Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A "Plov' is as good as a feast

PLOV, the national dish of Uzbekistan, is relished not only by the citizens of Uzbekistan but by all the peoples living in Central Asia. Fragrant, hot, ready to melt in the mouth, the rice is cooked with carrots, onions, and garlic, and served in white mountains on a huge platter with morsels of mutton or beef. Among the Uzbeks, Kara-Kalpaks, Kazakhs and Tajiks and other peoples of Central Asia, it is the favourite dish for special occasions and holidays.

Rice cultivation is believed to have come into Central Asia originally from the Indus plain. Whilst there is not enough archaeological evidence to give a precise date as to when this development happened, it is believed that the emergence of irrigated rice cultivation coincided with the emergence of technology of how to build large scale and complex irrigation networks, a phenomenon connected with the appearance in the cultivated oases of the first urban trading centres sometime during the 6th millennium B.C.

As with other regions of Antiquity with arid climates the frontiers of the earliest State structures in Central Asia largely corresponded to the limits of irrigated land. By the end of the second and the beginning of the last millennium B.C, these irrigated lands accounted for the territorial outline of many states, including Bactria which developed on the upper course of the Amu Darya and its tributaries, Dagestan on the Terek, Margiana on the Murghab, Parthia in the foothills of the Kopet Dag mountains, Sogdiana in the valley of the Zeravshan, and Khorezm in the ancient delta of the Amu-Darya. The Greek historian Herodotus (c. 484-420 BC) mentions an irrigation installation existing on the river Ak (Akes) which watered the lands on the borders of Khorezm, Hyrcania and Parthia.

Under the Persian Achaeminid dynasty (sixth-fourth centuries BC) which dominated a large part of Central Asia, the development of agriculture was stimulated by the construction of canals, where wheat, barley, millet and many other crops were grown, including both grapes and rice.

When Alexander the Great was treading the path of conquest to India around 327 BC, rice was reportedly already widely grown in Bactria.

In addition various Chinese sources report that rice-growing was widespread in Central Asia by the second century B.C. The traveller and diplomat Zhang Qian tells how in the Ferghana and Parthia that "the way of life is sedentary, agriculture is practiced, rice and wheat are sown; wine is taken from the vine'.

Cooking up Plov (Source: The Australian Newspaper)

Traditionally rice was only grown on land belonging to the wealthy and powerful. This started to change in the second half of the nineteenth century, when most of the region became part of Tsarist Russia and peasants also began to grow rice for the market, on rented land.
Rice and the dishes prepared with it were primarily the food of the richer population up until this time. However at important ceremonial occasions - weddings, funerals, and the new year festival (navruz) dishes prepared from rice have long been a fixture. Today in Uzbekistan Plov is still cooked at the home of the bride and bridgroom to be served at weddings and other important family occasions and is an important ingredient in the ritual food served at funerals.

Plov today is still a popular street food. Prepared in giant saucepans often cooked in the street, it is widely available in cafes, canteens and restaurants.

There are over forty main recipes for plov (ED: hundreds of variants) using meat, carrots, onions and other vegetables, raisins, etc. The art is proudly transmitted from generation to generation. Cooking plov requires plenty of strength and staminal. A saucepan may contain anything from 50 to 300 kilograms of food.

For each kilogram of rice the cook must add an equal quantity of meat, carrots and onions, not forgetting condiments which give plov its distinctive taste. Woe betide the cook who does not know how to boil rice so that the grains don't stick together! .... until the dish is ready for the whole family or at festivals where many hundreds of trenchermen may gather for the feast.

Source: A 'plov' is as good as a feast - national dish of Uzbekistan Boris V. Andrianov UNESCO 1984 and other Plov sites.

Note: A handful of 15,000-year-old burnt rice grains was discovered by archaeologists in 2003.

