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oblast (province), southeastern Turkmenistan, with an area of 36,200 square miles (93,800 square km). It lies along the middle reaches of the Amu Darya (river), with the Kara-Kum Desert on the left bank and the Kyzylkum and Sundukli deserts on the right. It is largely flat, but in the extreme southeast the spurs of the Gissar Mountains rise to 10,298 feet (3,139 m). Both the Amu Darya and the Kara-Kum Canal, which runs west from the Amu Darya just north of the Afghanistan frontier, are navigable. The climate is continental and very dry, with moderately cold winters and hot summers. Cotton cultivation and sericulture (raw-silk production) are practiced along the Amu Darya, and Karakul sheep are bred in the surrounding desert. The large Achak natural-gas field in the north is linked to the Central Asia Centre gas pipeline; sulfur is mined at Gaurdak and lead at Svintsovy Rudnik in the southeast. Industry is largely concentrated in the capital, Chardzhou; the other cities are Gaz Achak and Kerki. Pop. (1991 est.) 774,700.