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The 1,520 mm (4 ft 11 27⁄32 in) broad gauge Trans-Aral Railway (also known as the Tashkent Railway) was built in 1906 connecting Orenburg and Tashkent, then both in the Russian Empire. For the first part of the 20th century it was the only railway-connection between European Russia and Central Asia.
There were plans to construct the Orenburg-Tashkent line as early as 1874. Construction work did not start, however, until the autumn of 1900. The railway was simultaneously built from both ends toward a common junction. It opened in January 1906, linking the existing network of Russian and European railways to the Trans-Caspian Railway.
After the revolution the line was blocked by Cossacks under the command of Ataman Dutov. Cut off from food supplies, and unable to sustain itself due to forced cotton cultivation, Russian Turkestan experienced an intense famine. The temporary loss of the Trans-Aral also allowed the Tashkent Soviet a degree of autonomy from Moscow during the period immediately following the Bolshevik takeover, which resulted in atrocities like the Kokand Massacre, in which between 5,000 and 14,000 people were killed.
The line passes through several notable cities in Kazakhstan, including Aral, Qyzylorda, Turkistan, and Shymkent. It connects at Arys with the Turkestan-Siberia rail line toward Almaty, eastern Kazakhstan, and south Siberia.
- Coulibaly, S Deichmann, U et al (2012) Eurasian Cities: New Realities along the Silk Road, World Bank Publications, P26
- Hopkirk, Peter, (1984) Setting the East ablaze : Lenin's dream of an empire in Asia, 252 pp., London: John Murray
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