The Amu Darya, also called the Amu or Amo River, and historically
known by its Latin name Oxus, is a major river in Central Asia. It is
formed by the junction of the Vakhsh and Panj rivers, in the Tigrovaya
Balka Nature Reserve on the border between
Tajikistan and Afghanistan,
and flows from there north-westwards into the southern remnants of the
Aral Sea. In ancient times, the river was regarded as the boundary
Greater Iran and Turan.
1.1 As the river Gozan
4.1 Siberian Tiger Introduction Project
6 See also
9 External links
Amu Darya delta from space
Amu Darya (Persian: آمودریا, Âmudaryâ; Turkmen:
Amudaryo/Амударё/ەمۇدەريا; Tajik: Амударё,
Amudaryo; Pashto: د آمو سيند, də Āmú Sínd; Turkish:
Ceyhun, Amu Derya; Ancient Greek: Ὦξος, Ôxos), also called the
Amu River, is a major river in Central Asia.
In classical antiquity, the river was known as the Ōxus in Latin and
Ὦξος Ôxos in Greek—a clear derivative of Vakhsh, the name of
the largest tributary of the river. In Vedic
Sanskrit, the river is also referred to as Vakṣu (वक्षु).
Brahmanda Purana refers to the river as Chaksu. The
too refer to the River as Yakhsha/Vakhsha (and Yakhsha Arta ("upper
Yakhsha") referring to the Jaxartes/
Syr Darya twin river to Amu
Middle Persian sources of the Sassanid period the river is known as
Wehrōd (lit. "good river").
The name Amu is said to have come from the medieval city of Āmul,
(later, Chahar Joy/Charjunow, and now known as Türkmenabat), in
modern Turkmenistan, with Darya being the Persian word for "river".
Medieval Arabic and
Muslim sources call the river Jayhoun (جيحون
Jayḥūn; also Jaihun, Jayhoon, or Dzhaykhun) which is derived from
Gihon, the biblical name for one of the four rivers of the Garden of
As the river Gozan
Western travelers in the 19th century mention that one of the names by
which the river was known in
Afghanistan was Gozan, and that this name
was used by Greek, Mongol, Chinese, Persian, Jewish, and Afghan
historians. However, this name is no longer used.
"Hara (Bokhara) and to the river of Gozan (that is to say, the Amu,
(called by Europeans the Oxus)....".
"the Gozan River is the River Balkh, i.e. the Oxus or the Amu
"... and were brought into Halah (modern day Balkh), and Habor (which
is Pesh Habor or Peshawar), and Hara (which is Herat), and to the
river Gozan (which is the Ammoo, also called Jehoon)...".
Map of area around the Aral Sea.
Aral Sea boundaries are c. 2008. The
Amu Darya drainage basin is in orange, and the
Syr Darya basin in
The river's total length is 2,400 kilometres (1,500 mi) and its
drainage basin totals 534,739 square kilometres
(206,464 sq mi) in area, providing a mean discharge of
around 97.4 cubic kilometres (23.4 cu mi) of water per
year. The river is navigable for over 1,450 kilometres (900 mi).
All of the water comes from the high mountains in the south where
annual precipitation can be over 1,000 mm (39 in). Even
before large-scale irrigation began, high summer evaporation meant
that not all of this discharge reached the
Aral Sea – though there
is some evidence the large Pamir glaciers provided enough melt water
for the Aral to overflow during the 13th and 14th centuries.
Since the end of the 19th century there have been four different
claimants as the true source of the Oxus:
The Pamir River, which emerges from
Lake Zorkul (once also known as
Lake Victoria) in the
Pamir Mountains (ancient Mount Imeon), and flows
west to Qila-e Panja, where it joins the
Wakhan River to form the Panj
The Sarhad or Little
Pamir River flowing down the
Little Pamir in the
Lake Chamaktin, which discharges to the east into the Aksu River,
which in turn becomes the Murghab and then Bartang rivers, and which
eventually joins the Panj Oxus branch 350 kilometres downstream at
Roshan Vomar in Tajikistan.
An ice cave at the end of the
Wakhjir valley, in the
in the Pamir Mountains, near the border with Pakistan.
Tajikistan bridge over the Amu Darya.
