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The Caspian Sea is the world's largest inland body of water, often described as the world's largest lake or a full-fledged sea. An endorheic basin, it lies between Europe and Asia; east of the
Caucasus The Caucasus () or Caucasia (), is a region between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, mainly comprising Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia (country), Georgia, and parts of Southern Russia. The Caucasus Mountains, including the Greater Caucasus range ...
, west of the broad
steppe
steppe
of
Central Asia Central Asia, also known as Middle Asia, is a region of Asia Asia (, ) is one of the world's most notable geographical regions, which is either considered a continent in its own right or a subcontinent of Eurasia, which shares the c ...

Central Asia
, south of the fertile plains of Southern Russia in
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe
, and north of the mountainous
Iranian Plateau
Iranian Plateau
of
Western Asia
Western Asia
. It covers a surface area of (excluding the highly saline lagoon of Garabogazköl to its east) and a volume of . It has a
salinity
salinity
of approximately 1.2% (12 g/L), about a third of the salinity of average
seawater
seawater
. It is bounded by
Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
to the northeast,
Russia Russia (, , ), or the Russian Federation, is a List of transcontinental countries, transcontinental country spanning Eastern Europe and North Asia, Northern Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by area, largest country in the ...

Russia
to the northwest,
Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan
to the southwest,
Iran Iran, officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, and also called Persia, is a country located in Western Asia. It is bordered by Iraq and Turkey to the west, by Azerbaijan and Armenia to the northwest, by the Caspian Sea and Turkmeni ...

Iran
to the south, and
Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan
to the southeast. The sea stretches nearly from north to south, with an average width of . Its gross coverage is and the surface is about below
sea level Mean sea level (MSL, often shortened to sea level) is an mean, average surface level of one or more among Earth's coastal Body of water, bodies of water from which heights such as elevation may be measured. The global MSL is a type of vertical ...

sea level
. Its main freshwater inflow, Europe's longest river, the
Volga
Volga
, enters at the shallow north end. Two deep basins form its central and southern zones. These lead to horizontal differences in temperature, salinity, and ecology. The
seabed
seabed
in the south reaches below sea level, which is the second-lowest natural non-oceanic depression on Earth after
Lake Baikal
Lake Baikal
(). Written accounts from the ancient inhabitants of its coast perceived the Caspian Sea as an ocean, probably because of its salinity and large size. The Caspian Sea is home to a wide range of species and is known for its
caviar
caviar
and oil industries. Pollution from the oil industry and dams on rivers draining into it have harmed its ecology.


Etymology

The lake's name stems from Caspi, an ancient people who lived to the southwest of the sea in Transcaucasia.
Strabo Strabo''Strabo'' (meaning "squinty", as in strabismus) was a term employed by the Romans for anyone whose eyes were distorted or deformed. The father of Pompey was called "Pompeius Strabo". A native of Sicily so clear-sighted that he could see ...

Strabo
(died circa AD 24) wrote that "to the country of the Albanians (
Caucasus Albania
Caucasus Albania
not to be confused with the country of
Albania Albania ( ; sq, Shqipëri or ), or , also or . officially the Republic of Albania ( sq, Republika e Shqipërisë), is a country in Southeast Europe, Southeastern Europe. It is located on the Adriatic Sea, Adriatic and Ionian Seas within the ...

Albania
) belongs also the territory called Caspiane, which was named after the Caspian tribe, as was also the sea; but the tribe has now disappeared". Moreover, the Caspian Gates, part of
Iran Iran, officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, and also called Persia, is a country located in Western Asia. It is bordered by Iraq and Turkey to the west, by Azerbaijan and Armenia to the northwest, by the Caspian Sea and Turkmeni ...

Iran
's Tehran province, may evince such a people migrated to the south. The Iranian city of
Qazvin
Qazvin
shares the root of its name with this common name for the sea. The traditional and medieval Arabic name for the sea was Bahr(sea) Xazar but in recent centuries common and standard name in Arabic language is Baḥr
Qazvin
Qazvin
Arabized from Caspian. In modern russian: Каспи́йское мо́ре, ''Kaspiyskoye more''.''Iran'' (5th ed., 2008), by Andrew Burke and Mark Elliott
p. 28
, Lonely Planet Publications,
Some Turkic ethnic groups refer to it with the Caspi(an) descriptor; in Kazakh it is called , ''Kaspiy teñizi'', ky, Каспий деңизи, Kaspiy deñizi, uz, Kaspiy dengizi. Others refer to it as the ''Khazar sea'': tk, Hazar deňizi; az, Xəzər dənizi, tr, Hazar denizi. In all these the first word refers to the historical
Khazars
Khazars
who had a large empire based to the north of the Caspian Sea between the 7th and 10th centuries. In Iran, the lake is referred to as the ''Mazandaran Sea'' ( fa, دریای مازندران), after the historic
Mazandaran Province
Mazandaran Province
at its southern shores. Old Russian sources use the ''Khvalyn'' or ''Khvalis'' Sea () after the name of Khwarezmia. Among Greeks and Persians in
classical antiquity Classical antiquity (also the classical era, classical period or classical age) is the period of cultural history between the 8th century BC and the 5th century AD centred on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the interlocking civilizations of ...
it was the Hyrcanian ocean. Renaissance European maps labelled it as the ''Abbacuch Sea'' (Oronce Fine's 1531 world map), ''Mar de
Bachu
Bachu
'' (Ortellius' 1570 map), or ''Mar de Sala'' (Mercator's 1569 map). It was also sometimes called the Kumyk Sea and Tarki Sea (derived from the name of the
Kumyks
Kumyks
and their historical capital
Tarki
Tarki
).


Basin countries


Border countries

*
Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
*
Iran Iran, officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, and also called Persia, is a country located in Western Asia. It is bordered by Iraq and Turkey to the west, by Azerbaijan and Armenia to the northwest, by the Caspian Sea and Turkmeni ...

Iran
*
Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan
*
Russia Russia (, , ), or the Russian Federation, is a List of transcontinental countries, transcontinental country spanning Eastern Europe and North Asia, Northern Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by area, largest country in the ...

Russia
*
Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan


Non-border countries

*
Armenia Armenia (), , group=pron officially the Republic of Armenia,, is a landlocked country in the Armenian Highlands of Western Asia.The UNbr>classification of world regions places Armenia in Western Asia; the CIA World Factbook , , and '' ...

Armenia
(entirety) * Georgia (its east part) *
Turkey Turkey ( tr, Türkiye ), officially the Republic of Türkiye ( tr, Türkiye Cumhuriyeti, links=no ), is a transcontinental country located mainly on the Anatolia, Anatolian Peninsula in Western Asia, with a East Thrace, small portion on th ...

Turkey
(extreme north-eastern parts) *
Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
(extreme western parts)


Physical characteristics


Formation

The Caspian Sea, like the
Black Sea
Black Sea
, is a remnant of the ancient Paratethys Sea. Its seafloor is, therefore, a standard oceanic
basalt
basalt
and not a continental
granite
granite
body. It became landlocked in the
Late Miocene The Late Miocene (also known as Upper Miocene) is a sub-epoch of the Miocene epoch (geology), Epoch made up of two faunal stage, stages. The Tortonian and Messinian stages comprise the Late Miocene sub-epoch, which lasted from 11.63 Ma (million ye ...
, about 5.5 million years ago, due to tectonic uplift and a fall in
sea level Mean sea level (MSL, often shortened to sea level) is an mean, average surface level of one or more among Earth's coastal Body of water, bodies of water from which heights such as elevation may be measured. The global MSL is a type of vertical ...

sea level
. The Caspian Sea was a comparatively small endorheic lake during the
Pliocene The Pliocene ( ; also Pleiocene) is the epoch (geology), epoch in the geologic time scale that extends from 5.333 million to 2.58
, but its surface area increased fivefold around the time of the Pliocene-Pleistocene transition. During warm and dry climatic periods, the landlocked sea almost dried up, depositing evaporitic sediments like
halite
halite
that were covered by wind-blown deposits and were sealed off as an evaporite
sink A sink is a bowl-shaped plumbing fixture for washing hands, dishwashing, and other purposes. Sinks have Tap (valve), a tap (faucet) that supply hot and cold water and may include a spray feature to be used for faster rinsing. They also include ...
when cool, wet climates refilled the basin. (Comparable evaporite beds underlie the
Mediterranean The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by the Mediterranean Basin and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Western Europe, Western and Southern Europe and Anatolia, on the south by North Africa ...
.) Due to the current inflow of fresh water in the north, the Caspian Sea water is almost fresh in its northern portions, getting more
brackish Brackish water, sometimes termed brack water, is water occurring in a natural environment that has more salinity than freshwater, but not as much as seawater. It may result from mixing seawater (salt water) and fresh water together, as in estuary ...
toward the south. It is most saline on the Iranian shore, where the catchment basin contributes little flow. Currently, the mean salinity of the Caspian is one third that of Earth's oceans. The Garabogazköl
embayment A bay is a recessed, coast The coast, also known as the coastline or seashore, is defined as the area where land meets the ocean, or as a line that forms the boundary between the land and the coastline. The Earth has around of coastline ...
, which dried up when water flow from the main body of the Caspian was blocked in the 1980s but has since been restored, routinely exceeds oceanic salinity by a factor of 10.


