Caspian Sea

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Caspian Sea
As captured by the MODIS on the orbiting Terra satellite
Coordinates 41°40′N 50°40′E / 41.667°N 50.667°E / 41.667; 50.667Coordinates: 41°40′N 50°40′E / 41.667°N 50.667°E / 41.667; 50.667
Lake type Endorheic, Saline, Permanent, Natural
Primary inflows Volga River, Ural River, Kura River, Terek River

Historically: Amu Darya

Primary outflows Evaporation
Catchment area 3626000 km2[1]
Basin countries Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkmenistan
Max. length 1030 km
Max. width 435 km
Surface area 371000 km2
Average depth 211 m
Max. depth 1025 m
Water volume 78200 km3
Residence time 250 years
Shore length1 7000 km
Surface elevation -28 m
Islands 26+ (see Island below)
Settlements Baku (Azerbaijan), Rasht (Iran), Aktau (Kazakhstan), Makhachkala (Russia), Türkmenbaşy (Turkmenistan) (see article)
References [1]
1 Shore length is not a well-defined measure.

The Caspian Sea is the largest enclosed body of water on Earth by area, variously classed as the world's largest lake or a full-fledged sea. It has a surface area of 371,000 square kilometers (143,244 sq mi) and a volume of 78,200 cubic kilometers (18,761 cu mi).[4] It is an endorheic body of water and lies between the southern areas of the Russian Federation and northern Iran. It has a maximum depth of about 1025 meters (3,363 ft). It is called a sea because when the Romans first arrived there, they tasted the water and found it to be salty. It has a salinity of approximately 1.2%, about a third the salinity of most seawater. It is named after the ancient Caspians.

The Caspian Sea is a remnant of the Tethys Sea, along with Black and Aral seas. It became landlocked about 5.5 million years ago. Discoveries in the Huto cave near the town of Behshahr, Mazandaran south of the Caspian, suggest human habitation of the area as early as 75,000 years ago.

In classical antiquity among Greeks and Persians it was called the Hyrcanian Ocean. In Turkic speaking countries it is known as the Khazar Sea. In Persian antiquity, it was known as the Kaspian sea. In modern Iran, the sea is referred to as Darya-ye-Kaspi or Kaspian by the locals while some choose to call it Darya-ye-Khazar (Khazar Sea) as well as Darya-ye-Mazandaran (Mazadandaran Sea). The Caspians are an ancient white ethnic group of Iranian peoples that reside in northern Iran and are believed, by historians, to be the first settlers of the modern Gilan province of Iran. The Khazars, on the other hand, were a Turko-Mongoloid tribe. Old Russian sources call it the Khvalyn (Khvalynian) Sea after the Khvalis, inhabitants of Khwarezmia. Ancient Arabic sources refer to the sea as Bahr al-Qazwin (Qazvin Sea).

The word Caspian is derived from the name of the Caspi, an ancient people that lived to the west of the sea in Transcaucasia. Strabo wrote that "to the country of the Albanians 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 Gate, which is the name of a region in Tehran province of Iran, is another possible piece of evidence that they migrated to the south of the sea.


  1. 1.0 1.1 van der Leeden, Troise, and Todd, eds., The Water Encyclopedia. Second Edition. Chelsea, MI: Lewis Publishers, 1990, p. 196.
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