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Intro: I 2001 finansierede fiskeriprojektet udgivelsen af bogen om fiskeren  Nargali Demeuov. Det gjorde vi fordi vi havde brug for en historie om Aralsøen og dets fiskeri i et historisk perspektiv af hensyn til skolerne og befolkningen i Aralsk regionen. Der var også den mulighed at bogen kunne oversættes til dansk, for en senere udgivelse.

Bogen er skrevet på kasakhisk og nu også oversat til engelsk vha. projektets lokalt ansatte. Men selv om det er en spændende historie, så erkender vi, at det nok mest gælder for os der er involverede i Aralsøen og dets fiskeri.

Så foreløbig bliver den stående i den engelske og kasakhiske udgave til glæde for de der vil dykke lidt ned i dybet af Aralsøen og de mennesker som bor i det område af verden.





Manalit - The Steel Monument


The world can gain a lot of knowledge about the Aral Sea catastrophe from facts and figures, science and sociology, but sometimes it is necessary to turn to a personal history for a deeper understanding of the issue. Which is better, to focus on the history of a region, or an area to understand the Aral Sea? We will look at both, and more. This book presents a history of the Aral Sea in the lifetime and through the eyes of one person, one fisherman.

The history of the Aral Sea has been written again and again. Thousands of people lived on the coast of the Aral and saw the catastrophe develop and progress since the nineteen-sixties. Millions of documents have been written thousands of delegates, scientists and volunteers have visited the region. Aid efforts and conferences on the Aral have been conducted all around the world, but no ultimate solution has come from any of it. We have not brought the sea back, not a fraction. The living conditions around the Aral have continued to decline. The situation, however, is not as hopeless as some perceive. The Aral Sea is far from a solution but there are avenues to explore and possibilities for action. Ultimately, it comes to this. If we do not act, social problems will increase and the sea will disappear into the sand like the waters of the Syr Darya.

Is this book the epitaph of the Aral Sea and its fishing industry? Certainly not. It is a history of the strength and hope with which people have overcome huge obstacles. This book tells about one fisherman, a real person who has lived all his life with the Aral, for good or ill. Nargali Demeuov has told his story in Moscow and asked the Soviet government for help. He has protected the villages of his people from the government’s wish to close the fishing industry on the Aral and thus abandon them. Now, many years after that struggle he works with his companions to start a new fishery on the Aral Sea.

In Denmark Nargali Demeuov has become a symbol for the struggle in Aralsk. His commitment to team work his honesty and his knowledge have inspired us to work on the Aral Sea problem. From his character we gain the strength and hope that we can turn the catastrophe of the Aral Sea around.

Nargali Demeuov has always believed in possibility. He searches out those possibilities with desire and energy. He lives in Akespe Village and, even after seventy years, still fishes. Many volunteers and delegations from other countries have visited Nargali Demeuov; no one who has ever talked with him can believe that the Aral Sea is hopeless. Anyone who does lack hope should ask themselves why they have come to help in the first place. With out hope there is no persistence and without persistence there is no victory. Nargali Demeuov knows this. He know the patterns of the sea, he knows the cycles. This is why we have written this book about him. He, better than anyone, can tell readers about the condition, history and future of the Aral Sea.

Henrik Jøker Bjerre

Kurt Bertelsen Christensen

Aralsk 28.11.2001

 Foto: Nargali og Henrik på Nargalis 70 års fødselsdag


The first written record of the Aral Sea was set down in 903-913 CE by Ibn-Rustr. Later, in October of 951 CE, the Arabic academic Istarihy referred to the sea as ‘Horezm Koly’. The first inclusion of the Aral Sea on a map is also attributed to the Arabs. In 1246 the academic Planco Karpiny visited the northern coast of the sea and set down additional information.

The sea received its name from the ‘Aral’ tribe which lived near Amu Darya in the beginning of the seventeenth century. King Hiva Abilhary, 1600-1663, included the Aral Sea in his ‘History’. However, locally it was called ‘Kok Teniz’ (the blue sea). The first Russian cartography of the sea was done by the researcher Remezov in 1701.

In 1825 Colonel A. C. Berg headed a Russian expedition to the Aral Sea. He explored the western region of the sea and recorded important astronomical and cartographic information about the area. Russian interest in the sea grew steadily from that information and other expeditions followed Colonel Berg’s lead. Finally, in 1847, the Russians built a fort in the village of Raim called Raim Castle. From there, between 1848-49, Captain Lieutenant Butakov made a full map of the entire Aral Sea region.

The first steam ships on the Aral were the ‘Petrovsky’ and the ‘Obruchov’ in 1853. After the Tashkent– Orinbor railroad was completed in 1908 many steamships and smaller boats appeared on the Aral. Commercial fishing was first begun around this time and quickly became the main industry.

Scientists have counted at least 34 different species of fish in the sea, among them shark and red fish. The surrounding land teamed with 270 different animal species, including lion and a wild boar called a ‘legion’. The Kok Aral Island was especially populated with large animals.

In 1941 the fishing industry was well established on the Aral. It included five fishing companies, nineteen collective fish farms, forty-five fish reception and processing areas. The Aral fishing industry employed over eight thousand workers of thirty-three different nationalities. Around twenty-five tons of fish were harvested from the Aral Sea each year. At the beginning of 1960 all local fish economies were supervised by the Aral State Fish Organization. It was one of the major enterprises of the USSR. It was given the highest ranking of cooperative enterprises in the Soviet Union.

The most famous fishermen of the Aral Sea include: Bahit Riskaliev, Ustan Uteulieva, Tolegen Alimbetov, Hamit Musagaliev, Dusenbay Kalabaev, Kulpash Bisenova, Nagashibai Totenov, Nagmet Abdikarimov, Mirgali Beimbetov, Kudaibergen Sataev, Kaly Kymanov, Kim Bun-Ok, Daukara Aimagambetov and Zhanasil Alzhanov.

Among these distinguished fishermen is Nargali Demeuov. Demeuov has been awarded some twenty medals of honor and the Red Flag of Labor. His name is also mentioned in the Red Book. From his youth until the age of sixty he worked very hard and accomplished many things. Nargali Demeuov is one of the few fishermen who know the deepest parts of the Aral Sea.

Dear readers, this is a book about Nargali Demeuov’s life. Everyone should read this book. The book is written in the manner of a question and answer interview. We have written on some topics with great detail and some not because Mr. Demeuov preferred to speak only of what he knew. We want to provide information that is important, interesting and understandable. On a linguistic note, at times we will address Nargali Demeuov as ‘Nargali Aga’ this is a respectful Kazak title which means ‘elder brother’.

Chapter One

Nargali Aga, it would be best if you begin your history yourself. Please talk about your family, ancestors and motherland. Will you please introduce yourself to the readers?

I will. The people’s composer, artist and poet Madi Karakesekov wrote a song beginning ‘Surasang atimdi Karakesek’. I belong to the tribe ‘Karakesek’ and Madi was one of us. Sometimes they called him Ulanak, or Sasikbai, but the name Karakesek was chosen by the people and so he is known. May the readers forgive me but I will not speak much of him. I know that Karakesek had two sons, Esil and Tobol by name. My families are descendants of Esil. I am proud to have the famous hero Saint Ahtan as my ancestor. Our ancestors Malaisari, Koisari, Kosim, Zhomart, Zhainak and Sartai were famous in their time as well. Sartai’s son was Shakim, and my father Demeu was the son of Shakim. Poor Demeu was a fisherman in 1942 when he was assigned to the labor army. This was not a fighting army but an army of workers. There he worked for a company that manufactured weapons. When he returned, he fished until his death in 1965. My mother, Sararkha was a housewife. In her youth she also fished. She died in 1978.

I was born in Shkol, one of the oldest villages on the Aral Sea, in 1932. I was the first born of five children. My brother Auez was a fisherman. My brother Orazbai was a teacher and now he is retired. My sisters Bibaisha, now retired, and Saraltin, a worker, both have large families. My wife is named Rosa Kuanishbai Kizi. God gave us six children. My eldest son Amanbai works on the Saksaul railroad. Aralbai, my second son, works in the Aral-sukuburi. My third son, Zhenis is a fisherman. Nurlan, my youngest son, is a teacher. My daughters, Raisa and Sveta, are a medical nurse and teacher respectively. My daughter-in-laws are named Riszhan, Razia, Maira, Orinkul and Tokzhan. My son-in-laws are named Nurlan and Askar.

