The disintegration of the USSR and the appearance of newly independent states on the shores of the Caspian Sea have questioned the latter’s juridical status.  Beyond the debates between geographers on the nature this expanse of water as a lake or as a sea, Iran, Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan fight with each other for the sharing out of the Capian’s resources.  The revenues of fishing are indeed less at stake than the godsend coming from the exploitation of hydrocarbons.  A specialist of international law, the author gives the view point of a jurist.  First he goes back to the status of the Caspian Sea before the collapse of the Soviet Union, viz. as it was regulated by the international treatises of 1921 and 1940.  These two texts then signed by Tehran and Moscow regulated the right of crossing the sea for boats from both countries, and delimitated the latter’s respective fishing zones.  After the recent exploitation of the subsoil by powerful oil consortiums revealed the latter’s considerable resources in oil and gas, the new regional protagonists claimed for their share of the loot.  In short chapters the author introduces each country’s position.  Russia always considered the Caspian as a closed lake and solicited on October 5, 1994 the UN’s arbitration, whence threatening its new neighbours of retaliation in case of initiatives contrary to the treatises of 1921 and 1940.  Iran has adopted a position very close to that of Russia.  In front of both, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan have come closer to Kazakhstan’s viewpoint, consisting in claiming for the Caspian the implementation of the 1982 Convention on the Sea for obtaining the delimitation of their respective territorial waters and zones of economic exploitation—on the argument of the links between the Caspian and the open oceans through the canals of the Volga River toward the Gulf of Finland.  As far as the battle has been going on until now on the juridical field, the author limits his overview to an analysis of the texts, many of which are reproduced in the long appendixes that make of half of the volume.  His linear exposition does not deal with the other aspect, notably economic and environmental, of this quarrel.  Specialists of international law will find interesting materials in the text as well as in the volume appendixes, though one can regret the lack of maps on the repartition of underwater and subsoil resources, or on the respective territory claims of the different states in terms of territorial waters.

Bayram Balci, French Institute of Central Asian Studies, Tashkent
CER: I-8.1-687