Revolts and dynasty
Armenia, a Christian country since the fourth century, has been rocked by political and economic instability since it gained independence from the former USSR.
The country's post-Soviet leadership repressed opposition to its rule, was accused of falsifying ballot results, and was largely beholden to the interests of Russia.
In the spring of 2018, mass street protests brought current Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to power. He has since cracked down on corruption and introduced popular judicial reforms.
Muslim-majority Azerbaijan, on the Caspian Sea, has been under the authoritarian grip of a single family since 1993.
Heydar Aliyev, a former officer of the Soviet security services, the KGB, ruled the country with an iron fist until October 2003. He handed over power to his son, Ilham, weeks before his death.
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Like his father, Ilham has quashed all opposition to his rule and in 2017 made his wife, Mehriban, the country's first vice president.
Russia and Turkey
Turkey, with ambitions to be a regional powerbroker in the Caucasus, has thrown its weight behind oil-rich and Turkic-speaking Azerbaijan.