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Map courtesy of the Black Sea Web Project.

The Black Sea lies between southeastern Europe and Asia Minor. Excluding its northern arm, the Sea of Azov, the Black Sea occupies about 168,500 square miles (436,400 square kilometers). It is connected to the Aegean Sea through the Bosporus, the Sea of Marmara, and the Dardanelles, and has been of critical importance to regional commerce throughout the ages.

This major inland sea is bordered by six countries — Romania and Bulgaria to the west; Ukraine, Russia, and Georgia to the north and east; and Turkey to the south. Additionally, it is impacted by another 10 nations through the five major rivers that empty into the Black Sea, the largest of which is the Danube River.

The Bordering Countries

The following is a brief geographic overview of the nations that border the Black Sea. Also see the History and Culture section to learn more about them.

Bulgaria flag

Bulgaria. This mostly mountainous nation, slightly larger than Tennessee, occupies 42,823 square miles (110,912 sq km) and is home to an estimated 7.6 million people. The capital city is Sofia. About 85% of the people are ethnic Bulgarians, and nearly 10% are Turkish.

The Golden Sands Resort along Bulgaria's Black Sea coast.
The Balkan Mountains cross the northwestern corner of Bulgaria to the Black Sea, sloping gradually to a plateau that ends at the Danube, the country's chief river. The southern side of the mountain range is bounded by narrow plains, such as the Thracian Plain, an important agricultural region. Forests cover about a third of Bulgaria, and the country has a wealth of minerals, mainly iron ore and coal. Bulgaria has mild summers and cold, snowy winters.

In addition to agriculture (primary products: vegetables, fruits, tobacco, livestock, wine, wheat, barley, sunflowers, sugar beets), Bulgaria has major industries for the production of electricity, gas and water, food and beverages, machinery and equipment, base metals, chemical products, refined petroleum, and nuclear fuel. A major emphasis on the development of heavy industry occurred in the country after World War II. Chief exports include clothing, footwear, iron and steel, machinery and equipment, and fuels. Varna, the country's largest city, is Bulgaria's principal port on the Black Sea.

Romania. With a total land area of about 91,700 square miles (237,500 sq km), Romania is slightly larger than the state of Oregon. More than 89% of the country's 22.3 million people are ethnic Romanians. Hungarians are the largest minority (about 8%), living chiefly in Transylvania. Romania's capital and largest city is Bucharest.

A forest-lined lake fringes the Black Sea coast at Neptun, Romania.

Romania is shaped roughly like an oval. The central Transylvanian Basin is separated from the lowlands of Moldavia on the east by the Carpathian Mountains and from the Walachian Plain on the south by the Transylvanian Alps. Wild boar, wolves, bears, and deer may be found in the mountainous regions. The lowlands serve as important agricultural areas. The country's most important river, the Danube, flows through a delta in the Dobruja region into the Black Sea.

More than 43% of Romania is cultivated. The chief agricultural products include wheat, corn, sugar beets, sunflower seeds, potatoes, grapes, eggs, and sheep. The country's major industries include textiles and footwear, light machinery and auto assembly, mining, timber, construction materials, metallurgy, chemicals, food processing, and petroleum refining. Constanta is one of Romania's principal Black Sea ports.

Monument to the scuttled ships of the Black Sea Fleet, Sevastopol.

Ukraine. The second largest country in Europe, Ukraine is mostly a broad, flat plain. At 233,090 square miles (603,700 sq km), Ukraine is slightly smaller than Texas and has an estimated population of 48.3 million. Over 73% are ethnic Ukrainians, while Russians represent the largest minority, at 22%. The capital and largest city is Kyiv (Kiev).

Mountains are found only in the west (the Carpathians), and in the Crimean Peninsula in the extreme south. Deer, beaver, marten, vultures, and the steppe eagle are among the wildlife found in Ukraine.

In the fertile soil of the central and southern regions, agriculture is a top industry, producing wheat, sugar beets, potatoes, beef, milk, vegetables, and sunflower seeds. Other industry is based on the country's rich mineral resources, including coal, iron ore, manganese, bauxite, and salt.

Odessa and Sevastopol are Ukraine's largest ports on the Black Sea.


Russia. At nearly 6.6 million square miles (17 million sq km), Russia is the largest country in the world in geographic size, occupying more than one-ninth of the world's total land area. It is just slightly less than 1.8 times the size of the United States. Russia has a population of nearly 145 million. The majority live in European Russia, but sizable communities also live near mining and industrial centers. Russians are the predominant nationality at over 80%, with Tatars, Ukrainians, and Chuvash the largest minorities.

