Vostochnyi Kazakhstan Oblast

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Vostochnyi Kazakhstan Oblast


(East Kazakhstan Oblast), part of the Kazakh SSR. Founded Mar. 10, 1932. Located in the extreme northeast of the republic in the basin of the upper Irtysh River. Area, 97,300 sq km. Population, 846,000 (1970). The oblast is divided into 11 raions and has six cities and 14 urban-type settlements. Center, Ust’-Kamenogorsk.

Natural features. Much of Vostochnyi Kazakhstan Oblast is mountainous with very rugged terrain. The area on the right bank of the Irtysh is covered with mountain ranges, plateaus, and the Rudnyi Altai and luzhnyi Altai intermontane hollows, intersected by deep river valleys. The highest peaks in the oblast are in the Katun Range (the highest peak is Mount Belukha, 4,506 m). The ranges of Rudnyi Altai—the Uba, Ivanovsk, and Ul’ba—are over 2,000 m high. The ranges of luzhnyi Altai include the Kurchum, Sarymsakty, Narym, and luzhnyi Altai, some of which exceed 3,000 m.

There are many glaciers. South of the Altai is the extensive Zaisan Valley, bounded on the south by the Tarbagatai and Saur mountain ranges and on the extreme northwest by a rolling plain.

The climate is sharply continental. The average January temperature ranges from -17° C in the plains to -26° C in the closed high-mountain hollows. The average July temperature ranges from 19.6° C in the northwest to 23° C in the southeast. The average annual precipitation is 350-380 mm in the northeast, and 250-300 mm in the southeast; it drops to 129 mm in the Zaisan Valley and rises on the western slopes of Rudnyi Altai to 1,000-1,500 mm. The growing season varies from 176 days in the northwest to 190 days in the south-east. The abundant precipitation and long growing period in the foothills make it possible to farm without irrigation there. In the warmer but arid steppes of the Zaisan Valley irrigation is necessary.

Vostochnyi Kazakhstan Oblast has a dense network of rivers which are fed by snow and glacier-snows. High water comes in the spring and the summer. The principal river is the Irtysh, whose largest tributaries are the Kurchum, Narym, Bukhtarma, Ul’ba, and Uba. The rivers are swift, with many rapids, and are important hydroelectric power sources. They are also used for floating timber down from the mountains. Markakol’ is a large lake. Lake Zaisan has been turned into a major water reservoir by the construction of a hydroelectric power plant on the Irtysh. The soil and vegetation of the oblast are marked by vertical zonality. In the foothill plains of the northwestern section are steppes where feather grass and a variety of other grasses grow well on chernozem soils. Farther to the south, on the left bank of the Irtysh, feather grasses and fescue grow on dark chestnut soils. In the Zaisan Valley wormwood and fescue grow on light chestnut soils, and wormwood and biiurgun vegetation grow on brown soils; there are occasional spots of solonets and solonchak soils.

Massifs of hilly sands are found in the central part of the valley. Mountain steppe covers the lower belt of the mountains. Above is a mountainous-forest belt (birch, aspen, poplar, silver fir, spruce, larch, and cedar). Subalpine and alpine meadows appear at an altitude of 2,000-3,000 m. The forested area is 1,570,000 ha. The mountain-forest region is the richest in animals, mainly fur-bearing (Siberian polecat, Siberian ferret, badger, and others). Teleut squirrels are found in the pine forest strips. Siberian stag can still be found in the upper reaches of the Bukhtarma. The Irtysh River and Lake Zaisan are rich in fish (bream, carp, pike, and ide). Grayling and trout are found in the mountain lakes and rivers. Muskrat and Barguzin sable have been acclimatized here, and silver fox is bred. The many scenic spots in the Altai Mountains attract hikers. There are mineral springs (Rakhmanov Springs, for example).

Population. The population of the oblast consisted in 1970 of 69 percent Russians and 23 percent Kazakhs; there were also Ukrainians, Byelorussians, Tatars, Mordvinians, Chuvashes, and others. The average population density was 8.7 persons per sq km (1970). The plains of the northwestern part of the oblast and the foothills and valleys of the Rudnyi Altai are the most densely populated, with 70 percent of the oblast’s population and 90 percent of its urban population. The oblast’s rapid industrial development has spurred the growth of the urban population, which increased 57 percent in 1970. The cities are Ust’-Kamenogorsk, Zyrianovsk, Leninogorsk, Serebriansk, Zaisan, and Shemonaikha. All the cities except Ust’-Kamenogorsk were founded under Soviet power, mainly in connection with the development of the mining industry.

Economy. The leading industry is nonferrous metallurgy. The rich deposits of a variety of metals in the Rudnyi Altai supply a lead and zinc combine in Ust’-Kamenogorsk, the Leninogorsk and Irtysh polymetal combines, the Belogorsk concentrating combine, and the Zyrianovsk lead combine. A titanium-magnesium combine has been opened. The power base is made up of the electric power stations of the Altai power system: the Ust’-Kamenogorsk and Bukhtarma hydroelectric power plants (on the Irtysh River), a cascade of hydroelectric power plants on the Ul’ba and Gromotukha rivers, two heat and power plants, and the first section of the Sogrinsk heat and power plant. The machine-building industry is developing. In the 1960’s a machine-building factory, a condenser factory (in Ust’-Kamenogorsk), and an instrument-making factory were constructed. The manufacture of building materials is an important industry and includes a house-building combine, a precast-concrete factory, a woodworking combine, and a cement factory. Light and food industry enterprises include furniture and clothing factories, an oil press, breweries, a meat-packing plant, a fish cannery, and flour mills.

