Semipalatinsk Oblast

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Semipalatinsk Oblast


an oblast in the Kazakh SSR, formed on Oct. 14, 1939. Area, 179,600 sq km. Population, 757,000 (Jan. 1, 1975). It borders on China in the southeast. Semipalatinsk Oblast is divided into 13 raions and has three cities and 11 urban-type settlements. The city of Semipalatinsk is the administrative center. The oblast has been awarded the Order of Lenin (July 29, 1967).

Natural features. Semipalatinsk Oblast is located in the eastern part of the republic, to the northeast of Lake Balkhash and the lakes of the Alakol’ system. Most of the oblast is occupied by the Kazakh Melkosopochnik. The Chingiztau Range, with elevations to 1,100–1,300 m, stretches across from the middle of the Melkosopochnik from the northwest to the southeast and passes into the Tarbagatai Range, whose highest point is Mount Tastau (2,992 m). To the northeast, the Melkosopochnik is bounded by spurs of the Kalbinskii Range (elevations to 1,608 m) and by the western part of the Zaisan Depression with Lake Zaisan (now part of the Bukhtarma Reservoir). The extreme northern part of the oblast (north of the Irtysh River) is occupied by the Irtysh Plain, with elevations of 200 to 300 m.

The climate is sharply continental. Winters are long and cold, with average January temperatures ranging from – 16.9°C in the north to – 12.8°C in the south; summers are hot and dry, with average July temperatures of 20.3°C in the north and 23.8°C in the south. There are heavy snowstorms in the winter, and dust storms occur in the summer. Annual precipitation amounts to 300 mm in the north and 155 mm in the south, with maximum precipitation in early summer. In the mountainous regions precipitation can reach 405 mm per year. The growing season lasts 169 days in the north and 198 days in the south.

The principal river is the Irtysh, whose middle course extends for 223 km within the oblast, together with its left tributaries Kokpekty, Char, Kyzylsu, Mukyr, and Shagan. Rivers in the south include the Bakanas and Aiaguz (Lake Balkhash basin) and the Karakol, Urdzhar, and Emel’ (basin of the lakes of the Alakol’ system). In the summer, many of the smaller rivers become shallow and even dry up. The largest lakes are the freshwater Zaisan, whose western part is in the oblast, and Sasykkol’ and the salt water Alakol’ and Zhalanashkol’.

The northern part of Semipalatinsk Oblast is occupied by grassy steppes on dark chestnut soils and is an important region for dry farming. On the forest sandy soils of this area there are belts of pine forests, and in the Irtysh floodplain, grass-forb meadows and communities of poplars, bird cherry trees (Padus), and willows. Further south there are grassy steppes of wormwood on light chestnut soils interspersed with patches of solonetz and solonchak soils. In the extreme south there is a wormwood and wormwood-halophyte desert on sierozem and brown soils. There are broad areas in the Alakol’ depression covered by sands and solonetz and solonchak soils. In the mountains of the Kalbinskii, Chingiztau, and Tarbagatai ranges, at elevations of 500–600 m there are forb-undershrub steppes; higher up, there are groves of birch and European aspen on mountain chestnut and mountain chernozem soils, forming a transition in the mountains of the Tarbagatai Range to forb meadows on mountain meadow soils.

The steppes are inhabited primarily by such rodents as dipo-dids, cricetines, the ground squirrel Citellus erythrogenys, the field mouse, and the mountain hare. The wolf, corsac fox, weasel Putorius eversmanni. Old World badger, and saiga can also be found. Birds include bustards and various larks. Reptiles include lizards and steppe vipers. In the belts of pine forests, there are squirrel, ermine, and snow weasel. Bears and the marmot Marmota baibacina inhabit the mountains of the Tarbagatai Range, and marten, lynx, Siberian weasel, roe deer, and musk deer inhabit the Kalbinskii Range. In the river valleys and especially in the reed thickets of lake areas, there are wild boar and geese, ducks, and Limicolae. Muskrats have been acclimatized. Lake Zaisan and the Irtysh River abound in pike, Eurasian perch, crucian carp, muksun, the loach Nemachilus barbatula, taimen, nelma, sturgeon, and sterlet, while the lakes of the Alakol’ system contain marinka (Schizothorax) and Eurasian perch.

