Alma-Ata Oblast

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Alma-Ata Oblast


an oblast in southeastern Kazakh SSR; formed on Mar. 10, 1932. Area, 104,700 sq km. Population, 1,400,900 (1969). The oblast has ten administrative raions, four cities, and seven urban-type settlements. Alma-Ata, the capital of the Kazakh SSR, is the center of the oblast.

Natural features. The oblast is located between the ranges of the Northern Tien-Shan in the south, Lake Balkhash in the northwest, and the ili River in the northeast. It borders on the People’s Republic of China in the east. The entire northern half of the oblast is slightly inclined toward the northern plain of the southern Semirech’e, or the Balkhash area (altitude 300 -500 m). This plain is crossed by dry riverbeds and has massifs of ridged and fine sands in the Sary-Ishikotrau and Taukum deserts. The southern part is occupied by ranges having an altitude of up to 5,000 m —Ketmen’, the Zailiiskii Alatau, and the northern ridges of the Kungei Alatau. In the north the ranges border on foothills (“counters”) and narrow foothill plains. The whole southern part is an active seismic region.

The northern plain has a sharp continental climate, with relatively cold winters (-9° to -10°C in January) and hot summers (about 24°C in July). The annual precipitation does not exceed 110 mm. In the foothill zone the climate is milder, and the precipitation is 500–600 mm. The mountains have distinct vertical belts; the amount of precipitation reaches 700 -1,000 mm a year. The growing season in the foothills and plain is 205–225 days.

The north and northwest have almost no surface water; the only river is the Ili, which forms a very swampy delta and flows into the western part of Lake Balkhash. In the southern foothills the river network is relatively dense. Most of the rivers—the Kurty, Kaskelen, Talgar, Issyk, Turgen, Chilik, and Charyn—originate in the mountains and do not usually reach the Ili River; their waters are either lost in the desert sands or used for irrigation. In the mountains there are many small freshwater lakes, such as Bol’shoe Al-matinskoe, and mineral springs, such as Alma-Arasan.

The soil and the flora are very varied. The plain, which is a desert and semidesert area, is characterized by wormwood and vegetation of the genus Salsola, with saxaul thickets. Ephemerals and perennials grow in dark-brown clay soil in the spring. There are solonchaks. On the swampy shores of Lake Balkhash and in the delta and valley of the Ili River, the vegetation is part undergrowth of the genus Phragmites and meadow and halophytic vegetation, and part tugai forests (forests that grow in river valleys) of willows and underbrush growing in alluvial meadow soils and solonchaks. At an altitude of 600 m in the mountains, the semidesert gives way to a belt of dry steppes in which wormwood, feather grass, and fescue grow in chestnut soils. At altitudes of 800 –1,700 m there are meadows with chernozem and deciduous park-type forests. From 1,500 to 1,700 m there is a belt of subalpine meadows and coniferous forests, in which the Tien-Shan spruce, silver fir, and juniper grow in meadow soils. Above 2,800 m, alpine meadows with low grass and underbrush grow in tundra soil.

The fauna of the deserts includes many rodents (gerbils, field mice, and tolai hare), ungulates (Persian gazelle and roe), and predators (wolves, foxes, and badgers). Boars and muskrats live in the Ili delta. The reptiles include snakes, turtles, lizards, invertebrate phalanx, and karacurt spiders. Lynx and snow leopards live in the mountains. The fish in Lake Balkhash and the Ili River include perch, sturgeon, bream, and various types of carp. The Alma-Ata preserve was established in the Zailiiskii Alatau.

Population. Alma-Ata Oblast is inhabited by Kazakhs, Russians, Ukrainians, Uigurs, Koreans, Tatars, and other nationalities; 49 percent of the population live in Alma-Ata. The average population density is 13.4 inhabitants per sq km and varies greatly from 0.3 inhabitants per sq km in the deserts of the Balkhash area to more than 100 inhabitants per sq km around Alma-Ata. The greater part of the population is concentrated in the foothill zone (500 -900 m above sea level), where the communities often extend in continuous chains along roads and rivers. The urban population makes up 60 percent of the population. The cities of the oblast are Alma-Ata, Talgar (formed in 1959), Kaskelen (formed in 1963), and Issyk (formed in 1968).

Economy. The economy of the oblast combines different branches of industry with a greatly developed large-scale agriculture, consisting primarily of irrigated farming and livestock raising, with animals grazing in semifenced areas and distant pastures.

