Azeri, also known as Azerbaijani or Torki, is the official language of the Republic of Azerbaijan. It is estimated that there are almost 30 million speakers of Azeri worldwide, with Iran being the home of the majority of Azeri speakers. Outside of the Republic of Azerbaijan and Iran, communities of Azeri speakers exist in Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Kazakhstan.
Azeri is a member of the Turkic branch of the Indo-European family of languages and is most closely related to Turkish. The Azeri language can be broadly divided between North and South dialects. Northern dialects are commonly spoken in Azerbaijan and in surrounding former USSR territories while Southern dialects are to be found mostly in Iran. There are significant differences between the two variant groups, in spoken as well as written forms.
Azerbaijani was originally written using the Arabic alphabet. For almost a decade after, a form of the Latin alphabet was used. However, as a result of the former Soviet Union’s drive towards securing its hegemony in the region, the use of a variant of the Cyrillic alphabet was enforced until the USSR’s collapse in 1991, after which a revised Latin alphabet was re-introduced. The transition to a Latin alphabet has been slow with many Azerbaijanis continuing to use the Cyrillic alphabet. Azeri speakers in Iran have always used the Arabic form of writing and continue to do so.