Population Kazakhs (43.5 percent in 1970) and Russians (40 percent) constitute the bulk of the population. The oblast is also populated by Germans (6.6 percent), Ukrainians (2.5 percent), Tatars (2.6 percent), Byelorussians, Uzbeks, Uighurs, Mordovi-ans, and Tadzhiks. Russians live primarily in the urban-type settlements and in the Irtysh valley and Bel’agach Steppe; Ukrainians live on the slopes of the Tarbagatai and Kalbinskii mountains. Kazakhs live in all areas of the oblast, constituting more than 90 percent of the population in the central and southern semidesert regions. The average population density is 4.2 persons per sq km. The most densely populated areas are the northern part of the oblast and the southern slopes of the Tarbagatai—regions of irrigated and dry farming. Here there are more than ten persons per sq km. The semidesert regions of the Kazakh Melkosopochnik are almost uninhabited, with less than one person per sq km. Urban dwellers constitute 48 percent of the population, the overwhelming majority of which live in the oblast administrative center; the remaining urban-type settlements are fairly small.

Economy. The principal branches of the economy are livestock raising for meat and wool and dry farming of grains. This activity is linked with light and food-processing industries. Semipalatinsk Oblast is supplied with electric energy from the Altai system, which is part of the Unified Power System of northern Kazakhstan. The food-processing industry centers on meat packing, vegetable oil extraction, flour milling, and meat processing. There are also creameries, milk plants, and mixed-feed plants. Light industry includes the preliminary processing of wool and the manufacture of woolens, knitted goods, leather goods, footwear, furs, and clothing. Machine building, metal-working, and the construction industry are well developed. There are plants for the production of fittings, cement, silica brick, cable, and asbestos shingles and enterprises for the repair of ships, automotive vehicles, and agricultural machinery. Most of the enterprises of the processing industry are located in Semipalatinsk and, to a lesser extent, Aiaguz. Limestone is mined in the urban-type settlement of Suykbulak.

Of the land used in agriculture (14.4 million hectares [ha] in 1974), by far the largest part is pastureland (more than 83 percent, or 12.0 million ha). Most of this land—lying in the semi-desert areas—is used in the winter. Pastureland in the upland areas of the Kazakh Melkosopochnik and in the Kalbinskii, Tarbagatai, and Chingiztau mountains is used in the spring and summer. In the Irtysh floodplain there are hayfields, which are subject to inundation. These fields cover as much as 600,000 ha, or more than 3 percent of the oblast’s total area. Arable land accounts for a total of 1.8 million ha (less than 12.4 percent of agricultural land), including 89,600 ha of irrigated lands. Livestock raising accounts for more than 80 percent of agricultural production, while crop cultivation contributes less than 20 percent. In the steppes of the northern part of the oblast (Bel’agach Steppe), dry farming of grains is combined with beef and dairy farming, swine breeding, poultry husbandry, and the raising of fine-wooled sheep. In the semidesert south, in the area of the Kazakh Melkosopochnik, range livestock production is developed. Here, sheep are raised for meat, tallow, and coarse wool; horses, camels, and beef cattle are also raised, although in smaller numbers. Cucurbits and vegetables are grown in the Irtysh floodplain. The southern slopes of the Tarbagatai have irrigated crop cultivation (27,800 ha), and there is horticulture, viticulture, beef and dairy farming, and apiculture.

As of 1974, the total sown area was 1,825,000 ha, of which 1,217,000 ha (67 percent) were under grain crops, primarily spring wheat. Also cultivated are barley, millet, oats, and feed crops (541,000 ha), including corn for green feed and perennial grasses. Industrial crops occupy 24,000 ha, with the chief crop being sunflowers. Potatoes and green vegetables occupy 22,700 ha. In number of livestock, sheep and goats predominate (3,742,500; Jan. 1, 1975). There are also beef cattle (509,200 head, including 190,800 cows), swine (178,300), horses (114,000), and domesticated fowl. There is fishing on the Irtysh and Lakes Zaisan and Alakol’ and hunting in the mountains and deserts of the Kazakh Melkosopochnik.