Geography

The Caspian Sea is the largest inland body of water in the world by area and accounts for 40 to 44% of the total
lacustrine A lake is an area filled with water, localized in a Depression (geology), basin, surrounded by land, and distinct from any river or other outlet that serves to feed or drain the lake. Lakes lie on land and are not part of the World Ocean, oce ...
waters of the world, and covers an area larger than
Germany Germany,, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central Europe. It is the second most populous country in Europe after Russia, and the most populous member state of the European Union. Germany is situated between ...
. The coastlines of the Caspian are shared by
Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan
, Iran,
Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
, Russia, and
Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan
. The Caspian is divided into three distinct physical regions: the Northern, Middle, and Southern Caspian. The Northern–Middle boundary is the Mangyshlak Threshold, which runs through Chechen Island and Cape Tiub-Karagan. The Middle–Southern boundary is the Apsheron Threshold, a sill of tectonic origin between the Eurasian continent and an oceanic remnant, that runs through Zhiloi Island and Cape Kuuli. The Garabogazköl Bay is the saline eastern inlet of the Caspian, which is part of Turkmenistan and at times has been a lake in its own right due to the isthmus that cuts it off from the Caspian. Differences between the three regions are dramatic. The Northern Caspian only includes the Caspian shelf, and is very shallow; it accounts for less than 1% of the total water volume with an average depth of only . The sea noticeably drops off towards the Middle Caspian, where the average depth is . The Southern Caspian is the deepest, with oceanic depths of over , greatly exceeding the depth of other regional seas, such as the
Persian Gulf The Persian Gulf ( fa, خلیج فارس, translit=xalij-e fârs, lit=Gulf of Persis, Fars, ), sometimes called the ( ar, اَلْخَلِيْجُ ٱلْعَرَبِيُّ, Al-Khalīj al-ˁArabī), is a Mediterranean sea (oceanography), me ...
. The Middle and Southern Caspian account for 33% and 66% of the total water volume, respectively. The northern portion of the Caspian Sea typically freezes in the winter, and in the coldest winters ice forms in the south as well. Over 130 rivers provide inflow to the Caspian, the
Volga River The Volga (; russian: Во́лга, a=Ru-Волга.ogg, p=ˈvoɫɡə) is the List of rivers of Europe#Rivers of Europe by length, longest river in Europe. Situated in Russia, it flows through Central Russia to Southern Russia and into the Cas ...
being the largest. A second affluent, the
Ural River The Ural (russian: Урал, ), known before 1775 as Yaik (russian: Яик, ba, Яйыҡ, translit=Yayıq, ; kk, Жайық, translit=Jaiyq, ), is a river flowing through Russia and Kazakhstan in the continental border between Europe and Asia ...
, flows in from the north, and the Kura River from the west. In the past, the
Amu Darya The Amu Darya, tk, Amyderýa/ uz, Amudaryo// tg, Амударё, Amudaryo ps, , tr, Ceyhun / Amu Derya grc, Ὦξος, Ôxos (also called the Amu, Amo River and historically known by its Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language b ...
(Oxus) of Central Asia in the east often changed course to empty into the Caspian through a now-desiccated riverbed called the
Uzboy River The Uzboy (sometimes rendered Uzboj) was a distributary A distributary, or a distributary channel, is a stream A stream is a continuous body of water, body of surface water Current (stream), flowing within the stream bed, bed and bank ...
, as did the
Syr Darya The Syr Darya (, ),, , ; rus, Сырдарья́, Syrdarjja, p=sɨrdɐˈrʲja; fa, سيردريا, Sirdaryâ; tg, Сирдарё, Sirdaryo; tr, Seyhun, Siri Derya; ar, سيحون, Seyḥūn; uz, Sirdaryo, script-Latn/. historically known ...
farther north. The Caspian has several small islands, primarily located in the north with a collective land area of roughly . Adjacent to the North Caspian is the Caspian Depression, a low-lying region below
sea level Mean sea level (MSL, often shortened to sea level) is an mean, average surface level of one or more among Earth's coastal Body of water, bodies of water from which heights such as elevation may be measured. The global MSL is a type of vertical ...

sea level
. The
Central Asia Central Asia, also known as Middle Asia, is a region of Asia Asia (, ) is one of the world's most notable geographical regions, which is either considered a continent in its own right or a subcontinent of Eurasia, which shares the c ...

Central Asia
n s stretch across the northeast coast, while the
Caucasus mountains The Caucasus Mountains, : pronounced * hy, Կովկասյան լեռներ, : pronounced * az, Qafqaz dağları, pronounced * rus, Кавка́зские го́ры, Kavkázskiye góry, kɐfˈkasːkʲɪje ˈɡorɨ * tr, Kafkas Dağla ...
hug the western shore. The
biomes A biome () is a biogeographical unit consisting of a biological community A community is a social unit (a group of living things) with commonality such as place, norms, religion Religion is usually defined as a social- cultural syst ...
to both the north and east are characterized by cold, continental deserts. Conversely, the climate to the southwest and south are generally warm with uneven elevation due to a mix of highlands and
mountain range A mountain range or hill range is a series of mountains or hills arranged in a line and connected by high ground. A mountain system or mountain belt is a group of mountain ranges with similarity in form, structure, and alignment that have arise ...
s; the drastic changes in climate alongside the Caspian have led to a great deal of
biodiversity Biodiversity or biological diversity is the variety and variability of life, life on Earth. Biodiversity is a measure of variation at the Genetics, genetic (''genetic variability''), species (''species diversity''), and ecosystem (''ecosystem d ...
in the region. The Caspian Sea has numerous islands near the coasts, but none in the deeper parts of the sea. Ogurja Ada is the largest island. The island is long, with
gazelle A gazelle is one of many antelope species in the genus ''Gazella'' . This article also deals with the seven species included in two further genera, ''Eudorcas'' and ''Nanger'', which were formerly considered subgenera of ''Gazella''. A third f ...
s roaming freely on it. In the North Caspian, the majority of the islands are small and uninhabited, like the Tyuleniy Archipelago, an
Important Bird Area An Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) is an area identified using an internationally agreed set of criteria as being globally important for the conservation of birds, bird populations. IBA was developed and sites are identified by BirdLi ...
(IBA).


Climate

The climate of the Caspian Sea is variable, with the cold desert climate (BWk),
cold semi-arid climate A semi-arid climate, semi-desert climate, or steppe climate is a dry climate sub-type. It is located on regions that receive precipitation below Evapotranspiration#Potential evapotranspiration, potential evapotranspiration, but not as low as a des ...
(BSk), and
humid continental climate A humid continental climate is a climate, climatic region defined by Russo-German climatologist Wladimir Köppen in 1900, typified by four distinct seasons and large seasonal temperature differences, with warm to hot (and often humid) summers and ...
(Dsa, Dfa) being present in the northern portions of the Caspian Sea, while the
Mediterranean climate A Mediterranean climate (also called a dry summer temperate climate ''Cs'') is a temperate climate sub-type, generally characterized by warm, dry summers and mild, fairly wet winters; these weather conditions are typically experienced in the ...
(Csa) and
humid subtropical climate A humid subtropical climate is a zone of climate characterized by hot and humid summers, and cool to mild winters. These climates normally lie on the southeast side of all continents (except Antarctica), generally between latitudes 25° and 40° ...
(Cfa) are present in the southern portions of the Caspian Sea.


Hydrology

The Caspian has characteristics common to both seas and lakes. It is often listed as the world's largest lake, although it is not
freshwater Fresh water or freshwater is any naturally occurring liquid or frozen water Water (chemical formula ) is an Inorganic compound, inorganic, transparent, tasteless, odorless, and Color of water, nearly colorless chemical substance, which ...
: the 1.2% salinity classes it with
brackish water Brackish water, sometimes termed brack water, is water occurring in a natural environment that has more salinity than freshwater, but not as much as seawater. It may result from mixing seawater (salt water) and fresh water together, as in estuary ...
bodies. It contains about 3.5 times as much water, by volume, as all five of North America's
Great Lakes The Great Lakes, also called the Great Lakes of North America, are a series of large interconnected freshwater lakes in the mid-east region of North America that connect to the Atlantic Ocean via the Saint Lawrence River. There are five lakes ...
combined. The
Volga River The Volga (; russian: Во́лга, a=Ru-Волга.ogg, p=ˈvoɫɡə) is the List of rivers of Europe#Rivers of Europe by length, longest river in Europe. Situated in Russia, it flows through Central Russia to Southern Russia and into the Cas ...
(about 80% of the inflow) and the
Ural River The Ural (russian: Урал, ), known before 1775 as Yaik (russian: Яик, ba, Яйыҡ, translit=Yayıq, ; kk, Жайық, translit=Jaiyq, ), is a river flowing through Russia and Kazakhstan in the continental border between Europe and Asia ...
discharge into the Caspian Sea, but it has no natural outflow other than by
evaporation Evaporation is a type of vaporization that occurs on the surface of a liquid as it changes into the gas phase. High concentration of the evaporating substance in the surrounding gas significantly slows down evaporation, such as when h ...
. Thus the Caspian
ecosystem An ecosystem (or ecological system) consists of all the organisms and the physical environment with which they interact. These biotic and abiotic components are linked together through nutrient cycles and energy flows. Energy enters the syste ...
is a closed basin, with its own sea level history that is independent of the eustatic level of the world's oceans. The sea level of the Caspian has fallen and risen, often rapidly, many times over the centuries. Some Russian historians claim that a
medieval In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted approximately from the late 5th to the late 15th centuries, similar to the post-classical period of global history. It began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire ...
rising of the Caspian, perhaps caused by the
Amu Darya The Amu Darya, tk, Amyderýa/ uz, Amudaryo// tg, Амударё, Amudaryo ps, , tr, Ceyhun / Amu Derya grc, Ὦξος, Ôxos (also called the Amu, Amo River and historically known by its Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language b ...
changing its inflow to the Caspian from the 13th century to the 16th century, caused the coastal towns of
Khazaria The Khazars ; he, כּוּזָרִים, Kūzārīm; la, Gazari, or ; zh, 突厥曷薩 ; 突厥可薩 ''Tūjué Kěsà'', () were a semi-nomadic Turkic people that in the late 6th-century CE established a major commercial empire coverin ...
, such as Atil, to flood. In 2004, the water level was below
sea level Mean sea level (MSL, often shortened to sea level) is an mean, average surface level of one or more among Earth's coastal Body of water, bodies of water from which heights such as elevation may be measured. The global MSL is a type of vertical ...

sea level
. Over the centuries, Caspian Sea levels have changed in synchrony with the estimated discharge of the Volga, which in turn depends on rainfall levels in its vast catchment basin. Precipitation is related to variations in the amount of North Atlantic depressions that reach the interior, and they in turn are affected by cycles of the North Atlantic oscillation. Thus levels in the Caspian Sea relate to atmospheric conditions in the North Atlantic, thousands of kilometres to the northwest. The last short-term sea-level cycle started with a sea-level fall of from 1929 to 1977, followed by a rise of from 1977 until 1995. Since then smaller oscillations have taken place. A study by the Azerbaijan Academy of Sciences estimated that the level of the sea was dropping by more than six centimetres per year due to increased evaporation due to rising temperatures caused by
climate change In common usage, climate change describes global warming—the ongoing increase in global average temperature—and its effects on Earth's climate system. Climate variability and change, Climate change in a broader sense also includes ...
.


