For the travelers lost in the mountains, tired, travelers who had lagged behind on the road at night, there were once built the shelters of “Aman evliari”, which have survived to our days in the Azerbaijani mountains as ancient monuments. In Azerbaijan, guests at the entrance to the house should take off their shoes and follow the instructions of the owner. First of all, tea is offered to any guest in any Azerbaijani home. Tea always begins with a feast, and it ends with it. Moreover, tea is brought even if the guest did not come to sit with the hosts, but on business, for a few minutes. The original Azerbaijani dishes for drinking are the glasses “Armud” or otherwise “Bogmal”. Both names are associated with the shape of these glasses.
Teahouse is another tradition associated with the tea ceremony. Unlike the standard Central Asian teahouse, where you can drink tea and have a nice lunch, only tea is served in the Azerbaijani tea house. To him can only offer sweets and sweets, but not food.
The most magnificent and widespread holiday is Novruz. It is celebrated on March 21 – the day of the vernal equinox. As a tribute to pre-Islamic Zoroastrian beliefs, every Tuesday during four weeks before the holiday children jump over small bonfires and candles are lit. The Tuesdays represent the elements of life – earth, wind, fire and water. There are many poems, songs, rituals and beliefs concerning each of these Tuesdays. Every year on the eve of Novruz traditional sweets and cakes are made. In the evening on 21 March, all family members gather at home for dinner to eat a traditional dish called plov and celebrate the holiday. In some parts of the country where old customs prevail, on the last night of the old year, family members sprinkle water on each other, a custom symbolizing the “washing off” of all the hardships of the old year.
The richest in national rituals and ceremonies were and remain wedding ceremonies. The wedding process consists of three stages: the pre-wedding period (matchmaking, betrothal, marriage), the wedding and the post-wedding period. At the wedding, it is customary for guests to dance, and also the bride and groom dance together. Azerbaijani folk dances have a very ancient history. This is evidenced by the rock dances depicted in Gobustan. National dances of Azerbaijan, as well as real street performances are called an integral component of the culture of this country.