Russian-Iranian relations in the Caspian Region: results and prospects

Cover Page

Cite item


The collapse of the USSR affected the Russian-Iranian relations, governed by bilateral agreements during several centuries. The emergence of “new” independent states in the region, such as Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, changed the geopolitical situation and put a question of the legal status of the Caspian Sea. Russian-Persian and Soviet-Iranian agreements had a centuries-old tradition but they did not draw up a legal status of the Caspian Sea or clarify the procedures of subsursafe management. Those agreements governed only laid down rules of navigation and fishery, without touching the issues of oil and gas field exploration, production and transportation, including pipelines on the floor of the Caspian Sea. It did not fit political and economic interests of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan and stimulate them to unilateral actions. Russia and Iran in turn insisted on saving the former rules and agreements. The absence of Convention on legal status of the Caspian Sea introduced uncertainty in the principles of oil and gas development and export, pushing Caspian countries toward making unilateral decisions. Russia and Iran kept close positions, insisting on following the former agreements. The other Caspian countries did not support that position and adopted a policy aimed at division of the Caspian Sea and asserting a certain control over its hydrocarbons. Close Russian and Iranian positions on legal status of the Caspian Sea became a strong deterrent for Caspian countries to let them divide the sea into national sectors and launch pipeline plans on the floor of the Caspian Sea. As the result Russian and Iranian relations had stabilizing effect in the Caspian region. At the same time, the Russian Federation aimed at following a flexible policy, taking into account the interests of the other Caspian countries. The settlement of the legal status of the Caspian Sea with Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan let Russia improve the relations with its neighbors but was not approved by Iran. Russian-Iranian relations were influenced by a profound effect of some western states, that imposed sanctions against Iran. Moreover, the fact that Iran was neglected when the export hydrocarbons routes were discussed and realized let new Caspian countries strengthen its positions. At the turn of 2015-2016 уears Russian-Iranian relations are on the rise, because of bilateral interest in solving regional issues and developing trade and credit agreements. Prospects of Russian-Iranian further cooperation will be determined by some key factors. There are Iranian energy policy, results of further multilateral negotiations on legal status of the Caspian Sea and the level of hydrocarbons production in “new” Caspian countries, that can strongly influence their international policies. All these factors will affect the further Russian-Iranian relations, because these two countries remain core players in the Caspian region.

About the authors

Sergey Sergeevich Zhiltcov

Peoples' Friendship University of Russia (RUDN University)