G. Musirepov once wrote: “Our old grandmother has practice. Our father is yesterday and today. Our child is today and tomorrow, but our grandson is our stock.” Thanks be to God that I have stock. I have 16 grandsons. They are my future.

I am happy for two reasons. First, I have God’s help. Second, I have my labor. I pray twice a day, when I wake in the morning and when I go to bed. I cannot sleep without praying first. I am indebted to God. I know that all success in life is given by God.  If I am afraid or worried God will comfort me. But only to wish for God’s gift of success is not enough. You must also work to make that wish of success a reality.

You might think that I have no grief in my life. Don’t. I have many problems. Now, my children’s and grandchildren’s problems are mine as well. I help them as I can. In anything, be it large or small, I trust in God first, and then I trust in myself.”

Chapter Two

“Who knows in which difficult way the bread will come? Who understands it? What person can predict all the problems and difficulties?”

Nargali Aga, how did you start your work, and when?

In 1942 my father went to fight in the Army. My mother was sick. I was ten years old and it was up to me to earn our living. Our family knew only one way to work, fishing. There is a proverb. “What you see in your family as a child, you will do as an adult.” We knew how to catch fish, and we were better at it than most. I used my father’s equipment and started to live freely, in my way. I had been told that fishing was difficult but I didn’t understand until I tried myself. Then, our nets were made of wool. Now we have nets made of Kapron. If you don’t dry wool nets out right away them will be ruined. Day by day we learned everything. We ate fish everyday. If we made some money we gave it to the government.

In the autumn of 1942, an old fisherman named Manau Nurpisov was injured in the war and came home. He started to fish. He wanted to make a brigade and I joined. I fished for the brigade all winter. I was strong and healthy when I was young so Elder Brother Manau always asked me to make the ‘Uki’ (a hole in the ice for fishing). Its hard work but I did it.

In the autumn of 1943 some men formed a fishing brigade in the Ushimshar. The first brigadier was Kuandic Eshniazov. The next summer they sent me there. It was a good season. We caught enough fish and the money was good. In autumn, Kuandic Aga became ill. He had to go to Ushimshar. It was up to me to bring him there. We took a slow boat and went. We sailed all night and arrived in the morning. It was a warm day and the wind blew slowly. In Ushimshar Kuandic Aga revived and thanked me. I was relieved.

In Ushimshar we stopped catching fish by net for the winter. My brigade sent me to Esirkep Aldanzharov’s brigade. They said that I had experience now and I could do all that was needed. The winter was very cold. Some fishermen did not wear warm clothes and their face and hands suffered frost bite.

In early March we started fishing in Kenzhingil. One day we were out on the ice and the wind blew fiercely and a large ice sheet broke off from the main sheet. We were standing on the sheet which had broken off with all our equipment and our horse. We all moved slowly and carefully. Luckily the sheet was moving toward the shore and we were able to get to safety. If the sheet had moved out to sea we would have been lost. When men are caught in a break up like this they rarely live. We were very lucky. People came from Ushimshar and brought us home. Our parents gave us seven pieces of ‘baursak’ bread, as is the custom, and thanked God for returning us safely. Acenzhe Zharasov and Kermecesh Kemalov are alive today and witnesses of that event. Whenever we meet we always discuss it. Those types of accidents happened often. Sometimes an airplane would come to rescue but many men have died that way.

During World War Two my friends and I were 9 years old. We lost our childhood. The fishermen went to war but the fishing didn’t stop at all because young children and women, and old men came to work. The people in Ushimshar said “If we want victory we must catch fish.” Our head brigadier said that each one of our fish will kill one of the enemies. During the war the fishermen of Aral sent a half million fish to the front.

The fishermen did not only catch fish for the soldiers but also gathered clothes, vegetables and money. Women caught fish in the afternoon and sewed dresses and trousers at night. In 1942 Aralsk gave 349 coats, 5 tons of wool, 3 thousand sheep’s skins, 610 boots, 1500 gloves, and 1120 warm trousers to the war effort.

At the beginning of 1942 the government started a donation lease program. Every autumn every worker lent a donation from their wages toward the war effort. The people of the Aral region donated a lot of money. They donated 128,828 tenge to build a tank and 14,845 tenge to build a plane. The Red Army thanked the Aral fishermen in an official letter and promised to return with victory.

At the end of the war about 7000 people from the Aral region were rewarded with medals. One of them was a 14 year old boy named Nargali Demeuov. I have received many medals in my life but this one is special. During the Second World War, in 1942 I began fishing and this is why I received a medal. I thank God for making my dreams come true. 

Chapter Three

“People can’t do everything. If we do our work well, that’s enough. We must enjoy our work, it’s our purpose.”  - Al-Farabi

Nargali Aga, there are three words in the beginning of your book. “Fisher, motorist, fisher” What do they mean?

Before the War the government gave 19 Kawasaki engines to the Aral region. It is a Japanese motor and the first ones were made for wooden boats. Our engine has 25 horse powers; it is very valuable to our little wooden boat.

Before the motor we did everything by hand. In summer our car was the sail boat. In winter our car was a horse or camel. If we had to go 30 or 40 kilometers in the boat it was either sailed if the wind was right or rowed with our hands. We named our motor boat ‘Marinka’.

In spring we couldn’t fish from Kulandi village. At Isendi there were Shumeike fish and at Aizharim Tasi there was wild carp and others. Also in autumn at Safuan there were white fish. We couldn’t catch any of these because we didn’t have the equipment.

With Marinka we were freer. We could go to any place to fish. We could join other men if there was a lot of work to do or we could go off by ourselves if the catch was scarce. When the War ended, our manager told me ‘Marinka needs a motorist. You have a future! In time you will be a mechanic. Then after that you can be captain. You’ll be master of Marinka. How do you like that?’

I agreed at once. I never dreamed I’d become a mechanic. Marinka’s crew was three men. Captain Rakh, First mechanic Kuatov Abdikarim and I was second mechanic. The work of a mechanic is hard. It was my duty to keep the machines, deck and cabin in good shape. When the captain went to bed, I was to stay at the helm. If we lost or broke something, I had to find and fix it. A mechanic’s work doesn’t stop when the boats go in for the year. At Bogen village there was a winter boat depot. I had to keep the boat free of ice and I had to stay in the boat day and night so no one would steal it.

The workers of the boat depot would come everyday to check on us and there was a competition for the best kept boat. At that time Tileules Zhapasbaev was the director of the boat depot. He and I always had a mutual respect for one another. In order to be a mechanic you must be strong and you must have a lot of knowledge. But to tell the truth, when I was a mechanic I never paid attention to mechanic’s work.     

Chapter Four

‘A dishonorable man has only his laugh instead of honor.

A man without livestock has only one sheep instead of cattle’ - Kazak Proverb

Nargali Aga, you have already told us how you decided to be and then became a fisherman. Could you tell us all the secrets and details, difficulties and easy things of this work?

I would like to answer this question with the following rhyme of the great Kazak Poet Abai:

‘Learn the purpose of arable framing

and nuances of trade

And then look for livestock.’

Every business has its mystery and details, and each demands a certain relationship between the person and the practice. Only one who loves his business from the bottom of his heart possesses all the secrets, mysteries and details of a business. This does not happen quickly, but step by step, as in the proverb “You become a leader after seeing much, and you become a speaker after speaking much.” You get experience after you see many things and after you pass everything through the strength of your hands and through your mind. And you are lucky if you find a master ready to help with his advice. Someone who Abai describes as ‘the one who is not tired of learning’. Thank God, I was not deprived of such a master.

Up to now I have learned much from Aiganim Piraliyeva the wife of the Late Moldabek Zhakypov. People ask me many times: ‘how do you catch so much more fish than the others? What is the secret? Your question is similar to theirs. So I think it is better to tell some examples of what happened to me. The best season for catching fish is spring. Therefore this season is called the ‘fisherman’s golden time’. In spring the fish come to the shallow water along the coast. At this time one can use nets from size 25 to size 45, narrow or wide. At dawn I used to go as far as I could to lay different size nets and check them often. It was my investigation. I learned what fish were caught in which net. So I gave this net all my strength.

And when the number of fish there was decreasing I used to find another place and catch fish by filtering. So you must catch fish by following and investigating them. You can not succeed if you just spread nets in water, you will rarely see fish. It is a waste of your time to lie nets only nearby and say that you are fully satisfied with the amount you have caught. Fish do not follow you, you follow them. Spring is the season of fish. And this season has long days indeed, but they pass by easily. Therefore, the fisherman who uses them efficiently succeeds. The lazy one gets less fish.