A glacier turns into the
Wakhan River and joins the
Pamir River about
50 kilometres (31 mi) downstream. Bill Colegrave's expedition
Wakhan in 2007 found that both claimants 2 and 3 had the same
source, the Chelab stream, which bifurcates on the watershed of the
Little Pamir, half flowing into Lake Chamaktin and half into the
parent stream of the Little Pamir/Sarhad River. Therefore, the Chelab
stream may be properly considered the true source or parent stream of
the Oxus. The
Panj River forms the border of
Tajikistan. It flows west to Ishkashim where it turns north and then
north-west through the
Pamirs passing the Tajikistan–Afghanistan
Friendship Bridge. It subsequently forms the border of
Uzbekistan for about 200 kilometres (120 mi), passing
Uzbekistan Friendship Bridge. It delineates the
Turkmenistan for another 100 kilometres
(62 mi) before it flows into
Turkmenistan at Atamurat. As the
Amudarya, it flows across
Turkmenistan south to north, passing
Türkmenabat, and forms the border of
Halkabat. It is then split by the
Tuyamuyun Hydro Complex
Tuyamuyun Hydro Complex into many
waterways that used to form the river delta joining the Aral Sea,
passing Urgench, Daşoguz, and other cities, but it does not reach
what is left of the sea any more and is lost in the desert.
Use of water from the
Amu Darya for irrigation has been a major
contributing factor to the shrinking of the
Aral Sea since the late
Historical records state that in different periods, the river flowed
Aral Sea (from the south), into the
Caspian Sea (from the
east), or both, similar to the
Syr Darya (Jaxartes, in Ancient Greek).
Pontoon Bridge on the Amu River near Urgench, in 2014 it was replaced
by the stationary bridge.
The 534,769 square kilometres (206,475 sq mi) of the Amu
Darya drainage basin include most of Tajikistan, the southwest corner
of Kyrgyzstan, the northeast corner of Afghanistan, a narrow portion
Turkmenistan and the western half of Uzbekistan. Part of
Amu Darya basin divide in
Tajikistan forms that country's border
with China (in the east) and Pakistan (to the south). About 61% of the
drainage lies within Tajikistan,
Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, while
39% is in Afghanistan.
The abundant water flowing in the
Amu Darya comes almost entirely from
glaciers in the
Pamir Mountains and Tian Shan, which, standing
above the surrounding arid plain, collect atmospheric moisture which
otherwise would probably escape somewhere else. Without its mountain
water sources, the
Amu Darya would not contain any water—would not
exist—because it rarely rains in the lowlands through which most of
the river flows. Of the total drainage area only about 200,000 square
kilometres (77,000 sq mi) actively contribute water to the
river. This is because many of the river's major tributaries
(especially the Zeravshan River) have been diverted, and much of the
river's drainage is arid. Throughout most of the steppe, the annual
rainfall is about 300 millimetres (12 in).
Bāqī Chaghānyānī pays homage to
Babur beside the
Amu Darya river,
The ancient Greeks called the
Amu Darya the Oxus. In ancient times,
the river was regarded[by whom?] as the boundary between Greater Iran
and Tūrān. The river's drainage lies in the area between the
former empires of
Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great, although they
occurred at very different times. When the Mongols came to the area,
they used the water of the
Amu Darya to flood Konye-Urgench. One
southern route of the
Silk Road ran along part of the Amu Darya
Termez before going westwards to the Caspian Sea.
It is believed[by whom?] that the Amu Darya's course across the
Kara-Kum Desert has gone through several major shifts in the past few
thousand years. Much of the time – most recently from the 13th
century to the late 16th century – the
Amu Darya emptied into both
the Aral and the Caspian Seas, reaching the latter via a large
distributary called the Uzboy River. The Uzboy splits off from the
main channel just south of the Amudarya Delta. Sometimes the flow
through the two branches was more or less equal, but often most of the
Amu Darya's flow split to the west and flowed into the Caspian.
People began to settle along the lower
Amu Darya and the Uzboy in the
5th century, establishing a thriving chain of agricultural lands,
towns, and cities. In about 985 AD the massive Gurganj Dam at the
bifurcation of the forks started to divert water to the Aral. Genghis
Khan's troops destroyed the dam in 1221, and the
Amu Darya shifted to
distributing its flow more or less equally between the main stem and
the Uzboy. But in the 18th century, the river again turned north,
flowing into the Aral Sea, a path it has taken since. Less and less
water flowed down the Uzboy. When Russian explorer Bekovich-Cherkasski
suveyed the region in 1720, the
Amu Darya did not flow into the
Caspian Sea anymore.