Author for correspondence.
Moscow, Russia


  1. Abdullaev, I.I. (2015). Problemy bezopasnosti v Kaspiiskom regione v kontekste izmeneniya geopoliticheskoi situatsii [Security issues in the Caspian region in the context of changes in the geopolitical situation]. Problemy postsovetskogo prostranstva, 4, pp. 84-87.
  2. Aliev, I. (2003). Kaspiiskaya neft' Azerbaidzhana [Caspian oil of Azerbaijan]. Moscow: Izd-vo «Izvestiya».
  3. Butaev, A. (2002). Problemy pravovogo statusa Kaspiiskogo morya [Problems of the Caspian Sea legal status]. Mirovaya energeticheskaya politika, 4.
  4. Cornell, S.E. (2011). Azerbaijan since Independence. New York.
  5. El'tsin, B.N. (1997). Vystuplenie na zakrytom zasedanii Soveta Glav gosudarstv SNG 28 marta 1997 g. [Speech at the closed session of the Council of CIS Heads of State at March 28, 1997]. Vestnik Kaspiya, 3, p.1.
  6. Ivanov, I.S. (2003). Vystuplenie na 10-m zasedanii Spetsial'noi rabochei gruppy zamestitelei ministrov inostrannykh del prikaspiiskikh gosudarstv [Speech at the 10th meeting of the Ad Hoc Working Group for Foreign Affairs of the Caspian states' deputy ministers]. Vestnik Kaspiya, 4, pp. 1-3.
  7. Klare, M.T. (2001). Resource Wars. The New Landscape of Global Conflict. Metropolitan Books.
  8. Mamedov, R.F. (2006). Mezhdunarodno-pravovoi status Kaspiiskogo morya: vchera, segodnya, zavtra [The international legal status of the Caspian Sea: yesterday, today and tomorrow]. Baku: Azerneshr.
  9. Mamedov, R. (2000). International Legal Status of the Caspian Sea in its Historical Development. Turkish Yearbook, XXX.
  10. Mikheev, S.A., Chebotarev, A.E., Kovalev, G.S. (2014). Problemy regiona nakanune IV Kaspiiskogo sammita [The problems of the region on the eve of IV Caspian Summit]. Problemy postsovetskogo prostranstva, 2, pp. 31-69.
  11. Mohsenin, M.M. (2001). The evolving security role of Iran in the Caspian region. The security of the Caspian Sea region. Ed. G. Chufrin. Oxford University Press.
  12. Naumkin, V.V. (1998). Novyi neftyanoi poryadok neminuemo privedet k geopoliticheskim izmeneniyam (Dva vzglyada na protsessy, proiskhodyashchie na Kaspii i vokrug nego) [The new oil order will inevitably lead to geopolitical changes (Two views on the processes taking place in the Caspian Sea and around)]. Vestnik Kaspiya, 6, pp. 25-28.
  13. Roberts, J. (1996). Caspian Pipelines. London: The Royal Institute of International Affairs.
  14. Roberts, J. (2001). Energy Reserves, Pipeline Routes and the Legal Regime in the Caspian Sea. The security of the Caspian Sea region. Ed. G. Chufrin. Oxford University Press.
  15. Savas'kov, P.V. (2003). Pravovoi rezhim Kaspiiskogo moray. Yuzhnyi flang SNG. Tsentral'naya Aziya – Kaspii – Kavkaz: vozmozhnosti i vyzovy dlya Rossii. Ed. M.M. Narinskiy, A.V. Mal'gin. Moscow.: MGIMO. Logos.
  16. Sanai, M. (2002). Otnosheniya Irana s tsentral'noaziatskimi stranami SNG (sotsial'no-politicheskie i ekonomicheskie aspekty) [Iran's relations with the Central Asian countries of the CIS (the socio-political and economic aspects)]. Moscow: Muravei.
  17. Semenova, N.K. (2012). Kitaiskii energeticheskii vektor: znachenie ShOS i bezopasnost' v Tsentral'noi Azii [Chinese energy vector: the value of the SCO and security in Central Asia]. Vostochnaya analitika, 3, pp. 144-160.
  18. Shirin, A. (2004). The Caspian: Politics, Energy and Security. London: Routledge Curzon.
  19. Shorokhov, V. (1997). Neft' i politika Azerbaidzhana [Oil and policies of Azerbaijan]. Moscow: TsMI MGIMO, 9.
  20. Sultanov, B.K. (2012). Tsentral'naya Aziya i Kaspiiskii region: riski, vyzovy, ugrozy [Central Asia and the Caspian region: the risks, challenges and threats]. Almaty: KISI, 2012.
  21. Syroezhkin, K.L. (2011). Tsentral'naya Aziya segodnya: vyzovy i ugrozy [Central Asia today: challenges and threats]. Almaty: KISI.
  22. Vinogradov, S.V. (1997). Towards Regional Cooperation in the Caspian: A Legal Perspective. Scientific, Environmental and Political Issues in the Circum-Caspian Region, pp. 53-68.
  23. Urnov, A.Yu. (2000). O mezhdunarodno-pravovom statuse Kaspiiskogo morya / Mezhdunarodnyi simpozium «Vliyanie seismicheskoi opasnosti na truboprovodnye sistemy v Zakavkazskom i Kaspiiskom regionakh», Moskva, 30-31 maya 2000 g. [On the international legal status of the Caspian Sea. International Symposium "The Influence of seismic hazard in pipeline systems in the Caucasian and Caspian regions", Moscow, 30-31 May 2000]. Vestnik Kaspiya, 3, pp. 11-14.
  24. Zhil'tsov, S.S. (2016). Politika Rossii v Kaspiiskom regione [Russia's policy in the Caspian region]. Moscow: Aspekt Press.
  25. Zhil'tsov, S.S. (2014). Politika Rossii na Kaspii [Russia's policy in the Caspian Sea]. Problemy postsovetskogo prostranstva, 2, pp. 5-30.
  26. Zhil'tsov, S.S., Zonn, I.S. (2011). Kaspiiskaya truboprovodnaya geopolitika [Caspian pipeline geopolitics]. Moscow: Vostok-Zapad.
  27. Zonn, I.S., Zhil'tsov, S.S. (2008). Novyi Kaspii. Geografiya, ekonomika, politika [New Caspian. Geography, economics, politics]. Moscow: Vostok-Zapad.

Copyright (c) 2016 Жильцов С.С.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

This website uses cookies

You consent to our cookies if you continue to use our website.

About Cookies