Start of the construction of Great Fergana Canal

The Great Fergana Canal, a 270 km long waterway, was primarily constructed to channel irrigation water from the Syr-Darya River to the cotton fields located in the Uzbek Fergana Valley. With the additional irrigation of the Hungry Steppe (in what is today Kazakhstan), the canal enabled a system of gigantic Soviet state farms. These cultivation areas were intended to guarantee Soviet independence from Western cotton markets and transformed the face of the Central Asian region. Much of traditional small-scale agriculture was collectivized, and many industrial enterprises settled in the region as well. As a result of these industrialization processes, the Fergana Valley became the most densely populated region in all of Central Asia.
At the same time, the Great Fergana Canal caused environmental problems, namely one of the greatest ecological disasters in Soviet history, the desiccation of the Aral Sea.

Further Readings: 
  • Gestwa, Klaus. Die Stalinschen Großbauten des Kommunismus: Sowjetische Technik- und Umweltgeschichte, 1948–1967. München: Oldenbourg, 2010.