From the total population of 9,165,000 people as of July 2011, nearly 52% was urban population, the remaining 48% was the rural population. 51% of the total population were female. The sex ratio for total population in that year was therefore 0.97 males per female.
The 2011 population growth rate was 0.85%, compared to 1.09% worldwide. A significant factor restricting the population growth is rather a high level of migration. An estimated 3 million Azerbaijanis, many of them guest workers, live in Russia. In 2011 Azerbaijan saw migration of −1.14/1,000 persons. With 800,000 ethnic Azerbaijani refugees and IDPs, Azerbaijan has the largest internally displaced population in the region, and, as of 2006, had the highest per capita IDP population in the world.
The Azerbaijani diaspora is found in 42 countries and in turn there are many centers for ethnic minorities inside Azerbaijan, including the German cultural society “Karelhaus”, Slavic cultural center, Azerbaijani-Israeli community, Kurdish cultural center, International Talysh Association, Lezgin national center “Samur”, Azerbaijani-Tatar community, Crimean Tatars society, etc.
The ethnic composition of the population according to the 2009 population census: 91.60% Azerbaijanis, 2.02% Lezgians, 1.35% Armenians (almost all Armenians live in the break-away region of Nagorno-Karabakh), 1.34% Russians, 1.26% Talysh, 0.56% Avars, 0.43% Turks, 0.29% Tatars, 0.28% Tats, 0.24% Ukrainians, 0.14% Tsakhurs, 0.11% Georgians, 0.10% Jews, 0.07% Kurds, other 0.21%.
Iranian Azerbaijanis are the largest minority in Iran. The CIA World Factbook estimates Iranian Azerbaijanis as comprising nearly 16% of Iran’s population.
In total, Azerbaijan has 77 cities, 64 smaller rayon-class cities, and one special legal status city. These are followed by 257 urban-type settlements and 4,620 villages.
The official language is Azerbaijani, which belongs to the Turkic language family, spoken in southwestern Asia, primarily in Azerbaijan and Iranian Azerbaijan. Azerbaijani is member of the Oghuz branch of the Turkic languages and is closely related to Turkish, Qashqa’i and Turkmen. The Azerbaijani language is divided into two varieties, North Azerbaijani and South Azerbaijani, and a large number of dialects. Turkic Khalaj, Qashqa’i, and Salchuq are considered by some to be separate languages in the Azerbaijani language group. Azerbaijani served as a lingua franca throughout most parts of Transcaucasia (except the Black Sea coast), in Southern Dagestan, eastern Turkey, and Iranian Azerbaijan from the 16th century to the early 20th century.
Although Azerbaijani (also called Azeri) is the most widely spoken language in the country and is spoken by about a quarter of the population of Iran, there are 13 other languages spoken natively in the country. Some of these languages are very small communities, others are more vital. Azerbaijani is mutually intelligible with Turkish and Gagauz. The northern variety of the language is written with a modified Latin alphabet today, but was earlier written in the Perso-Arabic alphabet (until 1929), in the Uniform Turkic Alphabet (1929–1939), and in the Cyrillic alphabet (1939–1991). The changes in alphabet have been largely molded by religious and political forces.
Around 95 percent of the population are Muslims. 85% of the Muslims are Shia Muslims and 15% Sunni Muslims, and the Republic of Azerbaijan has the Second highest Shia population percentage after Iran. In Baku there is the Hindu Fire Temple of Baku (“ateshgah”) with an “old” structure which, according to travellers, has been a place of visit for Hindu priests for more than a millennium. The place is often “misrepresented as a Zoroastrian fire-temple” due to frequent association of “fire temple” with the Iranian religion of Zoroastrianism. Other faiths are practised by the country’s various ethnic groups. Under article 48 of its Constitution, Azerbaijan is a secular state and ensures religious freedom. Of the nation’s religious minorities, Christians are mostly Russian and Georgian Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic (almost all Armenians live in the break-away region of Nagorno-Karabakh).
In 2003, there were 250 Roman Catholics. Other Christian denominations as of 2002 include Lutherans, Baptists and Molokans. There are also Jewish, Bahá’í, Hare Krishna and Jehovah’s Witnesses communities, as well as adherents of the Nehemiah Church, Star in the East Church and the Cathedral of Praise Church.
A relatively high percentage of Azerbaijanis have obtained some form of higher education, most notably in scientific and technical subjects. In the Soviet era, literacy and average education levels rose dramatically from their very low starting point, despite two changes in the standard alphabet, from Perso-Arabic script to Latin in the 1920s and from Roman to Cyrillic in the 1930s. According to Soviet data, 100 percent of males and females (ages nine to forty-nine) were literate in 1970. According to the United Nations Development Program Report 2009, the literacy rate in Azerbaijan is 99.5 percent.
Since independence, one of the first laws that Azerbaijan’s Parliament passed to disassociate itself from the Soviet Union was to adopt a modified-Latin alphabet to replace Cyrillic. Other than that the Azerbaijani system has undergone little structural change. Initial alterations have included the reestablishment of religious education (banned during the Soviet period) and curriculum changes that have reemphasized the use of the Azerbaijani language and have eliminated ideological content. In addition to elementary schools, the education institutions include thousands of preschools, general secondary schools, and vocational schools, including specialized secondary schools and technical schools. Education through the eighth grade is compulsory.