In ancient times the territory of Karakalpakstan was part of the Khorezm Empire and later of the Khiva Khanate. An attempt to establish its khanate in the 18th century failed after a short time.
The inhabitants settled on the banks of the Amu Darya river and built their settlements and fortresses there. However, the river changed its course over time, so the inhabitants had to leave their territories several times to follow the river; otherwise, they would not have water for their life sustenance. Therefore, many historical fortresses can be found in modern Karakalpakstan. The most famous and best-preserved of them are Toprak-Kala, Ayaz-Kala and Kyzyl-Kala.
The Republic of Karakalpakstan is located in North-Western Uzbekistan, which occupies 37% of the country’s territory. The area of Karakalpakstan is larger than that of Bangladesh, but while 170 million people live in Bangladesh, in Karakalpakstan, the total population is only about 1.8 million since about 80% of the territory is covered by deserts (Karakum, Kizilkum and Aralkum). Besides Karakalpaks, Uzbeks, Kazakhs and Turkmens are the largest ethnic groups.
Today Karakalpakstan is a republic within Uzbekistan. It has its national symbols (coat of arms, anthem and flag) and two official languages (Karakalpak and Uzbek). Nevertheless, the Uzbek sum is used as the monetary unit in the region.
The name Karakalpakstan is derived from three words: “kara” – black, “kalpak” – hat, “stan” – place, i.e. the place for people with black hats. The name originated from the traditional headwear of the local population, a black hat made of sheep’s wool.
capital of Karakalpakstan
Karakalpak and Uzbek
Karakalpakstan was founded in 1932 as an autonomous Soviet republic and became part of the Uzbek Soviet republic in 1936. The capital of Karakalpakstan has been Nukus since 1932, where the region’s international airport is located. Nukus is a starting point for travellers wishing to visit the remains of the Aral Sea. The city is home to the famous Museum of Art named after Igor Savitsky. Its priceless collection boasts more than 86,000 artefacts. It possesses one of the richest collections of Russian avant-garde* paintings and objects of the applied arts and ethnography of Karakalpakstan and Central Asia.
who are karakalpaks?
Karakalpaks are descendants of the Turkic people who migrated from the Altai region (Russian territory bordering Kazakhstan and Mongolia) to Central Asia in the 2nd-4th centuries and mingled with the local population. Initially, they settled in the northern part of the Aral Sea and along the Syr Darya river but were displaced by the Kazakh tribes and moved to the Amu Darya delta. They were primarily engaged in fishing and farming and remained semi-nomads until the Soviet era, with winter and summer camps.
Most Karakalpaks live in Karakalpakstan, but also Khorezm Province and the Fergana Valley. There are also small groups in Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, where they live close to the border with Uzbekistan. Some 20.000 Karakalpaks live in Iran, mainly near Lake Yurmia, and a small minority lives in Afghanistan.
Externally, a Karakalpak differs from an Uzbek in its distinctly Mongoloid appearance. Karakalpak belongs to the Turkic group of languages, like Uzbek, but it is considered to be closer to the Kazakh language. The total number of Karakalpaks worldwide is 825,000.