Surkhandaria Oblast

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Surkhandar’ia Oblast


an oblast in the Uzbek SSR. Formed on Mar. 6, 1941. Located in the southernmost part of Uzbekistan. In the southern part, the Amu Darya River forms the border between the USSR and Afghanistan. Area, 20,800 sq km. Population, 778,000 (Jan. 1,1975). The oblast is divided into nine raions and has seven cities and three urban-type settlements. The administrative center is the city of Termez. Surkhandar’ia Oblast was awarded the Order of Lenin on June 17, 1967.

Natural features. The central and southern regions of the oblast are a plain, bordered on the north by the Gissar Range (southern slopes; maximum elevation, 4,643 m) and on the west and northwest by spurs of this range—the Baisuntau (elevations to 4,425 m) and Kugitangtau (3,139 m) mountains. The plain is bordered on the east by the Babatag Range (maximum elevation, 2,290 m), and on the south by the valley of the Amu Darya.

The climate of the plain is characterized by mild winters and hot, dry, extended summers. Average temperatures in January are 2.8°–3.6°C, while those in July are 28°–32°C. Annual precipitation in the plain ranges from 130 to 360 mm, and in the foothills and mountains, from 445 to 625 mm. Hot, dry winds and a southwesterly wind known as the afganets are characteristic of the oblast’s southern region. There are 226 to 266 frost-free days per year. The high summer temperatures and long frost-free period, when combined with irrigation, permit the cultivation of megathermic subtropical crops, such as fine-staple cotton, Japanese persimmon, and sugarcane.

The chief rivers of the oblast are the Surkhandar’ia and its tributaries and the Sherabad, all of which originate in the surrounding mountains. The rivers are fed either by snow and glaciers or by snow and rain. The reservoirs built to make maximum use of the rivers’ water for irrigation include the Southern Surkhan (800 million cu m capacity) and the Uchkyzyl. Other parts of the irrigation system are the Sherabad canal, the Dzharkurgan hydraulic power system, and the reconstructed Zang, Khazarbag, and Kumkurgan canals.

The soils of the plain are light and typical sierozems, while the river floodplains have meadow and meadow-bog soils. The foothills and mountains have typical and dark sierozems and brown soils and soddy brown soils. Ephemerals predominate in the plain’s vegetative cover. Ephemeral and herbaceous vegetation is found in the mountainous regions, while the higher reaches of the mountains have subalpine mixed grasses and the perennial grass Festuca valesiaca. Trees and shrubs include the juniper and wild fruit trees, and the Babatag Mountains have pistachio groves. There are gallery forests in the valley of the Amu Darya. Mountain wildlife includes the goitered gazelle, Siberian ibex, wild boar, lynx, wolf, golden jackal, fox, Eurasian brown bear, and porcupines (Hystricidae). Birds include pheasants, the chukar partridge, and larks. The rivers have fish of the genus Barbus, as well as grasscarp (Ctenopharyngodon idella), carp, and the fish Aspius aspius. The Aral-Paigambar Preserve was established in 1964 to protect, among other animals, the Bukhara deer (Cervus bactrianus) and snakes of the genus Echis and of the family Viperidae.

Population. The oblast’s population comprises Uzbeks (73.3 percent, 1970 census), Tadzhiks (12.6 percent), Russians (6.7 percent), Tatars (2.8 percent), Turkmens (1.4 percent), and other nationalities (3.2 percent). The average population density is 37.4 persons per sq km (Jan. 1, 1975). In the valleys of the Surkhandar’ia and Sherabad rivers, the population density reaches 150–200 persons per sq km. As of 1975, 17 percent of the population was urban. The oblast’s cities are Termez, Denau, Kumkurgan, Sherabad, Shargun’, Dzharkurgan, and Baisun.

