Located in the Caucasus, Azerbaijan was a part of the Soviet Union until it gained independence in 1991. It shares borders with the Russian Federation, Georgia, Armenia, and Iran, with its capital, the city of Baku being one of the major ports on the Caspian Sea. The Azeri people, who make up 89 percent of the population, have an extensive culture that can be traced back to medieval times. The Azéris developed many of their cultural pursuits from their position along some of the trade routes between Turkey and China, and Turkish games such as Backgammon became popular, as did later card games, which probably came from Persia (modern-day Iran). Storytellers used to take up positions in the cities of Baku, Ganja (formerly Kirovabad), and ...