Russia's three major geographic regions include European Russia, consisting of the territory west of the Ural Mountains; Siberia, stretching east of the Urals nearly to the Pacific Ocean; and far eastern Russia, including the extreme southeast and Pacific coast. Russia's capital and largest city is Moscow.

European Russian is primarily a rocky, rolling plain with broad marshes. Its southern border includes the Caucasus Mountains, which extend between the Black and Caspian seas. While the winters may be cool along the Black Sea coast, this part of Russia has a much more temperate climate than Siberia, where temperatures average -59°F in January and have reached as cold as 90 degrees below zero.

Novorossijsk is Russia's only deep-water port on the Black Sea. It is a major oil port.
Forests cover over two-fifths of Russia, amounting to nearly one-fourth of the world's forest area. The taiga, or boreal forest, in the north contains the world's largest coniferous forest, representing about half the Earth's softwood timber. Lowland areas have a natural vegetation of grasslands with scattered groves of trees.

Russia's chief agricultural products include grain, sugar beets, sunflower seeds, vegetables, fruits, beef, and milk. The country has a complete range of mining and extractive industries producing coal, oil, gas, chemicals, and metals; all forms of machine building from rolling mills to high-performance aircraft and space vehicles; shipbuilding; road and rail transportation equipment; communications equipment; agricultural machinery, tractors, and construction equipment; electric power generating and transmitting equipment; medical and scientific instruments; consumer durables, textiles, food stuffs, and handicrafts.

Novorossijsk is Russia's primary Black Sea port.

The port of Batumi on Georgia's Black Sea Coast.

Georgia. The Caucasus Mountains dominate this country, which is slightly smaller than South Carolina, with a total area of 26,900 square miles (69,700 sq km). The main ridge of the Caucasus Mountains forms most of the northern boundary of Georgia, while the Lesser Caucasus Mountains occupy the southern regions.

The Kolkhida Lowland opens to the Black Sea in the west. The uplands are dry, while the coastal climate along the Black Sea is very Mediterranean-like — warm and pleasant. The coastal climate and soils are conducive to growing tea, citrus fruit, hazelnuts, and grapes, which are important agricultural products.

Other industries include the mining of manganese and copper, the production of steel, aircraft, appliances, machine tools, chemicals, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, wood products, and wine.

Nearly 5 million people live in Georgia. Georgians form about 70% of the population, followed by numbers of Armenians, Russians, and Azeris. The capital and largest city is T'blisi. Batumi, Poti, and Sokhumi are the country's primary Black Sea ports.

Turkey. The main area of Turkey, known as Anatolia, is in Asia while Turkish Thrace, representing about 3% of the nation's total area, is in Europe. At nearly 301,000 square miles (780,000 sq km), Turkey is a little larger than Texas. Its capital is Ankara, and Istanbul is the largest city.

Istanbul, Turkey, links Europe and Asia. Copyright R. A. Taylor, Images of the World.

Turkey is mostly mountainous, with a narrow coastal plain and high central plateau (Anatolia). The country is located in several active seismic zones and is subject to frequent earthquakes.Thrace and the lands bordering the Sea of Marmara is a region of gently rolling hills rising in the east to Mount Ulu (Olympus) at 8,343 feet (2,543 meters). The Aegean and Mediterranean coastlands are narrow and hilly with little arable land, except for a plain in the east where cotton is grown. The steep slopes of the Black Sea coastline rise directly to the Pontic Mountains. The most mountainous area is the eastern highlands. This is where Mount Ararat is located, noted in the Bible as the place where Noah's ark came to rest.

Over 67 million people live in Turkey. About 69% live in urban areas compared to only 21 % in 1950. Turks form about 80% of the population, while Kurds constitute most of the remaining 20%.

Turkey is one of the few countries of the world that is self-sufficient in providing basic foods. Nearly half the work force is engaged in farming. The chief crops include wheat, sugar beets, barley, tobacco, olives, cotton, citrus, tomatoes, melons, grapes, maize, livestock, and apples. Fishing also is important, with most of the catch coming from the Mediterranean and Black seas.

In addition to rich agricultural resources, Turkey has significant deposits of lignite, coal, iron ore, and chromium. Its most important industry and largest export is textiles and clothing. Other major industries include food processing, automobiles, mining, steel, petroleum, construction, lumber, and paper.

Turkey's principal port on the Black Sea is Istanbul.


Primary Sources:
CIA World Fact Book 1992
Encarta Encyclopedia

© Copyright 2003, University of Delaware College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment