River (Mongolian: Эрчис мөрөн, Erchis mörön,
"erchleh", "twirl"; Russian: Иртыш; Kazakh: Ертіс, Ertis,
هرتىس; Chinese: 额尔齐斯河, pinyin: É'ěrqísī hé,
Xiao'erjing: عَعَرٿِسِ حْ; Uyghur: ئېرتىش, Ertish;
Tatar: Cyrillic Иртеш, Latin İrteş, Arabic ﻴﺋرتئش,
Siberian Tatar: Эйәртеш, Eya’rtes’) is a river in Russia,
China, and Kazakhstan. It is the chief tributary of the Ob River.
The river's source lies in the Mongolian Altai in
northern part of Xinjiang, China) close to the border with Mongolia.
The Irtysh's main tributaries include the
Tobol River, Demyanka River
and the Ishim River. The Ob-Irtysh system forms a major drainage basin
in Asia, encompassing most of Western Siberia and the Altai Mountains.
2 Economic use
6 Cultural references
7 Other uses
8 See also
The Irtysh in Omsk
The Irtysh near
Pavlodar in Kazakhstan
From its origins as the Kara-Irtysh (Black Irtysh) in the Mongolian
Altay mountains in Xinjiang, China, the Irtysh flows northwest through
Lake Zaysan in Kazakhstan, meeting the Ishim and
Tobol rivers before
merging with the Ob near
Khanty-Mansiysk in western Siberia, Russia
after 4,248 kilometres (2,640 mi).
The name Black Irtysh (Kara-Irtysh in Kazakh, or Cherny Irtysh in
Russian) is applied by some authors, especially in
Kazakhstan, to the upper course of the river, from its source entering
Lake Zaysan. The term White Irtysh, in opposition to the Black Irtysh,
was occasionally used in the past to refer to the Irtysh below lake
Zaysan; now this usage is largely obsolete.
Kazakhstan and Russia, tankers, passenger and freight boats
navigate the river during the ice-free season, between April and
October. Omsk, home to the headquarters of the state-owned Irtysh
River Shipping Company, functions as the largest river port in Western
Kazakhstan section of the river there are presently three major
hydroelectric plants, namely at Bakhtarma,
Shulbinsk. The world's deepest lock, with a drop of 42 metres
(138 ft), allows river traffic to by-pass the dam at
Ust-Kamenogorsk. Plans exist for the construction of several more
Tobolsk river wharves in 1912
Three dams have been constructed on the Chinese section of the Irtysh
as well: the Keketuohai (可可托海)
89°42′35″E / 47.18083°N 89.70972°E / 47.18083;
89.70972), the Kalasuke (喀腊塑克)
88°53′15″E / 47.13722°N 88.88750°E / 47.13722;
88.88750), and the Project 635 Dam. There are also the Burqin
Dam and the Burqin Shankou
Dam on the Irtysh's right
tributary, the Burqin
River and the Jilebulake
Dam and Yamaguchi Dam
on another right tributary, the Haba River.
Northern river reversal
Northern river reversal proposals, widely discussed by the USSR
planners and scientists in the 1960s and 1970s, would send some of the
Irtysh's (and possibly Ob's) water to the water-deficient regions of
Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Some versions of this project would
have seen the direction of flow of the Irtysh reversed in its section
between the mouth of the
Tobol (at Tobolsk) and the confluence of the
Irtysh with the Ob at Khanty-Mansiysk, thus creating an
"Anti-Irtysh". While these gigantic interbasin transfer schemes
were not implemented, a smaller
Irtysh–Karaganda Canal was built
between 1962 and 1974 to supply water to the dry Kazakh steppes and to
one of the country's main industrial center, Karaganda. In 2002,
pipelines were constructed to supply water from the canal to the Ishim
River and Kazakhstan's capital, Astana.
In China, a short canal was constructed in 1987 (water intake at
47°26′31″N 87°34′11″E / 47.44194°N 87.56972°E /
47.44194; 87.56972) to divert some of the Irtysh water to the
endorrheic Lake Ulungur, whose level had been falling precipitously
due to the increasing irrigation use of the lake's main affluent, the
Ulungur River. In the last years of the 20th century and the early
2000s, a much more major project, the Irtysh–Karamay–Urümqi Canal
was completed. Increased water use in
China has caused significant
concerns among Kazakh and Russian environmentalists. According
to a report published by
Kazakhstan fishery researchers in 2013, the
total Irtysh water use in
China is about 3 cubic kilometres
(0.7 cu mi) per year; as a result, only about 2/3 of what
would be the river's "natural" flow (6 km3 out of 9 km3)
reach the Kazakh border.
