Panorama de
la vieille ville

Called Venice of Asia, Astrakhan is built on several islands of the Volga Delta connected between them by about thirty bridges. The city is more or less well protected from the floods by a multitude of dams. Old capital of the Kingdom of Tatars, Astrakhan was conquered in XVIth century by Yvan the Terrible which annexed it in Russia. Thereafter, one built there the Kremlin (fortress) and a port making the city the door of the East. At the beginning of the XXth century, Astrakhan was a prosper cultural and industrial center.

Convoi poussé sur la Volga

Astrakhan, it is at the same time the Volga and the Caspian. The latter opened the doors to the East to the city and gave the caviar to it while the Volga gave it access to the whole Russia. The Caspian Sea includes three zones of different depths from which two are separated by an underwater peak connecting Baku to Turkmenbaši. In the south

Caviar noir russe of this peak, the depth reaches 1200 m. while in the North, it does not exceed 20 m. Near the Northern coast, between the Volga Delta in Astrakhan and Fort-Shevchenko in Kazakhstan, the depth seldom exceeds the ten meters.

In this same area, the back country is very flat and marshy. It is a polder resembling a little the Belgian Zwin with the same natural richness. The paradise of the nature lovers but also of the hunters, of the fishermen and of the oil researchers. If an increase of the Caspian Sea level represents only a weak retreat of the coast near the deep zones, where the littoral is abrupt enough, the same variation of level is at the origin of a very large displacement of the
Uspenski Sobor
Marée noire terrestre

sea line at the weakly deep places. Moreover, the Caspian is regularly subject to violent winds and then, between Astrakhan and Fort-Shevchenko, it may overflow and flood the back-country on very large distances.

It is precisely in this marsh of the North of Caspian that are the most important gas and oil reservoirs. In this frequently flooded area, it is difficult to know if the oil wells are offshore or onshore. As for the pipelines, they are frequently torn off with the damage that it is guessed. In 1952, a overflow of Caspian caused by the wind flooded the coastal zone on 170.000 km². Moreover, since this date, the mean level of the Caspian Sea increased of more than two meters.

In the same type of environment, the Dutchmen built dams to protect their country; what awaits the Russians and Kazakhs?

As well in Kazakhstan that in Russia, all is organized to preserve nature, in particular in this area which is as rich by its endemic fauna and its flora as by its hydrocarbons. But which protection can stop an oil slick? And who will protect the foreign investors knowing generally nothing about these whims of the Caspian Sea ?

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