News Item : Vice Speaker of Uzbek Parliament calls on Kyrgyzstan to abandon project of building Kambarata hydropower stations

Water is the lifeblood of Uzbeekistan and particularly the western areas such as Karakalpakstan. Blocking vital flows for questionable power stations in highly vulnerable areas is as such a critical national issue. I republish a recent commentary by the Vice Speaker of Uzbek Parliament and Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Central Council of the Ecological Movement of Uzbekistan Boriy Alikhanov who has called on Kyrgyzstan to abandon the controversial project of building the Kambarata hydropower stations a long abandoned Soviet scheme. His most pressing concern is that the cascade of Kambarata stations upstream from Uzbekistans populous Ferghana valley is located in a critically dangerous 9-10-point seismic zone.

Key parts of Boriy Alikhanov statement translated into english follows.

"Toktogul water reservoir with capacity of 19.5 billion cubic meters of water is the subject to increased risk, since the breakthrough of a dam can cause flooding and destruction of 50 thousand square kilometers, including the entire eastern and north-eastern part of the Fergana Valley, and the deaths of millions of people. Kambarata hydropower stations are objects that increase the overall risk of catastrophe. The consistent location of these high-pressure facilities significantly increases the risk of disasters, as a breakthrough in the cascade of Kambarata dams is very likely to lead to disaster at the Toktogul hydropower station. It becomes obvious that the construction and operation of water facilities in the seismically dangerous area of Naryn River Valley poses a threat to the appearance of a cascade effect of destruction, when a slight break in one place will cause a chain reaction with the occurrence of uncontrollable flow of water and mud weight. This represents a huge threat to the safety of downstream areas of Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan,"

He has also recalled that in accordance with international law, the requirements of the UN Convention "On Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes" (1992) and "On the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses" (1997), before implementation of planned measures, which may have significant adverse effects on other countries, a watercourse State must promptly forward a notice to the countries."This notification is accompanied by technical data and information, including environmental impact assessment in order to enable the notified States to evaluate the possible effects of planned measures. The Geneva Convention on the Impact of Hydropower Production to Other States also points out that in case a country wishes to carry out the development of electricity, which can cause serious harm to any Contracting State, the States concerned shall enter into negotiations with a view to concluding an agreement that allows for such development. The position of the Ecological Movement of Uzbekistan in this regard remains unchanged, it proposes to abandon the implementation of projects that threaten life of millions of people in the lower reaches of Transboundary Watercourses and supports options that are not related to risk of negative consequences"

Source: Central Asia News 28 June 2012

Book Review : Ancient Irrigation Systems of the Aral Sea Area: The History, Origin, and Development of Irrigated Agriculture

Ancient Irrigation Systems of the Aral Sea Area: The History, Origin, and Development of Irrigated Agriculture Edited by Simone Mantellini, Oxbow Books, 2012

Ancient Irrigation Systems in the Aral Sea Area is the English translation of Boris Vasilevich Andrianov’s work, Drevnie orositelnye sistemy priaralya, concerning the study of ancient irrigation systems and the settlement pattern in the historical region of Khorezm, south of the Aral Sea (Uzbekistan).

This work holds a special place within the archaeological schools of the C.I.S (former Soviet Union) because of the results obtained through a multidisciplinary approach combining aerial survey, and fieldwork, surveys, and excavations. This translation has been enriched by the addition of introductions written by several eminent scholars from the region regarding the importance of the Khorezm Archaeological-Ethnographic Expedition and the figure of Boris V. Andrianov and his landmark study almost 50 years after the original publication.

Source: https://peabody.harvard.edu/node/536

Monday, June 18, 2012

Aral Sea Entry in the Encyclopedia Britannica 1911

The Aral Sea (Kazakh: Арал Теңізі Aral Teñizi; Uzbek: Orol Dengizi; Russian: Аральскοе Мοре Aral'skoye More; Tajik: Баҳри Арал Bakhri Aral; Persian: ‎دریاچه خوارزمDaryâche-ye Khârazm) lay between Kazakhstan (Aktobe and Kyzylorda provinces) in the north and Karakalpakstan, an autonomous region of Uzbekistan, in the south. The name roughly translates as "Sea of Islands", referring to more than 1,534 islands that once dotted its waters; in Old Turkic the word "aral" means an island ire. sea of islands.

