Great Fergana Canal

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Great Fergana Canal map Fergana canal.jpg
Great Fergana Canal map

The Great Fergana Canal (Russian : Ферганский канал, Tajik : Фарғона Канал, Uzbek : Fargʻona Kanali, Arabic : قناة فرغانة) is an irrigation canal located on the Fergana Valley between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in Central Asia. The project was constructed in 1939 by 160,000 Uzbek and Tajik collective farm workers from the former Soviet Union and was completed in forty-five days. The canal is 270 kilometers long with over 1,000 hydrotechnical plants located along the waterway, 50 of which are known to be significantly important. [1]


Great Fergana Canal near Andijan Great Fergana Canal near Andijan.jpg
Great Fergana Canal near Andijan


For many centuries prior to Soviet control of the region, water in Central Asia belonged to feudal-bey landlords who made living conditions for peasants in the region harsh; citizens lived in thirst, hunger and poverty and this forced many to flee from the area. The revolution allowed for a reformation of social and economic relations in Central Asia and for all citizens in the region.

On September 17 1939, the Pravda Vostoka announced Central Asia's dream of obtaining water a reality though the construction of the Great Fergana Canal. Usman Yusupov, the First Secretary of Central Asian Committee of the Communist Party of Uzbekistan announced that Soviet villages would no longer have a hauz, where drinking water had worms, but would instead have more efficient drainage canals that would prosper the region. The Soviet government along with the expansion of transportation infrastructure and Uzbek soviet citizens who invested in the region transformed a once dry Russian colony into a lively flowering valley that would also serve as a center for Soviet life. The canal symbolized the progress of the union and announced the Soviet Union's future prosperity of the region, it also served example of care and guidance from the Stalinist state towards Central Asian citizens into modern age and socialism. [2]

A negative ecological change that the Great Fergana Canal created was the desiccation of the Aral Sea as a result of poor water management and overuse. [3] [4]


The main purpose for the canal was to irrigate the cotton fields of the Fergana Valley by the waters of Syr Darya River in efforts to establish agricultural independence from the western cotton market, other crop yields also include vegetables and wheat.

In 1940–41, the Northern and Southern Fergana canals were also constructed. As a result, the water supply to the irrigation systems of the valley increased considerably, as did the area irrigated, and the cotton harvest doubled. [5] This irrigation project successfully resulted in massive crop production and led to population increase in the Central Asian region due to industrial settlement in the valley. [6] The canal alone irrigates about 39 percent of the land in the Fergana Valley. [7] As of 2008 the Southern Fergana Canal was undergoing technical and infrastructure repair from deterioration in efforts to conserve water from poor distribution and retention. The canal is expected to have automation that would enable computerized control of canal gates in addition to data acquisition and communication. [8]

In media

The construction of Fergana Canal was in the focus of many prominent representatives of the Photography in Uzbekistan such as Max Penson and other Soviet photographers like Mikhail Grachev.

Russian screenwriters Pyotr Pavlenko and Sergei Eisenstein wrote a script portraying the history and construction of the Fergana Canal. The script is written as a triptych and begins with an introduction of the violent sacking of Urgench during the 14th century, the second section portrays the riots and the struggle for water access in the valley, and ends with the construction of the canal. [9]

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Tajikistan Landlocked republic in Central Asia

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History of Tajikistan

Tajikistan harkens to the Samanid Empire (875–999). The Tajik people came under Russian rule in the 1860s. The Basmachi revolt broke out in the wake of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and was quelled in the early 1920s during the Russian Civil War. In 1924 Tajikistan became an Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republics of the Soviet Union, the Tajik ASSR, within Uzbekistan. In 1929 Tajikistan was made one of the component republics of the Soviet Union – Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic – and it kept that status until gaining independence 1991 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Geography of Tajikistan

Tajikistan is nestled between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan to the north and west, China to the east, and Afghanistan to the south. Mountains cover 93 percent of Tajikistan's surface area. The two principal ranges, the Pamir Mountains and the Alay Mountains, give rise to many glacier-fed streams and rivers, which have been used to irrigate farmlands since ancient times. Central Asia's other major mountain range, the Tian Shan, skirts northern Tajikistan. Mountainous terrain separates Tajikistan's two population centers, which are in the lowlands of the southern and northern sections of the country. Especially in areas of intensive agricultural and industrial activity, the Soviet Union's natural resource utilization policies left independent Tajikistan with a legacy of environmental problems.