Environmental degradation

The
Volga River The Volga (; russian: Во́лга, a=Ru-Волга.ogg, p=ˈvoɫɡə) is the List of rivers of Europe#Rivers of Europe by length, longest river in Europe. Situated in Russia, it flows through Central Russia to Southern Russia and into the Cas ...
, the longest river in Europe, drains 20% of the European land area and is the source of 80% of the Caspian's inflow. Heavy development in its lower reaches has caused numerous unregulated releases of chemical and biological pollutants. The UN Environment Programme warns that the Caspian "suffers from an enormous burden of pollution from oil extraction and refining, offshore oil fields, radioactive wastes from nuclear power plants and huge volumes of untreated sewage and industrial waste introduced mainly by the Volga River". The magnitude of
fossil fuel A fossil fuel is a hydrocarbon-containing material formed naturally in the Earth's crust from the remains of dead plants and animals that is extracted and combustion, burned as a fuel. The main fossil fuels are coal, petroleum, oil, and natura ...
extraction and transport activity in the Caspian also poses a risk to the environment. The island of Vulf off
Baku Baku (, ; az, Bakı ) is the capital and largest city of Azerbaijan, as well as the largest city on the Caspian Sea The Caspian Sea is the world's largest inland body of water, often described as the List of lakes by area, world's largest ...
, for example, has suffered ecological damage as a result of the petrochemical industry; this has significantly decreased the number of species of marine birds in the area. Existing and planned oil and gas pipelines under the sea further increase the potential threat to the environment. The high concentration of
mud volcano A mud volcano or mud dome is a landform A landform is a natural or anthropogenic land Land, also known as dry land, ground, or earth, is the solid terrestrial surface of the planet Earth that is not submerged by the ocean or other bod ...
es under the Caspian Sea were thought to be the cause of a fire that broke out 75 kilometers from
Baku Baku (, ; az, Bakı ) is the capital and largest city of Azerbaijan, as well as the largest city on the Caspian Sea The Caspian Sea is the world's largest inland body of water, often described as the List of lakes by area, world's largest ...
on July 5, 2021. The State oil company of Azerbaijan SOCAR said preliminary information indicated it was a mud volcano which spewed both mud and flammable gas. It is calculated that during the 21st century, the water level of the Caspian Sea will decrease by 9–18 m (30–60 ft) due to the acceleration of evaporation due to
global warming In common usage, climate change describes global warming—the ongoing increase in global average temperature—and its effects on Earth's climate system. Climate variability and change, Climate change in a broader sense also includes ...
and the process of
desertification Desertification is a type of land degradation in drylands in which biological productivity is lost due to natural processes or induced by human activities whereby fertile areas become increasingly arid. It is the spread of arid areas caused by ...
. On October 23, 2021, Kazakhstan President
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev Kassym-Jomart Kemeluly Tokayev ( kk, Қасым-Жомарт Кемелұлы Тоқаев, Qasym-Jomart Kemelūly Toqaev ; born 17 May 1953) is a Kazakhs, Kazakh politician and diplomat who is currently serving as the President of Kazakhstan si ...
signed the Protocol for the Protection of the Caspian Sea against Pollution from Land-based Sources in order to ensure better protection for the biodiversity of the Caspian Sea.


Flora and fauna


Flora

The rising level of the Caspian Sea between 1994 and 1996 reduced the number of habitats for rare species of aquatic vegetation. This has been attributed to a general lack of seeding material in newly formed coastal
lagoon A lagoon is a shallow body of water separated from a larger body of water by a narrow landform, such as reefs, barrier islands, barrier peninsulas, or isthmuses. Lagoons are commonly divided into ''coastal lagoons'' (or ''barrier lagoons'') an ...
s and water bodies. Many rare and endemic plant species of Russia are associated with the tidal areas of the
Volga delta The Volga Delta is the largest river delta in Europe, and occurs where Europe's largest river system, the Volga River, drains into the Caspian Sea in Russia's Astrakhan Oblast, north-east of the republic of Kalmykia. The delta is located in the C ...
and
riparian forest A riparian forest or riparian woodland is a forested or wooded area of land adjacent to a body of water such as a river, stream, pond, lake, marshland, estuary, canal, Sink (geography), sink or reservoir. Etymology The term riparian comes from ...
s of the
Samur River The Samur ( rut, Самыр; ; russian: Самур; az, Samurçay) is a river in Russia Russia (, , ), or the Russian Federation, is a List of transcontinental countries, transcontinental country spanning Eastern Europe and North Asia, ...
delta. The shoreline is also a unique refuge for plants adapted to the loose sands of the Central Asian Deserts. The principal limiting factors to successful establishment of plant species are hydrological imbalances within the surrounding deltas,
water pollution Water pollution (or aquatic pollution) is the contamination of Body of water, water bodies, usually as a result of human activities, so that it negatively affects its uses. Water bodies include lakes, rivers, oceans, aquifers, reservoirs and gro ...
, and various land reclamation activities. The water level change within the Caspian Sea is an indirect reason for which plants may not get established. These affect aquatic plants of the Volga Delta, such as ''
Aldrovanda vesiculosa ''Aldrovanda vesiculosa'', commonly known as the waterwheel plant, is the sole extant taxon, extant species in the flowering plant genus ''Aldrovanda'' of the family Droseraceae. The plant captures small aquatic invertebrates using traps similar ...
'' and the native '' Nelumbo caspica''. About 11 plant species are found in the Samur River delta, including the unique
liana A liana is a long-Plant stem, stemmed, Woody plant, woody vine that is rooted in the soil at ground level and uses trees, as well as other means of vertical support, to climb up to the Canopy (biology), canopy in search of direct sunlight. T ...
forests that date back to the Tertiary period. Since 2019
UNESCO The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a List of specialized agencies of the United Nations, specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) aimed at promoting world peace and security through international coope ...
has admitted the lush Hyrcanian forests of Mazandaran, Iran as World Heritage Site under category (ix).