In the summer, when even stones are hot, it becomes more difficult to catch fish. The water is too warm. The fish migrate to deeper water where it is cooler. They swim in the open sea. They swim little and rest much, and accumulate fat for winter. From August on, the fish begin to convert their fat into spawn. At this time carp, pike and perch approach the shore again. Not every shore, like the spring season, but the shores unprotected from wind. They prefer shores with limestone beds, rough, concave and convex shores.

You should follow the direction of the wind and the behavior of weather, and spread nets in places where the wind is expected. Almost every fisherman comes home with many “rewards” from such a trip. We are fishermen born on the western shore of the sea. And we used to catch less than the fishermen on the southern shore. They do not only fish on the sea. They fish also on the Amu Darya river and on several lakes. When we received “Marinka” we could fish on the southern part of the sea, on the river and lakes.

In fall you should fish in places where the river flows into the sea, on lakes and in shallow water. And you should have various kinds of nets and the necessary equipment with you. Autumn is a very changeable, unstable season. Fish show a changeable character at this time as well. If the weather is warm they immediately some closer to the shore. If the weather is cold they migrate to the deep sea bed. The fish that were in the river the whole summer move, in autumn, to the sea. And vice versa, the fish that were in the sea move to the river. So where the river flows into the sea is like a fish market! Thus any fisherman who sets nets on shallow or deep water on river or lake succeeds in his business. It’s much better if you work together in groups. If you fish on shallow and deep water, on lake and on river with nets and seines then you will see the reward for you hard work.

Let me continue telling what I have seen and experienced. It turns out that there is no living thing better that fish to forecast the weather. As pike and perch come to the shore the weather becomes warmer. And if there is no pike or perch in the nets it means they have gone to deep water, so you should expect cool weather. According to this property of pike and perch, I used to catch them by following them in autumn to the deep water, and to shallow water come spring.

Carp is a slow moving tolerant fish that rests a lot. It prefers lying on clay sea beds. You can not succeed even if you find a clay flat and fish here because carp lay completely still. As if they do it by design! And what to do then? In this case I used to surround the whole area, dropping three rows of nets. Then I used to bang heavy sticks standing in the middle of the shallow sea bed. The fish rush in different directions away from the noise. So they found themselves in nets. The reason why I dropped triple nets is because of the carp’s character, though it is said to be a slow moving fish it attempts to escape under the nets if it finds a free space. I remember seeing some carp even jump over the net. Thus any carp that succeeded past the first two nets by these methods will be caught by the third net. So we used to fish in the whole area. You can catch almost nothing with a single net row.

Fishermen call the time when the weather becomes warm and the sea ice melts ‘Abirzhi’. This time comes just before the winter season as the water starts to freeze over for the first time. During Abirzhi there is stormy weather and the water is always choppy. At this time all the fish come closer to the shore. After the ice formation is complete and the sea calms down the fish migrate again to the deeper waters. So I used to prepare all my nets, equipment, a horse as my transport, my sledge and other tools, and after such a day I used to set my nets on the area that I thought was rich with fish. We called this time ‘blue ice season’ It is very easy to break the newly formed ice. The fish, after the frightening behavior of the sea, wander in the middle depths and find themselves in the nets. In only two weeks at the sea you harvest a lot of fish. Then all the fish go deeper.

In winter fish rest much more than they swim. The sea bottom is also not a smooth plane like the land is. There are many variations: cracks, deep holes, places covered with algae and seaweed and so forth. The fish find such places and spend the winter this way. In summer I used to search out such places. I used to set nets along elevations and when there was a deep hole I used to drop nets around it. If you neglect these details when you fish and set the nets without an order, I am sorry, you will catch no fish. Because when you drop the net on elevations incorrectly there are free spaces between the ground and net. The fish pass through this space. So in summer I used to investigate these places with full attention.

There is one more thing to keep in mind. On the sea bottom, after stormy weather and ice formation when the sea becomes warmer there appear a lot of cracks in the sea bed. It becomes more difficult to catch fish. It is also more difficult to set the nets. So before dropping nets, you should learn if the bottom is full of cracks or not. If it is you should dig rather deep holes in several places. Otherwise your work is in vain.

I used to check every season the presence or absence of fish and the strength of the currents. I used to prepare the necessary nets. If the current was strong I used to prepare large floats. Tying them closer to each other. The same I used to do also with the stones. At the distance of about two or three “Kulash”, the distance between the finger tips of a man’s out stretched hands. By the way I should mention the professionalism of Danish fishermen in producing fishing tools. In this country they produce nets with vertically placed bents. There is a close relation between tool producers and fishermen. The factories produce tools and equipment after considering them in detail with the fishermen. Our situation is quite different. We make the necessary nets ourselves with much trouble.

In fact any net should be dropped just after you have placed the bents. On places without current I used to tie light floats at a distance of about one and a half Kulash, and set up vertical bents every three Kulash. I used to always do this. You should shorten the nets by a quarter of its height. For instance if the net is three meters, you should make its height 2m 25cm. Why? First of all any straight dropped net is easily washed away by the current. Second, any net without vertical bents hangs tight in the water. No fish gets caught with such nets. The fish rushes away when it touches the net. Nets with vertical bents are dispersed freely. Therefore fish entangle themselves in the nets easily and quickly. Ordinary nets are easily covered with algae, seaweed and waste. It is very difficult to clean them. And nets with vertical bents are easy to clean. If you take off the bent from one side all the trash falls off all at once.

In soviet times we had three sizes of nets: 20,30 and 45. These numbers show the average number of fish that can be caught by each size. In summer time we used to use nets of size 30 on the sea, and size 20 on the lakes, because it was easy to take the nets out of the water often for cleaning. In winter I used to drop nets of size 45 because in winter there is no need to change the nets often. Moreover there is not much algae. I think that all I have told you is quite enough to understand all the nuances and secrets of fishery and to make any conclusions. After hearing such tales it is not difficult to envision restless days, disturbed nights and bitter sweats of sixty years long, a fisherman’s experience. Add to this the fact that I have never been on vacation in my life, that I have never rested in resorts, and that I have never been on sick leave filling in the blanks of a lot of papers.

Aral fishermen have got experience in fishing through all seasons. Especially in sailboat fishing. After the sea had shrunk, causing a decrease in the number of fish, the method of sailboat fishing became widespread. They used to fish in all the lakes of the country. I personally have been on lakes ‘Irgiz’ and on ‘Belikol’ in Zhambul Oblast.

Let me tell you briefly how I fished on ‘Belikol’. Here it turned out that fishermen could fish and consume, but could not process the fish and keep it. The whole process was not well organized. We used to take the fish to a reception site which was 100 km away from the lake. We used to salt the fish ourselves. There was no refrigerator to keep fish. There was some ice in one station near us, but they didn’t want to give it to us. Then the first secretary of Zhambul Oblast party committee, Hasan Bekturganov, ordered to supply Aral fishermen with sufficient amounts of ice, free of charge. At that time in two months we caught approximately three thousand quintals (one hundred kilograms) of fish.

I prepared myself professionally to fish on the ‘Irgiz’ lakes system in Aktobe oblast. I used to move there twice a year in spring and fall with my brigade and we used to come back with many rewards. There, such directors as Mr. Hamit Musayevitch Musagaliyev, Muhangali Turmagambetov and Kudaibergen Sarzhanov were very helpful. They made all the conditions for our successful work. They invented ways to receive fish immediately after catching, without harming its quality and to pay the fishermen in cash at once. The directors of the regional culture center (Kudaibegen Zhasekenov), and regional consumer services department (Arip Oksikbayev) used to have close relations with us, regularly offering cultural services to the fishermen. When the Aktobe fish plant was established fish reception and fish processing was developed as well. About one hundred new jobs were created.

If the fishery of the Aral region is put on the right track, we can fish as well as on the ‘Irgiz’ lakes system. In any business, an individual can achieve his happiness, if he avoids laziness, is not bored of his business, and if he loves his work with his heart. So I, looking for my happiness, used to sail the sea. I worked on all the lakes and rivers of Aktobe and Zhambul Oblasts. As the famous master K.D. Ushinsky said; “Only deliberate, hard work brings happiness.” I achieved my happiness owing to my honest work.        

Chapter Five

“Knowledge and science are the supports of life,

friends on the road,

comrades in loneliness,

sources of gladness in misfortune,

tools for labor,

and a struggle against evil.” 

