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Basically, the sea level started to drop when soviet era farmers diverted water from it’s two main supply rivers to fuel the cotton growing industry. Because of the reduced rate of flow into the sea, the amount of water being lost to evaporation exceeded that of the incoming water. The sea rapidly dropped over the next few decades and today it’s tiny compared to it’s original size. It’s now basically a pesticide ridden dust bowl and the towns surrounding are filled with sick people as a result of the toxins. It’s regarded as one of the biggest man made environmental catastrophes of our time.
(I don’t read Russian, I did a geography paper on it a month or two ago. I guess that if you want to know more you can read up, I’m really high right now so my brain was working overtime just writing that up.)