Serpent Lake at the Jungar Gates

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This lake is quite small, everyone who travels by train from Kazakhstan to China via the Druzhba - Alashankou sees that. After Alakol, glaringly blue part of the landscape, passes out of the sight and horizon surrounded by the mountains confirms that the train is pulling into the opening of the Dzhungar gates; and suddenly a small lake flashes on the right side with lakesides covered by reeds and tugais.

If weather is windy (and it is windy like always), then surface of the water is ruffled with waves, vividly reminds what is called the "tempest in a teapot". But we should not treat the lake indulgently and in haughty manner, the sizes, as well known, often conceal the true values. In front of us is the famous Zhalanashkol. Why is this lake famous?

If you look on the map, the state border of Kazakhstan at Dzhungar gates is strangely deepened into China. Inside this "Deepen" part is quite large area - from Zhalanashkol almost to the Ebi – Nur. And it is not a coincidence, the Russian-Chinese delimitation of XIX century occurred here at the time, when negotiating with the neighboring side was almost impossible. Muslim uprising in East Turkistan questioned the reality of the Chinese presence in its western region.

So the Gates throughout their length became part of the Russian Empire, and later by right of succession, went to the Soviet Union and Kazakhstan.

If you keep an open mind, it should be admitted that modern Kazakhstan actually owes a lot to Russia's imperial policy for its east territories; it never missed an opportunity to enlarge by any small piece of land.

So, the boundaries in the XIX century shifted here more than once, and, characteristically, all in the same direction. China reacted, but much later, after the great shock of the first half of the next century, the Great friendship was replaced by Great contention. What historians call "the events at Zhalanashkol" and publicists consider it almost as Cuban missile crisis, which nearly led to a third World War happened here at Dzhungar Gates, in August 1969, six months later, after a very unpleasant and similar incident on the island Domanski.

Oddly, despite the fact that this happened just half a century ago, and persons in dispute are still alive and in a good health, we know so little about what actually happened at Zhalanashkol. The most common version is that it has been hit-and-run battle, lasted about an hour. Group of Soviet frontier guards acted against the invasion of Chinese trespassers (about 70 people); group of Soviet guards was three times smaller, but with two APCs. Results: The status quo was restored, the boundary was secured again, and the enemy lost 18 people (dead) and three prisoners, and two of our people died. People tell that there is a monument to the heroes on Chinese side. In short, it was a small border incident, which was not even discussed...

In geographical classics…name of the lake - Zhalanashkol was translated as "Serpent Lake". Because of mistranslation of the name, this place has a bad reputation- snaky place. However, people who come here from the nearby border posts and the station Druzhba – Dostyk, are hardly familiar with the works of Ritter or Obruchev; so they rest here fearlessly and carelessly. For some reason I really tried hard to find here at least one tiny snake. However, lately reptiles are hard to find in Kazakhstan.

When after a very long walk, I managed to find a small steppe boa; I was very glad to see it. While I was playing with sweet dim-witted snake, I did not noticed that the ground trembled a bit; and then I saw another snake, a really big snake, one and half meter long, it was crawling along the "serpent" lake. A good Friendship. Through Dzhungar Gates...

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