The Story of Aral Sea

In recent years, the obvious interest of tourists arriving in the Republic of Uzbekistan, is attracted by the city Muinak with his once-raging sea shores.


Aral SeaIn front of visitor opens the distant past and clear, perfect bound with full flowing of the Aral Sea. Of course, today is difficult to fit all the memories of the Aral Sea in a few lines. Talking about the past of the region remember the lovely people who lived and worked on the coast of the Aral Sea. They were people of different professions – fishermen, teachers, pilots, drivers … Each of them living in this place, had a happy life. Every child, who was born, and just starting to live, thinking and dreaming about the upcoming bright future.

Once, the Amu Darya and Syr Darya being an independent and full-flowing waterways, crossing the whole of Central Asia-round combined, poured into the Aral Sea. At the same time, for many centuries, they are like a “living organism” is not only fueled the sea and fresh water fish, but also gave life to many nationalities living in the Aral Sea region. The rivers are not just soaking up the sea with fish and moisture, but at the same time brought with them annually more than 14 million tons of silt. All that led to the high salinity of the soil around the sea.

Today, history is littered with the facts and the assumptions of a time of “the great rise and fall” of the Aral Sea. It seems to be a lot of articles written, filmed movies and study – but this topic is always fresh. Because humanity has never experienced such a disaster.


scienceAral problem has arisen in the early 20th century, when the sea was still overflowing. Irrigated land in Central Asia is increasing, and the sea level clearly decreased due to the gradual reduction in runoff in the mouths of the Amu Darya and Syr Darya. In 1950, the length of the sea was equal to 426 km, width – 284 km, with a depth of 68 meters. And in 1980-s the sea level has dropped to a critical level, and a huge desert called “Aralkum” appeared.

Sea has been known since ancient times. Greek scholar Claudius Ptolemy, who lived 1,800 years ago in his “Almagest” on the world map showed the Aral and Caspian Sea. It shows how to fall Zarafshan river and Oxus (Amu Darya). In 950, the Arab traveler Masudi wrote, “Jeykhun where the river Balik has fallen, divided into Delta Ispiran, Tarmid, one of them from the bottom of Khorasan Khwarizmi flowed into the lake at Dzhourdzhaniya (Kunja Urgench).” Under the lake, he meant the Aral Sea.

The Aral sea were recorded by travellers on the card in a different time – in 1664 the Dutchman Nicholas Beets, in 1723 Dahlia, in 1734 – Krylov, in 1741 – Muravin, in 1758, englishman Jenkinson, in 1834 – Lepshin, in 1849 Butakov and Shevchenko. One of the first ships built in the Swedish town of Motol, commissioned by the Russian Empire in 1850 in Butakov studies, was lowered into the Aral Sea in 1853.


Aral SeaUntil the early 19th century, people of Aral Sea could not at full capacity use the resources and wealth of the sea. Marine fishing has become particularly manifest in the era of Russian Tsar Alexander III, who deported in the Aral Sea a lot of the Ural kazaks revolt against 25 years of military service. Since 1874, most of them began to settle terrains like Tokpak ata Maypoz, Urga. The resettlement of fishermen from the coast of the Caspian, Baltic and Black seas has increased the awareness of local people. As a result, if in 1888 in the Amudarya region was floating more than 500 ships, then in 1894 they became 724. The number of fishermen in the Aral Sea by 1900 reached 10 000.

In 1886 the expeditions by A. Nikolsky were organized in the south of Aral Sea and in the north – by Academician L.Berga. First explore the richness of the Aral Sea Tsarist Russia in 1905 began the construction of the railway, Russian fishermen began to arrive, the first known merchants Lapshin Ritkin, Krailnikov, Makeev and others later formed their major fishing unions stock companies.

According to the academic study known that before the 1970s the Aral Sea was inhabited by 34 species of fish, 20 of them have commercial value. But today, due to the high salinity of water in the sea is almost no life, except shrimps.