- The Koran

Science, Technology and the fishery

Fishing is hard work, your hands are wet and your forehead is full of sweat. Scientists have attempted to make the work easier. As a result, many new inventions have been incorporated in the fishery. What is your opinion about this?

I have seen and practiced fishing and fish processing done completely by hand, and I have seen and worked in some places where 90% of the process is mechanized. At the beginning of this conversation I told you about ‘Marinka’. That, in 1942, was the first introduction of new scientific and technical inventions in fishing. The second innovation was the introduction of synthetic fiber nets to the Aral fishermen after 1955. These two innovations made our work easier. It was a load off our mind.

From the early 1960’s the whole fishery was mechanized step by step. We received 10-13 hp motor boats instead of the light, wooden boats we had already. The new boats were faster and made of fiberglass. When we received the light and fast sail boats with greater freight capacity it was like a present for the fishermen sent from the sky to earth. The first model of such a boat produced by the Eisk plant was tested on the Aral Sea and then improved. Therefore it was given the nickname ‘Aralka’. Our fishermen were supplied with 170 such boats that had been developed in our fish factory.

You can not sail and fish far from the shore on any kind of boat. This was our main problem until the 1960’s. The managers of the factory were continually researching. We studied the fishing practices of other countries on the open sea. As in the proverb, “The one who seeks, finds, the one who attempts, wins.”, we solved this problem as well. By special order we received six RB-160 and RB-150 boats. Our crews and fishermen were specially trained and they began fishing on the open sea.

The leaders of the trial were the crew of Tolegen Alimbetov on their Rb-160 Leningrad. Alimbetov’s work became known throughout the country. For his heroism and hard work he was awarded the title ‘Hero of Socialist Labor’. Tools to break through the ice and mechanical windlasses were developed in the industry as well. At the beginning of the 1960’s, the mechanization of the fishing process on the Aral Sea was about 5-10%. By 1985 this percentage rose to 89%.

Mechanization also occurred throughout the fish processing industry. A fish refrigerator barge was created, that barge used to sail to the fishing sites, accept, process and store the fish. Its capacity was about 850 quintals of fish a day. It could freeze and store approximately 12,500 quintals of fish. First in Kazakhstan and later in the USSR automated storage facilities for smoked fish were built. Its capacity was 10 tons per day.

Before the fish used to be delivered to the consumer only frozen. In winter it used to be frozen in the snow. Now they began producing hot and cold smoked fish, fresh and frozen fish and spawn. Before this mechanization 90% of all the fish sold were salted. Immediately after the change the percent decreased by 1%. The smoked pike and perch of Aral were awarded the ‘Mark of Quality’ by the USSR Council of Quality Control Committees and Ministries. 97% of fish from Aral were awarded this first class.

At that time many masters of fish processing became the proud members of the working team. They are: Kim Bun Ok, S. Yesdauletova, T. Koshmaganbetov, Kymbat Zhumabayeva and many others. Their work practice and experience influenced fishermen all over the Oblast. The captain and fishermen that ran the fish processing barge, Ushtap Oteulieva, returned to manage her old fishing brigade. She was an example productive and qualitative labor and of the qualitative fishing process. She was awarded with the title ‘Socialist Labor Hero’. Ushtap Oteulieva is the only woman in the Aral region that has been awarded with such a title.

Shipping, delivery and transportation were all mechanized. Fork-lift trucks, electric fork-lifts, auto cranes, portable cranes, conveyors and refrigerator trucks were developed for the industry. All these inventions made the labor of ordinary fishermen like us easier. Hand tools were replaced. We did not waste time looking for clients as before. Vice versa, they began searching us out and buying fish directly from the fishing sites. Now there were radio sets on the ships. We could listen wherever we were. We used to be current with all the events in the world. If we were tired, we used to sing songs. It was wonderful.

As a result of innovations the productivity of Aral fishermen in 1964 was 2.6 times that of 1940. But the work is only half of it. Labor organizing by means of science, production, culture and esthetics in the fishery improved many things.

By the way, I should honor the professional labor of Hamit Musaulu Musagaliev, who managed the fish processing factory for 15 years. Anatoliy Ivanovitch Chalenko worked as the main engineer. These men and many other technical engineers were the main source of all these years of hard work.eroHeH

Chapter 6

If you work for your nation she will love you,

for you walk over fire and water.

When you die, the nation will not forget.

It will be written in her history for centuries.

Sultanmakmud Toriaigirov

The better among Hundreds,

The best horse among thousands

Nargali Aga, I see your chest is covered with orders and medals; your wall is covered with trophies and certificates. Please tell us the story of these awards.

A person who works hard earns his rewards. Each order and medal has it’s time, it’s reason and it’s story. If I tell the story of these medals I am telling you my story. If I tell you my story I am telling you the story of the Aral fishermen. My history is theirs. The writer Gabit Musirepov wrote ‘It is time to make history and time to write history. When the creator acts men cannot change it’ History is finished and I will tell it. I will remember Gabit’s words and I will not paint advantages and disadvantages. I will try to tell how it was.

When I was fourteen I received a medal for heroic labors during the Second World War. This medal was my first and is special to me. During the Soviet Union a series of planned economics programs were set in place. Each fisherman, brigade and organization was given an annual work plan. It was divided into three month segments. Everyone signed a contract promising that they would achieve the goals of the work plan. It was your social obligation. Included in the work plan was a work competition to encourage the workers to produce more. It played a great role in the life of a worker. Every three months and at the end of the year a worker’s progress and production were counted. The best and worst workers were broadcast over the radio and in the newspapers. The best were awarded and the worst were criticized. In addition work competitions were planned for other events like the anniversary of the October revolution, the founding of the USSR, Lenin’s birthday and the Communist party forum. These work competitions were of the highest importance. We worked to achieve ‘the best two months of work’, ‘the best fifty days’, and ‘the best one hundred days of work’. The Communist party, the Komsomol and the organizational committees of the region decided the results of these competitions.

Nowadays, we hear that ‘everything was just words and had no sense.’ That is the viewpoint of a person who knows nothing! These campaigns were a mechanism for realizing the social plans of the government. They stimulated us to work better and quicker. They gave us a direction to follow and a reason to strive harder. Every worker wanted to achieve his best and win the respect of his fellows.

In the seventy-fifth year of the USSR, 1961, there was a social work competition for the ‘Award of Communist labor’. I participated and was among the first workers. Three years later, in 1963 before the Great October Revolution anniversary, I completed my work obligations and was given the Award of Communistic Labour. I also received the Red Flag of Labour in that same year. This orden was given to me at a big meeting where the leader of the Aralsk Advice Committee, Zhabak Berdenov, leader of the Aralsk Governmental Fish Enterprise, Khamit Musauly Musagaliev, leader of the Regional Food Industry, Moldaiman Eleyov and leaders of the Avan Fish Processing Plant were all present. They all came specifically to give me this award. After the ceremony Zhabak Bardenov said: “Dear Nargali Demeuov, this orden is given to you as you deserve. If you now receive this medal and begin to relax and take time off work you and our government will be ashamed. But we know you will not do this for you are not this kind of man. This award will encourage you to work even more!” He shook my hand and I felt as if I was the top student of my class in school. I still remember the words of Zhabak aga.

On April twenty-second, 1970 the 100th birthday of the leader of the Great October Revolution, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was celebrated. With this anniversary a USSR-wide work competition began. Everyone considered it his duty to participate and to meet the anniversary with his best work. I resolved to break the work record of the eighth five-year-plan (1966-1970). I made my report when I was done and for that work I received the Red Flag of Labour of a second time and I received a medal for work on behalf of the 100th birthday of V.I. Lenin.

he ninth five-year-plan (1971 – 1975) was very successful both because of the desire of the workers and just plain luck. Work competitions were organized on behalf of the 50th anniversary of the Great October Revolution, the 50th anniversary of the USSR and the KSSR (Kazak Soviet Socialist Republic). People from all walks of life participated and I was one of the best there.

I finished the work for the ninth five-year-plan in three and a half years. During the remaining year and a half I accomplished three years worth of work. I finished the work of eight years in five. For this, on October tenth, 1975, I was given the medal of ‘Great Worker in the Republic of Kazakstan’. I was also given the Red Flag of Labour for the third time.

When I look at my awards and certificates I remember Zhabak aga’s words. They make me achieve more and work harder. I am indebted to the Government and the Communist Party, and to my nation. I try to achieve my aims but I find that it is more difficult to prove, through work, that I deserve to keep these medals than to win the awards in the first place.

