History of Karakalpakstan, the autonomous republic of Uzbekistan

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Karakalpakstan is a particular autonomous republic within Uzbekistan located on most of the territories of ancient Khwarazm

History of Karakalpakstan

Roughly placed in ancient Khwarazm, the history of Karakalpakstan traces, at least for the first millennia of life, that of its ancient ancestor. Initially it was inhabited by ancient Indo-Aryan cultures, then being conquered by the Persian Empire, under which it grew more and more in power and autonomy, so much so that, even with the arrival of Alexander the Great and his successors, Khwarazm was almost independent, managing to consolidate this reality even after the year 0. Specifically, from 305 to 995 it was ruled by the Afrighid dynasty, which, through an infinite series of alliances and agreements, managed to maintain control even under the Umayyad Caliphate. It should be noted that, roughly until the control of this lineage, Karakalpakstan was one of the places where the largest number of the castles of Khwarazm were built, now a UNESCO heritage site and largely still present in their ancient form. With the collapse of the latter, this territory passed into the hands of the Samanids, the Ghazanavids and finally the Empire of Khwarazm, the last great Persian state before the arrival of the Mongols, a people who will forever revolutionize the history of Central Asia and world. In fact, today’s Karakalpakstan begins to form precisely following the Golden Horde and then the Nogai Horde, which will also place its dominion on this part of Khwarazm.


According to Russian sources, the Karakalpaki are specifically a part of Nogai which, following some very tough battles against Kalmyks, began to move here starting between the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th century. However, before these territories begin to be called “Karakalpakstan” it will still be a long time and in the meantime they will first compose the Shaybanid domain, then, after the clash with Shah Ismail I, to the Arabshahids and, when the latter fall at the hands of Nader Shah, to the so-called “Khanate of Khiva “, which until the Russian arrival represented the major authority of Khiva. Moscow’s intervention proved decisive for the birth of today’s Karakalpakstan, as it was precisely under the Soviet Union that the Karakalpaki were recognized as similar but different ethnicity from Kazakhs and Uzbeks, and therefore deserving of its own autonomous state. In 1925 it was established for the first time as an autonomous oblast within the then Kazakh Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, becoming, starting from 1932, a autonomous entity with the name of the Karakalpaka Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, a reality that remained until 1991. It should be noted that precisely because of the disasters wrought by the Soviets with the Aral Sea and agriculture, the economy, the climate and the local environment changed profoundly, transforming Karakalpakstan into what we know today. Since 1993 it has become an autonomous republic within Uzbekistan, maintaining a certain political autonomy with respect to the rest of the country. The Karakalpakstan Art Museum is today one of the best in the world and the second richest ever in terms of Russian avant-garde works of art.

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