An aerial view of the Irtysh in Omsk
Major cities along the Irtysh, from source to mouth, include:
in China: Fuyun, Beitun, Burqin
in Kazakhstan: Ust-Kamenogorsk, Semey, Aksu, Pavlodar
in Russia: Omsk, Tara, Tobolsk, Khanty-Mansiysk
The Sixty Years of Victory Bridge in Omsk. (The name commemorates the
60th anniversary of the V-E Day)
Seven railway bridges span the Irtysh. They are located in the
About 15 km downstream from
Serebryansk (on the dead-end branch
Oskemen to Zyryanovsk)
Semey, on the Turkestan–Siberia Railway
Pavlodar, on the South Siberian rail line (
Astana to Barnaul)
near Cherlak, on the Middle Siberian rail line
Omsk, on the Trans-Siberian Railway. Opened in 1896, this is the
oldest bridge on the river.
Tobolsk, on the Tyumen-
Kuytun–Beitun Railway in China's
Xinjiang is being extended
toward Altay City, a railway bridge over the Irtysh at Beitun will
need to be constructed as well.
Numerous highway bridges over the Irtysh exist in China, Kazakhstan,
There are no bridges of any kind on the Irtysh downstream of Tobolsk
(nor, for that matter, anywhere on the Ob downstream from its
confluence with the Irtysh).
River landscape in Burqin County, China
A number of Mongol and Turkic peoples occupied the river banks for
many centuries. In 657,
Tang Dynasty general
Su Dingfang defeated
Ashina Helu, qaghan of the Western Turkic Khaganate, at the Battle of
Irtysh River, ending the Tang campaign against the Western Turks.
Helu's defeat ended the Khaganate, strengthened Tang control of
Xinjiang, and led to Tang suzerainty over the western Turks.
In the 15th and 16th centuries the lower and middle courses of the
Irtysh lay within the Tatar Khanate of Sibir; its capital, Qashliq
(also known as Sibir) was located on the Irtysh a few miles upstream
from the mouth of the
Tobol (where today's
Tobolsk is situated).
Khanate of Sibir
Khanate of Sibir was conquered by the Russians in the 1580s. The
Russians started building fortresses and towns next to the sites of
former Tatar towns; one of the first Russian towns in Siberia (after
Tyumen) was Tobolsk, founded in 1587 at the fall of the
Tobol into the
Irtysh, downstream from the former Qashliq. Farther east, Tara was
founded in 1594, roughly at the border of the taiga belt (to the
north) and the steppe to the south.
In the 17th century the Dzungar Khanate, formed by the Mongol Oirat
people, became Russia's southern neighbor, and controlled the upper
Irtysh.  As a result of Russia's confrontation with the Dzungars
in the Peter the Great's era, the Russians founded the cities of
Omsk in 1716,
Semipalatinsk in 1718,
Ust-Kamenogorsk in 1720, and
Petropavlovsk in 1752.
The Chinese Qing Empire conquered
Dzungaria in the 1750s. This
prompted an increase in the Russian authorities' attention to their
borderland; in 1756, the
Ivan Neplyuyev even
proposed the annexation of the
Lake Zaysan region, but this project
was forestalled by Chinese successes. Concerns were raised in
Russia (1759) about the (theoretical) possibility of a Chinese fleet
Lake Zaysan down the Irtysh and into Western Siberia. A
Russian expedition visited
Lake Zaysan in 1764, and concluded that
such a riverine invasion would not be likely. Nonetheless, a chain of
Russian pickets was established on the Bukhtarma River, north of Lake
Zaysan. Thus the border between the two empires in the Irtysh
basin became roughly delineated, with a (sparse) chain of guard posts
on both sides.
The situation in the borderlands in the mid-19th century is described
in a report by A. Abramof (ru; 1865). Even though the Zaysan region
was recognized by both parties as part of the Qing empire, it had been
annually used, by fishing expeditions sent by the Siberian Cossack
Host. The summer expeditions started in 1803, and in 1822–25 their
range was expanded through the entire
Lake Zaysan and to the mouth of
the Black Irtysh. Through the mid-19th century, the Qing presence on
the upper Irtysh was mostly limited to the annual visit of the Qing
Chuguchak to one of the Cossacks' fishing stations
The border between the Russian and the Qing empires in the Irtysh
basin was established along the line fairly similar to China's modern
Kazakhstan by the
Convention of Peking
Convention of Peking of
1860. The actual border line pursuant to the convention was drawn
by the Protocol of
Chuguchak (1864), leaving
Lake Zaysan on the
Russian side. The Qing empire's military presence in the
Irtysh basin crumbled during the 1862–77 Dungan Revolt. After the
fall of the rebellion and the reconquest of
Xinjiang by Zuo Zongtang,
the border between the Russian and the Qing empires in the Irtysh
basin was further slightly readjusted, in Russia's favor, by the
Treaty of Saint Petersburg (1881).
River serves as a backdrop in the epilogue of Fyodor
Dostoyevsky's 1866 novel Crime and Punishment.
FC Irtysh Omsk, a soccer team in Omsk, Russia.
FC Irtysh Pavlodar, a soccer team in Pavlodar, Kazakhstan.
Irtysh (Иртыш), a Russian military hospital ship, used at the
Bering Strait Swim 2013.
Geography of China
Geography of Kazakhstan
Geography of Russia
^ The Secret History of the Mongols
^ Abramof 1865, p. 65, and the map before p. 65.
Xinjiang Kalasuke 140MW Hydroelectric Project".
(A group of experts visits the Kalasuke Dam), 2010-08-05
^ Skornyakova, V. A.; Timasheva, I. Ye. (1980), "The possible
environmental impact of the anti-Irtysh and problems of rational
nature management", Soviet Geography, 21 (10),
doi:10.1080/00385417.1980.10640361 (inactive 2017-11-01)
^ Petr, T., ed. (1999), Fish and Fisheries at Higher Altitudes: Asia,
Issue 385 of FAO fisheries technical paper, ISSN 0429-9345, Food &
Agriculture Org., p. 257, ISBN 9251043094 (An English
translation of the original paper published in the Vestnik Moskovskogo
Universiteta in 1979).
^ KAZAKHSTAN: ENVIRONMENTALISTS SAY CHINA MISUSING CROSS-BORDER
RIVERS. By Gulnoza Saidazimova, 7/16/2006.
^ Sievers, Eric W. (2002), "Transboundary Jurisdiction and Watercourse
Kazakhstan and the Irtysh" (PDF), Texas International Law
Journal, 37 (1)
^ Kulikov, Evgeny Vyacheslavovich (Куликов Евгений
Вячеславович) (2013-08-23), Adapting of fisheries
management to the changing Irtysh water basin hydrological
^ Jonathan Karem Skaff (2009). Nicola Di Cosmo, ed. Military Culture
in Imperial China. Harvard University Press. pp. 181–185.
^ James A. Millward (2007). Eurasian Crossroads: A History of
Xinjiang. Columbia University Press. p. 33.
^ Forsyth, James (1994), A History of the Peoples of Siberia: Russia's
North Asian Colony 1581-1990, Cambridge University Press, p. 34,
^ March, G. Patrick (1996), Eastern Destiny:
Asia and the
North Pacific, ABC-CLIO, p. 31, ISBN 0275956482
^ Forsyth 1994, pp. 37,125–127
^ Forsyth 1994, p. 128
^ Abramof 1865, p. 65
^ Abramof 1865, p. 66
^ Abramof 1865, pp. 62–63; see also the border shown on the map
before p. 65.
^ Articles 2 and 3 in the Russian text of the treaty
^ (See the map)
^ "The Lost Frontier – Treaty Maps that Changed Qing's
Northwestern Boundaries_The Changing Borders". npm.gov.tw.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Irtysh River.
Great Soviet Encyclopedia
Abramof, A. (1865), translated by John Michell, "The lake Nor-Zaysan
and its neighborhood", Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of
London, J. Murray, 35: 58–69, doi:10.2307/3698078,
Coordinates: 61°05′24″N 68°49′15.60″E / 61.09000°N
68.8210000°E / 61.09000; 68.8210000
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