As of 1974, there were 754 km of railroads. The main line is a section, running north-south, of the Kazakh Railroad. Also as of 1974, there were 7,764 km of roads, of which 4,257 km were hard-surfaced. Of greatest importance are the Semipalatinsk-Karaganda, Pavlodar-Semipalatinsk-Alma-Ata, Aiaguz-Bakhty, and Zhangiztobe-Ust’-Kamenogorsk roads. There is regular steamship navigation on the Irtysh. Semipalatinsk is linked by air to Moscow, Alma-Ata, Novosibirsk, Omsk, Karaganda, Pavlodar, and Ust’-Kamenogorsk, as well as to raions within the oblast.


Education, cultural affairs, and public health Prior to 1917, the area that is now Semipalatinsk Oblast had 109 schools (approximately 6,500 pupils), one specialized secondary school (113 students), and no institutions of higher learning. During the 1974–75 academic year, there were 506 general-education schools of all types, with approximately 176,500 pupils, 24 vocational-technical educational institutions with 11,600 students, and 15 specialized secondary educational institutions with more than 16,000 students. In addition, a total of 11,600 students were enrolled in the oblast’s zootechnical-veterinary, medical, and pedagogical institutes, in a branch of the Dzham-bul Technological Institute of Light Industry and Food Processing, and in the general-engineering department of the Ust’-Kamenogorsk Institute of Road Construction; all of the schools are in Semipalatinsk. In 1975 there were approximately 24,800 children in 273 preschool institutions.

As of Jan. 1, 1975, Semipalatinsk Oblast had 520 public libraries (4,514,000 books and periodicals) and three museums, all in Semipalatinsk, namely, the oblast museum of local lore, the Abai Literary Memorial Museum, and the F. M. Dostoevsky Literary Memorial Museum. (Dostoevsky was forced to serve in Semipalatinsk in 1854 as a soldier in a Siberian line battalion.) There are two oblast drama theaters—Russian and Kazakh—and a philharmonic society in Semipalatinsk. In addition the oblast has 518 clubs, 497 motion-picture projection units, a station for Young Naturalists, and an oblast station for Young Engineers.

The oblast newspapers are Semei tany (Morning of Semipalatinsk, since 1919, in Kazakh) and Irtysh (since 1918). Transmissions are received from the Central Television Studio (12 hours a day), republic television (2.5 hours), and oblast television (2 hours), and programs are received from the All-Union Radio (18 hours a day) and republic radio (10 hours). The oblast broadcasts its own radio programs 2 hours a day in Kazakh and Russian.

As of Jan. 1, 1975, Semipalatinsk Oblast had 101 hospital institutions, with 8,900 beds (11.7 beds per 1,000 inhabitants). There were 2,100 physicians (one physician per 353 inhabitants). The Barlyk-Arasan Balneological Health Resort is in Semipalatinsk Oblast, and there are six sanatoriums and a house of rest.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Another source claims that in the spring of 1962, 39,703 people came to the Semipalatinsk oblast (APRK 1963d).
Out of 39,703 people who arrived from China in the Semipalatinsk oblast, more than 700 entered vocational technical schools in 1962, mainly to study the mechanization of agriculture, and after their graduation they were sent to work on the farms of the oblast, many as operators of combine harvesters or tractors.
The party committees and executive committees of the Alma-ata, East Kazakhstan, and Semipalatinsk oblasts were entrusted with "placing the border violators in certain centers under the control of Soviet authorities and preventing them from dispersing [over the Soviet territories] and departing into other regions." Bending under the pressure from Chinese state authorities, who continued to express their displeasure with the situation, the Soviet officials were also to conduct "explanatory work," clarifying that crossing the border was illegal and persuading these people to return to the PRC (APRK 1962).
Sumkin, a peasant from Kaluga province who, "on the clear spring day of 8 May 1907," set out to scout "open land" (vol'naia zemlia) in far-off Semipalatinsk oblast. Sumkin's account provides fascinating details about the journey that took him and other scouts aboard a "resettlement traiff" through the provinces of Tula, Riazan', Tambov, Penza, Saratov, and Simbirsk across the Volga near Samara into Ufa and on across the Urals into Siberia.
Sumkin writes at the end of his memoir that he decided to travel to Semipalatinsk oblast "because I had read in a resettlement booklet [pereselencheskaia knizhka] of the city's abundant grain trade," which led him to assume that the sparsely populated region could support not only his village but all of Kaluga's peasants.