Aral SeaBefore 1965, the Aral Sea and Amudarya river were important for the transportation of goods and passengers. Cruised along the entire cargo and passenger vessels. Deepness and richness of fish stocks in the sea allowed the Kazakh part of an existence and 5 fish factories and one fish processing plant, fish processing 45 points on parts of Karakalpakstan (Southern Aral) and there were 5 of Fisheries, 1 fish cannery, fish processing more than 20 points. Until the 1960s the Aral Sea gave to 450,000 quintals of food fish, which are dominated by valuable species as a spike, pike, catfish, Aral barbel, carp and many others.

Until the 1980s the population in Muinak was about 100,000 people, there were several cinemas, holiday homes and summer camps for children’s recreation. In the second half of the 1950s the painters Raphael Matevosian and Faim Matgazin carried away by the beauty of the nature of this region. They devoted most of his creative life to the themes of the Aral Sea and Amudarya.

In Muinak they get acquainted with the life of fishermen and go out with them for the first time in the sea on a fishing seiner. Since then, they are acquainted with the hard work of fishermen and locals and immerse themselves in the  theme of the Aral Sea. A huge part of the creative life of artists is entirely devoted to the topic of the Aral Sea and people of this land. They lived and worked on the fishing boats, slept in the forecastle. Also they wrote sketches of still unknown places and at the same time carried out the first personal exhibition at the courts for the toilers of the sea. Together with geologists they flew to the plateau Ustyurt and islands around the sea.

The works are saturated with lyrical and calm tones. Works such as “Dawn over the Amudarya”, “The beach of Amu Darya”, “Moonlight” are rich in poetic beauty, and through it the artist showed the harmony of color and picturesque coastlineof  Amudariya. In 1967 the “master of brush” R.Matevosyan saw the beginning of the retreat of the sea. He captured it on canvas painted from life “Sea gone”, “Ships in the sand.” And so, with these paintings starts a new cycle of works about the dying Aral Sea. It includes paintings such as “Berth in the sand,” “On the moors,” “On the Rocks”, “Hope”. Unfortunately, nowadays all this history is preserved only in the paintings of R.T.Matevosyan. In one of his recollection of what he saw, he said: “Marine Horns have long fought off an alarm … White gray waves of the Aral Sea is rolled back, and never returned, leaving only bare shore that every day was turned into a lifeless desert. The sea is increasingly moving away from the threshold of the old hotel of my first shelter in Muinak. But I believe that my seagulls will fly back again. ”


Aral SeaA large number of F.Matgazin’s works devoted to the nature and everyday life toilers of the sea and the coast of the Amu Darya River. This is the “Pier in Khodjeyli”, “Winter”, “Urga”, “Kattagar”, “Port Uchsay”, “Aral Sea”, “Muinak”, “Muinak fish cannery.”

Today, attention of visitors is beginning to attract a Muinak city museum of local history, collected in the 80 years by Dr. leprologist Orynbaev Eserkepovym (1936-2008.). Enthusiast, with all his soul who was worrying for the future of the Aral Sea was filled with a great desire to organize a museum. In this case, the idol for him was Igor Savitsky. Although Savitsky was no longer alive, O.Eserkepov imitated his views and aspirations. Finally, in the mid-80’s, after the huge joint effort of employees of the State Museum of Art named after Savitsky and State local history museums in the township club Uchsay that is located 20 km west of the city Muinak, the first exhibition devoted to the subject of the Aral Sea was opened.

In the mid 90s the museum was transferred to the city Muinak.

Today, the museum gradually replenished with new exhibits thanks to the efforts of these same enthusiasts. It includes photographs of the region’s history, folk arts and crafts of peoples living on the coast of the Aral Sea, the wealth of flops and fauna of the region, as well as picturesque paintings of different artists.

The seashore is now moved to a more than 150 km. And only dabbed deep in the sand, rusted metal of early sailed ships, were frozen in the “moors” on the former sea testifying about the past of the Aral Sea. Each time, leaving after a visit to the beach of the Aral Sea, I feel that waves, like a white-haired old man crying out for help and moving away, as if life is extinguished.

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