Uzbekistan Independent Republic in Central Asia

Uzbekistan, officially Republic of Uzbekistan, is a country in Central Asia. It is bordered by five landlocked countries: Kazakhstan to the north; Kyrgyzstan to the northeast; Tajikistan to the southeast; Afghanistan to the south; and Turkmenistan to the southwest. Along with Liechtenstein, it is one of only two doubly landlocked countries.

In the first millennium BC, Iranian nomads established irrigation systems along the rivers of Central Asia and built towns at Bukhara and Samarqand. These places became extremely wealthy points of transit on what became known as the Silk Road between China and Europe. In the seventh century AD, the Soghdian Iranians, who profited most visibly from this trade, saw their province of Transoxiana (Mawarannahr) overwhelmed by Arabs, who spread Islam throughout the region. Under the Arab Abbasid Caliphate, the eighth and ninth centuries were a golden age of learning and culture in Transoxiana. As Turks began entering the region from the north, they established new states, many of which were Persianate in nature. After a succession of states dominated the region, in the twelfth century, Transoxiana was united in a single state with Iran and the region of Khwarezm, south of the Aral Sea. In the early thirteenth century, that state was invaded by Mongols, led by Genghis Khan. Under his successors, Iranian-speaking communities were displaced from some parts of Central Asia. Under Timur (Tamerlane), Transoxiana began its last cultural flowering, centered in Samarqand. After Timur the state began to split, and by 1510 Uzbek tribes had conquered all of Central Asia.

Geography of Uzbekistan

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Syr Darya river in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan

The Syr Darya, historically known as the Jaxartes, is a river in Central Asia. The name, a borrowing from the Persian language, literally means Syr Sea or Syr River, and sometimes it is referred to in this way. It originates in the Tian Shan Mountains in Kyrgyzstan and eastern Uzbekistan and flows for 2,212 kilometres (1,374 mi) west and north-west through Uzbekistan and southern Kazakhstan to the northern remnants of the Aral Sea. It is the northern and eastern of the two main rivers in the endorrheic basin of the Aral Sea, the other being the Amu Darya. In the Soviet era, extensive irrigation projects were constructed around both rivers, diverting their water into farmland and causing, during the post-Soviet era, the virtual disappearance of the Aral Sea, once the world's fourth-largest lake. At 300 m (980 ft) above sea level, the lowest point of Tajikistan is Syr Darya (Sirdaryo).

Fergana Valley valley in Central Asia spread across eastern Uzbekistan, southern Kyrgyzstan and northern Tajikistan

The Fergana Valley is a valley in Central Asia spread across eastern Uzbekistan, southern Kyrgyzstan and northern Tajikistan.

Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic union republic of the Soviet Union

The Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic, also commonly known as Soviet Tajikistan and Tajik SSR, was one of the constituent republics of the Soviet Union which existed from 1929 to 1991 located in Central Asia.

Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic union republic of the Soviet Union

Uzbekistan is the common English name for the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic and later, the Republic of Uzbekistan, that refers to the period of Uzbekistan from 1924 to 1991. as one of the constituent republics of the Soviet Union. It was governed by the Uzbek branch of the Soviet Communist Party, the only legal political party, from 1925 until 1990. From 1990 to 1991, it was a sovereign part of the Soviet Union with its own legislation. Sometimes, that period is also referred to as Soviet Uzbekistan.