The principal branches of agriculture are nonirrigational grain cultivation and dairy-and-meat and meat-and-wool livestock breeding. There were 77 sovkhozes and 21 kolkhozes in the oblast (1969). The total area under cultivation was 5.1 million hectares (ha), of which 820,000 ha were arable land, 425 ha were used to produce hay, and 3,864 ha were pasture. The arable land is found in small sectors among the mountains. In 1969, 804,000 ha were planted with crops, the largest area with grains (565,000 ha) and sun-flowers. Wheat, mainly spring wheat, was grown on 387,000 ha, barley on 137,000 ha, and sunflowers on 43,000 ha. Most of the wheat fields are in the northwestern plains and steppe regions and in the valleys of the Bukhtarma and Narym rivers. Among the other crops grown were oats, millet, buckwheat, peas (37,500 ha), potatoes (15,200 ha), and other vegetables (2,500 ha). Irrigational farming, horticulture, and some vineyards are to be found in the Zaisan Valley. Livestock in 1969 numbered 429,900 cattle, 1,674,500 sheep and goats, 116,400 pigs, 80,100 horses, and 1,607,900 poultry. Dairy and meat-and-dairy cattle and pigs are raised in the northwest. Cattle for meat are raised in the southeast, where sheep and horses are widely kept in distant pastures. Two sovkhozes specialize in breeding Siberian stags. Beekeeping, fishing, and hunting for fur-bearing animals—squirrel, ermine, sable, fox, muskrat—are important to the economy.

The principal railroad lines are Lokot’-Leninogorsk and Ust’-Kamenogorsk-Zyrianovsk, totaling 429 km. The total length of automobile roads is 7,000 km, of which 2,600 km are paved. There is shipping on the Irtysh, which, with the construction of hydroelectric power plants and the creation of large reservoirs, has become a deep waterway.

REGIONAL DIFFERENCES. The foothill plains of the north-western part of the oblast are a region of grain cultivation, dairy-and-meat livestock raising (cattle, pigs, poultry), and the food industry. The most important city is Shemonaikha. The Rudnyi Altai is the main industrial center (polymetals mining, nonferrous metallurgy, power production, machine building, timber industry, light industry, and the food industry), with primarily suburban-type agriculture. The principal industrial centers are Ust’-Kamenogorsk, Leninogorsk, Zyrianovsk, Serebriansk, and Glubokoe. Left-bank Irtysh is a livestock-raising and grain-cultivation region and also has gold and nonferrous metals mining. luzhnyi Altai is a region of varied livestock raising, grain cultivation, forestry, fishing, and hunting; there is gold mining as well. The Zaisan Valley is a region of irrigational agriculture and horticulture, livestock pastures (sheep, horses, cattle), and fishing.

Education, cultural affairs, and public health. In 1970 the 379 preschool institutions had an attendance of 36,800 children. In 1970-71 the 579 general education schools had an enrollment of 201,100 students (in the 1914-15 academic year there were 123 schools with 6,556 students). There were 9,900 students in 23 vocational-technical schools and 15,600 students in 12 secondary specialized schools. Before the October Revolution there was not a single higher school in the oblast. In 1970-71 there were two institutes—a pedagogical and a road construction institute in Ust’-Kamenogorsk with an enrollment of 10,400 students. As of Jan. 1, 1970, Vostochnyi Kazakhstan Oblast had 498 general public libraries with 4,627,000 books and magazines, 517 club-houses, two museums of local lore (in Ust’-Kamenogorsk and Leninogorsk), an oblast dramatic theater (in Ust’-Kamenogorsk), 436 stationary film projectors, and 14 Houses of Pioneers.

The oblast newspapers are Kommunizm tuy (Banner of Communism, since 1939) in Kazakh, and Rudnyi Altai (since 1918). Oblast radio and television transmit programs in Kazakh and Russian, relay radio and television programs from Alma-Ata, Moscow, Barnaul, and Novosibirsk, and receive the Orbit television network programming. There is a television center in Ust’-Kamenogorsk.

As of Jan. 1, 1971, there were 1,300 physicians (one physician for each 645 inhabitants) and 10,000 hospital beds (11.8 beds for each 1,000 inhabitants) in Vostochnyi Kazakhstan Oblast.


Kazakhsaia SSR: Ekonomiko-geograficheskaia kharakteristika. Moscow, 1957.
Narodnoe khoziaistvo Vostochno-Kazakhstanskoi oblasti: Stat. sbornik. Ust’-Kamenogorsk, 1967.
Kazakhstan. Moscow, 1970. (Sovetskii Soyuz series.)
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.