Sea of Azov

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Azov, Sea of,

Gr. Maiotis, Lat. Palus Maeotis, ancient Rus. Surozhskoye, northern arm of the Black Sea, c.14,000 sq mi (36,300 sq km), shared by S European Russia and E Ukraine. The shallow sea (maximum depth 45 ft/13 m) is connected with the Black Sea by the Kerch Strait. Its chief arms are the Gulf of Taganrog (in the northeast) and the Sivash Sea (in the west), which is nearly isolated from the Sea of Azov by Arabat Tongue, a narrow sandspit. The Don and Kuban rivers flow into the sea, supplying it with an abundance of freshwater but also depositing the silt that tends to make the sea more shallow. The Sea of Azov has important fisheries and accounts for a large portion of the freshwater catch of Russia and Ukraine. The major ports are Rostov-na-Donu, Taganrog, Zhdanov, Kerch, and Berdyansk. The sea's importance increased with the opening of the Volga–Don Canal; the Manych Canal connects the Sea of Azov with the Caspian Sea.

Azov, Sea of


a mediterranean sea in the basin of the Atlantic Ocean, in the southern European USSR. It is connected with the Black Sea by the Kerch’ Strait. It has an area of 38,000 sq km, an average depth of 8 m, and a maximum depth of 14 m. The average volume of water is 320 cu km. The shores in the west, north, and east are chiefly lowland and are composed of sand and shell deposits; in the south, the shore is predominantly precipitous. A characteristic feature of the shores of the Sea of Azov is the presence of sand spits (Arabatsk Strelka, Fedotov, Berdiansk, Eisk, and others) which separate a series of shallow bays (Sivash, Obitochnyi, and others) and estuaries from the sea. Some of the estuaries are lightly connected to the sea (Eisk and Beisug), and the others are separated from it by sand bars (Lake Molochnoe, Dolgii Estuary, and so forth). There are the large open bays of Taganrog in the northwest, Tem-riuk in the southeast, and Arabat in the southwest. Small lowland islands such as Biriuchii, Peschanye, and Chere-pakha are located close to the shores. The Sea of Azov receives two major rivers, the Don and the Kuban’, as well as numerous small rivers such as the Mius, the Berdia, and the Obitochnaia. The relief of the sea bottom is even, with a slight slope toward the center. The bottom is composed of sand, shell, and silt. Mud volcanoes are characteristic in the southeastern portion of the sea.

The climate in the region of the Sea of Azov is continental. The winter is cold and relatively dry, and strong northeasterly and easterly winds prevail. The mean air temperature in January and February varies from - 1°C in the south to -6°C in the north, with minimum temperatures of -30°C and below. The summer is hot and relatively wet, with prevailing westerly winds. The mean temperature in July is 23.5°C or 24.5°C, with a maximum of 40°C. Precipitation varies from 312 mm to 528 mm per year, with the predominant share falling in the summer months (1.5–2 times as much as in the other seasons).

The hydrological regime of the Sea of Azov is determined by its continental position, the climate, the river drainage, the water exchange through the Kerch’ Strait, and human activity on the drainage territory. Of basic significance is the freshwater component of the water balance, which is calculated as a yearly average of the continental drainage (39.6 cu km) and precipitation (13.5 cu km), minus evaporation (33.9 cu km); the surplus of fresh water over the year is 17.4 cu km, and this flows out through the Kerch’ Strait. The currents have a general counterclockwise circulation, but under the influence of the easterly and northeasterly winds they can move in the opposite direction. The water temperature has a sharp annual fluctuation. In the winter it drops below 0°C, and in the summer it reaches 25°C or 30°C. Water salinity in the south is 11 parts per thousand and in the remaining portion of the sea 9–10 parts per thousand, and in the river mouth areas it declines to 2–4 parts per thousand. The average water level in the Sea of Azov fluctuates significantly from year to year (sometimes as much as 33 cm). The episodic differences in the level depend chiefly upon the winds, and can be as much as 5.5 m. Ice appears in November and December in Taganrog Bay, and by the end of February and the beginning of March, the entire area of the sea is covered with ice. The ice begins to disappear in March and April.

The fish resources of the Sea of Azov are significant because of the exceptional biological productivity of the sea, which has a content of organic matter that is five or six times greater than that of other marine bodies of water. Commercially exploited fishes include sturgeon, bream, zander, sea roach, Azov vimba (rybets), shemaia, gobies, herring, anchovy, and tiulka. The Sea of Azov also has great importance as a transportation seaway for cargo and passenger traffic. The main ports are Taganrog, Zhdanov, Eisk, and Berdiansk.


Dobrovol’skii, A. D., and B. S. Zalogin. Moria SSSR. Moscow, 1965.