Years were passing. The tenth five-year-plan (1976-1980) came with its historical meaning. I worked for the 60th anniversary of the Great October Revolution in 1977. During the remaining three years of the five-year-plan I achieved five years of work. For this effort I was given the ‘Governmental Award of Larueat of the Kazakhstan Republic. I was the three hundredth person in the history of Kazakhstan to be given this award. Another man in the region also received this award. A farmer named Kuanish Berdimaganbetov, who worked for the Zhinishkekum farming cooperative. The cooperative was mentioned in the regional committee’s journal ‘Labour Flash’.

Now my friends and family joked and said ‘All these ordens and medals will make you too important. Why don’t you give another person a chance to win?’ Of course each joke had it’s meaning inside. My friends and family were happy for me but I always felt a bit shy about my achievements. It seemed to me that if I did not work hard it would bring shame to me. That is why I worked day and night.

The eleventh five-year-program (1981 – 1985) was the last. During this five-year plan a ‘food program’ was started. In addition there was the 60th anniversary of the USSR and the preparation for the 70th anniversary of the Great October Revolution. Another work competition was started. Those who won received larger rewards. The radio and papers published daily results. ‘Who is first?’, ‘Who is last?’, ‘industry competitions’, the winners were praised and the failures were criticized.

So, we tried and did our best and we succeeded. In 1982 my name was written in the Regional Honor Book. Because of my five-year-plan work results I received Lenin’s Orden. The highest award in the Soviet Union was Lenin’s orden. It was given only to ‘the better man among hundreds and the best among thousands’. I also received the Paper of Respect and the Diploma of Respect as well.

Nargali Aga, everyone knows you as a hard worker but you were also an active society member. What can you tell us about that?

People say that when a bad person wants to tell the truth about himself he will open his heart, He will tell the best AND the worst. To tell the truth, I had no education. After I finished second grade there was the war. Then I gave up studying and caught fish both in winter and summer time. If it were not for Mendibai Nugaliev, the school director, I would still have a second grade education. After the war began, the school director knew that I had stopped going to school. He came to the fishery and argued with me to continue studying. I educated me up to the fifth grade. I studied and caught fish at the same time and then graduated from the 7-year Sarbasat school.

After than I stopped studying. But from school I knew right from wrong and began to learn on my own. During the Soviet Union times everything could be done and a person who studied had a lot of possibilities. Books, Newspapers and Magazines were widely distributed and many people read.

Some people worked to succeed in society from birth. They were always looking for possibilities and they found how to work with society themselves.  But some people do their jobs and fulfill their obligations because they are asked to do it by society. I belong to the second group. I tried to create enterprise, I tried to participate in the party, komsomol and organizations but it was not for me. I am not a good initiator but I am a good doer.

My teacher in society was Mendibai Nurggaliev. He tought me and introduced me to the Party members. And he directed me to do the party’s work. During that time there was a plan to create a committee to improve society. The Regional Party Committee asked Mendibai Nurgaliev to do this job. He was the leader of the executive committee. We all worked for free but we worked just as hard as the salaried workers. We simply appreciated our job and the importance of our work. This committee did a lot in the village of Akespe and the built a school, a Red Cross center, library and a medical center.

Before the 1950’s the Aral fishermen’s economical level was very low. The most successful fisherman had a two room house of straw and sand. It was a very low building with small windows. The leader of the party Committee M. Suzhikov visited the fishery sites and saw the fishermen’s way of life. He said that “Fishermen produce the largest amount of product and have the lowest standard of living. “ He promised that the regional committee would work to fix this injustice.

He kept to his words. Immediately the fishermen’s salary increased by 30%. The fishing combinat was given building materials and each fisherman was given the opportunity to build a house like in the center of Aralsk. After that schools, clubs, libraries, bath-houses, medical centers and hospitals were built in the villages. The face of the Aral Sea fishery had changed.

It is said: “Tell the kind sides of kindness and there will be more light.” M. Suzhikov is a person about whom people say ‘the Nation remembers a good person.’ He is an example that this nation has not forgotten.

In the beginning of 1966 the regional party committee elected nine delegates to participate in the Kazakhstan People’s Soviet Society twenty-first meeting. I was one of the nine. This was a once in a lifetime chance. The meeting was in the Kremlin in Moscow. It was an opportunity to see the KPSS leaders and listen to them. This was a great gift from Allah. The region and all the fishermen were very glad for me. Everyone congratulated me and sent telegrams with good wishes.

Among the delegation members was the leader of the Regional Party Committee B. Iksanov, leader of the regional executive committee A Askarov, the rice specialist I Zhakaev, leader of the local party committee K. Kazantaev and others. I was the youngest. I was an assistant to I. Zhakaev. He had won the Socialist Labour Award twice. Just to be near such a famous person, to taste food together, to assist him, to pour water onto his hands before a meal, to receive good wishes from him, these were a present from Allah. The KPSS determined their foreign and domestic policies at that meeting. They decided to help the developing industries during the eight five-year-plans. On the return trip we were net on the border of Kyzylorda oblast at Saksaulsk by the leader of the Aralsk Region Takei Esetov. I was assigned to assist Shingis Aibosinov and we reviewed the entire region of Aralsk. We visited villages and schools and shared our thoughts on the meeting in Moscow. We explained the meeting’s decisions. An interview with me was published in the newspapers and played on the radio.

In 1967 I was elected as a depute from the Aralsk Region to the High Committee of the Kazak Soviet Socialist Republic. Takei Esetov was the other depute. We met with voters and tried to answer their questions. We reported to the High Committee.

I had three tasks from the voters: To ask for assistance to open a school in Bekbaul village, to build a bath house in Bugun and to give animals to farmers who do not have them. I did these tasks and people were glad. I was elected several times as depute for the Regional Party Committee, as a member of the local party committee, and as a representative of the local and regional advisors’ committee. From the sixties to the collapse of the Soviet Union I was a member of the Plant Party Committee, a deputy of the local advisor’s committee and a member of the local executive committee.

In the middle of the seventies the ecological situation in the Aralsk region began to change. The river shrank, the sea level decreased and the lakes became smaller. The amount of fish caught decreased as well. The fish receiving stations began to close and so did the Avan fish factory.

Three villages provided fish for this factory; Akbasty, Kulandy and Akespe. The plant closed the fishing sites became smaller and the fishermen started to find work in other places, like a nearby horse farm in Kulandy. People began to move out of Akespe and Akbasty villages.

The people told the government about the problem. The government said move but the people would not. Many discussions were held. I was elected by the people as a member of the local party committee and was given the responsibility to tell the story of the region to the government. The people said that they would not move from their native place. They were born there and they would die there. A local department head tried to persuade me to give up but I briefly told him ‘I was born a fisherman and I will die a fisherman.’

After many arguments the government finally satisfied the demands of the people. A horse farm was opened in Akbasty. Work places were created and life went on. If this had not happened Akbasty and Akespe would no longer exist, only sand and desert. It happened in Uyaly, Koszhetpes and Kaskakulan fishing villages. God saved us from that.

Nargali stopped. The two of us kept silent a long time. Then he looked up and said.

You wanted to ask me who helped me win all these medal and ordens. “If one person says something nobody will hear him, if one person walks there will be no dust from his feet.” One person can do nothing by himself. I was supported first of all by Allah. My friends and family also supported me. I am very thankful for them. They are; Zhubanishev Zhaksylykbai, Sathanov Zholatai, Isa Zhumabaev, Mynbaev Nuradin, Zhubanishev Konakbai, Demeuov Zhenis, Orasgaliev Sain, Zhubanishev Egizek, Usenov Tasbolat, Zhakenov Bekbolat, Kurmangaziev Eltai, etc. People who worked in the department of regional and local fishing industries also did a lot for me.

I want to mention one person, Takai Esetov. Inspite of the fact that he was the leader of the local committee for fifteen years and leader of the regional for six, he was a very modest and ordinary person. He saw the fishermen as his younger brothers. He always greeted me very warmly. When I spoke to him I felt encouraged. I worked hard because of him. I think that his attitude was also warm toward all the fishermen of the Aral Sea. I share all my awards with them. My power is my nation.

Now time has changed. It’s a new time. Five year plans, social work competitions and obligations are history. “The world is brilliant because of labor. Only with labor and for labor is life worth living.” Now we must labor for our independence.