Russian troops crossing Amu Darya, c. 1873
The first Englishman to reach the Oxus, William Moorcroft, visited
about 1824. Another to reach the region in the
Great Game period,
a naval officer called John Wood, came with an expedition to find the
source of the river in 1839. He found modern-day Lake Zorkul, called
it Lake Victoria, and proclaimed he had found the source. Then,
the French explorer and geographer Thibaut Viné collected a lot of
information about this area during five expeditions between 1856 and
French geographer Thibaut Viné
The question of finding a route between the Oxus valley and India has
been of concern historically. A direct route crosses extremely high
mountain passes in the
Hindu Kush and isolated areas like Kafiristan.
Some in Britain feared that the Empire of Russia, which at the time
wielded great influence over the Oxus area, would overcome these
obstacles and find a suitable route through which to invade British
India – but this never came to pass. The area was taken over by
Russia during the Russian conquest of Turkestan.
Soviet Union became the ruling power in the early 1920s and
expelled Mohammed Alim Khan. It later put down the Basmachi movement
and killed Ibrahim Bek. A large refugee population of Central Asians,
including Turkmen, Tajiks and Uzbeks, fled to northern
Afghanistan. In the 1960s and 1970s the Soviets started using the
Amu Darya and the
Syr Darya to irrigate extensive cotton fields in the
Central Asian plain. Before this time, water from the rivers was
already being used for agriculture, but not on this massive scale. The
Qaraqum Canal, Karshi Canal, and Bukhara Canal were among the larger
of the irrigation diversions built. However, the Main Turkmen Canal,
which would have diverted water along the dry
Uzboy River bed into
central Turkmenistan, was never built. The 1970s, in the course of the
Soviet war in Afghanistan, Soviet forces used the valley to invade
Afghanistan through Termez. The
Soviet Union fell in the 1990s and
Central Asia split up into the many smaller countries that lie within
or partially within the
Amu Darya basin.
During the Soviet era a resource-sharing system was instated in which
Tajikistan shared water originating from the Amu Darya
Syr Darya rivers with Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and
summer. In return,
Tajikistan received Kazakh, Turkmen,
and Uzbek coal, gas, and electricity in winter. After the fall of the
Soviet Union this system disintegrated and the Central Asian nations
have failed to reinstate it. Inadequate infrastructure, poor
water-management, and outdated irrigation methods all exacerbate the
Siberian Tiger Introduction Project
Main article: Siberian Tiger Introduction Project
The Amu-Darya's delta was suggested as a potential site. A feasibility
study was initiated to investigate if the area is suitable and if such
an initiative would receive support from relevant decision makers. A
viable tiger population of about 100 animals would require at least
5,000 km2 (1,900 sq mi) of large tracts of contiguous
habitat with rich prey populations. Such habitat is not available at
this stage and cannot be provided in the short term. The proposed
region is therefore unsuitable for the reintroduction, at least at
But the majestic River floated on,
Out of the mist and hum of that low land,
Into the frosty starlight, and there moved,
Rejoicing, through the hushed Chorasmian waste,
Under the solitary moon: — he flowed
Right for the polar star, past Orgunjè,
Brimming, and bright, and large: then sands begin
To hem his watery march, and dam his streams,
And split his currents; that for many a league
The shorn and parcelled Oxus strains along
Through beds of sand and matted rushy isles —
Oxus, forgetting the bright speed he had
In his high mountain-cradle in Pamere,
A foiled circuitous wanderer: — till at last
The longed-for dash of waves is heard, and wide
His luminous home of waters opens, bright
And tranquil, from whose floor the new-bathed stars
Emerge, and shine upon the Aral Sea.
~ Matthew Arnold, Sohrab and Rustum
The Oxus river, and Arnold's poem, fire the imaginations of the
children who adventure with ponies over the moors of the West Country
in the 1930s children's book The Far-Distant Oxus. There were two
sequels, Escape to
Persia and Oxus in Summer.
Robert Byron's 1937 travelogue, The Road to Oxiana, describes its
author's journey from the
Persia to Afghanistan, with
the Oxus as his stated goal.
George MacDonald Fraser's Flashman at the Charge, (1973), places
Flashman on the
Amu Darya and the Arral Sea during the (fictitious)
Russian advance on India during The
Great Game period.
Amu Darya River from 2016-04-06
List of rivers of Afghanistan
^ a b Daene C. McKinney (18 November 2003). "Cooperative management of
transboundary water resources in Central Asia" (PDF). Retrieved
^ a b c B. Spuler, Āmū Daryā, in Encyclopædia Iranica, online ed.,
^ William C. Brice. 1981. Historical Atlas of Islam (Hardcover).