Khujand Place in Sughd, Tajikistan

Khujand, sometimes spelled Khodjent and known as Leninabad in 1936–1991, is the second-largest city of Tajikistan and the capital of the northernmost province of Tajikistan, now called Sughd. Khujand is one of the oldest cities in Central Asia, dating back about 2,500 years. It is situated on the Syr Darya at the mouth of the Fergana Valley and was a major city along the ancient Silk Road, mainly inhabited by ethnic Tajiks. It is close to both the Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan borders.

Fergana Place in Fergana Region, Uzbekistan

Fergana, or Ferghana, is the capital of Fergana Region in eastern Uzbekistan. Fergana is about 420 km east of Tashkent, about 75 km west of Andijan, and less than 20 km from the Kyrgyzstan border.

Karakum Canal canal

The Karakum Canal in Turkmenistan is one of the largest irrigation and water supply canals in the world. Started in 1954, and completed in 1988, it is navigable over much of its 1,375-kilometre (854 mi) length, and carries 13 cubic kilometres (3.1 cu mi) of water annually from the Amu-Darya River across the Karakum Desert in Turkmenistan. The canal opened up huge new tracts of land to agriculture, especially to cotton monoculture heavily promoted by the Soviet Union, and supplying Ashgabat with a major source of water. The canal is also a major factor leading to the Aral Sea environmental disaster.

Vakhsh River Central Asian river

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Soviet Central Asia section of Central Asia formerly controlled by the Soviet Union

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Agriculture in Tajikistan

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Max Penson Russian photographer

Max Zakharovich Penson was a Russian Jewish photojournalist and photographer of the Soviet Union noted for his photographs of Uzbekistan. His photographs documented the economic transformation of Uzbekistan from a highly traditional feudal society into a modern Soviet republic between 1920 and 1940. Max Penson is one of the most prominent representatives of Uzbek and Soviet-era photography, revered by prominent figures like Sergei Eisenstein. Penson's works have been featured in exhibitions across the globe, sponsored by the likes of Roman Abramovich and New York's MoMA.

Delta Blues is a documentary film shot in 2000. The movie deals with the environmental problems emanating from the drying up of the Aral Sea, and the impact this has on political relationships in the Central Asian region. In particular, it focuses on the document Water-related vision for the Aral Sea basin for the year 2025 by UNESCO, as presented in 2000 at the 2nd World Water Forum in The Hague. This document has been criticized for setting unrealistic goals, and also, by focusing on the entire basin, for implicitly giving up on the Aral Sea and the people living downstream in Karakalpakstan.

Pyotr Pavlenko Soviet writer and screenwriter

Pyotr Andreyevich Pavlenko, , was a Soviet writer, screenwriter and war correspondent. He became a member of the CPSU in 1920.


  1. Bolshoi Fergana Canal. (n.d.) The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition. (1970-1979). Retrieved May 27 2018 from
  2. Stronski, Paul. Tashkent : Forging a Soviet City, 1930-1966, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014. ProQuest Ebook Central,
  3. "Great Fergana Canal". Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. 2015-06-18. Retrieved 2018-05-27.
  4. Thompson. "The Aral Sea Crisis". Retrieved 2018-05-27.
  5. Bolschoi Fergana Canal. In: Great Soviet Encyclopedia. A translation of the third edition. Vol. 3. Macmillan Inc. New York, Collier Macmillan Publishers London, 1974–1983, p. 438 (Online version at
  6. "Start of the construction of Great Fergana Canal | Environment & Society Portal". Retrieved 2018-05-27.
  7. Bolshoi Fergana Canal. (n.d.) The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition. (1970-1979). Retrieved May 27 2018 from
  8. "Ferghana Valley Canal Automation Project". Retrieved 2018-06-01.
  9. Pavlenko, P., Eisenstein, S., & Taylor, R. t. (2011). The Great Fergana Canal. Studies In Russian & Soviet Cinema, 5(1), 123-155.

Coordinates: 40°12′N69°54′E / 40.200°N 69.900°E / 40.200; 69.900