Overview

THE CASPIAN AT A GLANCE

Where is it?
The Caspian is the world’s largest landlocked body of water, bordered by the following five countries (beginning in the north and moving clockwise): Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran and Azerbaijan. The Caspian coastline varies greatly over its 7,000 km (4,349 miles): The Russian coastline is characterized by rich wetlands; Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan’s coasts consist of steppes and deserts; the Elburz Mountains run parallel to the southern coast in Iran, and the Caucasus Mountains frame the Caspian in Azerbaijan.

How large is the Caspian?
The sea covers a surface area of 371,000 sq km (143,000 sq. miles)—comparable to the surface area of the United Kingdom or all five of the US Great Lakes combined!

What is the Caspian’s average depth?
The average depth of the sea varies greatly from the shallow northern waters to the deep south. While the sea is as shallow as a few meters or feet in some northern locations, the southern waters can reach a maximum of 980 meters (3,200 ft).

Do any rivers flow into the Caspian?
Yes, Russia’s mighty Volga is the primary river that flows into the Caspian from the north. The smaller Ural (Kazakhstan), Kura (Azerbaijan), Terek (Russia) and Emba (Kazakhstan) rivers also discharge into the sea. The Iranian coast is marked by many small streams that pour down from the alpine heights of the Elburz Mountains to empty into the Sea.

Rivers flow into the Caspian, but the sea has no outlets?
That’s correct. The Caspian relies on evaporation to regulate the sea level. Particularly important is the salty, shallow Garabogazkol Bay in Turkmenistan, which acts as a natural evaporation basin.

The Caspian’s sea level has risen and fallen numerous times over the centuries. Over the past century, the sea fell by an average of 3 meters from 1929-1977, and then rose by an average of 2.4 meters from 1977-1995. While there have been many studies on the sea level fluctuations, the exact cause remains unclear.

Does the Caspian go by any other names?
Yes, Iranians refer to it as the Mazandaran Sea. It has also been well known throughout history as the Khazar Sea. Other historical names include Abescoon, Argania, Bahr-e Qazvin, Deelam, Girkansk, Gorgan, Khorassan, Khvalynsk, Sarri, Shirvan and Tabarestan, among many others.