The Syr Darya /ˌsɪərˈdɑːrjə/ (Kazakh: Syrdari'i'a,
سىردارٸيا; Russian: Сырдарья́, tr. Syrdar'ya,
IPA: [sɨrdɐˈrʲja]; Persian: سيردريا,Sirdaryā;
Tajik: Сирдарё, Sirdaryo; Turkish: Seyhun, Siri Derya; Arabic:
سيحون: Seyḥūn; Uzbek: Sirdaryo/Сирдарё; Ancient
Greek: Ἰαξάρτης, Jaxártēs) is a river in Central Asia.
Syr Darya originates in the
Tian Shan Mountains in
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.
3 Ecological damage
6 External links
The second part of the name (Darya دریا) means "river" in Tajik
Persian. The current name dates only from the 18th century.
The earliest recorded name was Jaxartes /ˌdʒæɡˈzɑːrtiːz/ or
Iaxartes /ˌaɪ.əɡˈzɑːrtiːz/ (Ἰαξάρτης) in Ancient
Greek, found in several sources, including those relating to Alexander
the Great. The Greek name hearkens back to the
Old Persian name
Yakhsha Arta ("True Pearl"), perhaps a reference to the color of its
glacially-fed water. More evidence for the Persian etymology comes
from the river's Turkic name up to the time of the Arab conquest, the
Yinchu, or "Pearl river".
Muslim conquest, the river appears in the sources
uniformly as the Seyhun (سيحون), one of the four rivers flowing
Jannah in Arabic).
The current local name of the river, Syr (Sïr), does not appear
before the 16th century. In the 17th century, Abu al-Ghazi Bahadur
Khan, historian and ruler of Khiva, called the
Aral Sea the "Sea of
Sïr," or Sïr Tengizi.
The river rises in two headstreams in the
Tian Shan Mountains in
Kyrgyzstan and eastern Uzbekistan—the
Naryn River and the Kara Darya
which come together in the Uzbek part of the Fergana Valley—and
flows for some 2,212 kilometres (1,374 mi) west and north-west
Uzbekistan and southern
Kazakhstan to the remains of the Aral
Syr Darya drains an area of over 800,000 square kilometres
(310,000 sq mi), but no more than 200,000 square kilometres
(77,000 sq mi) actually contribute significant flow to the
river: indeed, two of the largest rivers in its basin, the Talas and
the Chu, dry up before reaching it. Its annual flow is a very modest
 37 cubic kilometres (30,000,000 acre⋅ft) per year—half
that of its sister river, the Amu Darya.
Along its course, the
Syr Darya irrigates the most productive
cotton-growing region in the whole of Central Asia, together with the
towns of Kokand, Khujand,
Kyzylorda and Turkestan.
Various local governments throughout history have built and maintained
an extensive system of canals. These canals are of central
importance in this arid region. Many fell into disuse in the 17th and
early 18th century, but the Khanate of
Kokand rebuilt many in the 19th
century, primarily along the Upper and Middle Syr Darya.
Massive expansion of irrigation canals in Middle and Lower Syr Darya
during the Soviet period to water cotton and rice fields caused
ecological damage to the area. The amount of water taken from the
river was such that in some periods of the year, no water at all
reaches the Aral Sea, similar to the
Amu Darya situation in Uzbekistan
and Turkmenistan.
Syr Darya River at Khujand
History of the central steppe
History of the central steppe introduces the history of the lands
along and north of the Syr Darya. During the era of Alexander the
Syr Darya marked the northernmost limit of Hellenic
conquests and also the site of a famous battle, the Battle of
Jaxartes. It was on the shores of the
Syr Darya that Alexander placed
a garrison in the City of Cyrus (
Cyropolis in Greek), which he then
renamed after himself
Alexandria Eschate – "the farthest
Alexandria"—in 329 BC. For most of its history since at least the
Muslim Conquest of Central Asia, the name of this city has been
Khujand (in Tajikistan).
Russian conquest of Turkestan
Russian conquest of Turkestan in the middle 19th century,
Russian Empire introduced steam navigation to the Syr Darya, with
an important river port at Kazalinsk (Kazaly) from 1847 to 1882, when
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
^ a b Daene C. McKinney. "Cooperative Management of Transboundary
Water Resources in Central Asia" (PDF). Ce.utexas.edu. Retrieved
^ Also transliterated Syrdarya or Sirdaryo.
^ "Sïr Daryā." Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Edited by: P.
Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs.
Brill Online, 2014.
^ a b В. В. Бартольд. К истории орошения
Туркестана. (On the history of Irrigation in Turkestan) in
Работы по исторической географии (Works
on Historical Geography). Moscow: Vostochnaia Literatura, 2002. Pages
^ The introductory chapters of Yāqūt's Muʿjam al-buldān, by
Yāqūt ibn ʿAbd Allāh al-Ḥamawī, Page 30
^ International Crisis Group. "Water Pressures in Central Asia",
CrisisGroup.org. 11 September 2014. Retrieved 6 October 2014.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Syr Darya.
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