Fauna

The
Caspian turtle The Caspian turtle or striped-neck terrapin (''Mauremys caspica'') is a species In biology, a species is the basic unit of Taxonomy (biology), classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species ...
(''Mauremys caspica''), although found in neighboring areas, is a wholly freshwater species. The
zebra mussel The zebra mussel (''Dreissena polymorpha'') is a small freshwater mussel. The species originates from the lakes of southern Russia and Ukraine, but has been accidentally Introduced species, introduced to numerous other areas and has become an inv ...
is native to the Caspian and basins, but has become an
invasive species An invasive species otherwise known as an alien is an introduced species, introduced organism that becomes overpopulated and harms its new environment. Although most introduced species are neutral or beneficial with respect to other species, i ...
elsewhere, when introduced. The area has given its name to several species, including the Caspian gull and the
Caspian tern The Caspian tern (''Hydroprogne caspia'') is a species of tern, with a cosmopolitan distribution, subcosmopolitan but scattered distribution. Despite its extensive range, it is monotypic of its genus, and has no accepted subspecies. The genus nam ...
. The Caspian seal (''Pusa caspica'') is the only aquatic mammal
endemic Endemism is the state of a species In biology, a species is the basic unit of Taxonomy (biology), classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species is often defined as the largest group of or ...
to the Caspian Sea, being one of very few seal species that live in inland waters, but it is different from those inhabiting freshwaters due to the hydrological environment of the sea. A century ago the Caspian was home to more than one million
seals Seals may refer to: * Pinniped Pinnipeds (pronounced ), commonly known as seals, are a widely range (biology), distributed and diverse clade of carnivorous, fin-footed, semiaquatic, mostly marine mammal, marine mammals. They comprise the ext ...
. Today, fewer than 10% remain. Archeological studies of Gobustan Rock Art have identified what may be
dolphin A dolphin is an aquatic mammal within the infraorder Cetacea. Dolphin species belong to the families Delphinidae (the oceanic dolphins), Platanistidae (the Indian river dolphins), Iniidae (the New World river dolphins), Pontoporiidae (the br ...
s and
porpoise Porpoises are a group of fully aquatic mammal, aquatic marine mammals, all of which are classified under the family Phocoenidae, parvorder Odontoceti (toothed whales). Although similar in appearance to dolphins, they are more closely related ...
s, likely present in the Caspian Sea at least until the
Quaternary The Quaternary ( ) is the current and most recent of the three period (geology), periods of the Cenozoic era (geology), Era in the geologic time scale of the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS). It follows the Neogene Period and spa ...
or much more recent periods such as the last glacial period or
antiquity Antiquity or Antiquities may refer to: Historical objects or periods Artifacts *Antiquities Antiquities are objects from Ancient history, antiquity, especially the civilizations of the Mediterranean: the Classical antiquity of Greece and Ro ...
. Although the rock art on Kichikdash Mountain is assumed to be of a dolphin it might instead represent the famous beluga sturgeon due to its size (430 cm in length), but fossil records suggest certain ancestors of modern dolphins and whales, such as '' Macrokentriodon morani'' (
bottlenose dolphin Bottlenose dolphins are Aquatic mammal, aquatic mammals in the genus ''Tursiops.'' They are common, cosmopolitan distribution, cosmopolitan members of the family Delphinidae, the family of oceanic dolphins. molecular biology, Molecular studies ...
s) and ''
Balaenoptera sibbaldina ''Balaenoptera'' () is a genus Genus ( plural genera ) is a taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of extant taxon, living and fossil organisms as well as Virus classification#ICTV classification, viruses. In the hierarchy of bi ...
'' (
blue whale The blue whale (''Balaenoptera musculus'') is a marine mammal and a baleen whale. Reaching a maximum confirmed length of and weighing up to , it is the largest animal known to have ever existed. The blue whale's long and slender body can b ...
s) were presumably larger than their present descendants. From the same artworks, auks, like Brunnich's Guillemot could also have been in the sea as well, and these petroglyphs suggest marine inflow between the current Caspian Sea and the Arctic Ocean or
North Sea The North Sea lies between Great Britain, Norway, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium. An epeiric sea, epeiric sea on the European continental shelf, it connects to the Atlantic Ocean through the English Channel in the south and the ...
, or the . This is supported by the existences of current endemic, oceanic species such as lagoon cockles which was genetically identified to originate in Caspian/Black Seas regions. The sea's basin (including associated waters such as rivers) has 160 native species and
subspecies In Taxonomy (biology), biological classification, subspecies is a rank below species, used for populations that live in different areas and vary in size, shape, or other physical characteristics (Morphology (biology), morphology), but that ca ...
of fish in more than 60
genera Genus ( plural genera ) is a taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of extant taxon, living and fossil organisms as well as Virus classification#ICTV classification, viruses. In the hierarchy of biological classification, genus com ...
.Naseka, A.M. and Bogutskaya, N.G. (2009). "Fishes of the Caspian Sea: zoogeography and updated check-list". ''Zoosystematica Rossica'' 18(2): 295–317. About 62% of the species and subspecies are
endemic Endemism is the state of a species In biology, a species is the basic unit of Taxonomy (biology), classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species is often defined as the largest group of or ...
, as are 4–6 genera (depending on taxonomic treatment). The lake proper has 115 natives, including 73 endemics (63.5%). Among the more than 50 genera in the lake proper, 3–4 are endemic: '' Anatirostrum'', '' Caspiomyzon'', '' Chasar'' (often included in '' Ponticola'') and '' Hyrcanogobius''. By far the most numerous families in the lake proper are gobies (35 species and subspecies),
cyprinid Cyprinidae is a Family (biology), family of freshwater fish commonly called the carp or minnow family. It includes the carps, the true minnows, and relatives like the barb (fish), barbs and barbel (fish), barbels. Cyprinidae is the largest and m ...
s (32) and
clupeid Clupeidae is a family (biology), family of ray-finned fishes, comprising, for instance, the herrings, shads, sardines, hilsa, and menhadens. The clupeoids include many of the most important food fishes in the world, and are also commonly caught f ...
s (22). Two particularly rich genera are ''
Alosa ''Alosa'' is a genus of fish, the river herrings, in the family (biology), family Clupeidae. Along with other genera in the subfamily Alosinae, they are generally known as shads. tp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/009/ac482e/ac482e27.pdf Subfamily A ...
'' with 18 endemic species/subspecies and ''Benthophilus'' with 16 endemic species. Other examples of endemics are four species of ''Clupeonella'', ''Gobio volgensis'', two ''Rutilus'', three ''Sabanejewia'', ''Stenodus leucichthys'', two ''Salmo'', two ''Mesogobius'' and three ''Neogobius''. Most non-endemic natives are either shared with the Black Sea basin or widespread
Palearctic The Palearctic or Palaearctic is the largest of the eight biogeographic realms of the Earth. It stretches across all of Eurasia north of the foothills of the Himalayas, and North Africa. The realm consists of several bioregions: the Euro-Siber ...
species such as
crucian carp The crucian carp (''Carassius carassius'') is a medium-sized member of the common carp family Cyprinidae. It occurs widely in northern European regions. Its name derives from the Low German ''karusse'' or ''karutze'', possibly from Medieval Lati ...
,
Prussian carp The Prussian carp, silver Prussian carp or Gibel carp (''Carassius gibelio''), is a member of the family Cyprinidae, which includes many other fish, such as the common carp, goldfish, and the smaller minnows. It is a medium-sized cyprinid, and d ...
,
common carp The Eurasian carp or European carp (''Cyprinus carpio''), widely known as the common carp, is a widespread freshwater fish of eutrophic waters in lakes and large rivers in Europe and Asia.Fishbase''Cyprinus carpio'' Linnaeus, 1758/ref>Arkive The ...
,
common bream The common bream, freshwater bream, bream, bronze bream, carp bream or sweaty bream (''Abramis brama''), is a Europe Europe is a large peninsula conventionally considered a continent in its own right because of its great physical size ...
, common bleak,
asp Asp may refer to: Places * Asp, part of Densbüren, Aargau, Switzerland * Aspe (''Asp'' in Valencian), Alicante, Spain * Asp Lake, a lake in Minnesota Animals * Asp (fish) * Asp (snake), in antiquity, one of several venomous snakes ** ''Cera ...
, white bream, sunbleak,
common dace The common dace (''Leuciscus leuciscus'') is a species of freshwater and brackish water ray-finned fish from the Family (biology), family Cyprinidae which is native to Europe but which has been introduced to other parts of the world. It is a Game ...
, common roach, common rudd,
European chub ''Squalius cephalus'' is a European species of freshwater fish in the carp family (biology), family Cyprinidae. It frequents both slow and moderate rivers, as well as canals and still waters of various kinds. This species is referred to as the c ...
, sichel,
tench The tench or doctor fish (''Tinca tinca'') is a fresh- and brackish-water fish Fish are Aquatic animal, aquatic, craniate, gill-bearing animals that lack Limb (anatomy), limbs with Digit (anatomy), digits. Included in this definition a ...
, European weatherfish,
wels catfish The wels catfish ( or ; ''Silurus glanis''), also called sheatfish or just wels, is a large species of catfish native to wide areas of central, southern, and eastern Europe, in the basins of the Baltic Sea, Baltic, Black Sea, Black and Caspian S ...
,
northern pike The northern pike (''Esox lucius'') is a species of carnivorous fish of the genus ''Esox'' (the pikes). They are typical of brackish water, brackish and fresh waters of the Northern Hemisphere (''i.e.'' holarctic in distribution). They are kno ...
,
burbot The burbot (''Lota lota'') is the only gadiformes, gadiform (cod-like) freshwater fish. It is also known as bubbot, mariah, loche, cusk, freshwater cod, freshwater ling, freshwater cusk, the lawyer, coney-fish, lingcod, and eelpout. The species ...
, European perch and zander. Almost 30 non-indigenous, introduced fish species have been reported from the Caspian Sea, but only a few have become established. Six
sturgeon Sturgeon is the common name for the 27 species of fish belonging to the family Acipenseridae. The earliest sturgeon fossils date to the Late Cretaceous, and are descended from other, earlier Acipenseriformes, acipenseriform fish, which date b ...
species, the Russian, bastard, Persian, sterlet, starry and beluga, are native to the Caspian Sea. The last of these is arguably the largest freshwater fish in the world. The sturgeon yield roe (eggs) that are processed into .
Overfishing Overfishing is the removal of a species of fish (i.e. fishing) from a body of water at a rate greater than that the species can replenish its population naturally (i.e. the overexploitation of the fishery's existing Fish stocks, fish stock), resu ...
has depleted a number of the historic fisheries. In recent years, overfishing has threatened the sturgeon population to the point that
environmentalists An environmentalist is a person who is concerned with and/or advocates for the protection of the environment. An environmentalist can be considered a supporter of the goals of the environmental movement, "a political and ethical movement that se ...
advocate banning sturgeon fishing completely until the population recovers. The high price of sturgeon caviar—more than 1,500
Azerbaijani manat The manat (ISO 4217, ISO code: AZN; Currency symbol, sign: ₼; abbreviation: m) is the currency of Azerbaijan. It is subdivided into 100 ''gapiks''. The first iteration of the currency happened in the times of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic ...
s (US$880 ) per kilo—allows fishermen to afford bribes to ensure the authorities look the other way, making regulations in many locations ineffective. Caviar harvesting further endangers the fish stocks, since it targets reproductive females.
Reptile Reptiles, as most commonly defined are the animals in the Class (biology), class Reptilia ( ), a paraphyletic grouping comprising all sauropsid, sauropsids except birds. Living reptiles comprise turtles, crocodilians, Squamata, squamates (lizar ...
s native to the region include the
spur-thighed tortoise The Greek tortoise (''Testudo graeca''), also known commonly as the spur-thighed tortoise, is a species of tortoise in the Family (biology), family Testudinidae. ''Testudo graeca'' is one of five species of Mediterranean tortoises (Genus, gener ...
(''Testudo graeca buxtoni'') and Horsfield's tortoise. *The
Asiatic cheetah The Asiatic cheetah (''Acinonyx jubatus venaticus'') is a critically endangered cheetah subspecies currently only surviving in Iran. It once occurred from the Arabian Peninsula and the Near East to the Caspian region, Transcaucasus, Kyzylkum De ...
used to occur in the Trans-Caucasus and
Central Asia Central Asia, also known as Middle Asia, is a region of Asia Asia (, ) is one of the world's most notable geographical regions, which is either considered a continent in its own right or a subcontinent of Eurasia, which shares the c ...

Central Asia
, but is today restricted to Iran.Humphreys, P., Kahrom, E. (1999)
Lion and Gazelle: The Mammals and Birds of Iran
. Images Publishing, Avon.
*The
Asiatic lion The Asiatic lion is a population of ''Panthera leo leo'' that today survives in the wild only in India. Since the turn of the 20th century, its range has been restricted to Gir National Park and the surrounding areas in the Indian state of Gujarat ...
used to occur in the Trans-Caucasus, Iran, and possibly the southern part of
Turkestan Turkestan, also spelled Turkistan ( fa, ترکستان, Torkestân, lit=Land of the Turks), is a historical region in Central Asia corresponding to the regions of Transoxiana and Xinjiang. Overview Known as Turan to the Persians, western Turke ...
. *The
Caspian tiger The Caspian tiger was a ''Panthera tigris tigris'' population native to eastern Turkey, northern Iran, Mesopotamia, the Caucasus around the Caspian Sea, Central Asia to northern Afghanistan, and the Xinjiang region in western China. Until the Midd ...
used to occur in northern Iran, the Caucasus and
Central Asia Central Asia, also known as Middle Asia, is a region of Asia Asia (, ) is one of the world's most notable geographical regions, which is either considered a continent in its own right or a subcontinent of Eurasia, which shares the c ...

Central Asia
. *The endangered
Persian leopard ''Panthera pardus tulliana'' is a leopard The leopard (''Panthera pardus'') is one of the five extant species in the Genus (biology), genus ''Panthera'', a member of the cat family (biology), family, Felidae. It occurs in a wide range in ...
is found in Iran, the Caucasus and Central Asia.


