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Gelatin silver print

11" x 14" 



Munyak, Uzbekistan, was a fishing port on the Aral Sea, once the fourth-largest body of fresh water on earth. Stalin wanted a certain supply of gun cotton, so he diverted water from the Syrdaria River in Uzbekistan and the Amudar River in Kazakhstan to irrigate cotton fields. Now the greatly expanded crop goes to foreign textile mills for hard currency. The aral Sea has shrunk to half its former size and has broken into two bodies of water. The shore is now thirty miles away from Munyak and receding by the month. Without fishing, people here have little to do. They suffer perhaps the poorest health in the Soviet Union: Dust containing pesticide residue from the cotton fields is carried in daily wind storms from the dry lake bed. Anemia is found in 95 percent of the population; throat cancer, astonishingly, kills 5 percent. Nearly everyone suffers some kind of skin disease. Infant mortality is the highest in the Union, and all infants are underweight. Life expectancy has fallen to fifty years, a level characteristic of the third world. The Republic of Uzbekistan has no interest in helping. The government considers the Karakalpaks who live here a rival tribe who would only revert to their independent fishing and farming ways should the Aral Sea be brought back to health. The neighboring Republic of Kazakhstan, which shares jurisdiction with Uzbekistan over the Aral Sea, considers it an Uzbek problem. So the Karakalpaks of Uzbekistan continue to die off at the highest rate in the industrialized world. April 1991.


Inscription: initialed in graphite on verso



Shepard Sherbell

"Munyak, Uzbekistan, was a fishing port on the Aral Sea" 1991

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