Formerly one of the four largest lakes in the world with an area of 68,000 square kilometres (26,300 sq mi), the Aral Sea has been steadily shrinking since the 1960s after the rivers that fed it were diverted by Soviet irrigation projects. By 2007, it had declined to 10% of its original size, splitting into four lakes – the North Aral Sea, the eastern and western basins of the once far larger South Aral Sea and one smaller lake between North and South Aral Seas.

By 2009, the southeastern lake had disappeared and the southwestern lake retreated to a thin strip at the extreme west of the former southern sea. The maximum depth of the North Aral Sea was 42 m as of 2008.


Reproduced in part is the entry on the Aral Sea from the eleventh edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica (1911) which gives an interesting description of what the sea was once like.

ARAL, a lake or inland sea in the west of Asia, situated between lat. 43° 30' and 46° 51' N., and long. 58° 13' and 61° 56' E. It was known to the ancient Arab and Persian geographers as the Sea of Khwarizm or Kharezm, from the neighbouring district of the Chorasmians, and derives its present name from the khirgiz designation of Aral-denghiz, or Sea of Islands.

In virtue of its area (26,233 sq.m.) it is the fourth largest inland sea of the world. It has nearly the same length as width, namely about 170 m., if its northern gulf (Kichkineh-denghiz) is left out of account. Its depth is insignificant, the maximum being 220 ft. in a depression in the north-west, and the mean depth only 50 ft., so that notwithstanding its area it contains only eleven times as much water as the Lake of Geneva. Its altitude is 2422 ft. above the Caspian, i.e. about 155 ft. above the ocean. The lake is surrounded on the north by steppes; on the west by the rocky plateau of Ust-Urt, which separates it from the Caspian; on the south by the alluvial district of Khiva; and on the east by the Kyzyl-kum, or Red Sand Desert.

On the north the shores are comparatively low, and the coast-line is broken by a number of irregular bays, of which the most important are those of Sary-chaganak and Paskevich. On the west an almost unbroken wall of rock extends from Chernychev Bay southwards, rising towards the middle to 500 ft. The southern coast is occupied by the delta of the Oxus (Phan, Amu-darya), one of the arms of which, the Laudan, forms a swamp, 80 m. long and 20 broad, before it discharges into the sea. The only other tributary of any size that the sea receives is the Jaxartes (Sihun, Syr-darya) which enters towards the northern extremity of the east coast, and is suspected to be shifting its embouchure more and more to the north. This river, as well as the Amu, conveys vast quantities of sediment into the lake; the delta of the Syr-darya increased by 134 sq. m. between 1847 and 1900.

The eastern coast is fringed with multitudes of small islands, and other islands, some of considerable size, are situated in the open towards the north and west. Kug Aral , the largest, lies opposite the mouth of the Syr-darya, cutting off the Kichkinehdenghiz or Little Sea. The next largest island is the Nikolai, nearly in the middle. Navigation is dangerous owing to the frequency and violence of the storms, and the almost total absence of shelter. The north-east wind is the most prevalent, and sometimes blows for months together. The only other craft, except the steamships of the Russians, that venture on the waters, are the flat-bottomed boats of the Kirghiz.