History


Geology

The main geologic history locally had two stages. The first is the
Miocene The Miocene ( ) is the first geological epoch of the Neogene Period and extends from about (Ma). The Miocene was named by Scottish geologist Charles Lyell; the name comes from the Greek words (', "less") and (', "new") and means "less recent ...
, determined by
tectonic Tectonics (; ) are the processes that control the structure and properties of the Earth's crust and its evolution through time. These include the processes of orogeny, mountain building, the growth and behavior of the strong, old cores of con ...
events that correlate with the closing of the
Tethys Sea The Tethys Ocean ( el, Τηθύς ''Tēthús''), also called the Tethys Sea or the Neo-Tethys, was a prehistoric ocean that covered most of the Earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to har ...
. The second is the
Pleistocene The Pleistocene ( , often referred to as the '' Ice age'') is the geological epoch that lasted from about 2,580,000 to 11,700 years ago, spanning the Earth's most recent period of repeated glaciations. Before a change was finally confirmed ...
noted for its
glaciation A glacial period (alternatively glacial or glaciation) is an interval of time (thousands of years) within an ice age that is marked by colder temperatures and glacier advances. Interglacials, on the other hand, are periods of warmer climate betwe ...
cycles and the full run of the present Volga. During the first stage, the Tethys Sea had evolved into the
Sarmatian The Sarmatians (; grc, Σαρμαται, Sarmatai; Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber ar ...
Lake, that was created from the modern Black Sea and south Caspian, when the collision of the
Arabian peninsula The Arabian Peninsula, (; ar, شِبْهُ الْجَزِيرَةِ الْعَرَبِيَّة, , "Arabian Peninsula" or , , "Island of the Arabs") or Arabia, is a peninsula of Western Asia, situated northeast of Africa Africa is t ...
with pushed up the
Kopet Dag The Köpet Dag, Kopet Dagh, or Koppeh Dagh ( tk, Köpetdag; fa, کپه‌داغ), also known as the Turkmen-Khorasan Mountain Range, is a mountain range on the border between Turkmenistan and Iran that extends about along the border southeast o ...
and
Caucasus Mountains The Caucasus Mountains, : pronounced * hy, Կովկասյան լեռներ, : pronounced * az, Qafqaz dağları, pronounced * rus, Кавка́зские го́ры, Kavkázskiye góry, kɐfˈkasːkʲɪje ˈɡorɨ * tr, Kafkas Dağla ...
, lasting south and west limits to the basin. This orogeneic movement was continuous, while the Caspian was regularly disconnected from the . In the late Pontian, a mountain arch rose across the south basin and divided it into the Khachmaz and
Lankaran Lankaran ( az, Lənkəran, ) is a city in Azerbaijan, on the coast of the Caspian Sea, near the southern border with Iran. As of 2021, the city had a population of 89,300. It is next to, but independent of, Lankaran District. The city forms a dis ...
Lakes (or early Balaxani). The period of restriction to the south basin was reversed during the Akchagylian – the lake became more than three times its size today and took again the first of a series of contacts with the Black Sea and with
Lake Aral The Aral Sea ( ; kk, Арал теңізі, Aral teñızı; uz, Орол денгизи, Orol dengizi; kaa, Арал теңизи, Aral teńizi; russian: Аральское море, Aral'skoye more) was an endorheic basin, endorheic lake lyi ...
. A recession of Lake Akchagyl completed stage one.


Early settlement nearby

The earliest hominid remains found around the Caspian Sea are from
Dmanisi Dmanisi ( ka, დმანისი, tr, , az, Başkeçid) is a town and archaeological site in the Kvemo Kartli region of Georgia (country), Georgia approximately 93 km southwest of the nation’s capital Tbilisi in the river valley of Mash ...
dating back to around 1.8 Ma and yielded a number of skeletal remains of
Homo erectus ''Homo erectus'' (; meaning ":wikt:erectus, upright man") is an extinct species of archaic human from the Pleistocene, with its earliest occurrence about 2 million years ago. Several human species, such as ''H. heidelbergensis'' and ''H. ...
or
Homo ergaster ''Homo ergaster'' is an extinct species In biology, a species is the basic unit of Taxonomy (biology), classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species is often defined as the largest group ...
. More later evidence for human occupation of the region came from a number of caves in Georgia and Azerbaijan such as Kudaro and
Azykh Cave Azykh Cave ( az, Azıx mağarası), also referred to as Azokh Cave () is a six-cave complex in Azerbaijan, known as a habitation site of prehistoric humans. It is situated near the village of Azykh in the Khojavend District. The cave is an impor ...
s. There is evidence for
Lower Palaeolithic The Lower Paleolithic (or Lower Palaeolithic) is the earliest subdivision of the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age. It spans the time from around 3 million years ago when the Lomekwi, first evidence for stone tool production and use by Hominini, hom ...
human occupation south of the Caspian from western Alburz. These are Ganj Par and Darband Cave sites.
Neanderthal Neanderthals (, also ''Homo neanderthalensis'' and erroneously ''Homo sapiens neanderthalensis''), also written as Neandertals, are an Extinction, extinct species or subspecies of archaic humans who lived in Eurasia until about 40,000 years ag ...
remains also have been discovered at a cave in Georgia. Discoveries in the Hotu cave and the adjacent Kamarband cave, near the town of Behshahr, Mazandaran south of the Caspian in Iran, suggest human habitation of the area as early as 11,000 years ago. Ancient Greeks focused on the civilization on the south shore – they call it the (H)yr(c/k)anian Sea ( grc, Υρκανία θάλαττα, with sources noting the latter word was evolving then to today's ''Thelessa'': late grc, θάλασσα).


Chinese maximal limit

Later, in the
Tang dynasty The Tang dynasty (, ; zh, t= ), or Tang Empire, was an Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China that ruled from 618 to 907 AD, with an Zhou dynasty (690–705), interregnum between 690 and 705. It was preceded by the Sui dyn ...
(618-907), the sea was the western limit of the Chinese Empire.


Fossil fuel

The area is rich in fossil fuels. Oil wells were being dug in the region as early as the 10th century to reach oil "for use in everyday life, both for medicinal purposes and for heating and lighting in homes"."The Development of the Oil and Gas Industry in Azerbaijan
". SOCAR
By the 16th century, Europeans were aware of the rich oil and gas deposits locally. English traders Thomas Bannister and Jeffrey Duckett described the area around
Baku Baku (, ; az, Bakı ) is the capital and largest city of Azerbaijan, as well as the largest city on the Caspian Sea The Caspian Sea is the world's largest inland body of water, often described as the List of lakes by area, world's largest ...
as "a strange thing to behold, for there issueth out of the ground a marvelous quantity of oil, which serveth all the country to burn in their houses. This oil is black and is called nefte. There is also by the town of Baku, another kind of oil which is white and very precious .e.,_petroleum.html" ;"title="petroleum.html" ;"title=".e., petroleum">.e., petroleum">petroleum.html" ;"title=".e., petroleum">.e., petroleum""Back to the Future: Britain, Baku Oil and the Cycle of History
". SOCAR
Today, oil and gas platforms abound along the edges of the sea.


Geography, geology and navigation studies

During the rule of Peter I the Great, Fedor Ivanovich Soimonov, Fedor I. Soimonov was a pioneering explorer of the sea. He was a hydrographer who charted and greatly expanded knowledge of the sea. He drew a set of four maps and wrote ''Pilot of the Caspian Sea'', the first lengthy report and modern maps. These were published in 1720 by the
Russian Academy of Sciences The Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS; russian: Росси́йская акаде́мия нау́к (РАН) ''Rossíyskaya akadémiya naúk'') consists of the national academy A national academy is an organizational body, usually operating wi ...
.


Cities


Ancient

* Hyrcania, ancient state in the north of Iran *
Sari A sari (sometimes also saree or shari)The name of the garment in various Languages of South Asia, regional languages include: * as, শাৰী, xārī, translit-std=ISO * bn, শাড়ি, śāṛi, translit-std=ISO * gu, સાડી ...
, of Iran * Anzali, Gilan Province of Iran * Astara, Gilan Province of Iran *
Astarabad Gorgan ( fa, گرگان ; also Romanization of Persian, romanized as ''Gorgān'', ''Gurgān'', and ''Gurgan''), formerly Esterabad ( ; also romanized as ''Astarābād'', ''Asterabad'', and ''Esterābād''), is the capital city of Golestan Provi ...
, Golestan Province of Iran * Tamisheh, Golestan Province of Iran *
Atil, Khazaria Atil (also Itil) , was the capital of the Khazar Khaganate from the middle of the 8th century until the end of the 10th century. Known to have been situated on the Silk Road in the vicinity of the Caspian Sea, its precise location has long been ...
*
Khazaran Khazaran was a city in the Khazaria, Khazar kingdom, located on the eastern bank of the lower Volga River. It was connected to Atil, Khazaria, Atil by a pontoon bridge. Khazaran was later inhabited primarily by Muslims and featured numerous mosque ...
*
Baku Baku (, ; az, Bakı ) is the capital and largest city of Azerbaijan, as well as the largest city on the Caspian Sea The Caspian Sea is the world's largest inland body of water, often described as the List of lakes by area, world's largest ...
, Azerbaijan *
Derbent Derbent (russian: Дербе́нт; lez, Кьвевар, Цал; az, Дәрбәнд, italic=no, Dərbənd; av, Дербенд; fa, دربند), formerly romanization of Russian, romanized as Derbend, is a city in Dagestan, Russia, located o ...
,
Dagestan Dagestan ( ; rus, Дагеста́н, , dəɡʲɪˈstan, links=yes), officially the Republic of Dagestan (russian: Респу́блика Дагеста́н, Respúblika Dagestán, links=no), is a republic of Russia Russia (, , ), ...
, Russia * Xacitarxan, modern-day
Astrakhan Astrakhan ( rus, Астрахань, p=ˈastrəxənʲ) is the largest city and administrative centre of Astrakhan Oblast in Southern Russia. The city lies on two banks of the Volga, in the upper part of the Volga Delta, on eleven islands of the C ...


Modern

*
Iran Iran, officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, and also called Persia, is a country located in Western Asia. It is bordered by Iraq and Turkey to the west, by Azerbaijan and Armenia to the northwest, by the Caspian Sea and Turkmeni ...

