Gurev Oblast

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Gur’ev Oblast


a part of the Kazakh SSR; formed Jan. 15, 1938. Area, 278,600 sq km. Population, 515,000 (1971). The oblast encompasses nine raions, four cities, and 24 urban-type settlements. Its center is the city of Gur’ev.

Natural features. Gur’ev Oblast is situated on the Caspian Lowland, north and east of the Caspian Sea, between the lower reaches of the Volga on the northwest and the Ustiurt Plateau on the southeast. The terrain is flat, with low mountains in the north (the Inder) and on the Mangyshlak Peninsula (Mangystau, elevations up to 556 m; Bostankum). To the south and southeast of the Mangyshlak Hills, there are closed depressions, whose bottoms are considerably below sea level (Karynzharyk, -70 m; Karagie, -132 m, the lowest depression in the USSR). In the Caspian Lowland there are great numbers of sandbanks and sand hills, for example. Ryn-peski and Taisoigan. Near the delta of the Volga are the Baer Hills.

The climate is sharply continental and extremely dry, with hot summers and moderately cold winters. The average January temperature is -3.4° C in the south, and - 10.6° C in the north. In July the average temperatures for the two regions are 26° C and 24° C. respectively. The annual precipitation varies from 100–116 mm in the south to 180–200 mm in the north. The snow cover does not last. The growing season is 230 days in the south and 200 days in the north. Strong winds are common, with dust storms and dry winds in the summer.

The Caspian Sea in the region bordering the oblast is less than 50 m deep. The coastline has few indentations, although there are many small sand spits and coastal islands and a few large bays, including Komsomolets, Mangyshlak, and Kazakh. As a result of the declining level of the Caspian Sea, large swampy areas have been formed (including salinas, such as the Mertvyi Kultuk). Every one of the handful of rivers found in the oblast belongs to the landlocked Caspian basin. The most important one is the Ural River. The Emba, Sagiz, and Uil rivers carry very little water. In the summer, they become filled with salt and break up into a series of pools, on which dams and reservoirs are built. In the flood-plains of the rivers and along the shore of the Caspian, there are many small lakes, most of them salty.

The northern part of Gur’ev Oblast is covered with grass and wormwood semidesert and wormwood-saltbush desert vegetation, growing on brown soils. The landscape of the central and southern parts is of a saltbush desert and wormwood-scrub brush type, also on brown soils, with sol-onets and solonchak soils. Along the northern shore of the Caspian, there is often a marshy strip with reeds, and in the floodplains of the Ural and the Emba rivers, small stands of bushes and trees (tugai) are common. Overall, forests and thickets cover less than 1 percent of the territory of the oblast. There is much wildlife, including predators such as the wolf and corsak fox; rodents such as the suslik, jerboa, European hare, and Cape hare; and hoofed mammals such as the wild boar and saiga antelope. The birds of the region include the bustard, little bustard, and steppe eagle.

Population. The predominant national group in the oblast is the Kazakhs (62.5 percent in 1970), but there are also Russians (27.3 percent), Ukrainians (2.7 percent), Tatars (1.7 percent), Byelorussians, Uzbeks, and Koreans. The average density is 1.8 persons per sq km, with a somewhat higher density in the valley of the Ural River and on the northwestern coast of the Caspian; 67 percent of the population is urban. The cities of the oblast are Gur’ev, Fort Shevchenko, Shevchenko, and Novyi Uzen’. The last two arose in 1963–68 in connection with the development of the petroleum-extracting industry on Mangyshlak Peninsula.

Economy. Oil drilling and refining, fishing and fish-processing, and pasture livestock-raising are the major branches of the economy of Gur’ev Oblast. Almost all the region’s industry has been developed under Soviet rule. During the period 1941–70 alone, total production in industry grew 14-fold. The oblast’s fuel energy is supplied by local and imported petroleum products and by coal from Donetsk and Karaganda. An atomic power plant is under construction in Shevchenko (1971). Most industrial enterprises are concentrated in Gur’ev or at the oil fields of Emba and Mangyshlak. After 1960 oil drilling was begun on the Mangyshlak Peninsula at such newly discovered rich oil fields as Zhetybai and Uzen’. The Gur’ev-Orsk oil pipeline and branches to petroleum processing industries were built, and on the Mangyshlak Peninsula pipelines were built from the petroleum processors to the Caspian Sea. The Uzen’-Gur’ev-Kui-byshev oil pipeline was also opened up. Gur’ev is a center for oil-refining and chemical enterprises.

