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]

Canal man-made channel for water

Canals, or navigations, are human-made channels, or artificial waterways, for water conveyance, or to service water transport vehicles.

Russian language East Slavic language

Russian is an East Slavic language, which is official in the Russian Federation, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as being widely used throughout Eastern Europe, the Baltic states, the Caucasus and Central Asia. It was the de facto language of the Soviet Union until its dissolution on 25 December 1991. Although, nowadays, nearly three decades after the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russian is used in official capacity or in public life in all the post-Soviet nation-states, as well as in Israel and Mongolia, the rise of state-specific varieties of this language tends to be strongly denied in Russia, in line with the Russian World ideology.

Tajik language language spoken in Tajikistan

Tajik or Tajiki, also called Tajiki Persian, is the variety of Persian spoken in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. It is closely related to Dari Persian. Since the beginning of the twentieth century and collapse of the Soviet Union, Tajik has been considered by a number of writers and researchers to be a variety of Persian. The popularity of this conception of Tajik as a variety of Persian was such that, during the period in which Tajik intellectuals were trying to establish Tajik as a language separate from Persian, Sadriddin Ayni, who was a prominent intellectual and educator, had to make a statement that Tajik was not a bastardized dialect of Persian. The issue of whether Tajik and Persian are to be considered two dialects of a single language or two discrete languages has political sides to it.


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]

Aral Sea former lake lying between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan

The Aral Sea was an endorheic lake lying between Kazakhstan in the north and Uzbekistan in the south. The name roughly translates as "Sea of Islands", referring to over 1,100 islands that had dotted its waters; in the Turkic languages aral means "island, archipelago". The Aral Sea drainage basin encompasses Uzbekistan and parts of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan and Iran.


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.

Cotton plant fiber from the genus Gossypium

Cotton is a soft, fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll, or protective case, around the seeds of the cotton plants of the genus Gossypium in the mallow family Malvaceae. The fiber is almost pure cellulose. Under natural conditions, the cotton bolls will increase the dispersal of the seeds.

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.

Syr Darya river in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan

The Syr Darya is a river in Central Asia. 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.

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.

Photography in Uzbekistan

Photography in Uzbekistan started developing after 1882, when a Volga German photographer and schoolteacher named Wilhelm Penner moved to Khiva as a part of the Russian Mennonite migration to Central Asia led by Claas Epp, Jr.. After his arrival in the Khanate of Khiva, Penner shared his photography skills with a local student Khudaybergen Divanov, who later became the founder of Uzbek photography.

Max Penson Russian photographer

Max Penson (1893–1959) was a noted Russian 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 the Uzbek photography.

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]

Related Research Articles

Tajikistan Landlocked republic in Central Asia

Tajikistan, officially the Republic of Tajikistan, is a mountainous, landlocked country in Central Asia with an area of 143,100 km2 (55,300 sq mi) and an estimated population of 8.7 million people as of 2016. It is bordered by Afghanistan to the south, Uzbekistan to the west, Kyrgyzstan to the north, and China to the east. The traditional homelands of the Tajik people include present-day Tajikistan as well as parts of Afghanistan and Uzbekistan.

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.

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.

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 proximate to both the Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan borders.

Fergana Region Region in Uzbekistan

Fergana Region is one of the regions of Uzbekistan, located in the southern part of the Fergana Valley in the far east of the country. It borders the Namangan and Andijan Regions of Uzbekistan, as well as Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. It covers an area of 6,800 km2. The population is estimated to be around 2,597,000, with over 71% of the population living in rural areas.

Namangan City in Namangan Region, Uzbekistan

Namangan is a city in eastern Uzbekistan. It is the administrative, economic, and cultural center of Namangan Region. Namangan is located in the northern edge of the Fergana Valley, less than 30 km from the Kyrgyzstan border. The city is served by Namangan Airport.

Vakhsh River Central Asian river

The Vakhsh (River), also known as the Surkhob (Сурхоб), in north-central Tajikistan, and the Kyzyl-Suu, in Kyrgyzstan, is a Central Asian river, and one of the main rivers of Tajikistan. It is a tributary of the Amu Darya river.

Environmental issues in Tajikistan include concentrations of agricultural chemicals and salts in the soil and groundwater, poor management of water resources, and soil erosion. Additionally, because of inadequate sanitation facilities, untreated industrial waste and sewage combine with agricultural runoff to cause water pollution in the Aral Sea Basin. Soviet-Era mining operations in Tajikistan extracted and processed uranium, gold, antimony, tungsten, mercury, and molybdenum, each of which is known to leave toxic waste that also threatens water quality. Pockets of high air pollution caused by industry and motor vehicles have resulted in Tajikistan ranking 133rd in the world in greenhouse gas emissions. Air pollution is a particular problem during times of the year when atmospheric conditions hold industrial and vehicle emissions close to the surface in urban areas. In summer, dust and sand from the deserts of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan cause air pollution across the entire southwestern lowland region.

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

Soviet Central Asia refers to the section of Central Asia formerly controlled by the Soviet Union, as well as the time period of Soviet administration (1918–1991). Central Asian SSRs declared independence in 1991. In terms of area, it is nearly synonymous with Russian Turkestan, the name for the region during the Russian Empire. Soviet Central Asia went through many territorial divisions before the current borders were created in the 1920s and 1930s.

Agriculture in Tajikistan

Tajikistan is a highly agrarian country, with its rural population at more than 70% and agriculture accounting for 60% of employment and around 30% of GDP. As is typical of economies dependent on agriculture, Tajikistan has low income per capita: back in the Soviet period (1990) Tajikistan was the poorest republic with a staggering 45% of its population in the lowest income “septile”. In 2006 Tajikistan still had the lowest income per capita among the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries: $1,410 compared with nearly $12,000 for Russia. The low income and the high agrarian profile justify and drive the efforts for agricultural reform since 1991 in the hope of improving the population’s well being.

Kara Darya river in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan

The Kara Darya or Qaradaryo is a tributary of the Syr Darya in Kyrgyzstan and eastern Uzbekistan. The river is formed by the confluence of Kara-Kulja River and Tar River. There are more than 200 known tributaries of Kara Darya; the largest are Jazy River, Kara Unkur River, Kegart River, Kurshab River, Abshir Sai River, and Aravan Sai River. Its length is 177 kilometres (110 mi), and watershed area 30,100 square kilometres (11,600 sq mi). The upper Kara Darya flows northwest across eastern Osh Province southwest of and parallel to the Fergana Range. It enters the Ferghana Valley and Uzbek territory a few miles west of Uzgen at Andijan Dam. The lower course is through the Fergana Valley, where it is used for irrigation. In the Fergana Valley its confluence with the Naryn River forms the Syr Darya, the second largest river of Central Asia. There are several dams on the river.

Chust, Uzbekistan City in Namangan Region, Uzbekistan

Chust is a city in eastern Uzbekistan. It is the administrative center of Chust District. The City of Chust is located in the northern corner of the Fergana Valley along the river Chustsoy.

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