Samarkand Oblast

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Samarkand Oblast


an oblast in the central part of the Uzbek SSR, in the basin of the middle course of the Zeravshan River. Area, 24,500 sq km. Population, 1,571,000 (1975). The oblast is divided into 13 raions and has six cities and ten urban-type settlements. Its administrative center is Samarkand. The oblast was awarded the Order of Lenin on Nov. 28, 1959.

Natural features. The oblast occupies the Zeravshan Valley, which is bounded on the northeast by spurs of the Turkestan Range, rising to 2,169 m at Nuratau and to 2,003 m at Aktau, and on the south by the Zeravshan Range, whose western end has a maximum elevation of 2,204 m. In the southwest lies the Karnabchul’ Steppe, and in the north, the edge of the Kyzyl-kum Desert.

The climate is continental and dry. On the plains winters are mild, with January temperatures averaging -2°C in the north and 0°C in the south; in the mountains the average January temperature drops to -4.8°C. The snow cover lasts about 16 days. Summers are hot, with July temperatures averaging 24°-28°C in the Kyzylkum, 28°-32°C in the Karnabchul’, and 22°-26°C in the mountains. Dry winds are frequent. The annual precipitation ranges from 100–200 mm in the west and to more than 800 mm in places in the southeastern mountains. Most of the precipitation falls in spring and winter. The growing season in Samarkand, when temperatures exceed 5°C, lasts 269 days; the sum of the temperatures is 4,685°C. The only large river is the Zeravshan, which flows for 215 km within the oblast; near Samarkand, it divides into two branches, the Ak-dar’ia and the Karadar’ia. The waters of the Zeravshan and its tributaries are used primarily for irrigation.

On the plains, light sierozems predominate; in irrigated areas they alternate with meadow soils. In the desert zone are found sandy, takyr, and gray-brown soils, as well as solonchaks. The foothills and lower mountain slopes have dark sierozems, cin-namonic soils, and chestnut soils. Mountain-forest and mountain-meadow soils occur at higher elevations.

On the plains the natural vegetation consists of wormwood and ephemerals. Couch grass and wormwood thrive in the foothills and junipers in the mountains. In the Zeravshan Valley grow tugai forests. More than half of the oblast’s territory is covered with pastures. Wildlife includes Arkhar mountain sheep, Kyzylkum goats, boars, yellow susliks, long-tailed marmots, badgers, Tolai hares, and porcupines.

Population. According to the 1970 census, Uzbeks constitute 76.6 percent of the oblast’s population; Russians, 7.8 percent; Tatars, 4.9 percent; and Tadzhiks, 4.3 percent. There are also small numbers of Jews, Armenians, Ukrainians, and other nationalities. The average population density is 70.2 persons per sq km (1975). The most densely settled rural areas are the irrigated parts of the Zeravshan Valley, where the density ranges from 130 to 330 persons per sq km. In the Kyzylkum, Karnabchul’, and high-mountain areas, there are few permanent inhabitants. In 1975, some 468,000 persons, or 30 percent of the population, lived in cities. The principal cities are Samarkand and Kattakurgan; Aktash, Dzhuma, Krasnogvardeisk, and Ur-gut were founded during the Soviet period.

Economy. Prior to the October Revolution of 1917, the territory of what is now Samarkand Oblast was a backward border land of tsarist Russia. Nine-tenths of the region’s small domestic enterprises were engaged in the processing of agricultural raw materials, chiefly cotton ginning and wine-making. During the Soviet period, large-scale industries were established, and agriculture was mechanized. Among the industries introduced during the Soviet period are machine building, metalworking, chemicals, light industries, and food processing.

The oblast produces 9 percent of Uzbekistan’s industrial output and a considerable part of its agricultural raw material. Between 1913 and 1973 the oblast’s industrial output increased 51.1 times. The largest industrial centers are Samarkand and Kattakurgan. The machine-building and metalworking enterprises manufacture spare parts for agricultural machinery, cotton ginning equipment, refrigerators, air conditioners, elevators, film-making equipment, theater lighting and sound recording equipment, and radio and television spare parts. The chemical industry produces mineral fertilizers, sulfuric acid, and ammophos (an ammonium phosphate fertilizer). The leading branches of the food industry are canning, wine-making, meat processing, butter and oil production, and tobacco processing. Light industries include cotton ginning, silk processing, and tanning. Porcelain and faience tableware is also produced. Marble is quarried near the village of Gazgan and elsewhere, and tungsten ores are mined at Ingichka.

Electricity is supplied by the hydroelectric power plant on the Dargom-Khishrau Canal. The gas pipeline that runs through Bukhara, Samarkand, Tashkent, Frunze, and Alma Ata crosses the oblast. In 1974 the oblast produced 9.8 percent of the republic’s cotton fiber, 11 percent of its raw silk, 12.2 percent of its silk fabric, 15 percent of its tricot, 19 percent of its butter, 18 percent of its grape wine, and 29 percent of its canned goods.

