Uralsk Oblast

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Ural’sk Oblast


an oblast in the Kazakh SSR, formed on Mar. 10, 1932. Located in the northwestern part of the republic, in the area drained by the middle course of the Ural River. Area, 151,200 sq km. Population, 563,000 (1976). Ural’sk Oblast has 15 raions, three cities, and four urban-type settlements. The city of Ural’sk is the administrative center of the oblast.

Natural features. Ural’sk Oblast occupies the northern part of the Caspian Lowland, a plain characterized by vast sand deposits and by depressions that are sometimes occupied by salt lakes and salinas. The southern spurs of the Obshchii Syrt (Mount Ichka, 259 m) are located in the northern part of the oblast, and the edge of the Subural Plateau is in the east.

The climate is markedly continental; the summers are hot and dry, and the winters cold, with little snow. The average July temperature is 24° to 26°C, and the average January temperature is –11° to –14°C. Annual precipitation ranges from 300 mm in the north to 180 mm in the south. Strong winds are characteristic, including the buran in winter and the sukhovei in summer. The growing season lasts 150 days in the north and 170 days in the south.

The rivers, the largest of which is the Ural, belong to the blind drainage basin of the Caspian Sea. Most of the rivers have a low water level; in the summer they dry up or divide into individual reaches. Dams and reservoirs have been built on the rivers. The two largest reservoirs—the Kushum and Dongelek—are on the Kushum River. Of the numerous lakes in the oblast, most are floodplain and delta lakes, and most become shallow in the summer. The largest freshwater lakes are Itmurynkol’, Rybnyi Sakryl, and the Kamysh-Samar lakes; the largest saltwater lakes are Shalkar and Aralsor.

The steppe zone in the northern part of the oblast gives way to semidesert in the south. There are small areas of chernozem soils in the north; further south are dark chestnut, chestnut, and light chestnut soils with patches of solonetzes; in the south solonetzes predominate. Large expanses of the southern and southeastern regions are covered with sand. Meadow solonetzes are common along the river valleys. The forb-grass vegetative cover gradually gives way to stipa grass-fescue cover, and then to wormwood-fescue and wormwood-grass cover. Meadows are found in the floodplains. Forests of poplar, elm, and oak are found primarily in the floodplain of the Ural, and birch kolki (small forests) are found on the Obshchii Syrt. There are groves of pine, black locust, and alder in the southwestern part of the oblast.

Rodents (jerboas and susliks, including the Citellus fluvus) and predators (wolves, foxes, and weasels, including the short-tailed weasel) are found throughout the oblast. Ungulates (the saiga and goitered gazelle) are less common. There are numerous reptiles, including snakes (the sand boa Eryx jaculus, the pit viper, the adder, and, in the south, the Russian house agama). Common birds are Pallas’s sandgrouse and bustards, including the little bustard. The Ural River and the lakes are rich in fish (European bream, carp, tench, Eurasian perch, pike perch, sheatfish, and pike).

Population. According to the 1970 census, Ural’sk Oblast is populated predominantly by Kazakhs (approximately 50 percent) and Russians (38 percent); other groups include Ukrainians (6 percent) and Tatars (2 percent). The average population density is 3.7 persons per sq km; the most densely populated areas are the northern regions and the Ural River valley, with five to seven persons per sq km. As of 1976, 36 percent of the population was urban. The oblast’s cities are Ural’sk, Aksai, and Chapaev.

Economy. Agriculture, particularly sheep raising and the cultivation of grains, occupies a leading place in the economy. The branches of industry that are connected with agriculture are the most developed.

Between 1941 and 1975, gross industrial output increased 19-fold. The principal sources of energy are natural gas, coal (from Karaganda), and mazut; the Volga Region (Povolzh’e) supplies part of the electric power used in Ural’sk Oblast. Mineral resources include natural gas (north of Ural’sk) and various building materials. Industry is represented by machine building, met-alworking, food processing, and the production of consumer goods. Raw agricultural materials produced in the oblast are processed in butter factories, meat-packing combines, and flour-milling combines in such cities and towns as Chapaev, Aksai, Chingirlau, and Dzhanybek. There is a fish-processing industry. The building-materials industry is being developed; enterprises include a brickyard in Dzhanybek and a building-materials combine in Fedorovka. Other industrial establishments include a machine shop and a repair plant.

