Mangyshlak Oblast

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Mangyshlak Oblast


part of the Kazakh SSR. Formed on Mar. 20, 1973. Area, 167,000 sq km. Population, 199,000 (1973). There are three cities and 11 urban-type settlements in Mangyshlak Oblast. Its administrative center is Shevchenko.

Natural features. Mangyshlak Oblast is located in the southwestern Kazakh SSR, east of the Caspian Sea, in the Caspian Lowland (south of the lower reaches of the Emba) and on the western Ustiurt Plateau. The part of the Caspian Sea adjoining Mangyshlak Oblast is less than 50 m deep. The shoreline is weakly dissected, with small sandbars, coastal islands (the Tiulen’i, for example), and bays (Komsomolets, Mangyshlak, and Kazakh). The lowering of the level of the Caspian Sea caused the formation of vast areas of solonchaks along the coast.

The surface of Mangyshlak Oblast is primarily flat, with elevations from 28 m below sea level on the shore of the Caspian to 200-220 m above sea level in the east. There are isolated depressions, the bottoms of which are usually below sea level. (The Batyr or Karagie depression, the lowest point in the USSR, is 130 m below sea level.) Mangyshlak Plateau, which borders on the Karynzharyk depression (70 m below sea level) on the southeast, is located in the center of the oblast. The Mangystau Mountains (Besshoky Peak, 556 m) run from northwest to southeast on the Mangyshlak Peninsula. Located in the extreme southeast, the Ustiurt Plateau (230-340 m) falls precipitously to the plain in a steep scarp. The northwestern part of Mangyshlak Oblast adjacent to the Caspian Sea is covered by vast solonchak regions (for example, the Kaidak and Mertvyi Kultuk salinas).

Mangyshlak Oblast is rich in petroleum and natural gas. There are deposits on the southern edge of the Emba petroleum basin (the Prorva fields, for example) and especially in the southwestern part of the oblast (the Zhetybai, Uzen’, and other fields in the Mangyshlak oil and gas region). In addition to petroleum, the Mangyshlak Peninsula has deposits of phosphorites and coquina.

The climate is sharply continental and extremely dry, with very hot summers and moderately cold winters. The average January temperature is -3° to -4°C, and the average July temperature is 26°-27°C. In the south the average annual precipitation is about 100-110 mm, and in the north, 150-160 mm. Not every winter produces a snow cover. The growing season is about 200 days long. Strong winds and storms are characteristic of the region. There is no permanent river network. Sometimes in the spring small seasonal rivers run down from the Mangyshlak Mountains during a short flood season.

Much of the oblast’s territory is covered with wormwood and saltwort deserts with areas of scrub vegetation on brown soils. In places the surface is covered with solonchaks, solonets, and sands with extremely sparse vegetation. Only for a very short time in the spring and sometimes in the autumn is the desert covered with ephemerals (primarily bulbous plants).

The fauna of the region include saiga, predators (the wolf and corsac fox), and many rodents (susliks and jerboas), as well as birds (the great and little bustards). In the Caspian Sea there are seals, sturgeon (the family Acipenseridae), pike perch, Caspian roach, carp, herring, gray mullet, and sprat.

Population. Mangyshlak Oblast is inhabited by Kazakhs, Russians, Ukrainians, Tatars, and other peoples. The average population density is 1.2 inhabitants per sq km, but in the rural areas the density is less than 0.2 per sq km. Virtually the entire population is concentrated around the oil fields and on the Caspian coast. A few settlements of Kazakh herders are scattered throughout the rest of the territory. Of the total population, 89 percent lives in the cities (Shevchenko and Novyi Uzen’, both of which were established between 1963 and 1968 as a result of the development of the petroleum extraction industry, and Fort Shevchenkc).

Economy. The chief branches of the economy are petroleum and gas extraction, fishing and fish processing, and distant-pasture animal husbandry. All of the oblast’s heavy industry has been built since 1960 in connection with the industrial extraction of petroleum at the rich, newly discovered Mangyshlak deposits. Mangyshlak Oblast is the major region of the Kazakh SSR for petroleum extraction. The oblast’s power industry relies on local and imported petroleum products. Atomic energy is used at the electric power station in Shevchenko. An experimental industrial installation for the desalinization of seawater has been built in Shevchenko.

Almost all the industrial enterprises are concentrated around the new oil fields in Shevchenko and Novyi Uzen’ and in Fort Shevchenko and its satellite city, Bautino, which is a fish-processing center. A gas refinery is under construction in Noyvi Uzen’. New petroleum pipelines have been put into operation (the Uzen’-Kul’sary-Gur’ev-Kuibyshev pipeline and another from the petroleum fields to the Caspian Sea). A gas pipeline under construction from Uzen’ to Beineu will run into the main pipeline from Middle Asia to the central regions of the USSR.

The agricultural lands of Mangyshlak Oblast (12.8 million hectares) are almost exclusively winter and spring pastures. There is almost no crop farming, which is only possible with irrigation. However, there are small melon fields and gardens near springs and artesian wells. The only branch of agriculture is distant-pasture animal husbandry. Sheep, camels, and some horses are raised. In 1973 there were 366,000 sheep, 29,000 camels, and 17,000 horses.

There are about 700 km of railroads (1973), all of which were built in the 1960’s. The main lines are the Makat-Beineu-Shevchenko-Novyi Uzen’ and the Beineu-Kungrad. Steamships provide transportation on the Caspian Sea from Fort Shevchenko to Astrakhan, Shevchenko, Baku, and Makhachkala. The oblast has 2,028 km of motor-vehicle roads, including 488 km of paved roads. Air routes connect Shevchenko with Moscow, Gur’ev, Alma-Ata, and other cities.


Cultural affairs and public health. In the 1972-73 school year, 40,800 students were enrolled in the oblast’s 77 general educational schools, and 1,200 students were enrolled in four vocational-technical schools. In 1973 there were 70 preschool institutions serving 9,900 children.

As of Jan. 1, 1973, there were 70 public libraries in the oblast (760,000 books and magazines). The T. G. Shevchenko Memorial Museum is located in Fort Shevchenko. There are also 54 clubs, 75 permanent motion-picture projectors, and five extracurricular institutions.

The oblast newspapers are Ogni Mangyshlaka (since 1967) and Kommunistik zhol (Communist Path, in the Kazakh language, since 1973). There is a radio and television center in Shevchenko. The oblast radio station broadcasts for one hour and 30 minutes a day in Kazakh and Russian. All-Union and republic radio programs are relayed. Television broadcasts are aired for two hours and 30 minutes (including 40 minutes of oblast broadcasting).

As of Jan. 1, 1973, Mangyshlak Oblast had 27 hospital institutions with 1,500 beds (7.4 per 1,000 inhabitants) and 168 physicians (one per 1,200 inhabitants). There is a tuberculosis sanatorium in the oblast.


Gerasimenko, V. Ia. Poluostrov sokrovishch. Alma-Ata, 1968.
Kazakhstan. Moscow, 1969. (Prirodnye usloviia i estestvennye resursy SSSR.)
Kazakhstan. Moscow, 1970. (Sovetskii Soiuz series.)
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.