Aral for sale

Iulia Galushina

2017 - Ongoing


This is a series about people who 50 years ago have lost a whole sea and are still getting used to living without it.

The Aral Sea is a salt lake that was located on the border of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and was one of the three largest lakes on the planet. The unreasonably high consumption of its water for irrigation of cotton fields has led to the drought of the Aral Sea. The most poisonous and fastest-growing desert on the planet formed on the site of the sea. In summer, the air heats up to 60 degrees Celsius, and salt and sand literally suspends in the air. The former port Moynaq city has gained a reputation as a “dusty face” city. Moynaq's hallmark was the cemetery of rusty ships.

4 million people are surviving on the dried shores of the Aral Sea. For half a century, people had hoped that the sea would return.

In 2019, the Uzbek government decided to change the image of the old port of Moynaq. The epicentre of ecological catastrophy must turn into the second Las Vegas, a desert entertainment centre. Former fishermen are taught to sell the memory of the Aral Sea disaster, to attract tourists and investors. Hotels, restaurants and casinos are being built where the Aral Sea used to be.

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  • Workers on the biggest salt reserves at the Jacksikilish lake where the biggest salt reserves of Kazakhstan are concentrated. Jacksikilish village, Kazakhstan.

  • Former commercial fish on view at the permanent exhibition at the Aralsk History Museum. A reminder of the bottomless “fish barrel”, that existed 50 years ago, when the lost sea was thriving. Aralsk, Kazakhstan.

  • Children are swimming in dirty water near the old channel of the Amurdarya in Shege village. Uzbekistan.

  • Akespe village where sand covered up the houses and "drowned" fishermen’s homes. Kazakhstan.

  • A room in a home in Shege village is decorated with stuffed animals. Shege village, Uzbekistan.

  • Moynaq resident is demolishing his old house to make way for a new Moynaq city. Uzbekistan.

  • Soldiers rehearse for a ceremony on the parade ground, surrounded by thick growth of Saxaul bushes, specially planted to improve the ecological environment in the former port. Moynaq, Uzbekistan.

  • The skeleton of the ship and tourists in the old port of Moynaq. Moynaq, Uzbekistan.

  • A boy is feeding cows emaciated from the lack of food along the dried-up Amurdarya, the largest river in Central Asia. Nukus, Uzbekistan.

  • Moynak resident is washing his face on the street on the ruins of his old home. Moynaq, Uzbekistan.

  • The former bottom of the Aral Sea in Uzbekistan.

  • Yerkinby Nametov, an artist from Shege village, with one of his many paintings of the Aral Sea, which he saw only in childhood, on the eve of a personal exhibition at the Environmental Moynaq Museum. Shegekul Lake, Uzbekistan.

  • The dried bottom of the Aral Sea, covered with salt, pesticides and toxic chemicals, which spread by dust storms to hundreds of kilometres, poisoning the land and people. Aralsk, Kazakhstan.

  • The old Christian cemetery, where Instead of the tomb stones on the graves, there are lighthouses and anchors.
    Aralsk, Kazakhstan.

  • A man from Karakalpastan is posing for tourists in traditional national clothes. Moynaq city, Uzbekistan.

  • Kalzhamal Baubekova, a resident of the village of Tik-ozek, is demonstrating the traditional national clothes of Karakalpastan at the Navruz holiday in Moynaq.Uzbekistan.

  • Tourist camp on the shore of the Aral Sea. Kazakhstan.

  • Women are sweeping the street in the Shege village. Uzbekistan.

  • Straw fishing house that was demolished during the construction of a new Moynaq city. Uzbekistan.

  • Women, residents of Moynaq, are rehearsing a national dance on stage of a recently-built amphitheatre, during preparation for the holiday "Navruz". Moynaq, Uzbekistan.