In 1975 the oblast had 123 kolkhozes and 56 sovkhozes. The irrigation system, important for agriculture, includes the Kattakurgan reservoir (volume, 900 million cu m) and the Dargom, Narpai, Right-bank Zeravshan, Eskiankhor, and Miankal’-Khatyrchinskii canals. In 1974 the sown area totaled 544,900 hectares (ha), of which half were irrigated. Some 185,900 ha are under industrial crops, including 177,000 ha planted to cotton. Cotton is grown on the irrigated land in the Zeravshan Valley, and tobacco (9,000 ha) is raised in Urgut Raion. Other major crops include cereals (rice, wheat, and corn), potatoes, and vegetables.

The oblast accounts for 17.8 percent of the area planted to orchards and vineyards in the Uzbek SSR. It provides 10 percent of the republic’s raw cotton, 12 percent of its grain, 18 percent of its potatoes, 15 percent of its vegetables, 97 percent of its tobacco, 12 percent of its fruits and berries, 37 percent of its grapes, and all its currants. The oblast produces 75 percent of the country’s total currant output.

Dairy and beef cattle are raised on the plains and in the foothills; there were 490,000 head at the beginning of 1975. Fat-tailed sheep and goats (1 million head) are pastured in the foothills and mountains, and karakul sheep (879,000) are herded in the Kyzylkum Desert, the Karnabchul’ Steppe, and the foothill steppes. Sericulture is well developed in the oases of the Zeravshan Valley; 11 percent of the republic’s cocoons are produced in the oblast.

The oblast had 251 km of railroad tracks in 1974. It is crossed by the Krasnovodsk-Tashkent trunk line; a line connecting Samarkand and Karshi was put into operation in 1970. There were 4,464 km of motor-vehicle roads in 1974, of which 4,249 km were paved. The Great Uzbek Highway, linking Tashkent with Termez, crosses the oblast in the southeast. Air transport is well developed.


Education, cultural affairs, and public health. Prior to 1917, the oblast had 42 general schools (3,332 students) and neither specialized secondary schools nor higher educational institutions. In the 1974–75 school year, there were 450,000 students in the oblast’s 1,272 general schools of all types, more than 9,500 students in its 21 vocational-technical schools, and more than 19,700 students in its 17 specialized secondary schools. The oblast’s six higher educational institutions, all in Samarkand, had an enrollment of 33,100 students. The higher schools are the University of Samarkand and institutes of pedagogy, agriculture, medicine, cooperative trade, and architecture and building. In 1975, 49,700 children attended 505 preschool institutions. The oblast also has several research institutions: the All-Union Research Institute of Karakul Raising, the Research Institute of Medical Parasitology, and the Institute of Archaeology of the Academy of Sciences of the Uzbek SSR, all in Samarkand, and the Veterinary Research Institute in the village of Tailiak.

On Jan. 1, 1975, the oblast had 738 public libraries with 4,213,000 copies of books and magazines. Of the oblast’s six museums, including branches, the most notable are the Museum of the History of the Founding of the City of Samarkand, the Museum of the History of the Culture and Art of the Uzbek SSR, and the S. Aini House Museum (where the writer lived from 1918 to 1954), all in Samarkand. The oblast has four theaters: an opera and ballet theater, the Uzbek Drama Theater, and the Russian Drama Theater, all in Samarkand, and the Uzbek Drama Theater in Kattakurgan. There are also 459 clubs, 371 permanent film projection facilities, and nine extracurricular institutions.

The oblast newspapers are Lenin iuli (The Leninist Path), published in Uzbek since 1917, and the Russian-language Leninskii put’ (The Leninist Path), also issued since 1917. All-Union Radio programs are relayed from Moscow, and Republic Radio broadcasts are transmitted from Tashkent. Oblast radio programs are on the air for 1.2 hours daily. With the aid of the Orbit system, the oblast receives television broadcasts from Moscow. Republic Television broadcasts two programs from Tashkent in Uzbek and Russian. On Jan. 1, 1975, there were 122 hospitals with 14,600 beds (9.3 beds per thousand inhabitants) and 3,500 doctors (one per 451 inhabitants). The oblast has four sanatoriums and a house of rest.


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Akramov, Z. M. Geografiia sel’skogo khoziaistva Samarkandskoi i Bukharskoi oblastei, part 1. Tashkent, 1961.
Kovalev, S. A., E. Tashbekov, and R. Valieva. Geografiia sel’skogo naseleniia i sel’skikh naselennykh punktov Samarkandskoi i Bukharskoi oblastei. Tashkent, 1962.
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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.