Leiden with support and patronage from Encyclopaedia of Islam.
^ Encyclopædia Britannica Online: Amu Darya
^ The Kingdom of Afghanistan: a historical sketch, By George Passman
Tate, Page 11.
^ Jews in Islamic countries in the Middle Ages, By Moshe Gil, David
Strassler, Page 428.
^ Tamerlane and the Jews, By Michael Shterenshis, Page xxiv.
^ Mock, J., O'Neil, K. (2004) Expedition Report
^ Colegrave, Bill (2011). Halfway House to Heaven. London: Bene Factum
Publishing. p. 176. ISBN 978-1-903071-28-1.
^ a b Rakhmatullaev, Shavkat; Huneau, Frédéric; Jusipbek, Kazbekov;
Le Coustumer, Philippe; Jumanov, Jamoljon; El Oifi, Bouchra;
Motelica-Heino, Mikael; Hrkal, Zbynek. "Groundwater resources use and
management in the
Amu Darya River Basin (Central Asia)" (PDF).
Environmental Earth Sciences. Retrieved 2010-02-09.
^ "Basin Water Organization "Amudarya"". Interstate Commission for
Water Coordination of Central Asia. Retrieved 2010-02-11.
^ Agaltseva, N.A.; Borovikova, L.N.; Konovalov, V.G. (1997).
"Automated system of runoff forecasting for the Amudarya River basin"
(PDF). Destructive Water: Water-Caused Natural Disasters, their
Abatement and Control. International Association of Hydrological
Sciences. Retrieved 2010-02-09.
^ "Amudarya River Basin Morphology".
Central Asia Water Information.
^ Sykes, Percy (1921). A History of Persia. London: Macmillan and
Company. p. 64.
^ Volk, Sylvia (2000-11-11). "The Course of the Oxus River".
University of Calgary. Archived from the original on 2009-12-23.
^ Kozubov, Robert (November 2007). "Uzboy".
Magazine. Retrieved 2010-02-08.
^ Peter Hopkirk,"The Great Game",1994, page 100
^ Keay, J. (1983) When Men and Mountains Meet ISBN 0-7126-0196-1
^ See for example "Can Russia invade India?" by Henry Bathurst Hanna,
1895, (Google eBook), or "The Káfirs of the Hindu-Kush", Sir George
Scott Robertson, Illustrated by Arthur David McCormick, Lawrence &
Bullen, Limited, 1896, (Google eBook)
^ Taliban and Talibanism in Historical Perspective, M Nazif Shahrani,
chapter 4 of The Taliban And The Crisis of Afghanistan, 2008 Harvard
Univ Press, edited by Robert D Crews and Amin Tarzi
Termez – See the Soviet war in
^ Pavlovskaya, L.P. "Fishery in the Lower
Amu Darya Under the Impact
of Irrigated Agriculture". Karakalpak Branch. Academy of Sciences of
Uzbekistan. Retrieved 2010-02-09.
^ International Crisis Group. "Water Pressures in Central Asia",
CrisisGroup.org. 11 September 2014. Retrieved 6 October 2014.
^ Jungius, H., Chikin, Y., Tsaruk, O., Pereladova, O. (2009).
Pre-Feasibility Study on the Possible Restoration of the Caspian Tiger
Amu Darya Delta. WWF Russia
This distinction between
Turan and Iran appears in Shahnameh.
Curzon, George Nathaniel. 1896. The
Pamirs and the Source of the Oxus.
Royal Geographical Society, London. Reprint: Elibron Classics Series,
Adamant Media Corporation. 2005. ISBN 1-4021-5983-8 (pbk;
ISBN 1-4021-3090-2 (hbk).
Gordon, T. E. 1876. The Roof of the World: Being the Narrative of a
Journey over the high plateau of Tibet to the Russian Frontier and the
Oxus sources on Pamir. Edinburgh. Edmonston and Douglas. Reprint by
Ch'eng Wen Publishing Company. Taipei. 1971.
Toynbee, Arnold J. 1961. Between Oxus and Jumna. London. Oxford
Wood, John, 1872. A Journey to the Source of the River Oxus. With an
essay on the Geography of the Valley of the Oxus by Colonel Henry
Yule. London: John Murray.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Amu Darya.
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