Modernization and Social Change in Azerbaijan: Assessing the Transformation of Azerbaijan through the Theories of Modernity

Javadbay Khalilzada


The socialist development model of the Soviet Union has attracted much scholarly attention over the years, but the modernization experiences of singular post-Soviet countries (e.g. Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Turkmenistan) are rarely discussed. This may be because these countries have only recently gained their independence in the early 1990s and that perhaps most observers are still unsure about their trajectories. This study aims to contribute to the literature by examining the case of Azerbaijan in light of various influential theories of modernity (i.e. the classical modernization theory, neo-modernization theory and multiple modernities paradigm). Azerbaijan’s modernization process has been characterized by fluctuations, reversals and various external influences over the years. The country first emerged as an independent political entity in 1918 and attempted to follow a systematic cultural Westernization and secularization program. Yet it was occupied by the Bolshevik Red Army in 1920 and annexed into the newly formed Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) – being forced to conform to the top-down socialist development model directed by Moscow for many decades. Since gaining its independence once again after the disintegration of the USSR in 1991, Azerbaijan has operated as a secularist country, faltering to democratize and trying to integrate to the global economic system as an energy-producing (i.e. oil and natural gas) rentier economy. While Azerbaijan has sought to become part of the so-called “Western civilization” via building close ties with Turkey, US, Israel, NATO and the EU, the ruling elites in Baku have resisted any calls for democratic reform – not unlike the rentier economies of the Middle East such as Iran and Saudi Arabia. This article will argue that the complex development track of Azerbaijan provides an appropriate case to challenge the hypotheses of the classical modernization and neo-modernization theories, while supporting those of the multiple modernities paradigm.


Azerbaijan; Modernization; Social Change; Secularism; Economic Development; Democratization

Full Text:




  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2019 New Middle Eastern Studies

We use both functional and performance cookies to improve visitor experience. Continue browsing if you are happy to accept cookies. Please see our Privacy Policy for more information.

New Middle Eastern Studies

ISSN: 2051-0861