by Andrey Mikhailov
Because of its aridity Kazakhstan seems much larger than it actually is. But in fact the country is not a dwarf. By area, we are in the ninth place and are between Argentina and Sudan. Such extensiveness implies great regional differences in different parts. They exist. Our fat north is absolutely different from the mountainous south; the rainy east bears little resemblance to the desiccated west. The same can be said about the peoples, tribes, still loosely living in this boundless space. But one part of the country, even against this backdrop, can be considered the standard of otherness
Mangyshlak is its name
…In Mangyshlak, other countries arose next to me constantly. Unobtrusive parallels and perfectly clear analogy snatched out of memory now and then things seen somewhere and sometime. But mostly I remember the holy Praying Allahabad, where the streams of three sacred elements of Indian civilization merge into one: the Ganges, Yamuna and Sarasvati.
Here, in Mangyshlak, three powerful universal fows are joined. Three of the seas: First is the Caspian Sea, a huge pond with the obscure geographical status and the vague geological past.
Second is the desert peninsula and adjacent Ustyurt, which on closer inspection turns out to be the sea, too, but punished for something, and sworn in some unthinkable distant times, dried, enchanted and petrifed, turned inside out. No wonder then, in any
place, at any height, in any depth one can fnd shells, fsh or mark or tooth-stone of some primitive sharks. And one more sea is a man-made one, which (like the invisible Sarasvati) is glistening in the dark depths of the human history, but occasionally bringing to the the surface mysterious wreckage and exciting signs of of the past. Someone has once given a faithful and reliable guard to this hidden sea. The descendants of which are the current Kazakh-adays.
Cultural and geographical phenomenon, whose name is Mangyshlak, deserves to be treated carefully not talked about in vain. So, let us take the course with the Caspian Sea.
The Caspian Sea can be attributed with a safe conscience to the most mysterious waters of the earth. Due to the fact that the scientists still cannot sort out its geographical status, the Caspian politicians cannot divide it up. If the Caspian Sea is the lake, they need to share it equitably, if the lakes ... take it share and share alike! Besides, the Caspian has never had accurate maps. Had not and will not have. Because its mapping is a permanently fatal process. The cup, which laps the Caspian water, has very easily expandable coast, on one hand and on the other represents the pool constantly flled with several pipes (the largest in diameter is the Volga, 75% of debit) with very unstable pressure. That is why, a priori impossible, for example to determine not only the exact coastlines, to catch surfaced (or drowned) island, but also to establish the area of adjacent admin-istrative entities, for example of Mangistau region. When a lot of water (like today) - the land is not enough. When on the contrary, then ... Today, Kazakhstan is growing by its Caspian lands!
I remember the Great Khazaria by Gumilev. And not without reason our archaeologists’ conjecture on the fact that in the era of regression (and the fuctuations permanently accompanied the history of the Caspian Sea), there was a land bridge from the Peninsula Tub-Karagan to the shores of the Vol-ga. The caravans of ships, but not the sea, land ships walked across this bridge. Camels with bales "foated" from Central Asia to Eastern Europe right on the sea. Like on dry ground. Straight through the eye of a needle.
In the Mouth of the Caspian
But the cup of the Caspian Sea for many millennia remains empty. To get the level of the World Ocean it stably lack 20 to 30 meters. Thus, our pool is also deprived of a visible pipe through which pours out. But if it is just fowed in, then the level would grow125 - 135 centimeters per year and we would have long had own Atlantis (Caspis) in the form of almost all Atyrau and most part of Aktau region. However, this does not happen. Why?
Simply because the Caspian Sea has a tricky natural counter regulator in the form of shallow East Bay which are flled with the growth of its level and work as huge natural evaporators. Kara-Bogaz-Gol, Dead Kultuk, Kaidak - the greater the level of the Caspian Sea, the greater the area of of the evapo-rating surface, the more water turns into steam. And no need in runoff - the water is absorbed in the "mouth" at such a rate that the frst explorers of the Caspian Sea (for example, Karelin in 1856), long thought before they went in in their fragile boats. The water evaporates, and what remains? Salt! Salt, which is spread from here across the world. And here, in the Caspian since ancient times it was used for the good of the cause. For fsh salting. The two salt lakes turn pink on the road from Fort-Shevchenko to Bautino. They say that when people lived here in another way, this salty fsh, notable for its excellent favour, shipped from here even to the royal table, in St. Petersburg. It was the pride!
Hole in the fsh barrel
Both in the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, the Caspian Sea was considered the main barrel of fsh of the state. And it seemed to be inexhaustible. It lasted until the 50s of the last century. And, interestingly the Caspian fsh was an exclusive product. Like most other inhabitants of the Caspian, 65% of which in 1937 were considered endemic. And 43 of the 73 species of the fsh of the Caspian had a commercial value. Then the fsh began to fade and grow shallow. Initially somewhere gone were beluga, monsters fsh, whose viability determined by the fshermen, sitting astride, to show that the feet do not reach the ground. Then other sturgeon slowly began to be lost. Gradually, fshing masters started fshing herring, then sardines, which became the most favorite people's snack during the development of so-cialism. Back in the 1950s the sprat expedition went to the sea numbering 160 vessels! But today they are in the past
One of the centers of fshing in the Caspian is located in Bautino in those early times, when Bautin Alexey himself had not yet laid down his life in a violent battle for the happiness of the working people and a peaceful settlement of fshermen called the village of Nikolayev.
