BAKU, Oct 4 (Reuters) - Azerbaijan holds a presidential election on Wednesday which is expected to keep Ilham Aliyev in office for a third term.
Here are some key facts about the country:
GEOGRAPHY: Azerbaijan is an ex-Soviet republic on the Caspian Sea, sandwiched between Iran and Russia. It also borders Georgia, Armenia and Turkey.
POPULATION: 9.4 million. There are 5.2 million eligible voters.
RELIGION: Most of the population is Muslim, the majority Shi'ites.
LANGUAGE: Azeri, which is closely related to Turkish. Russian is widely spoken, especially in the capital Baku.
ECONOMY: With a BP -controlled oil pipeline to the Mediterranean Sea and a criss-cross of gas pipelines that lead to Europe, Azerbaijan is a hub for exporting Caspian energy to world markets. Energy markets see Caspian reserves as a valuable alternative to Russian and Saudi supplies.
The government predicts the economy will grow at an annual average rate of 5.1 percent in 2013-2017. It expanded 2.2 percent last year. Growth is way down from the boom years of 2003-2007, when the economy expanded by an average 21 percent per year
NAGORNO-KARABAKH: Ethnic Armenian separatists, backed by Armenia, fought a war in the 1990s to throw off Azerbaijan's control over the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh region. An estimated 30,000 people were killed.
A peace accord has never been signed, internationally-led talks have not reconciled the two sides and a ceasefire is frequently tested by exchanges of fire across the frontline. Armenia backs Nagorno-Karabakh's demand for independence, something Azerbaijan says it can never have. (Reporting by Margarita Antidze; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)