Iran
: ** Ali Abad ** Astane-ye Ashrafiye ** Astara ** Babolsar **
Bandar-e Anzali Bandar-e Anzali ( fa, بندرانزلی, also Romanized as Bandar-e Anzalī; renamed as Bandar-e Pahlavi during the Pahlavi dynasty) is a city of Gilan Province, Iran. At the 2011 census, its population was 144,664. Anzali is one of the most ...
** Bandar-e-Gaz **
Bandar Torkaman Bandar Torkaman ( fa, بندرتركمن), formerly known as Bandar Shah ( fa, بَندَرِ شاه), is a city and capital of Torkaman County, Golestan Province, Iran. At the 2006 census its population was 45,045, in 9,755 families. Bandar Tor ...
** Behshahr ** Chalus ** Fenderesk ** Gomishan ** Gonbad-e Kavus **
Gorgan Gorgan ( fa, گرگان ; also Romanization of Persian, romanized as ''Gorgān'', ''Gurgān'', and ''Gurgan''), formerly Esterabad ( ; also romanized as ''Astarābād'', ''Asterabad'', and ''Esterābād''), is the capital city of Golestan Provi ...
** Juybar **
Kordkuy Kordkuy ( fa, كرد كوی; also Romanize Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. It is called a scientific study because it entails a comprehensive, systematic, objective ...
**
Lahijan Lahijan ( fa, لاهیجان, Lāhijān, also known as, Lāyjon in Gilaki language, Gilaki) is a city near the Caspian Sea and the capital of Lahijan County, Gilan Province, Iran. According to the 2016 census, its population was 167,544 in 58,37 ...
**
Langarud Langarud ( fa, لنگرود, also Romanized Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics, is the conversion of text from a different writing system to the Latin script, Roman (Latin) script, or a system for doing so. Methods of romanization ...
** Mahmudabad ** Neka **
Nowshahr Nowshahr ( fa, نوشهر; also Romanized as Now Shahr, Noshahr, and Nau Shahr; also known as Bandar-e Noshahr and the former name was Dehno) is a city and capital of Nowshahr County, Mazandaran Province, Iran. The largest ethnic group in Nowshah ...
** Nur ** Ramsar **
Rasht Rasht ( fa, رشت, Rašt ; glk, Rəšt, script=Latn; also romanization of Persian, romanized as Resht and Rast, and often spelt ''Recht'' in French and older German manuscripts) is the capital city of Gilan Province, Iran. Also known as the "Cit ...
** Rudbar ** Rudsar **
Sari A sari (sometimes also saree or shari)The name of the garment in various Languages of South Asia, regional languages include: * as, শাৰী, xārī, translit-std=ISO * bn, শাড়ি, śāṛi, translit-std=ISO * gu, સાડી ...
** Sorkhrud **
Tonekabon Tonekabon ( fa, تنكابن, also Romanized as Tonekābon; formerly known as Shahsavar (Persian: شَهسَوار), also Romanized as Shahsavār and Shahsawār) is a city and capital of Tonekabon County, Mazandaran Province, northern Iran ...
*: ** Astara **
Baku Baku (, ; az, Bakı ) is the capital and largest city of Azerbaijan, as well as the largest city on the Caspian Sea The Caspian Sea is the world's largest inland body of water, often described as the List of lakes by area, world's largest ...
** Gobustan ** Khudat ** Khachmaz **
Lankaran Lankaran ( az, Lənkəran, ) is a city in Azerbaijan, on the coast of the Caspian Sea, near the southern border with Iran. As of 2021, the city had a population of 89,300. It is next to, but independent of, Lankaran District. The city forms a dis ...
** Masallı ** Nabran ** Neftchala ** Shabran ** Siyazan ** Oil Rocks **
Sumqayit Sumgait (; az, Sumqayıt, ) is a city in Azerbaijan, located near the Caspian Sea, on the Absheron Peninsula, about away from the capital Baku. The city has a population of around 345,300, making it the second largest city in Azerbaijan after Bak ...
*: **
Atyrau Atyrau ( kk, Атырау, ', ; russian: Атырау, ), known until 1991 as Guryev (russian: Гурьев, ), is a city in Kazakhstan Kazakhstan, officially the Republic of Kazakhstan, is a List of transcontinental countries, transconti ...
**
Aktau Aktau ( kk, Aqtau, Ақтау , russian: Актау) is a city in Kazakhstan, located on the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea. Its current name means "white mountain" in Kazakh, which may be due to its cliffs that overlook the Caspian. From 1964 to ...
*Russia: **
Astrakhan Astrakhan ( rus, Астрахань, p=ˈastrəxənʲ) is the largest city and administrative centre of Astrakhan Oblast in Southern Russia. The city lies on two banks of the Volga, in the upper part of the Volga Delta, on eleven islands of the C ...
** Dagestanskiye Ogni **
Derbent Derbent (russian: Дербе́нт; lez, Кьвевар, Цал; az, Дәрбәнд, italic=no, Dərbənd; av, Дербенд; fa, دربند), formerly romanization of Russian, romanized as Derbend, is a city in Dagestan, Russia, located o ...
** Izberbash ** Kaspiysk **
Makhachkala Makhachkala ( rus, Махачкала, , məxətɕkɐˈla, links=yes),; av, Махӏачхъала, Maħaçqala; ce, ХӀинжа-ГӀала, Hinƶa-Ġala; az, Маһачгала, Mahaçqala; nog, Махачкала; lbe, Махачкъала; ...
*: ** Türkmenbaşy (formerly Krasnovodsk) ** Hazar (formerly Çeleken) ** Esenguly ** Garabogaz (formerly Bekdaş)


Economy

Countries in the Caspian region, particularly , and , have high-value natural-resource-based economies, where the oil and gas compose more than 10 percent of their
GDP Gross domestic product (GDP) is a money, monetary Measurement in economics, measure of the market value of all the final goods and services produced and sold (not resold) in a specific time period by countries. Due to its complex and subjec ...
and 40 percent of their exports. All the Caspian region economies are highly dependent on this type of
mineral In geology and mineralogy, a mineral or mineral species is, broadly speaking, a solid chemical compound with a fairly well-defined chemical composition and a specific crystal structure that occurs naturally in pure form.John P. Rafferty, ed. (2 ...
wealth. The world energy markets were influenced by Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, as they became strategically crucial in this sphere, thus attracting the largest share of FDI (foreign direct investment). All of the countries are rich in solar energy and harnessing potential, with the highest rainfall much less than the mountains of central Europe in the mountains of the west, which are also rich in
hydroelectricity Hydroelectricity, or hydroelectric power, is electricity generated from hydropower (water power). Hydropower supplies one sixth of the world's electricity Electricity is the set of physics, physical Phenomenon, phenomena associated w ...
sources.
Iran Iran, officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, and also called Persia, is a country located in Western Asia. It is bordered by Iraq and Turkey to the west, by Azerbaijan and Armenia to the northwest, by the Caspian Sea and Turkmeni ...

Iran
has high fossil fuel energy potential. It has reserves of 137.5 billion barrels of
crude oil Petroleum, also known as crude oil, or simply oil, is a naturally occurring yellowish-black liquid mixture of mainly hydrocarbons, and is found in geological formations. The name ''petroleum'' covers both naturally occurring unprocessed crude ...
, the fourth largest in the world, producing around four million barrels a day. Iran has an estimated 988.4 trillion cubic feet of
natural gas Natural gas (also called fossil gas or simply gas) is a naturally occurring mixture of gaseous hydrocarbons consisting primarily of methane in addition to various smaller amounts of other higher alkanes. Low levels of trace gases like carbon di ...
, around 16 percent of world reserves, thus key to current paradigms in global energy security. Russia's economy ranks as the twelfth largest by
nominal GDP Gross domestic product (GDP) is a money, monetary Measurement in economics, measure of the market value of all the final goods and services produced and sold (not resold) in a specific time period by countries. Due to its complex and subjec ...
and sixth largest by
purchasing power parity Purchasing power parity (PPP) is the measurement of prices in different countries that uses the prices of specific goods to compare the absolute purchasing power of the countries' currency, currencies. PPP is effectively the ratio of the price of ...
in 2015. Russia's extensive mineral and energy resources are the largest such reserves in the world, making it the second leading producer of oil and
natural gas Natural gas (also called fossil gas or simply gas) is a naturally occurring mixture of gaseous hydrocarbons consisting primarily of methane in addition to various smaller amounts of other higher alkanes. Low levels of trace gases like carbon di ...
globally. Caspian
littoral The littoral zone or nearshore is the part of a sea, lake, or river that is close to the shore. In coastal ecology, the littoral zone includes the intertidal zone extending from the high water mark (which is rarely inundated), to coastal areas ...
states join efforts to develop infrastructure, tourism and trade in the region. The first Caspian Economic Forum was convened on August 12, 2019, in Turkmenistan and brought together representatives of Kazakhstan, Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran and that state. It hosted several meetings of their ministers of economy and transport. The Caspian countries develop robust cooperation in the tech and digital field as part of the Caspian Digital Hub. The project helps expand data transmission capabilities in Kazakhstan as well as data transit capabilities between Asia and Europe. The project generated interest from investors from all over the world, including the UK.


Oil and gas

The Caspian Sea region presently is a significant, but not major, supplier of
crude oil Petroleum, also known as crude oil, or simply oil, is a naturally occurring yellowish-black liquid mixture of mainly hydrocarbons, and is found in geological formations. The name ''petroleum'' covers both naturally occurring unprocessed crude ...
to world markets, based upon estimates by BP Amoco and the U.S.
Energy Information Administration The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) is a principal agency of the Federal Statistical System of the United States, U.S. Federal Statistical System responsible for collecting, analyzing, and disseminating energy information to promote ...
, U.S. Department of Energy. The region output about 1.4–1.5 million barrels per day plus natural
gas Gas is one of the four fundamental states of matter In physics, a state of matter is one of the distinct forms in which matter can exist. Four states of matter are observable in everyday life: solid, liquid, gas, and Plasma (physics), pl ...
liquids in 2001, 1.9% of total world output. More than a dozen countries output more than this top figure. Caspian region production has been higher, but waned during and after the collapse of the
Soviet Union The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a List of former transcontinental countries#Since 1700, transcontinental country that spanned much of Eurasia from 1922 to 1991. A flagship communist state, ...
. accounts for 55% and for about 20% of the states' oil output. The world's first offshore wells and machine-drilled wells were made in Bibi-Heybat Bay, near Baku, Azerbaijan. In 1873, exploration and development of oil began in some of the largest fields known to exist in the world at that time on the
Absheron Peninsula The Absheron Peninsula ( az, Abşeron yarımadası) is a peninsula in Azerbaijan. It is the location of Baku, the biggest and the most populous city of the country, and also the Baku metropolitan area, with its satellite cities Sumqayit and Khyrda ...
near the villages of Balakhanli, Sabunchi, Ramana, and Bibi Heybat. Total recoverable reserves were more than 500 million tons. By 1900, Baku had more than 3,000 oil wells, 2,000 of which were producing at industrial levels. By the end of the 19th century, Baku became known as the "black gold capital", and many skilled workers and specialists flocked to the city. By the beginning of the 20th century, Baku was the center of the international oil industry. In 1920, when the
Bolsheviks The Bolsheviks (russian: Большевики́, from большинство́ ''bol'shinstvó'', 'majority'),; derived from ''bol'shinstvó'' (большинство́), "majority", literally meaning "one of the majority". also known in English ...
captured , all private property, including oil wells and factories, was confiscated. Rapidly the republic's oil industry came under the control of the
Soviet Union The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a List of former transcontinental countries#Since 1700, transcontinental country that spanned much of Eurasia from 1922 to 1991. A flagship communist state, ...
. By 1941, Azerbaijan was producing a record 23.5 million tons of oil per year – its Baku region output was nearly 72 percent of the Soviet Union's oil. In 1994, the " Contract of the Century" was signed, heralding extra-regional development of the Baku oil fields. The large Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan pipeline conveys Azeri oil to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan and opened in 2006. The oil field in the Russian section of the body of water was discovered in 2005. It is reportedly the largest found in 25 years. It was announced in October 2016 that
Lukoil The PJSC Lukoil Oil Company ( stylized as LUKOIL or ЛУКОЙЛ in Cyrillic script) is a Russian multinational energy In physics, energy (from Ancient Greek: wikt:ἐνέργεια#Ancient_Greek, ἐνέργεια, ''enérgeia'', “act ...
would start production from it.


