The Caspian Sea is a landlocked sea in Asia. It is bordered by Russia (Dagestan, Kalmykia, Astrakhan Oblast), Republic of Azerbaijan, Iran (Guilan, Mazandaran and Golestan provinces), Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan, with the central Asian steppes to the north and east. In Antiquity it is called Hyrcanian Ocean. Other old names for the Caspian include the Mazandaran Sea, Khazar Sea and the Khvalissian Sea.
The Caspian is one of the world's smallest seas; in fact, according to scientists it has characteristics common to both seas and lakes. It is, however, the world's largest inland body of water and is often listed as the world's largest lake (though it is not a freshwater lake). It has a surface area of 371,000 km² (143000 sq. mi.).
The Caspian holds a great amount of sturgeon, which yield eggs that are processed into caviar. Overfishing threatens the sturgeon population, to the point that environmentalists advocate banning sturgeon fishing completely until the population recovers.
Recently discovered huge oil fields also lie underneath the Caspian Sea. Though further exploration is needed to define the full extent of the oil potential in this part of the world.
The main problem is the status of the Caspian Sea and the establishment of the water boundaries between the five riparian countries.
The level of the Caspian has fallen and risen many times over the centuries. Some Russian historians claim that a medieval rising of the Caspian caused the coastal towns of Khazaria, such as Atil, to flood. In 2004, the water level is -28 metres, or 28 metres below sea level.
Major cities by the Caspian Sea:
- Baku, Azerbaijan Republic
- Gorgan, Iran
- Sari, Iran
- Derbent, Russia
- Rasht, Iran
- Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan (formerly Krasnovodsk)
- Babol, province of Mazandaran, Iran
- Atyrau, Kazakhstan
- Aktau, Kazakhstan (formerly Shevchenko)
Historical cities by the Sea:
- See also : Ekranoplan
- Caspian Environment Programme
- Target: Caspian Sea Oil John Robb, 2004
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