Aral Sea — historical information

The memorial monument to our fallen compatriots from Muynak in the second World War received a new look. The history of the monument is deep and at the same time preserves the memory of the past development of the Aral Sea. Eyewitnesses and fishermen, residents testifying to the wealth of the Aral Sea region, are still alive. The Southern Aral Sea region is rich in its original culture, traditions, customs and, of course, its hospitality. The region borders on the majestic Ustyurt Plateau, which has preserved the remarkable traces of Ancient and Medieval culture. These are archaeological monuments as settlements, fortresses, burial grounds, Caravan Sarays and signal towers along the Great Silk Road.

It is no coincidence that shark and whale teeth, or some parts of the skeleton, are often found on the former bottom of the sea. For the first time from the coast of the Aral Sea in the towns of Saryshyganak and Akespe, at a depth of 80 m., Fossilized vertebral bones of Whales and Red fish living in the Oligocene period were found. Similar finds are found in the vicinity of the Chilpyk archaeological site and on the spurs of the Sultanuizdag mountains. All this testifies to the relations of the Aral Sea with the ocean for a long time.

We can learn about the existence of various names of the Aral Sea from the following sources. For example, in 860, Ibn Khordadbek called him Lake Kurder. This was probably due to the existence of the local Kerder culture, to which the works of acknowledged professors S.P. Tolstov, V.N. Yagodin, and M.M. Mambetullaev were devoted. In 243, Masudi called the sea “Kurdjani”, and in 961, Istahdi described it as “Kazbin”. In 1339 we learn from Hafizi about the name «Abdud», and in the 13th century Bekron mentions the «Gentda». And only in the second half of the 17th century does the current name “Aral” appear.
Of course, many different cartographic works related to the Aral Sea have been preserved. If in the Middle Ages we see primitive map-like references to Arab travelers, then for the first time in 1664 a clear structure of the map of the Aral Sea appears, captured by the Dutchman Nikolai Bitsen, in 1723 by Dalilia, in 1735 by Krylov, in 1741 by Muravin, in 1758 by the Englishman Jenkinson, and in 1834 Lepshin. It cannot be denied that a huge scientific contribution was made by the Russian military geographer N. Butakov, who published in 1848-1849 in England, a more specific map of the Aral Sea with the introduction and description of the full existing names of large islands, fairways, flora and fauna.

Quite interesting are his references to local traditions, life and culture of nationalities living on the seashore and on the lower delta of the Amu Darya. In one of them he writes: «Local natives, who are called Kazakhs, Karakalpaks or Karakirgiz on single reed boats «Kayak» are engaged in lake fishing.» And then he asks the Russian government to invest in the construction of a shipyard, which will later fully pay itself off, and possibly make a big profit, due to the huge reserves of fish, furs and other natural resources.

Of course, in some and other letters he asks that the Aral Sea and its islands should be populated with peoples owning fishing craft, and so that they can teach him local people. One cannot but mention the great kobzar T.G.Shevchenko, who left many of his notes and recollections about the Aral Sea during these years.
The Englishman Thomson mentions Karakalpaks in 1740, who writes: “Karakalpaks live in the lower reaches of the Amu Darya. They are fishing in reed boats, not moving away from the coast ”.

Studies at various levels show that at the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th centuries, Barsakelmes, Kaskakulan, Kozzhetpes, Uyaly, Biyktau, and Vozrojdenie islands formed.

Hoping it will be a little interesting for you to read the topic of brief historical facts related to the Aral Sea region as I have decided to dwell on this topic today. In the text, I did not attach various photographs of the Aral Sea or the ships that the Internet is saturated with nowadays. But was content with only limited few cards, the study of which will make sure that interest in this region is high in all countries. And at the same time, we will be able to see what condition the sea has turned into at present.

So, mentioning the role of N. Butakov as a researcher of the Aral Sea, it must be said that in 1840 it was his expedition that took off and owing to which the island of Barsa Kelmes appeared on map.

Simultaneous studies of various nature (geological, surveying, fairway conditions, etc.) showed that, starting in 1819, it was widely pouring its waters into the sea — Zhanadarya (northern part of Karakalpakstan), and then from 1823 and Kuandarya gradually ceased to flow into the Aral Sea. This markedly indicates a gradual change in the level of the Aral Sea. Until 1870, the sea was connected to Lake Sarykamysh. This suggests that the size and current layout of the coasts were wider, and accordingly some parts of the cultural zone of the modern territory of the Republic of Karakalpakstan (north-western and western parts) were directly flooded with sea waters. Then, and finally, the first ship built in the Swedish city of Motol by order of Russia in 1850, was first launched into the Aral Sea in 1853.The interest of the Russian Geographical Society in the exploration of the Aral Sea was inexhaustible. In 1886, A. Nikolsky’s research expeditions were organized in the southern part, and Academician L. Berg in the northern part. They have studied fish stock resources. These studies have led to the fact that in order to make wide use of these fish «riches», tsarist Russia began in 1905 the construction of a railway to the shore of the Aral Sea (now the Kazakhstan part, Aralsk).Further, migration geopolitics clearly emphasizes that fishermen began to migrate from Astrakhan, the Don, the Black Sea, and central Russia to the Aral Sea. Of course, artels had been created, which were led by merchants Lapshin, Ritkin, Krasilnikov, Makeev. Already in the 1930s, for the first time a shipbuilding plant was built in Aralsk, and then naval docks in Muynak as well.Speaking about fish stocks, it should be kept in mind that about 40 species of fish lived in the Aral Sea, and more than 22 of them were of commercial importance. Currently, due to the high concentration of salinity in the waters, there are no fish, and only about 10 varieties of phyto and zooplankton could be preserved. In the research plan, plankton species belong to the remarkable scientists of our time I.M.Zholdasova and L.P. Pavlovskaya.In the vital and economic support of the Aral Sea, the Amu Darya also played a direct role, which not only fed its waters, but also was an important water economic and strategic artery. In the direction of Chardzhou, Khojeyli, Nukus, Muynak, and then along the sea to Aralsk river and sea vessels, of passenger and cargo nature, cruised. Ports located on the banks of the river were provided with a multitude of jobs and attendants.Some digital facts indicate the following — in 1946 alone, 234,320 centners of fish were caught in the Aral Sea. In the Kazakhstan part of the Aral Sea there were 5 fish factories, 1 fish factory, 45 fish receiving points. The southern part of the Aral Sea (now the Republic of Karakalpakstan) had 5 fish factories, 1 fish cannery (by the way, built and put into operation in 1939), more than 20 fish receiving points and a sea cargo port. Around the Aral Sea there were representatives of more than 33 nationalities.Currently, the tourism infrastructure and its sectors are widely developing in the Republic of Uzbekistan. Many different tours and components began to function. Almost every route runs through the Aral Sea or its environs. We hope that in the future the geo-infrastructure of this region will gain wide scope, given the fact that today there are large diverse resources for this.

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