Transport

Baku Baku (, ; az, Bakı ) is the capital and largest city of Azerbaijan, as well as the largest city on the Caspian Sea The Caspian Sea is the world's largest inland body of water, often described as the List of lakes by area, world's largest ...
has the main moorings of all large vessels, such as oil tankers, in . It is the largest port of the Caspian Sea. The port (and tankers) have access to the oceans along the Caspian Sea–Volga– Don
Canal Canals or artificial waterways are waterways or engineered channels built for drainage management (e.g. flood control and irrigation) or for conveyancing water transport vehicles (e.g. water taxi). They carry free, calm surface flo ...
, and the Don–
Sea of Azov The Sea of Azov (Crimean Tatar language, Crimean Tatar: ''Azaq deñizi''; russian: Азовское море, Azovskoye more; uk, Азовське море, Azovs'ke more) is a sea in Eastern Europe connected to the Black Sea by the narrow (ab ...
. A northern alternate is the Volga–Baltic (a sea which has a connection to the
North Sea The North Sea lies between Great Britain, Norway, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium. An epeiric sea, epeiric sea on the European continental shelf, it connects to the Atlantic Ocean through the English Channel in the south and the ...
of the Atlantic, as the
White Sea The White Sea (russian: Белое море, ''Béloye móre''; Karelian language, Karelian and fi, Vienanmeri, lit. Dvina Sea; yrk, Сэрако ямʼ, ''Serako yam'') is a southern inlet of the Barents Sea located on the northwest coast o ...
does via the White Sea-Baltic canal. Baku Sea Trade Port and Caspian Shipping Company CJSC, have a big role in the sea transportation of Azerbaijan. The Caspian Sea Shipping Company CJSC has two fleets plus shipyards. Its transport fleet has 51 vessels: 20 tankers, 13 ferries, 15 universal dry cargo vessels, 2 Ro-Ro vessels, as well as 1 technical vessel and 1 floating workshop. Its specialized fleet has 210 vessels: 20 cranes, 25 towing and supplying vehicles, 26 passenger, two pipe-laying, six fire-fighting, seven engineering-geological, two diving and 88 auxiliary vessels. The Caspian Sea Shipping Company of Azerbaijan, which acts as a liaison in the Transport Corridor Europe-Caucasus-Asia (TRACECA), simultaneously with the transportation of cargo and passengers in the Trans-Caspian direction, also performs work to fully ensure the processes of oil and gas production at sea. In the 19th century, the sharp increase in oil production in
Baku Baku (, ; az, Bakı ) is the capital and largest city of Azerbaijan, as well as the largest city on the Caspian Sea The Caspian Sea is the world's largest inland body of water, often described as the List of lakes by area, world's largest ...
gave a huge impetus to the development of shipping in the Caspian Sea, and as a result, there was a need to create fundamentally new floating facilities for the transportation of oil and oil products.


Political issues

Many of the islands along the Azerbaijani coast retain great geopolitical and economic importance for demarcation-line oil fields relying on their national status. Bulla Island, Pirallahı Island, and Nargin, which is still used as a former
Soviet The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a List of former transcontinental countries#Since 1700, transcontinental country that spanned much of Eurasia from 1922 to 1991. A flagship communist state, ...
base and is the largest island in the
Baku Baku (, ; az, Bakı ) is the capital and largest city of Azerbaijan, as well as the largest city on the Caspian Sea The Caspian Sea is the world's largest inland body of water, often described as the List of lakes by area, world's largest ...
bay, hold oil reserves. The collapse of the Soviet Union allowed the market opening of the region. This led to intense investment and development by international oil companies. In 1998,
Dick Cheney Richard Bruce Cheney ( ; born January 30, 1941) is an American politician and businessman who served as the 46th vice president of the United States from 2001 to 2009 under President George W. Bush. He is currently the oldest living former U ...
commented that "I can't think of a time when we've had a region emerge as suddenly to become as strategically significant as the Caspian." A key problem to further local development is arriving at precise, agreed demarcation lines among the five
littoral The littoral zone or nearshore is the part of a sea, lake, or river that is close to the shore. In coastal ecology, the littoral zone includes the intertidal zone extending from the high water mark (which is rarely inundated), to coastal areas ...
states. The current disputes along Azerbaijan's maritime borders with Turkmenistan and Iran could impinge future development. Much controversy currently exists over the proposed Trans-Caspian oil and gas pipelines. These projects would allow Western markets easier access to Kazakh oil and, potentially, Uzbek and Turkmen gas as well. Russia officially opposes the project on environmental grounds.Sergei Blagov,
Russia Tries to Scuttle Proposed Trans-Caspian Pipeline
", Eurasianet (2006-03-27)
However, analysts note that the pipelines would bypass Russia completely, thereby denying the country valuable transit fees, as well as destroying its current
monopoly A monopoly (from Greek language, Greek el, μόνος, mónos, single, alone, label=none and el, πωλεῖν, pōleîn, to sell, label=none), as described by Irving Fisher, is a market with the "absence of competition", creating a situati ...
on westward-bound
hydrocarbon In organic chemistry, a hydrocarbon is an organic compound consisting entirely of hydrogen and carbon. Hydrocarbons are examples of group 14 hydrides. Hydrocarbons are generally colourless and Hydrophobe, hydrophobic, and their odors are usuall ...
exports from the region. Recently, both Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan have expressed their support for the Trans-Caspian Pipeline. U.S.
diplomatic cable A diplomatic cable, also known as a diplomatic telegram (DipTel) or embassy cable, is a confidential text-based message exchanged between a diplomatic mission A diplomatic mission or foreign mission is a group of people from a Sovereign ...
s disclosed by
WikiLeaks WikiLeaks () is an international Nonprofit organization, non-profit organisation that published news leaks and classified media provided by anonymous Source (journalism), sources. Julian Assange, an Australian Internet activism, Internet acti ...
revealed that BP covered up a gas leak and blowout incident in September 2008 at an operating gas field in the Azeri-Chirag-Guneshi area of the Azerbaijan Caspian Sea.


Territorial status


Coastline

Five states are located along about of Caspian coastline. The length of the coastline of these countries: # Kazakhstan - # Turkmenistan - # Azerbaijan - # Russia - # Iran -


Negotiations

In 2000, negotiations as to the demarcation of the sea had been going on for nearly a decade among all the states bordering it. Whether it was by law a sea, a lake, or an agreed hybrid, the decision would set the demarcation rules and was heavily debated. Access to mineral resources (
oil An oil is any nonpolar In chemistry, polarity is a separation of electric charge leading to a molecule or its chemical groups having an electric dipole moment, with a negatively charged end and a positively charged end. Polar molecules m ...
and
natural gas Natural gas (also called fossil gas or simply gas) is a naturally occurring mixture of gaseous hydrocarbons consisting primarily of methane in addition to various smaller amounts of other higher alkanes. Low levels of trace gases like carbon di ...
), access for fishing, and access to
international waters The terms international waters or transboundary waters apply where any of the following types of bodies of water (or their drainage basins) transcend international boundaries: oceans, large marine ecosystems, enclosed or semi-enclosed regiona ...
(through Russia's river and the canals connecting it to the and
Baltic Sea The Baltic Sea is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that is enclosed by Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Sweden and the North European Plain, North and Central European Plain. The sea stretches from 53°N to 66° ...
) all rest on the negotiations' outcome. Access to the Volga is key for market efficiency and economic diversity of the
landlocked A landlocked country is a country that does not have territory connected to an ocean or whose coastlines lie on endorheic basin, endorheic basins. There are currently 44 landlocked countries and 4 landlocked list of states with limited recogni ...
states of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan. This concerns Russia as more traffic seeks to use — and at some points congest — its inland
waterway A waterway is any Navigability, navigable body of water. Broad distinctions are useful to avoid ambiguity, and disambiguation will be of varying importance depending on the nuance of the equivalent word in other languages. A first distinction ...
s. If the body of water is, by law, a sea, many precedents and international treaties oblige free access to foreign vessels. If it is a lake there are no such obligations. Resolving and improving some environmental issues properly rests on the status and
border Borders are usually defined as geographical boundaries, imposed either by features such as ocean The ocean (also the sea or the world ocean) is the body of Saline water, salt water that covers approximately 70.8% of the surface of Earth ...
s issue. All five Caspian littoral states maintain naval forces on the sea. According to a treaty signed between Iran and the Soviet Union, the sea is technically a lake and was divided into two sectors (Iranian and Soviet), but the resources (then mainly fish) were commonly shared. The line between the two sectors was considered an international border in a common lake, like Lake Albert. The Soviet sector was sub-divided into the four littoral republics' administrative sectors. Russia, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan have bilateral agreements with each other based on
median In statistics and probability theory, the median is the value separating the higher half from the lower half of a Sample (statistics), data sample, a statistical population, population, or a probability distribution. For a data set, it may be th ...
lines. Because of their use by the three nations, median lines seem to be the most likely method of delineating territory in future agreements. However, Iran insists on a single, multilateral agreement between the five nations (aiming for a one-fifth share). Azerbaijan is at odds with Iran over some of the sea's
oil field A petroleum reservoir or oil and gas reservoir is a subsurface accumulation of hydrocarbons contained in porous or fractured rock formations. Such reservoirs form when kerogen (ancient plant matter) is created in surrounding rock by the prese ...
s. Occasionally, Iranian patrol boats have fired at vessels sent by Azerbaijan for exploration into the disputed region. There are similar tensions between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan (the latter claims that the former has pumped more oil than agreed from a field, recognized by both parties as shared). The Caspian littoral states' meeting in 2007 signed an accord that only allows littoral-state flag-bearing ships to enter the sea. Negotiations among the five states ebbed and flowed, from about 1990 to 2018. Progress was notable in the fourth Caspian Summit held in
Astrakhan Astrakhan ( rus, Астрахань, p=ˈastrəxənʲ) is the largest city and administrative centre of Astrakhan Oblast in Southern Russia. The city lies on two banks of the Volga, in the upper part of the Volga Delta, on eleven islands of the C ...
in 2014.


