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Ural River
Ural river.png
Map of the Ural River watershed
Origin Russia
Mouth Caspian Sea
Basin countries Russia, Kazakhstan
Length 2,428 km (1,509 mi)
Source elevation  
Avg. discharge 400 m³/s
Basin area 231,000 km² (89,190 mi²)

The Ural (Russian: Урал, Kazakh: Жайық, Jayıq or Zhayyq), known as Yaik (Russian: Яик) before 1775, is a river flowing through Russia and Kazakhstan. It arises in the southern Ural Mountains and ends at the Caspian Sea. Its total length is 1,511 mi (2,428 km). It forms part of the traditional boundary between Europe and Asia.

The Ural arises on the eastern side of the Ural Mountains, flows south through Magnitogorsk, and around the southern end of the Urals, through Orsk where it turns west for about 300 km, to Orenburg, when the Sakmara River joins. From Orenburg it continues west, passing into Kazakhstan, then turning south again at Oral, and meandering through a broad flat plain until it reaches the Caspian a few miles below Atyrau, where it forms a fine digitate delta at (46°53′N 51°37′E / 46.883°N 51.617°E / 46.883; 51.617).[1]



The Ural river as seen from a plane between Uralsk and Atyrau, Kazakhstan. The left side (on the picture) of the river is Asian, the right is European

Tributaries, in order going upstream:


In the Middle Ages, the city of Saray-Jük on the lower Ural was an important trade center on the Silk Road. It later became an important center for the Golden Horde and the Nogai Horde,

After the Russian conquest (late 16th century), the shores of the Ural became home to the Ural Cossacks, one of whose main activities was fishing for the sturgeon and related fishes (including the true sturgeon, starry sturgeon, and beluga) in the Ural River and the Caspian. A great variety of fishing techniques existed, the most famous of them was bagrenye (багренье): spearing hibernating sturgeons in their underwater lairs in December. Another fishing technique was constructing a weir, known as uchug (учуг) across the river, to catch fish going upstream to spawn. While the uchug weirs were also known in the Volga Delta, the bagrenye was thought to be a uniquely Ural technique.

The cossacks, known originally as the Yaik Cossacks, disliked the central government's attempts to impose rules and regulations on them, and on occasions rose in rebellions. After the largest rebellion - the one led by Yemelyan Pugachev - Empress Catherine had them renamed to "Ural Cossacks", and the Yaik River, to the Ural River.

The famous Civil War commander Vasily Chapayev is thought to have drowned in the Ural, on September 5, 1919.



  1. ^ Ural River Delta, Kazakhstan (NASA Earth Observatory)

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