Anatoly Grigorievich Bushmakin has recently showed the author of these lines a series of photographs that he made during his trip to Karabogazgol Bay. In these photographs, he captured the amazing landscapes of the northwest of the country, including the chalk rocks near Mount Begarslan that are more reminiscent of a lunar than an earthly landscape, colorful hills near the town of Gezli-Ata, a red-white-gray mountain range Akgyr. The bizarre forms of fossils at the Kemal-Ata spring and other natural monuments are also impressive. The geologist explained in detail what the amazingly beautiful canyons of the Eastern near-Karabogaz region consist of, why the fossils belong to the Lower Cretaceous period and why the shores of the legendary bay looked harsh and lifeless in the photographs...
I have known Anatoly Grigorievich Bushmakin for many years. We traveled around the country together with other colleagues. We visited all the mud volcanoes of the Caspian region and the foothills of the Great Balkhan, the picturesque gorges of the Central Kopetdag, climbed the ancient iron ore mines on Dushak. In Koytendag, we went down to the Karlyuk caves. In the Karakum Desert, we were looking for shark teeth in the Akhchikai depression. There were many other interesting trips and acquaintances with natural monuments of Turkmenistan.
Anatoly Grigorievich showed us the gem of the desert – the freshwater lake Yasga. He taught us to distinguish the sedimentary and igneous rocks from the metamorphic ones. On the slopes of Koytendag and the Gaurdak dome, he commented on the fossilized traces of prehistoric reptiles. In his eighties, he remains cheerful, set to move forward, always carrying his geological hammer in his backpack, the same tireless wanderer as in his younger years, when he was just learning the geologist profession.
The candidate of geological and mineralogical sciences, Anatoly Grigorievich Bushmakin is now more than 85 years old, but he is still full of energy. For many years, the veteran has been the head of the Geological Museum at the Faculty of Geography of the Turkmen State University named after Magtymguly, where he does a great educational work among student youth. He conducts guiding tours of the Geological Museum, workshops, lectures and works with teachers at the advanced training courses.
Anatoly Grigorievich Bushmakin’s career is closely linked with field expeditions on prospecting the subsoil of the republic for oil, gas and other minerals in the middle of the last century. It was probably already at that time that the Turkmen geologist visited every corner of the country.
Before entering a higher education establishment, Bushmakin worked as part of geological expeditions in the Central Karakum, digging test pits and ditches in Badkhyz. In the last years of his study, the future graduate did an internship at the Kugitang lead and zinc mine as a local geologist, where he was exposed to documenting the ore bodies and estimating mineral reserves. Later on, the study of mineralogy and compilation of a metallogenic map of Turkmenistan became his profession. His name is included in the list of authors who participated in the geological mapping of the territory of Turkmenistan, during which the detailed geological and regional geophysical surveys and much seismic research and hydrogeological work were carried out.
Before starting this work, he walked and traveled all over the Central and Western Kopetdag in search of ore deposits, studied the erupted rocks in Kubatau in the north of the country and the Jurassic deposits in Tuarkyr.
The nature of those places was so severe and at the same time so unique and trips to the desert and mountains gave so many impressions that Anatoly Grigorievich could not stay indifferent to what he saw. So, this is how he found passion for painting. The young geologist painted dozens of canvases dedicated both to his native land and places that he happened to see in his life.
I remember the day when we just arrived at the ruins of ancient Dehistan and saw our companion already sitting on a pile of stones, sketching the remains of an ancient civilization, namely minarets standing alone. The same thing happened in the Sumbar valley, at the Goshdemir waterfall, on the slopes and the gorges of Koytendag. He showed us his watercolor paints that he made during his business trips to Baghdad and the Kolsk Peninsula. His best works such as “Nokhur Waterfall”, “Kaplankyr”, “Sayvan”, “Kunyaurgench”, “Sekizyab”, “Germab” and others were exhibited more than once at various art venues in the Turkmen capital.
He also painted several paintings for the Geological Museum at the Turkmen State University named after Magtymguly, including “Ancient Forest of the Carboniferous Period”, “Gulshirin Cave”, “Evolution of Life on Earth.” He organized this museum from scratch. There even were no premises yet at that time when he started to work on its creation in 2004. Based on the drawings by Anatoly Grigorievich, about four dozen showcases were made. They are now used to display 1200 samples of rocks, ores and metals. Bushmakin made with his own hands and placed in the museum the mockups and dioramas of natural monuments – mud volcanoes of the Caspian region, fossilized dinosaur footprints on the famous plateau in Khodzhapil, stalactites and stalagmites from the Garlyk caves.
