Coordinates: 41°21′07″N 53°35′43″E / 41.35194°N 53.59528°E / 41.35194; 53.59528
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Garabogazköl (Turkmen)
Kara-Bogaz Gol from space, September 1995
Garabogazköl is located in Caspian Sea
Location Turkmenistan
Coordinates41°21′07″N 53°35′43″E / 41.35194°N 53.59528°E / 41.35194; 53.59528
Surface area18,000 square kilometres (6,900 sq mi)

Garabogazköl (also spelled Kara-Bogaz-Gol; "Black Strait Lake"), or Garabogazköl Aylagy ("Black Strait Lake Bay"), is a shallow, highly-saline lagoon off the Caspian Sea in northwestern Turkmenistan.[1][2] The lagoon has a variable surface area typically about 18,000 km2 (6,900 sq mi).[2] It is separated from the Caspian Sea by a narrow, rocky ridge having a very narrow opening through which the Caspian Sea waters flow into it. There is likely a subterranean highly saline water flow when there is less evaporation in winter. The lagoon's volume fluctuates seasonally, accentuated by its salt evaporation ponds and seasonally dry salt pans.

The city of Garabogaz lies nearby, about 50 km (31 mi) north of the channel between the main Caspian basin and the Garabogazköl lagoon.


The water body lends its name to the nearby city of Garabogaz. The name was originally applied to the narrow strait which connects the gulf to the Caspian Sea. Because the water in the strait, termed a "throat" (Turkmen: bogaz), was darker than the water on either side, it was termed "dark" or "black" (Turkmen: gara), hence garabogaz. Over time the name was applied to the gulf itself and ultimately to the city.[3]


The salinity of the lagoon is on average about 35%, compared to 1.2% in the Caspian Sea and between 3% and 4% in oceans worldwide.[4] Due to the exceptionally high salinity, comparable to the Dead Sea, it has little to no marine vegetation. Large evaporite deposits consisting mostly of salt on the south shore have been harvested by the local population since the 1920s, but in the 1930s manual collection stopped and the industry shifted northwest to its present center near Garabogaz. From the 1950s onward, groundwater was pumped from levels lower than the bay itself, yielding more valuable types of salts. In 1963, construction began at Garabogaz on a modern plant for increased production of salt products year round, independent of natural evaporation. Construction of the plant was completed in 1973.

In March 1980, workers blocked the Caspian link, due to concerns that evaporation was accelerating a fall in Caspian Sea.[2] The resulting "salt bowl" caused widespread problems of blowing salt,[5] reportedly poisoning the soil and causing health problems for hundreds of kilometers downwind to the east.

Complete evaporation[edit]

In 1984 the lake became completely dry. In June 1992, when Caspian Sea levels rose again, the barrier was breached, allowing Caspian water to again refill the lagoon.[citation needed]

Garabogazköl (right) and a bridge and barrier separating it from the Caspian Sea (left)

In popular culture[edit]

The lagoon is the subject of Russian writer Konstantin Paustovsky's 1932 book Kara-Bugaz. In it, he praises the setting up of the local salt industry by the Soviet government in the 1930s.[6][7][8]

In 1935, film director Aleksandr Razumny made a film Kara-bugaz (Кара-Бугаз) based on Paustovsky's Kara-Bugaz, with music by Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov.[9]


  1. ^ "Turkmenistan". Geo-Data: The World Geographical Encyclopedia. 2003.
  2. ^ a b c Kosarev, Aleksey; Kostianoy, Andrey; Zonn, Igor (2008-11-02). "Kara-Bogaz-Gol Bay: Physical and Chemical Evolution". Aquatic Geochemistry. 15 (1–2): 223–236. doi:10.1007/s10498-008-9054-z. S2CID 129907319.
  3. ^ Atanyýazow, Soltanşa (1980). Түркменистаның Географик Атларының Дүшүндиришли Сөзлүги [Explanatory Dictionary of Geographic Names in Turkmenistan]. Ashgabat: Ылым. p. 86.
  4. ^ Aladin, Nicolai; Plotnikov, Igor (2004). Lake Basin Management Initiative - The Caspian Sea (PDF) (Report).
  5. ^ Micklin, Philip P. Environmental Resources and Constraints in the Former Soviet Republics (1994). The National Council for Soviet and Eastern European Research. Page 9.
  6. ^ Konstantin Paustovsky (1977). The Black Gulf. Westport, Conn. : Hyperion Press. ISBN 978-0-88355-411-1.
  7. ^ Priestland, David (October 1, 2010). "Engineers of the Soul". History Today.
  8. ^ Ruch, Julie Ella (Spring 2013). "Engineers of the Soul: The Grandiose Propaganda of Stalin's Russia". Canadian Slavonic Papers. 55 (1/2): 246–247. ISSN 0008-5006.
  9. ^ Westerman, Frank (8 June 2010). "Discovering Stalin's banned film". Today. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 24 December 2019.

External links[edit]