The oblast ranks first in the Kazakh SSR in the catch of fish (62,900 tons in 1970). The processing of fish is concentrated in huge combines near Gur’ev and Fort Shevchenko, at both floating and land-based plants. In 1970, the equivalent of 28.4 million cans were produced. Other important branches of industry include machine building and metalworking, woodworking, the mining of mineral salts, and the production of building materials. In Shevchenko. there is an experimental industrial station for the desalting of seawater.

Among the agricultural lands of the region (totaling 16.4 million hectares [ha]), the predominant share is occupied by pastures (16 million ha. 1970). Hayfields account for 314,000 ha. Livestock breeding accounts for 81 percent of total agricultural output. Sheep, chiefly of the coarse-wooled varieties, are the leading type of livestock raised (1,560,600 head in 1970), but cattle (111,500), horses (66,300), camels (58,900), goats (24.300), and domestic fowl (134.000) are also important. There are 38 sovkhozes in Gur’ev Oblast (1970), 28 of them for the raising of sheep. The area under cultivation is 61,600 ha (1970). of which 13.900 ha is irrigated land. Of the cultivated area, 89 percent (55,100 ha) is sown in feed crops, such as annual grasses and corn for silage. A total of 3,800 ha are sown in grain, chiefly barley (2,100 ha) and millet (1,100 ha). On the lower reaches of the Volga and the Ural rivers, rice is also grown. Vegetables and potatoes account for 1.700 ha. A significant number of melons are raised.

There is fishing in the Caspian Sea (beluga, Caspian sturgeon, roach, sheatfish, pike perch, and bream).

The oblast has a railroad network extending 1,442 km (1970). The chief lines are Gur’ev-Astrakhan and Gur’ev-Orsk, with a branch running onto the Mangyshlak Peninsula—the Makat-Beineu-Shevchenko-Novyi Uzen’ line. There is also a line between Beineu and Kungrad. There is shipping on the Ural River up to Ural’sk, and on the Caspian Sea from Gur’ev to Astrakhan and Fort Shevchenko. There are 5.500 km of roads, 1,100 of them paved. The most important highway is that running between Gur’ev and Ural’sk. Air routes link Gur’ev with other regions of the oblast and with Ural’sk, Moscow, Alma-Ata, and other major cities.

INTERNAL ECONOMIC DIFFERENCES. In the lower reaches of the Ural River are various kinds of processing industries, centered in the city of Gur’ev, as well as fishing, rice cultivation, and suburban-type agriculture (dairy cattle, hogs, vegetables). On the lower Volga River and the Caspian coast, fishing, livestock breeding for meat and wool, and rice-growing are the major occupations. In the region around the lower Emba and the Sagiz rivers, oil-drilling and pasturing of sheep and camels are important. The Mangyshlak Peninsula is a region of oil-drilling, fishing and fish-processing, and pasture livestock breeding. On the Ustiurt Plateau, pasture livestock breeding is also important.


Education, cultural affairs, and public health. In 1971, 23,500 children were enrolled in 255 preschool institutions in Gur’ev Oblast. There were also 113,600 students in 232 general schools of all types, 4,800 students in five secondary specialized schools, and 4,700 students in 16 professional and technical schools during the 1970–71 academic year. Until the October Revolution, there were no higher educational institutions in Gur’ev Oblast. In the 1970–71 academic year, on the other hand, 2,500 students were enrolled in the Gur’ev Pedagogical Institute. As of Jan. 1, 1971, 262 popular libraries, containing a total of more than 2,560,000 books and journals, were in operation. Other popular cultural and recreational institutions included 248 clubs, the Gur’ev Museum of History and Local Lore, the T. G. Shevchenko Museum in Fort Shevchenko, the Kazakh interoblast dramatic theater in Gur’ev, and 285 movie theaters. Extrascholastic institutions included 11 Pioneer halls, three sports schools, stations for young technicians and naturalists, and stations for excursions and tourism.

The oblast newspapers are the Kazakh-language Kom-munistik enbek (Communist Labor), published since 1933, and the Russian-language Prikaspiiskaia kommuna, published since 1920. The oblast broadcasts one schedule of radio and one of television programming and relays broadcasts from Alma-Ata and Moscow.

As of Jan. 1, 1971, there were 87 hospitals in Gur’ev Oblast, with a total of 5,900 beds (11.5 beds for every 1,000 persons) and 835 doctors (one for every 617 persons).


Kazakhskaia SSR: Ekonomiko-geograficheskaia kharakleristika. Moscow, 1957.
Iarmukhamedov. M. Sh. Ekonomicheskaia geografiia Kazakhskoi SSR. Alma-Ata, 1964.
Gerasimenko, V. Ia. Poluoslrov sokrovishch. Alma-Ata, 1968.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.