Economy. Before the October Revolution of 1917, the territory of what is now Surkhandar’ia Oblast was one of the least populated border regions of the Bukhara Khanate. Industry was limited to small enterprises producing handicrafts. During the years of Soviet power, the oblast has been transformed into a developed industrial and agricultural region. The gross industrial production for 1974 was 7.6 times that for 1940. There are 63 industrial enterprises, mainly associated with food processing, light industry, and the production of building materials. The food-processing industry has fruit and vegetable canneries, a winery, a brewery, a meat-packing and milk combine, a flour mill, and a vegetable-oil mill. Light industry is represented by cotton-ginning plants, clothing factories, carpet-weaving factories, and silk-weaving factories. The building-materials industry includes plants producing reinforced-concrete components and structures, a gravel-sorting plant, and brickyards. Most enterprises are located in Termez and Denau. Local deposits of petroleum, natural gas, anthracite, and complex ores have made possible the development of the petroleum (Lial’mikar, Kakaidy) and coal (Shargun’) industries. The main branches of agriculture are cotton growing, silk production, fruit growing, wine growing, and animal husbandry. Farmland occupies 1.2 million hectares (ha), or 60 percent of the oblast’s territory. As of 1974, 248,800 ha were under cultivation, and there were 61 kolkhozes and 33 sovkhozes. Industrial crops, mainly cotton (64 percent of crops sown), which is grown on irrigated land, predominate. In 1974, 452,000 tons of raw cotton were harvested, including 137,000 tons of fine-staple cotton. In that year, the gross yield of raw cotton was 3.3 times the figure for 1950, the area given over to cotton fields was 2.3 times greater, and the yield per hectare had increased by a factor of 1.5. Grain crops are cultivated, with wheat (7 percent of crops sown) being grown on dry and irrigated lands. Vegetables, cucurbits, and feed crops are also cultivated. Orchards and vineyards cover 11,900 ha.

Sheep raising (mainly Karakul sheep) and cattle raising are the most important branches of animal husbandry. As of Jan. 1, 1975, there were 272,300 head of cattle (including 107,400 cows), 836,800 sheep and goats (including 355,000 Karakul sheep), 32,800 swine, and 9,900 horses. Karakul sheep are raised in the southern and southwestern regions of the oblast, while Gissar sheep are pastured in the foothills and mountain regions. Most of the cattle are found on the cotton farms. In 1974, 841,300 tons of silkworm cocoons were sold to the state.

Surkhandar’ia Oblast has 287 km of railroads (1974). The Tashkent-Termez-Dushanbe line cuts through the most densely populated and economically developed parts of the oblast. The Termez-Kurgan-Tiube line was opened in 1974. As of Jan. 1, 1975, there were 2,080 km of roads in the oblast, of which 1,855 km were paved. The southwestern part of the oblast is crossed by the Great Uzbek Highway (Tashkent-Termez), which has been extended from Termez to Dushanbe. The international river port in Termez on the Amu Darya River plays an important economic role in linking the USSR and many foreign countries with Afghanistan.

Educational, scientific, and cultural institutions and public health. Before 1917, there were no primary schools, specialized secondary schools, or institutions of higher learning. In the 1974–75 academic year, there were 234,700 students in the 685 general-education schools of all types, 2,500 students in the nine vocational-technical schools of the USSR State Vocational Education system, approximately 5,100 students in the ten specialized secondary schools, and 3,600 students in the pedagogical institute in Termez. As of Jan. 1, 1975, there were approximately 21,300 children in the 244 preschool centers.

In 1975, scientific institutions included an oblast agricultural research station in Termez Raion, associated with the All-Union Scientific Research Institute of Cotton Growing, and the Southern Uzbek Fruit and Grape Selection Station in Denau, associated with the Shreder Scientific Research Institute of Fruit Growing and Wine Growing.

As of Jan. 1, 1975, there were 407 public libraries, with 2,214,000 books and periodicals, an oblast museum of local lore, and an oblast theater of music and drama in Termez. In addition, there were 211 clubs, 301 motion-picture projection units, and 15 extracurricular organizations.

The oblast’s newspapers include Lenin bäyragi (Leninist Banner), published in Uzbek since 1935, and Leninskoi Znamia, published in Russian since 1941. The oblast takes materials from mixed programs from Central Television and the Tashkent studio in Uzbek, Russian, Kazakh, Tadzhik, and Tatar 11.2 hours a day. Programs from All-Union Radio and republic radio are transmitted 18 hours a day, and oblast radio programs are broadcast one hour a day in Uzbek and Russian.

As of Jan. 1, 1974, there were 79 hospitals, with 7,400 beds (9.8 beds per 1,000 inhabitants). There were 1,100 doctors (one doctor per 690 inhabitants). The Dzhairankhana Balneological Clinic is in the oblast, as are a sanatorium for children suffering from rheumatic diseases and a house of rest.


Surkhandar’inskaia oblast’: Priroda. (Tr. Tashkentskogo gos. un-ta, issue 185.) Tashkent, 1961.
Voprosy kompleksnogo izucheniia prirody i khoziaistva iuzhnykh raionov Uzbekistana. Samarkand-Karshi, 1970.
Ergeshov, Sh. E. Landshafty Surkhandar’inskoi oblasti. Tashkent, 1974.
Khaliiarov, Kh., D. D. Bychkov, and A. I. Blinnikov. Surkhandar’-inskaia oblast’: Ekonomiko-geograficheskii ocherk. Tashkent, 1974.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.