In regard to the period of the formation of the Aral there were formerly two theories. According to Sir H. C. Rawlinson (Proc. Roy. Geog. Soc., March 1867) the disturbances which produced the present lake took place in the course of the middle ages; while Sir Roderick Murchison contended (Journ. of Roy. Geog. Soc., 1867, p. cxliv. &c.) that the Caspian and Aral existed as separate seas before and during all the historic period, and that the main course of the rivers Jaxartes and Oxus was determined in a prehistoric era. The former based his opinion largely on historical evidence, and the latter trusted principally to geological data. There is no doubt that in recent historical times Lake Aral had a much greater extension than it has at the present time, and that its area is now diminishing. This is, of course, due to the excess of evaporation over the amount of water supplied by its two feeders, the Amu-darya and the Syrdarya, both of which are seriously drawn upon for irrigation in all the oases they flow through. Old shore lines and other indications point to the level of the lake having once been 50 f t. above the existing level.

Nevertheless the general desiccation is subject to temporary fluctuations, which appear to correspond to the periods recently suggested by Eduard Bruckner (b. 1862); for, whereas the lake diminished and shrank during 1850-1880, since the latter year it has been rising again. Islands which were formerly connected with the shore are now some distance away from it and entirely surrounded by water. Moreover, on a graduated level, put down in 1874, there was a permanent rise of nearly 4 ft by 1901. The temperature at the bottom was found in 1902 by Emil Berg to be 33.8° F., while that of the surface varied from 44.5° to 80 5° between May and September; the mean surface temperature for July was 75° F. The salinity of the water is much less than that of the ocean, containing only 1.05% of salt, and the lake freezes every year for a great distance from its shores. The opinion that Lake Aral periodically disappeared, which was for a long time countenanced by Western geographers, loses more and more probability now that it is evident that at a relatively recent period the Caspian Sea extended much farther eastward than it does now, and that Lake Aral communicated with it through the Sary-kamysh depression. The present writer is even inclined to think that, besides this southern communication with the Caspian, Lake Aral may have been, even in historical times, connected with the Mortvyi Kultuk (Tsarevich) Gulf of the Caspian, discharging part of its water into that sea through a depression of the Ust-Urt plateau, which is marked by a chain of lakes (Chumyshty, Asmantai). In this case it might have been easily confounded with a gulf of the Caspian (as by Jenkinson). That the level of Lake Aral was much higher in postpliocene times is proved by the discovery of shells of its characteristic species of Pecten and Mytilus in the Kara-kum Desert, 33 miles south of the lake and at an altitude of 70 ft. above its present level, and perhaps even up to 200 ft. (by Syevertsov).

Amu Darya sturgeon

The fish of Lake Aral belong to fresh-water species, and in some of its rapid tributaries the interesting Scaphirhynchus (ED: Amu Darya sturgeon) , which represents a survival from the Tertiary epoch, is found. The fishing is very productive, the fish being exported to Turkestan and Russia. The shores of the lake are uninhabited; the nearest settlements are Kazala, 55 miles east, on the Syr, and Chimbai and Kungrad in the delta of the Amu.

Authorities.- Makshhev's "Description of Lake Aral," and Kaulbars' "Delta of the Amu," in Zapiski of Russ. Geogr. Soc., 1st series, v., and new series, ix.; Grimm's Studies of the AralCaspian Expedition; Nikolsky's "Fishing in Lake Aral," in Izvestia, Russ. Geogr. Soc., 1887; Prof. Mushketov, Turkestan, vol. i. (1886), which contains bibliographical references; Rosier, Die Aralseefrage (1873); Wood, The Shores of the Aral Lake (1876); and Berg in Izvestia, Turkestan Branch of Russian Geog. Soc. (vol. iii., Tashkent, 1902). (P. A. K.)

Source: http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Aral

ED Note: In the 18th and 19th century European writers used the word "Kirghiz" (the early Anglicized form of the contemporary Russian "киргизы") to refer not only to the people we now know as Kyrgyz, but also to their more numerous northern relatives, the Kazakhs and the Karakalpaks. When distinction had to be made, more specific terms were used: Burut (буруты), Kara-Kirghiz (кара-киргизы) or "Dikokamenni Kirghiz" (дикокаменные киргизы) for the Kyrgyz proper, and Koisaks for the Kazakhs.