As of 1975, land devoted to agriculture totaled 12.5 million hectares (ha). Of this total, pastures made up 9.1 million ha; arable land, 2.0 million ha; and hayfields, 1.3 million ha.

In 1975 the oblast had 117 sovkhozes and 36 kolkhozes. An agricultural experiment station and veterinary research experiment station are located in Ural’sk. The area of sown land in 1975 was 1,966,000 ha, of which 74.3 percent was devoted to grain crops (spring wheat, millet, barley, and oats) and about 24.5 percent to feed crops (wheatgrass, alfalfa, and winter rye for green feed). The highest yields are obtained on irrigated lands (20,800 ha in 1974) and in low areas, which receive more moisture than other parts of the region and possess more fertile soils. The development of agriculture is hampered by the arid climate, but more than 2,000 km of major canals have been built, and the Ural-Kushum Water-supply and Irrigation System is in operation. The 460-km Volga-Ural Canal, which was still under construction as of 1976, will permit an increase in the area supplied with water by irrigation and impounding.

As of 1976, livestock included 2.4 million sheep and goats, 600,000 head of cattle, 80,000 horses, and 45,000 swine. In the northern part of the oblast, the livestock raised include horses, meat and dairy cattle, and fine-wooled and semifine-wooled sheep. In the southern part, livestock are raised for meat and fat. Swine breeding is well developed in the north and along the Ural River valley.

As of 1974, Ural’sk Oblast had 416 km of railroads. The Saratov-Ural’sk-Iletsk main line transverses the northern part of the oblast, and the Saratov-Astrakhan line passes through the western edge. As of 1974, the oblast also had 8,200 km of roads, 1,800 km of which were paved. The most important is the Ural’sk-Kalmykovo-Gur’ev highway. The city of Ural’sk is linked by air with other parts of the oblast and with Alma-Ata, Moscow, and other cities. There is navigation on the Ural River. The gas trunkline from Middle Asia to the Central Industrial Region crosses Ural’sk Oblast.


Educational, scientific, and cultural institutions; public health. In the 1914–15 academic year, the region that is now Ural’sk Oblast had 372 schools, with a total of 16,100 students; one specialized secondary educational institution with 38 students; and no higher educational institutions. In the 1975–76 academic year, the oblast had 562 general-education schools of all types, with 141,000 students; 21 vocational-technical educational schools, with 8,000 students; eight specialized secondary educational institutions, with 7,200 students; and two higher educational institutions (a pedagogical institute and the Western Kazakhstan Agricultural Institute in Ural’sk), with 9,200 students. As of 1975, the oblast’s 299 preschool institutions had a total enrollment of 24,000 children.

As of Jan. 1, 1976, the oblast had 474 public libraries, with a total of 3,258,000 copies of books and magazines. It also had three museums—the Ural’sk Oblast Museum of History and Local Lore, the Urda Historical-Revolutionary Museum, and the V. I. Chapaev Memorial Museum in Chapaev (formerly the city of Lbishchensk, where V. I. Chapaev perished). The oblast also has an oblast drama theater in Ural’sk, 491 clubs, 520 motion-picture projection units, and 57 institutions for extracurricular activities—including 17 houses of Pioneers, 16 music schools for children, 16 sports schools for children, two young technicians’ stations, and two young naturalists’ stations.

There are two oblast newspapers: the Kazakh-language Oral onīrī (Ural Region), which has been published since 1919, and the Russian-language Priural’e, which has been published since 1918. Oblast radio programs are broadcast 1.5 hours a day; programs from All-Union Radio, eight hours a day; and republic radio programs, 10.5 hours a day. Oblast telecasts are on the air two hours daily, East programs from Central Television are broadcast 13 hours daily, republic television programs are transmitted six hours daily.

As of Jan. 1, 1976, the oblast had 86 hospitals, with 6,800 beds (12 beds for every 1,000 inhabitants) and 1,244 doctors (one for every 453 inhabitants). Two sanatoriums are located in Ural’sk Oblast.


Semenov, P. E., and V. F. Kosov. Problemy razvitiia i razmeshcheniia proizvoditel’nykh sil Kazakhstana. Moscow, 1974.
Kazakhstan. Moscow, 1970. (Sovetskii Soiuz series).
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.