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Sackvoyage Tour Ltd. » Country profile » Nukus

In the southern part of contemporary Amudarya delta among the wastelands is situated Nukus capital of Autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan. Karakalpakstan: the name evokes poignant images. We are reminded not only of the crisis of the Aral Sea, but the long and rich history of the civilizations flourishing and passing on this land.  We find a varied and rich landscape as well as treasured historical monuments and archeological sites. The Karakalpak (Black Hat), whose ethnic umbrella gives the republic its raison d'etre, are a Turkic people whose language, traditions and clan structure have closer links to the Kazakh than the Uzbek and whose physiognomy owes more to the nomadic Mongol than to the settled Persian. Their ancestral heartland was traditionally centered upon the lower Volga and Syrdarya rivers and northern Aral, but towards the end of the 18th century the clans were gradually driven southwest into the Amudarya delta by relentless Kazakh aggression. Their signed treaty of friendship with the ambassador of Peter the Great in1722 meant little in these new lands and they were made reluctant and unruly subjects of the Khans of Kungrad and later Khiva. In 1827 a Karakalpak rebellion held the town of Kungrad for a time but it was bloodily suppressed by Khivan forces. In 1873 Karakalpak lands were ceded to Russia and restlessly under Soviet rule through the ranks of nationality from an autonomous oblast in the Kazakh republic (1925), to autonomy in the Russian Federation (1930), to an autonomous republic in its own right (1932), to an autonomous republic inside the Uzbek republic (1936). In these dizzy days of ethnic assertiveness the republics status is somewhat ambiguous. Approximately 30 per cent of the population are ethnic Karakalpak, 30 per cent Uzbek and 30 per cent Turkoman. Only 2 per cent are Russians, descended mainly from Cossack fishermen, and most of these are leaving.

"Once you have become the companion of the road,
it calls you again. The road lies outside the door
of your house full of charm and mystery".

Graham, Stephen
Through Russian Central Asia (1916)