This article examines the major political debates in post-Soviet Azerbaijan vis vis the very assumptions of individual autonomy, equality, national culture and citizenship, and universalism upon which modern nation-states have historically been based. The information presented in this article is based on personal interviews conducted with the leading and influential members of the Azerbaijani political elite in 1998. The interviews were based on two broad themes. The first relates to the perceptions of the Soviet period and on what grounds the Azerbaijanis differentiate the new Republic of Azerbaijan from the former Soviet Azerbaijan. The second relates to their perceptions of both the outside world and themselves with regards to differing understandings of nationalism, national culture, and national/ethnic or local identities. The study of the Azerbaijam example of post-Soviet political culture may help us to understand the dynamics of nation-building on the basis of the major political debates and of conflicting national, ethnic and local identities in Azerbaijan.