At the end of the twentieth century I was again given an award. ‘A Respected Citizen of the Aralsk Region’ On the 10th anniversary of the Republic of Kazakstan I was given a letter of thanks from the president of Kazakhstan. So I again am in debt to my country. I do my best to pay my debt by making this country more independent and free. I want to finish this chapter with the words of Gabiden Mustafin. “To be a citizen is an advantage but carry it carefully.” We were all named citizens of Kazakhstan and with God’s help I will try to carry it.

Chapter Seven

Nargali Aga, what can you say about flounder?

As say our ancestors “the more we walk, the more we see.” The issue of whether to bring flounder to the Aral Sea was very controversial. By this time the sea was much saltier. Day by day the number of fish decreased. Zaualchan Ermakanov, the director of the Aral laboratory of KazNIR (Kazakstan Ictheology Research Institute), and fish specialists had been monitoring the change of the Aral Sea. In 1979 many people demanded something be done about this problem and the strategy of ‘Flounder Gloss’ in the Black Sea was being discussed in the government. Finally the government decided to try the same tactic in the Aral Sea. By the middle of the 1980’s the salt content of the sea water in the Aral had doubled several times. The fish were born but could not mature and the fishery became a catastrophe. But over time the flounder began to grow and flourish quite well, in spite of the salinity of the water. In 1987 KazNIR’s research proved that the North Aral’s flounder population could safely yield 18 tons of fish per year. KazNIR requested permission of the government for Aral fishermen to catch flounder commercially.

At first the fishermen preferred to catch fish from Balkash, Irgiz and Atirau lakes. For four years KazNIRCH researched the best way to catch the flounder. In 1991, when the fishermen started to fish for flounder, they caught 50 tons of fish. In 1992 it increased to 150 tons and in 1993, 60 tons were caught. After 1993 the flounder fishery was stopped. The sea needed time to rest. But now the fishermen new how to catch and process the flounder. In my village of Akespe, on the north Aral, there are no lakes. We fished only from the sea. At the beginning of 1990 there was no fish to be caught in the Aral Sea except flounder. We had to stop the fishery in Akbasti and Kulandi because the flounder population was becoming too low. The fishermen found other work. In Zhambul, the fishermen began to use the ‘removal catching’ method in the lakes of Akshatau and Kamistibas. They adapted to this work but there was only so much. Many former fishermen had no possibility for a job. As they say, ‘the dead fish ate the live ones’ and it was only with the help of God that we continued our work.

We tasted flounder boiled, fried and salted. The fishermen understood that flounder was just as good for eating as the more traditional species of fish from the Aral region. But other people did not know this and it was difficult for us to sell the flounder. The workers told us that they did not buy the fish because they were too expensive. So we sold flounder wholesale. In the winter we froze them and took them by car to the workers. God smiled on us again and we were successful. We could live as normal people. We had to run, walk and fight and because of this we have come to this day.

KazNIRCH helped spread the knowledge of flounder in the community by researching how other countries use the fish. For example. The roe of the flounder is very valuable in the world market. 1 kilogram costs 100-150 tenge in Astana and Almaty. A fillet of flounder is good for export to Great Britain, Germany, Sweden and Italy. If we do not catch the flounder that is swimming around under our nose it would not be wise. But God saved us from that mistake. One day the Danish came to the Aral Sea.

Chapter Eight

From Kattegat to the Aral

Nargali Aga, would you please tell us about the international Kazak-Danish project “From Kattegat to the Aral Sea”, about its role in the history of the Aral fishery and its profit to fishermen and to the people of the region?

I was expecting this question. I am sorry, but I cannot tell you this briefly. It is a very complex matter. So let me try to tell you in full. I would like first to tell you a bit about Denmark. It is a very old country situated on the North European Jutland peninsula. The total area is about 43000 square kilometers.     

Which is about two-thirds (2/3) of the Aral Sea's original area. The population is over 5 million people. The population density is 118 inhabitants per 1 square km, the highest in Northern Europe. It is a multi-branched state with developed culture and advanced economy. Especially an advanced fishery. Approximately 2.5 million tons of fish are caught, processed, sold and used by the people, every year. Among them flounder and herring dominate. In lakes and rivers they breed trout, fishing has become a major branch of the economy.

Frozen fillet, fish oil, fish meal and canned fish are much in demand. They are purchased by the competitor countries of Europe, especially Great Britian, Germany, Sweden and Italy. The country makes a large profit from this. Nowadays we try to listen and read about Denmark from the mass media. Recently they broadcasted this news:

At the end of the twentieth century UN experts conducted research on bribery and corruption world wide. They evaluated the character of this unpleasant phenomenon in every country on a scale of one to ten. They found that three countries were almost completely free from bribery and corruption. Finland took first place, Denmark second and New Zealand took third with 9.9, 9.5 and 9.4 points respectively.

One more interesting thing, According to research down by professor Richard Schtekel, of Ohio State University, the better quality of life a person has, especially concerning living conditions and food, the taller the person and the better his health is. So the Hollanders with an average height of 179 cm are said to be in the first place. The Danish, Norwegian and Swedish are tied for second place at 178 cm.    

All these figures prove the high level of a spiritual and morally conscious culture. We can not under estimate the undertaking of Danish citizens, living on the opposite side of the earth from us and attempting to be helpful to the fishermen of the Aral Sea region, who suffer from ecological disaster. They do the best for the benefit of our fishermen, they are showing real charity. A Danish Scientist was also among those who helped our country to restore the ancient manuscripts of ‘Kultegin’. We should be thankful to our Great Allah, who sent to us such good people.

And now let us talk about the International Kazak-Danish fishery project “From Kattegat to the Aral Sea”. In 1991 some Danish fishermen came to Aral. During the visit they personally witnessed the situation. They learned that though there was flounder in the sea, the fishermen had no finances, tools, equipment to fish or process fish in order to work for their own benefit. So they decided to help and support their Aral colleagues. So this merciful undertaking was born. And the proverb popular among our ancestors that says: “A Fisherman sees another fisherman from afar.” was realized in life.

After their return to Denmark these people introduced their idea to the staff of a fisherman’s ecological community “Fiskerikollektiv 1978” for consideration. In discussion they found that before them, delegations from 95 countries had visited Aral. Sixteen official foundations in different places were established to help the Aral Sea area. But as in the popular proverb of our ancestors, “An Empty spoon cuts into the mouth.” there was no benefit or profit to the Aral Sea’s fishermen. So the Aral fishermen were tired of such empty promises and dry words. They expected not words but actions.

The problem was introduced for discussion by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Denmark, to the Social Support Foundation. Before providing assistance, it was necessary to research the current state of the Aral Sea, the living conditions and opportunities for the fishermen and to find out when such aid was necessary. The Danish “Solverhsfonden” foundation committed itself to support this enterprise financially. The work started in 1994.

The results of the research completely satisfied the expectations of Danish fishermen that visited Aral in 1991. It found the following. There was a large reserve of flounder in the Small Aral Sea. There were a lot of experienced, industrious, business-quality fishermen living in the Aralsk region. There were also women experienced in fish processing. What they needed was modern tools and equipment to catch flounder and finances for fish reception, processing and shipping. The Danish ‘Levende-hav’ society saw that they had an opportunity to connect this broken chain and to provide the fishermen with that of which they were deprived. In order to carry out this work they established “The International Kazakh-Danish Project ‘From Kattegat to the Aral Sea’.

Kattegat is a straight in East Denmark where The Levende-hav headquarters is. This project began its activity after inviting a Kazakh delegation on behalf of the Aral fishermen to Denmark in 1995. It was supported by the Danish Democracy Foundation. During this visit they signed a document defining the terms of the project. In order to realize that document the above foundations established the project “From Kattegat to the Aral Sea.”  in 1996.

In August 1996 Kazakhstani representatives; one coordinator, eight fishermen, four specialists and six interpreters, nineteen people in all, spent one month in Denmark and learned much about the country, land and condition of the fishery. In September 1996 the first humanitarian aid for fishermen came from Denmark to Aral. It included one thousand nets, ropes, knives, fish-boxes, and tanks for living fish, overalls and other things. These fishery tools and equipment were presented ceremonially to the fishermen who were going to fish that autumn. It was a “red letter day” for the fishermen.

I still remember the first of November 1996. 75 Km away from Aral town in an area called Tastubek, situated on the North West coast of the Aral Sea they ceremonially began the first joint fishing process of Kazakstani-Danish fishermen. From the Kazakhtani side there were 65 fishermen, 25 workers, 14 fish processing women and regional administration staff. From the Danish side the project coordinator Mr. Kurt Christensen Bertelsen, Mr. Knud Andersen, Mr. Ruud Dacker and Mr. Henrik Bjerre participated. On the shore Kazakhstani and Danish flags were fluttering and the national anthems of the two countries washed the shore with melody.