Right there in Tyubkaragan bay, was the main base of the Caspian sea-dogs slaughterhouse for those courageous people who used to come out with the sticks in winters to the breeding grounds, and beat the defenseless "Matiukha" with newborns "Bel-ka". They beat to a frazzle, until hands began falling off. Seals fght was carried out in the North Caspian Sea for a century, mainly in the islands named the Seal islands. Skins were used in many furriers’ crafts, and fat -in the food industry and as a lubricant. Nikolayev's merchant fshermen (for example, the famous Zachary Dubskoy) were known as widely as those Soviet leaders of cooperatives and state farms, factories and bases who had come to replace them. The succession, despite the social upheaval in the early XX century, was still preserved. The builders of communism utmost used the nationalized means of production of the capitalists, such as boats, ice-houses, smoke fat-melting plants. And they themselves, at frst differed little from their predecessors. Only fsh in the Caspian Sea did not wish to be imbued with the grandeur of the economic plans of the workers' and peasants. It grew small and thin.
Today, little is reminiscent of the glorious past of these fshing areas, except for those rusty remains of the fshing feet beautifully blazing in the turquoise waves of the Tyubkaragan bay that serve as the roost for phlegmatic cormorants. Along the shores of the Seal islands that is being served as reserve, there are lying... No, not seals! Huge vats used for melting the seal fat.
The Caspian “Black Gold”
However, some fsh in the Caspian Sea is still alive. Despite the fact that legal fsh-ing has disappeared from the shores of Mangyshlak, here in Bautino, is a division of guard-ships and boats, whose main task is the fght against poachers. And on Kulaly, the largest island of the Seal archipelago, day and night the land guards of our borders keep the watch on a single Kazakhstan island post.
Constantly on duty, there is a dozen of soldiers with a pair of offcers. Being replaced every two weeks. The post was established seven years ago. Before that there was a base of Dagestan poachers who sailed from over the sea on their high-speed "Baida", a kind of scooters, which hung with a few of "Yamahas" were beyond the reach by our border guards. Even today, they appear in our waters now and then; three hours crossing the Caspian Sea and they can be caught only on helicopters. But now our border guards have something to response with. Regularly, they detain overseas schooner with unshaven "fshers of sardines". One Bayda with two motors lies on the shore of the island Kulaly. They took her last winter. Even though the owner paid the fnes long ago, for some reason he does not hurry to take away his goods. Perhaps, there is no one to hurry? The shady life the Caspian has a very dim outlines. But the fact that it is quite active and brutal is doubtless. When you play that kind of money, life comes to its own laws.
The money is big. Even at frst hands, the price of one kilo of black caviar is 700 – 1000$. When it gets the customer, some-where in Moscow or Paris, this fgure grows by an order of magnitude. So the caviar could be considered “black gold”, but it does not. The reason is that much bigger proft can be obtained from the black oil.
And the Blackest “Gold”
Many concerned environmentalists perceive a direct relationship between the reduction of production of black caviar and an increase and cooperation. in production of black oil. After all, the Caspian Sea is diffcult water. It is known that the emissions of gaseous hydrocarbons in the Caspian Sea occur even without the human intervention. Karelin’s expedition scrubbed the oil off the oars, popped-up from the bottom on the Dead Kultuk. In December 4, 1950 the fery fashes broke from the depths of the sea with the height of 100 meters! After that an island appeared with the size of a square kilometer.
Very complex is the structure of the water column itself. At the depth of more than 400 meters begins the "dead zone" where there is almost no life due to lack of oxygen, and below 650 meters is a layer saturated with hydrogen sulfde (as in the neighboring Black Sea), where there is no life at all. It is interesting that from the surface of the dead wa-ter every night myriad of tiny copepods rise to the surface. And there, at a depth of 300 meters one can see moth larvae. And they are not simple bodies, but the base of the food pyramid of the sea. It is clear that such a subtle and disturbing the natural mechanism of deep-seated, so notorious cause environmental upheaval. His is troubled much! Nowadays, Bautino has more foreigners than locals living here. They know the smell of money. The size of investments can be measured by the size of huge production in the Tyubkaragan Mountains, at the other side of the bay. The roads there are good for the heavy trucks driven by foreign drivers. They transfer the stone to the barges. And this stone is used to construct an artifcial island over the sea to produce the Kashagan crude. Interesting, how many billions of oil dollars will be extracted, if the preparation takes huge money?
The author expresses his gratitude to the Akimat of Mangistau region for assistance