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The dram (for value of the dram— see Glossary), the national currency introduced in 1992, underwent almost immediate devaluation as the national banking system tried to stabilize international exchange rates. Accordingly, in 1993 prices rose to an average of 130 percent of wages, which the government indexed through that year. The scarcity of many commodities, caused by the blockade, also pushed prices higher. In the first post-Soviet years, and especially in 1993, plant closings and the energy crisis caused unemployment to more than double.

Russian Influences in the Nineteenth Century In the nineteenth century, Russian influence over daily life in Azerbaijan was less pervasive than that of indigenous religious and political elites and the cultural and intellectual influences of Persia and Turkey. During most of the nineteenth century, the Russian Empire extracted commodities from Azerbaijan and invested little in the economy. However, the exploitation of oil in Azerbaijan at the end of the nineteenth century brought an influx of Russians into Baku, increasing Russian influence and expanding the local economy.

Following their conversion, Georgians remained tied by religion to the Roman Empire and later the Byzantine Empire centered at Constantinople. Although Armenian Christianity broke with Byzantine Orthodoxy very early, Byzantine occupation of Armenian territory enhanced the influence of Greek culture on Armenians in the Middle Ages. In Azerbaijan, the Zoroastrian religion, a legacy of the early Persian influence there, was supplanted in the seventh century by the Muslim faith introduced by conquering Arabs.

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