He knows Koytendag firsthand. His life and work paths are bound up with this amazing land of deep mountain gorges, natural springs and green valleys. Anatoly Grigorievich was literally fascinated by the luxurious karst caves looking like real onyx palaces, lavishly decorated with “necklaces” of stalactites and stalagmites of bizarre shapes and colors. He participated in the expeditions to more than ten natural caves. In the Kapuktan cave, which is said to be about 70 kilometers long, he walked through mysterious labyrinths for at least 10 kilometers. In the undergrounds of the mountains, he studied mineralogy, the mechanism of formation of minerals and karst. And he naturally admired the fabulous beauty of the underground palaces, such as Gulshirin, Khoshimyurk, Gaurdak...
He used to extract unique samples of onyx from the darkness of the caves to make sketches of bizarre formations, drifts and stone flowers. Once, geologist Bushmakin spent ten days in the underground labyrinths together with the first explorer of the Garlyk caves, speleologist Vladimir Maltsev. They discovered an inclined cave with a lake at an eighty meter depth, which has an amazing representative of the speleofauna – the blind loach.
He often passionately talked about his acquaintance with the world of caves on the pages of newspapers and magazines. “The charm of underground labyrinths”, “Kugitang caves”, “Natural caves of mountains”, “Land of inexhaustible wealth” – this is not a complete list of articles published by the researcher. He wrote with love and knowledge of the facts of the unique natural monuments of Koytendag – the Darai-Dere gorge, the grove of unabi trees, the plateau of dinosaurs, karst lakes, natural resources of the ancient land and prospects for its industrial development. “Those who once visited Koytendag will definitely do so again,” he said. Together with his friends, botanist Konstantin Popov and zoologist Alexander Kolodin, he wrote a popular science book called “Mountainous Turkmenistan”, which was published almost 30 years ago. The book has long become a bibliographic rarity.
One can talk a lot about the museum activities of our main character. Back in the eighties of the last century, Anatoly Grigorievich brought the collection of minerals to the museum of “Turkmengelogy” corporation that he collected during his trips around the country. About four thousand samples were exhibited there at that time. The collection was supplemented by the geological maps, diagrams, paintings made by the master. About 10 thousand people from 73 countries visited the Museum of Geology over several years.
The veteran organized another generalized exposition of natural monuments and minerals in the Koytendag State Nature Reserve. Together with the head of the scientific department, Shaniyaz Mengliyev, Anatoly Grigorievich collected samples of stalactites and stalagmites from karst caves and the collection of ores and metals from this region. This museum in the territory of the reserve is still open to all those who visit these amazing places.
Bushmakin made a significant contribution to the design of the “Nature” section in the State Museum of Turkmenistan. A unique collection of minerals and stones was created at the museum with his support. Visitors can see rare samples of marble onyx, pink and blue celestite, zebra dolomite, stalactites and stalagmites, petrified trees and aeolian figures created by nature itself, samples of copper, mercury, lead, manganese ores that he donated to the museum.
His last work is a mockup of a meteorite that fell in the Kunyaurgench region in June 1998. This exhibit can be found at the university museum, where the veteran amassed one of the country’s most complete mineral collections.
For many years now, Anatoly Bushmakin has been collaborating with archaeologists who work at the excavations of such famous monuments of the Bronze Age as Gonur-Depe and Adzhikui. Academician Victor Sarianidi and Professor Gabriele Rossi-Osmida repeatedly invited him to their expeditions. They needed assistance of such an experienced geologist in identification of the origin of rocks and stones from which numerous pieces of art and household items discovered during excavations were made in ancient times. Bushmakin’s scientific articles, analyzing these unique artifacts, were published in Russia and Italy, and other scientists who study the material culture of the distant ancestors of the Turkmen people make references to his articles.
Many colleagues, students and acquaintances are very much surprised when they learn of real age of Anatoly Grigorievich, because this open, mobile and friendly man has so much energy and inquisitive curiosity, so much cordiality, kindness and optimism that younger people can only envy. It is quite possible that the secret of his health and longevity lies in these personal qualities that were hardened in the harsh conditions of geological expeditions.