INDUSTRY. Industry is represented by metal working, complex machine building, light industry (textiles, knitted goods, clothing, leather, footwear, and so forth), the food industry (including flour milling, buttermaking, winemaking, canning), woodworking, and the production of construction materials. The power system of the oblast relies on water-power from rivers, chiefly those flowing from the Zailiiskii Alatau (the Alma-Ata hydroelectric power grid; a hydroelectric power plant is under construction at Kapchagai on the Ili River) and on coal shipped from the Karaganda and Kuznetsk basins. Most of the industrial enterprises are in Alma-Ata. Other industrial centers include the city of Talgar (felt and clothing factories and a liquor plant), the settlement of Burundai (sugar and brick factories), the settlement of Fabrichnyi (a cloth combine), and the settlement of Illiisk (machine repair shops and a fish processing plant). There are dairies, wineries, and plants manufacturing construction materials in several raions.

AGRICULTURE. Most of the arable lands are pastures: summer pastures in the mountains, fall and spring pastures in the foothills, and winter pastures in the deserts. From 1956 to 1958 large areas of virgin and fallow lands were placed under cultivation, and grain sovkhozes were established. Alma-Ata Oblast is a region of irrigated farming, with only some dry farming; about 80 percent of the irrigated lands are planted. Wheat is the most important of the grain crops; other crops include barley, oats, millet, corn, rice (only on irrigated lands), and different types of leguminous and fodder crops (mainly Semirech’e alfalfa).

In 1968 industrial crops covered 14,800 hectares of irrigated lands, including 8,400 ha of sugar beets and 4,900 ha of yellow tobacco. Large areas are planted as orchards, fields of berries, vineyards, fields of melons, and vegetable gardens. The chief livestock are sheep and goats (3,335,100 head in 1968); other livestock include cattle (342,500), pigs (37,300), horses (89,500), and camels (3,300). Intensive suburban agriculture is practiced in the foothills around Alma-Ata. The northern half of the oblast has predominantly livestock raising in distant pastures (the raising of sheep for meat, fat, and wool and the raising of camels) with small areas of irrigated farming along the Ili River —fields of melons and rice, with millet in the drier areas. The mountainous part in the south is characterized by stock raising— horses, livestock for meat, and sheep for meat and wool, including Arkhara merinos. Barley and wheat are grown in small areas of unirrigated farming. There is fishing for perch and different types of carp on Lake Balkhash and the Ili River. There are resorts and tourist facilities in the mountains near Alma-Ata.

TRANSPORTATION. The length of the railroad network is about 250 km. The major highways are Alma-Ata-Kaskelen-Frunze, Alma-Ata-Talgar-Chilik-Narynkol, and Alma-Ata-Ili-Taldy-Kurgan. There is regular navigation on Lake Balkhash and the Ili River. A Bukhara-Tashkent-Frunze-Alma-Ata gas pipeline is under construction. Alma-Ata is a junction of air transportation.


Education, cultural affairs, and public health. In the 1968–69 academic year, Alma-Ata Oblast had 648 general educational schools with 320,700 pupils, 62,400 children in preschool institutions, 21 specialized secondary educational institutions with 35,200 students, and 12 higher educational institutions (all in Alma-Ata) with 66,100 students. There are six theaters (all in Alma-Ata), 477 people’s libraries with 3,627,900 books and magazines, 408 clubs, 541 motion-picture installations, and four museums, three of which were in Alma-Ata. (In 1972 there were seven museums, including six in Alma-Ata.)

Besides the republic newspapers, the oblast newspapers, Zhetisu (Semirech’e, in Kazakh; since 1918) and Ogni Alatau (since 1918), are published in the capital, Alma-Ata. In addition to the republic radio and television station, there is an oblast radio station that carries programs in Kazakh and Russian and also relays republic and central radio broadcasts.

On Jan. 1, 1968, Alma-Ata Oblast had 6,212 doctors, or one doctor per 227 inhabitants; and 16,600 hospital beds, or 11.9 beds per 1,000 inhabitants.


Kazakhskaia SSR—Ekonomiko-geograficheskaia kharakteristika. Moscow, 1957.
Iarmukhamedov, M. Sh. Ekonomicheskaia geografiia Kazakhskoi SSR. Alma-Ata, 1964.
Aubakirov, Zh. A. Alma-Atinskaia oblast’. Alma-Ata, 1959.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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