Caspian Summit

The Caspian Summit is a head of state-level meeting of the five littoral states. The fifth Caspian Summit took place on August 12, 2018, in the Kazakh port city of
Aktau Aktau ( kk, Aqtau, Ақтау , russian: Актау) is a city in Kazakhstan, located on the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea. Its current name means "white mountain" in Kazakh, which may be due to its cliffs that overlook the Caspian. From 1964 to ...
. The five leaders signed the ‘Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea’. Representatives of the Caspian littoral states held a meeting in the capital of Kazakhstan on September 28, 2018, as a follow-up to the Aktau Summit. The conference was hosted by the Kazakh Ministry of Investment and Development. The participants in the meeting agreed to host an investment forum for the Caspian region every two years.


Convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea

The five littoral states build consensus on legally binding governance of the Caspian Sea through Special Working Groups of a Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea. In advance of a Caspian Summit, the 51st Special Working Group took place in
Astana Astana, previously known as Akmolinsk, Tselinograd, Akmola, and most recently Nur-Sultan, is the capital city of Kazakhstan. The city lies on the banks of the Ishim (river), Ishim River in the north-central part of Kazakhstan, within the Akmo ...
in May 2018 and found consensus on multiple agreements: Agreements on cooperation in the field of transport; trade and economic cooperation; prevention of incidents on the sea; combating terrorism; fighting against organized crime; and border security cooperation. The convention grants jurisdiction over of territorial waters to each neighboring country, plus an additional of exclusive fishing rights on the surface, while the rest is
international waters The terms international waters or transboundary waters apply where any of the following types of bodies of water (or their drainage basins) transcend international boundaries: oceans, large marine ecosystems, enclosed or semi-enclosed regiona ...
. The seabed, on the other hand, remains undefined, subject to bilateral agreements between countries. Thus, the Caspian Sea is legally neither fully a sea nor a lake. While the convention addresses caviar production, oil and gas extraction, and military uses, it does not touch on environmental issues.


Crossborder inflow

UNECE The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ECE or UNECE) is one of the five regional commissions under the jurisdiction of the United Nations Economic and Social Council. It was established in order to promote economic cooperation and i ...
recognizes several rivers that cross international borders which flow into the Caspian Sea. These are:


Transportation

Although the Caspian Sea is
endorheic An endorheic basin (; also spelled endoreic basin or endorreic basin) is a drainage basin that normally retains water and allows no outflow to other external bodies of water, such as rivers or oceans, but drainage converges instead into lakes ...
, its main tributary, the , is connected by important shipping canals with the Don River (and thus the Black Sea) and with the Baltic Sea, with branch canals to Northern Dvina and to the White Sea. Another Caspian tributary, the Kuma River, is connected by an irrigation canal with the Don basin as well. Scheduled
ferry A ferry is a ship, watercraft or amphibious vehicle used to carry passengers, and sometimes vehicles and cargo, across a body of water. A passenger ferry with many stops, such as in Venice, Italy, is sometimes called a water bus or water taxi ...
services (including train ferries) across the sea chiefly are between: * Türkmenbaşy in , (formerly Krasnovodsk) and
Baku Baku (, ; az, Bakı ) is the capital and largest city of Azerbaijan, as well as the largest city on the Caspian Sea The Caspian Sea is the world's largest inland body of water, often described as the List of lakes by area, world's largest ...
. *
Aktau Aktau ( kk, Aqtau, Ақтау , russian: Актау) is a city in Kazakhstan, located on the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea. Its current name means "white mountain" in Kazakh, which may be due to its cliffs that overlook the Caspian. From 1964 to ...
, Kazakhstan and Baku. *Cities in Iran and Russia (chiefly for cargo.)


Canals

As an endorheic basin, the Caspian Sea basin has no natural connection with the ocean. Since the
medieval period In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted approximately from the late 5th to the late 15th centuries, similar to the Post-classical, post-classical period of World history (field), global history. It began with t ...
, traders reached the Caspian via a number of
portage Portage or portaging (Canadian English, Canada: ; ) is the practice of carrying water craft or cargo over land, either around an obstacle in a river, or between two bodies of water. A path where items are regularly carried between bodies of wate ...
s that connected the Volga and its tributaries with the
Don River The Don ( rus, Дон, p=don) is the List of rivers of Europe#Rivers of Europe by length, fifth-longest river in Europe. Flowing from Central Russia to the Sea of Azov in Southern Russia, it is one of List of rivers of Russia, Russia's largest ri ...
(which flows into the
Sea of Azov The Sea of Azov (Crimean Tatar language, Crimean Tatar: ''Azaq deñizi''; russian: Азовское море, Azovskoye more; uk, Азовське море, Azovs'ke more) is a sea in Eastern Europe connected to the Black Sea by the narrow (ab ...
) and various rivers that flow into the
Baltic Sea The Baltic Sea is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that is enclosed by Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Sweden and the North European Plain, North and Central European Plain. The sea stretches from 53°N to 66° ...
. Primitive canals connecting the Volga Basin with the Baltic were constructed as early as the early 18th century. Since then, a number of canal projects have been completed. The two modern canal systems that connect the Volga Basin, and hence the Caspian Sea, with the ocean are the
Volga–Baltic Waterway The Volga–Baltic Waterway (Volgobalt, Волгобалт), formerly known as the Mariinsk Canal System (Russian: Мариинская водная система), is a series of canal Canals or artificial waterways are waterways ...
and the
Volga–Don Canal Lenin Volga–Don Shipping Canal (Russian language, Russian:Волго-Донской судоходный канал имени, ''В. И. Ленина, Volga-Donskoy soudokhodniy kanal imeni V. I. Lenina'', abbreviated ВДСК, ''VDSK'') is a ...
. The proposed Pechora–Kama Canal was a project that was widely discussed between the 1930s and 1980s. Shipping was a secondary consideration. Its main goal was to redirect some of the water of the
Pechora River ; Komi: Печӧра; Nenets: Санэроˮ яха , name_etymology = The Russian name of the river is a combination of two words in an old local Nenets dialect, "pe" & "chora". Literally it means "forest dweller". , image ...
(which flows into the Arctic Ocean) via the
Kama River The Kama (russian: Ка́ма, ; tt-Cyrl, Чулман, ''Çulman''; udm, Кам) is a long«Река ...
into the Volga. The goals were both irrigation and the stabilization of the water level in the Caspian, which was thought to be falling dangerously fast at the time. During 1971, some peaceful nuclear construction experiments were carried out in the region by the U.S.S.R. In June 2007, in order to boost his oil-rich country's access to markets, 's President
Nursultan Nazarbayev Nursultan Abishuly Nazarbayev ( kk, Нұрсұлтан Әбішұлы Назарбаев, Nūrsūltan Äbişūlı Nazarbaev, ; born 6 July 1940) is a Kazakhs, Kazakh politician and military officer who served as the first President of Kazakhstan ...
proposed a link between the Caspian Sea and the . It is hoped that the "
Eurasia Canal The Eurasia Canal (russian: Канал "Евразия", ''Kanal "Evraziya"'') is a proposed 700-kilometre-long (430 mi) canal connecting the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea along the Kuma-Manych Depression. Currently, a chain of lakes and reser ...
" ( Manych Ship Canal) would transform landlocked Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries into maritime states, enabling them to significantly increase trade volume. Although the canal would traverse Russian territory, it would benefit Kazakhstan through its Caspian Sea ports. The most likely route for the canal, the officials at the Committee on Water Resources at Kazakhstan's Agriculture Ministry say, would follow the
Kuma–Manych Depression The Kuma–Manych depression ( rus, Кумо–Манычская впадина, Kumo–Manychskaya vpadina), is a depression (geology), geological depression in southwestern Russia that separates the East European Plain, Russian Plain to the ...
, where currently a chain of rivers and lakes is already connected by an irrigation canal (the
Kuma–Manych Canal The Kuma–Manych Canal (russian: Кумо–Манычский канал) is an irrigation canal in Russia's Stavropol Krai. The canal, completed in 1965,"Caspian Canal Could Boost Kazakh Trade"
''
Business Week ''Bloomberg Businessweek'', previously known as ''BusinessWeek'', is an American weekly business magazine published fifty times a year. Since 2009, the magazine is owned by New York City-based Bloomberg L.P. The magazine debuted in New York City ...
'' (2007-07-09)


See also

* Caspians *
Caspian languages The Caspian languages are a branch of List of Northwestern Iranian languages, Northwestern Iranian languages spoken in northern Iran and south-eastern Azerbaijan, south of the Caspian Sea. They are unique in that they share certain typological ...
* Baku oil fields * Epoch of Extreme Inundations *
Eurasia Canal The Eurasia Canal (russian: Канал "Евразия", ''Kanal "Evraziya"'') is a proposed 700-kilometre-long (430 mi) canal connecting the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea along the Kuma-Manych Depression. Currently, a chain of lakes and reser ...
* Framework Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea * Iranrud *
Shah Deniz gas field Shah Deniz gas field ( az, Şahdəniz) is the largest natural gas field in Azerbaijan. It is situated in the South Caspian Sea, off the coast of Azerbaijan, approximately southeast of Baku, at a depth of . The field covers approximately . Stretch ...
* South Caucasus Pipeline * Southern Gas Corridor *
Tengiz Field Tengiz field ( kk, Теңіз мұнай кен орны, ''Teñız mūnai ken orny''; Tengiz is Turkic for "sea") is an oil field located in northwestern Kazakhstan's low-lying wetlands along the northeast shores of the Caspian Sea. It covers ...
* Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline * Trans-Caspian Oil Transport System *
Volga–Don Canal Lenin Volga–Don Shipping Canal (Russian language, Russian:Волго-Донской судоходный канал имени, ''В. И. Ленина, Volga-Donskoy soudokhodniy kanal imeni V. I. Lenina'', abbreviated ВДСК, ''VDSK'') is a ...
* Wildlife of Azerbaijan *
Wildlife of Iran The wildlife of Iran include the fauna Fauna is all of the animal life present in a particular region or time. The corresponding term for plants is ''flora'', and for fungi, it is ''funga''. Flora, fauna, funga and other forms of life are colle ...
* Wildlife of Kazakhstan * Wildlife of Turkmenistan * Wildlife of Russia


References


External links

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Names of the Caspian Sea

Caspian Sea Region


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