Tastubek, at one time was one of the most respected places in the Aral region. Here lived a rich fishermen’s brigade by the same name. It was famous over the whole USSR. For many years it was led by Bakyt Ryskalov, the Socialist Labor Hero of the USSR, and deputy of the Kazakh SSR, a respected and famous person in Kazakstan. Nowadays, after the sea had reseeded, the fish had left, the staff had broken up and the people had gone away we witness just a ruined place. This scene shows the meaning of the Kazak proverb that says ‘The dead resurrected the extinguished flared up” At that ceremony it seemed that the little hope that lay dying on the bottom of the heart of each Aral fisherman flared up again, and as if there appeared a light at the tunnel’s end.

What results did this month of exploration and flounder fishing by Kazakstani and Danish fisherman provide?

First of all they came up to expectations set out by the research that was done in 1991 and 1994. They showed a sufficient amount of flounder in the so called Small Aral Sea, and that there are experienced fishermen and skilled fish processors. Second, with laboratory testing done in Denmark, Aral Sea flounder was found ecologically clean, a good size rich in fat, delicious and contained no pesticides or heavy metals harmful to the human body. Third, the collaboration of Kazak-Danish fishermen gives an opportunity to solve all the problems of the Aral fishery.

The project was continued at the international conference on environmental protection in Orhus, Denmark in 1998. There, an exhibition called ‘Aral Sea Fisher” was held. The Akim of Kyzylorda oblast Mr. B Saparbayev and the Mayor of Aralsk, Mr. A. Baymyrzayev. All participated in this conference.

In 1998 another Kazak delegation of six members visited Denmark. During one month they learned the methods of Danish non-governmental organization work and returned with much experience. The result of this visit was also good. Project coordinator K. Christensen and other specialists explained methods of fish processing and fish selling.

A two month joint expedition was led on the Large Aral Sea with an affiliate of the Kazak Scientific Research institute of Fishery; the expedition targeted the observation of the flounder population. It found a reserve of flounder. The conclusion of these expeditions, observations and research projects encouraged the creation of a native foundation, to put future activities into practice. So, in December 1998 “Aral Tenizi Society” was born.

The Aral Tenizi Society targeted the improvement of economical, social and ecological conditions of the Aral fishermen and their families by the organization of continuous fishing. The number of members in the society has grown from six hundred at the start to nine hundred currently.

The purpose of the Aral Tenizi Society is “To revive the Aral Sea by supporting a sustainable fishery on the sea and by improving the social, economic and ecological well-being of the fishermen and their families.” The society has defined the following strategies to achieve its purpose: 

1.      To find investors and donors ready to improve the economical, ecological and social condition of the Aral Fishermen by funding projects in the Aralsk region.

2.      To propagate and keep people informed about the society’s purpose, duty, activities and their results through the media.

3.      To compare practice and collaborate with regional and international societies and foundations.

4.      To contact with national and international scientific research institutes and to supply them with scientific observations of the Aral Sea.

5.      To organize seminars, workshops and conferences and to deliver informative lectures and reports. 

Three years have passed since the establishment of the Aral Tenizi Society. At what level has this foundation achieved its main goals? To have a goal and to achieve a goal are two very different things. Has the goal been achieved? Now let us talk about this theme.

Aral fishermen had not received fishing tools since 1990. The old ones were spoiled and unusable. They had no opportunities to repair and replace their tools. How can one fish only with one’s hands? They were suffering such an unpleasant condition.

The Danish project and the Aral Tenizi Society have saved the fishermen from this crisis. Every year the Aral Tenizi Society personally deliverers to fishermen humanitarian aid that includes fishing nets and repair materials from Denmark. After the fishermen had been supplied with necessary tools and equipment they began fishing on the sea, on lakes, on the river and were able to provide for themselves. Plastic Boots given to the fishermen 35-40 years ago were spoiled, full of holes and unusable. The Danish project and the Aral Tenizi Society found the finances, sent specialists to Denmark, found existing boot maintenance professionals in Aralsk and assembled them in one brigade that repaired 103 plastic boots. The fishermen resumed their favorite trade and felt as if they found something lost.

The fishermen of Akbastau village that gave up their traditional trade 20-25 years ago and left their village for other places such as ‘Zhanakurylys’ and ‘Kosaman’ to deal in other trades returned to the favorite labor of their ancestors thanks to the Danish project and the Aral Tenizi Society. Forming about 80 brigades of 250 people they began fishing. Thus many people found work and provided for themselves.

In Tastubek, Bogin and Akbastau villages the Society installed fish refrigerators. Here it created fishery centers and offices supplied with the necessary equipment and tools. Every year it gave loans without interest to the fishermen. These loans were given to those villages that had ecological problems and were far from the center of Aralsk. They made our life in Akbastau and Akespe better.

In 2001 The Aral Tenizi Society supplied loans to build a fish reception center in Karateren, to dig a canal for “Zhanakurylys’ cooperative society, and to repair road that leads to the sea in Akbastau. The Society made close contacts with such private fish reception centers as ‘Karasay Kazi’ and ‘Aknur’ It organized fish reception, fish processing and the sale of fish to large cities like Almaty. The Aral Tenizi Society collaborated with other societies to widen its service spectrum thus making the first steps toward being active on an international level. The Aral Tenizi Society is still collaborating with the regional education department, and is in close contact with regional schools. It has distributed many computers among the regional schools for free.

Keeping in mind the willingness of fishermen and of their children to learn English the Aral Tenizi Society hired specialists in English thus creating free courses of English in the schools. The specialists of The Aral Tenizi Society have been to regional schools and have delivered a series of presentations to schoolchildren entitled “Aral, yesterday, today and tomorrow.” It ahs also given reports and organized seminars, workshops and has informed children about the ecological problems of Aral and about ways to solve them. The society established an ecological club for school children. Club members attended the international children’s conference with the theme “Aral, Crisis in the eyes of the children.” held in Nukus.

The Volunteer Center is the pride of the society. Danish students visited Aralsk and Aral youth visited Denmark to widen their knowledge and share their experiences concerning the environment. As a result they formed the Volunteer Center within the Aral Tenizi Society. We have to recognize their labor and efforts. The Aral Tenizi Society is also trying to provide sponsorship. It sponsors English contests, Journalism events, The Aral Pioneer Summer Camp and other important events. The society is in close contact with the media. Over twenty articles have been published in the regional, oblast and national newspapers about the society’s activities. The Society has broadcasted programs on TV and radio, and printed eight informational booklets and delivered them among fishermen and society members. Journalists from a Norwegian television company shot a documentary film about Zhalgasbay Izbasarov chairman of ‘Ush Shoky’ cooperative society.

There are eighteen lakes in the Aral region. 91% of the water reserves of the Kyzylorda oblast are stored in these lakes. At certain times, about one third of the total fish caught by the Aral fishing industry comes from these lakes. Nowadays people of the region still profit from these lakes, but no one is interested in working to save them. We need to protect the fish population by controlled breeding and keeping the lakes clean. If the situation goes on like this, then there is no future for these lakes. The lakes’ natural resources will decrease and thus the financial situation and living conditions of the fishermen will get worse.

The Danish project and Aral Tenizi society will not tolerate such a view. They have attempted to find other ways to save the lakes. As in the proverb, “The one who seeks, finds at last.” We learned how to save the bio-diversity of the lakes with the help of the Small Grants Program of the World Ecological Foundation. This project was planned for two years. The lakes of the Aral region were fully explored. In Akespe, Akbasau and Tastubek villages they installed roads and pontoon bridges over the dry sea bed to the current coast of the open sea. They purchased trucks in order to transport the fish, and to provide a conveyance of fishermen from one place to another. Nowadays they lecture to the inhabitants of villages including schoolchildren and organize meetings.

This information, I am sure, proves that the Aral Tenizi Society on behalf of the international Kazak Danish project “From Kattegat to the Aral sea’ is accomplishing its goals. Everyone was glad to hear that the Project’s support of Aral fishermen would continue until 2004.

We should appreciate the hard labor of Mr. Christensen, the coordinator and initiator of the international project. He became respected among fishermen thanks to his hard, productive work and charity. With the decision of the Aral regional ‘maslihat’ (council) he was awarded with the title of “respected citizen of the Aral region’. The name of Zhannat Mahambetova, the regional coordinator of the project has become very popular nowadays in the Aral region. Able to speak three languages fluently and a graduate of Samara University, Zhannat Mahambetova has made the Aral Tenizi Society famous. Owing to her liking for hard work, her sensibility and her specific view of labor, she has learned almost all the nuances and details of the fishing industry in a very short time. Akshabak Batimova, who has known the fishing business and its conditions for a long time, and has worked for a long time as a technical engineer at the Aral fish processing plant is also doing her best for the progress of the society and of the project. The society is turning itself into a headquarters for fishermen.

The labor of fishermen in Tastubek fishing center is a good example for others. They posses great self controls, set rules and follow them, are continually attempting new projects and always believe in tomorrow. They continually come together and conduct ‘subbotniks’ or work days. They build roads and try to do other activities by themselves. They do not sit with open hands asking for aid, they do not ask “how can we do this and how can we do that?” Nowadays Tastubek has caught its second. 14 families of young fishermen have moved there. They have bought homes and settled down. As in the proverb; “The dead resurrected, the extinguished flared up” it happened owing to the Aral Tenizi Society!

At the last general assembly of the fishermen within the Aral Tenizi Society the hope of the fishermen woke up. Things began to happen. People started to take responsibility. The fishermen of Karateren village also show such positive changes.

The seminar that targeted the exchange of experienced between fishermen from both sides of the sea was very useful for us. For instance, fisherman of Akbastau village had given up fishing more than twenty years ago. They had forgotten much. The previous generation of fishermen had gone, and the next one had no experience to continue the trade. The situation of fishermen along the river Syr Darya was quite different. Here the connection between generations was not lost, but the trade maintained and developed. Therefore fishermen of Akbastau and Zhanakurylys can learn much from the fishermen of the Syr Darya. So the seminar was useful for all of us.

Nargali Aga, thanks, you have told much. From your story it is easy to understand that you are not only a sea loving person, but also one who knows much about the land and loves it. You are attentive, well educated and sensitive. Were there any problems or mistakes in the activity of the society and of the project? If yes, then what? Could you speak a little about this?

If there is work, then there are problems and imperfections and mistakes, but if there is no work, then there is nothing. Just recently, the chairman of the society Zhannat Mahambetova replied to this question in her report let me quote her.

“We can say that, Aral fishermen have discovered new opportunities to develop their trade in conformity with new social relations and that they gain much aid. However, we can not hide the fact that fishermen brigades and many cooperative societies and associations dealing with fishery haven’t achieved much in development of our trade with accordance to the law and production increase. We are distressed by the fact, that there is no one large, common association in the center of the region that could accept all the catch of all fishermen and could process and sell it. We are also concerned by the fact that private fishermen brigades are hired by private businessmen, catch sometimes for firms that have not the faintest idea of how a fishery works. Also, this privately sold fish is not documented. Also we are not glad to witness the unsatisfactory work in organizing fishing, the preservation of the fish reserve and the proliferation of poaching among people along the river. We fear a decrease in the amount of registered caught fish as compared with previous years, in spite of the increase in the number of fishermen.”

I’d like to say that, this is not a problem and imperfection only of the Aral Tenzi Society or the Danish project but a common problem.

Unfortunately some of my colleagues still cannot take advantage of the enormous amount of help given them. At the last assembly fishermen from Bogin village heard criticism of their locale. Bogen is the historical motherland of fishermen. Before, during the worse times fishermen of Bogin had an advantage in collective labor over the other village and this left a mark in the history of the region.

The present inhabitants of Bogen should maintain such a good tradition of  labor from their ancestors. Unfortunately the situation is different. Anyway, the project and society coordinators have not changed their opinion about the fishermen of Bogin. They believe that they can respond to these complaints and the fishermen of Bogin can find their own place in the new direction of the fishermen’s movement. I join myself to this opinion too, since I saw, and worked side by side with their fathers and grandfathers!

Nargali Aga, keeping in mind the proverb: “A word is costly, if spoken” I’d like to ask one more question before ending the conversation. Ask, Please!

In your speech you pronounce the name of Allah often, and often say Kazakh proverbs as well. It seems as if you catch not only fish but words. Do you?

You know I have learned to invoke Allah owing to the great Abai who said: ‘Allah is the truth and his word is the truth’ I have learned these proverbs thanks to the orator Omirbay. He said: “A speech without proverbs is lake a beardless Akh Sakhakl” or ‘white bearded old man’, ‘Kazakh speech is a flowing brook, and proverbs are flowers growing all around’. There is no brook with out the word of Allah which flows like water.


‘The one who experienced nothing in childhood

Can advise nothing in old age.’

After Gabiden Mustafin

Upon reading this book the first thing that strikes me is the appropriateness of the title to the man whose biography this is. Nargali Demeuov has been fishing for sixty years, his hands immersed in cold water and entangled in nets since he was ten. In all that time he never took a vacation. Though he suffered from headaches and joint aches because of the cold water and weather he has never taken sick leave. He is indeed a monolith made of steel. The source of Nargali Demeuov’s power is his labor. He was born to work! He has achieved happiness through the sweat of his brow and honest work. He is a talented and skilled person, born rarely. 

Throughout history, in every human endeavor there have been persons who differed from the crowd. Among them such names as Ibirai Zhahayev-the king of rice and biologist of the steppe and Shiganak Bersiyev-the master of the millet industry and a millionaire by his own right shine out. These famous personalities, the pride of the Kazak Nation occur once in history. Now we can add a new name to this glorious list. Nargali Demeuov, master of the Aral fishery continues this high tradition.

Nargali Aga has seen famine and war, reconstruction and peace. He has witnessed the Hrushyev Thaw, the Cold War and Perestroika. He has contributed and struggled for the establishment and strengthening of the independence and sovereignty of Kazakstan, a bright example for the present generation. Gabiden Mustafin once said: “The one who has experienced nothing in childhood can advise nothing in old age.” It is our duty to spread the story of Nargali Demeuov among the present generation, the future of our country. In 2002 Nargali was 70 years old. This book serves as a celebration of that event.   

I would like to thank Mr. Christensen, the coordinator of the international Kazak-Danish project ‘from Kattegat to the Aral Sea’ who was the main force behind the publishing of this book. It will provide the schoolchildren of Denmark and around the world with the story of the Aral Sea fishermen, their living conditions, their hospitality and their tradition.

The Small Aral Sea will return! This is the goal of the Republic of Kazakhstan’s order #1121. If the Small Aral returns the fishery will revive and a source of the people’s welfare will flourish. Then, the new generation of fishermen will need the experience and instruction of Nargali Demeuov. Therefore we must create education materials and booklets about his life and work. We must transmit his knowledge to the children and working collectives of the Aral Region. We must realize the value of the gold we are holding.

The book is quite readable, the language is simple, the descriptions are bright and the events are full of life. It is full of the wisdom of the Kazak proverbs and the quotes from famous and knowledgeable people. The author is an excellent student of the Kazak language. All this makes the reader want to read more of the knowledge, description and artistry. Let us hope and pray that such sources of spiritual food are always in such abundance.

                                                                                                                             Bahytzhan Shegenuly Kudamanov,

                                                                                                                                                                                            -Aral Region Akim

Kazak Rhymes:

1. Balukshi! Balukshi!

Fishermen! Fishermen!

Friends of the Sea,

The Aral’s trusted ones listen to me!

The blue sea is calm but you work always.

Listen to its songs, to what it says.

If it is restless then you are too.

And you are as raging as that sea of blue.

Fishermen! Fishermen! Roll with the sea!

Flow like the waves!

With her always be!  

For you will miss it much if you part with the sea!

Fishermen! Fishermen!

2. To a Danish Friend.

Dedicated to our friend Kurt Christensen

Fight for the Aral!

Attan! Attan!

Mount your horse and go!

The danger to Aral is a danger to every land!


over mountains set with snow,

over oceans white with foam,

over continents blue and wide,

came a friend,

from the Kattegat,

to stand by our side.


The tree of nations grows from one root.

Aral will not forget your goal.

You gave your hand to the fishermen, and

A candle of sincerity burned in your soul.


Once near and dear to us and our town,

The sea has turned to sand.

But lo! A Danish footprint lands.

Because you spread your nets in the sea,

In our soul it now roars like a fire fanned.


From the sea God takes his gifts and joys

and puts them in our hand.

Take a stroll with the sea nearby.

Look to Kurt, land of Aral,

It is good to know this man!

Human kind shares the earth and sky.

Be near to us forever Kurt,

as close as two grains of sand!

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