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Karakalpakstan, a northwestern region spanning some 167,000 square kilometers with a population of about 2 million, split nearly evenly among ethic Uzbeks, Kazakhs, and Karakalpaks. Karakalpaks are a Turkic-speaking people in Central Asia. Their region used to be an autonomous area within Kazakhstan until 1930. Before becoming part of Uzbekistan in 1936, the region was the Karakalpak Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic within the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. The problems facing the Karakalpaks [or Black Hats] are similar to the problems facing all Uzbeks — only far more severe. For example , in Karakalpak, a small ethnically defined autonomous republic within Uzbekistan along the south shore of the Aral Sea, the esophagal cancer rate is seven times higher than in the rest of the country.

The Karakalpak pique themselves upon possessing the most beautiful women in Turkestan. In the harems of Uzbek grandees Persian slaves are highly esteemed for their beauty, and Karakalpak girls too are much liked for the regularity of their features. But on the other side they are themselves described as being the greatest idiots, and there are many anecdotes confirming this assertion. One of the principal features of the Karakalpaks, distinguishing them from the other Turkish tribes, is their possession of considerable quantity of hair on their faces.

The Karakalpak language belongs to the Kipchak family of Turkic languages, and they are closely related linguistically and culturally to the Kazakhs. They are mainly Sunni Muslims and about half a million of them live on the southern shore of the Aral Sea in the Autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan (Government of Karakalpakstan, 2006). There are also Karakalpak villages in the Ferghana Valley.

The Karakalpaks appear to be one of the Turkic ethnic groups which emerged after the Mongolian invasion of the 13th Century. Before the foundation of the kingdom of Afrakhan, the Karakalpaks performed their nomadian courses in the provinces situated on the inferior part of the Volga; but the horde of the Nogayans drove them thence, causing them to retreat eastward, and to settle in the environs of the Syr Darya. In this the Karakalpaks and the Ghivinsians differed from most other people, who, on being vexed by their neighbours, have always gone towards the weft; whereas these two tribes took the opposite course. In the years 1741, 1742, and 1743, the lower horde of the Karakalpaks, to the number of 30,000 families, fought the protection of Russia, as a security against the Kirguifians, but thefe latter revenged themfelves upon them in such a manner as tended nearly to their extermination. Those that escaped fled to the Upper horde, who put themselves under the protection of the Soongarians.

The Karakalpaks of both hordes subdivided themselves into several oulouses; or branches, whose chiefs bear the names of Scheigh, Saltan, Targan, Beggue, and Batirs, which denominations mark the different classes of their nobility. All the chiefs are honoured with the geö neral name of Godfches, or descendants of Mohammed. They were indeed in fubordination to the khan of the horde, but they by no means pride themfelves in a profound obedience. There was a great affinity between the conftitution of the Karakalpacks and that of the Baschkirians; having permanent huts for the winter, in the fumimer they are ambulatory, and draw along with them portable tents of felt ; they till some small fields, but bestow most pains on their flocks.

They held horses in no great estimation, prefering oxen and cows, which they use equally for draught and for riding. They have among them very able artists, who make knives, sabres, fire-arms, fkillets, gunpowder, &c. with which they fupply their neighbors, who frequently use them to their destruction. The Karakalpaks are Mohammedans, and well educated. They are as ignorant of commerce as of war. No sooner are they attacked, but they ran behind ramparts of earth for defence. They are fond of carrying off men, but they themselves fall much more frequently into the hands of the Kirguifians, who made slaves of them.

Karakalpaks felt the weight of their bondage much less than others, and did not make such frequent endeavours to escape to the Tartars of the Russian empire. Their small size throughout their history made them vulnerable to the domination of other ethnic groups, and this has been the case in the 17th and 18th centuries with the Kalmyks, followed by the Kazakhs, Turkmen and Uzbeks up until the 20th century. They entered into the Russian sphere of control after 1873.

An autonomous oblast was created for them in 1925 when the lands of Karakalpak was separated from the Turkestan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic and Khoresm People's Soviet Republic. The oblast became in 1932 the Karakalpak Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, and it was joined to the Uzbek SSR in 1936. It is because of that transfer that Karakalpaks entered into the sphere of Uzbekistan at the latter's independence in 1991, instead of their more closely related Kazakhs.

In 1993 the Supreme Soviet of the autonomous republic of Karakalpakia approved a new constitution, according to which it was transformed into a sovereign parliamentary republic renamed Karakalpakstan, within the Uzbekistan state. Constitutionally, Karakalpakstan can function apart from the national Uzbek Government, as long as it complies with Uzbekistan laws. In practice, the autonomy appears to be more nominal than real in most areas.

More nationalistic Karakalpaks demanded that the republic be given full independence, but such demands have been restrained by the fact that Uzbeks control the flow of water to Karakalpakstan. The local population has been gravely affected by the Aral Sea disaster, which has resulted in the contamination of water, soil and air and the loss of 2 million hectares of land for farming.

Many religious and political prisoners ended up in the new prison built in Uzbekistan’s far northwest of Karakalpakstan: Jaslyk. Ironically meaning “youth” in the Karakalpak language, Jaslyk quickly became the locus of a consistent stream of reports of torture, especially directed at religious prisoners, becoming the symbol of Uzbekistan’s worsening human rights record. The authorities imprisoned other journalists, activists, and ordinary citizens for raising other politically sensitive topics such as corruption, ecological problems, and the legal status of the autonomous republic of Karakalpakstan.

Protests broke out in Nukus and other cities after changes initiated by Mirziyoev were proposed on June 27 to the Uzbek constitution, including removal of language that guaranteed the right of Karakalpakstan to seek independence should citizens choose so in a referendum. Uzbekistan's President Shavkat Mirziyoyev declared a month-long state of emergency in the northwestern province of Karakalpakstan, after a failed bid to scrap its autonomy. "A presidential decree... declares a state of emergency in the Republic of Karakalpakstan from 00:01 a.m. on July 3, 2022 to 00:00 a.m. on August 2, 2022," the presidency announced.

Accurate information is difficult to obtain from the region, with locals reporting that Internet and phone services have been severely limited and a state of emergency restricting movement. Mirziyoyev held a video conference with all districts of Karakalpakstan, during which the heads of administrations and law enforcement agencies reported on the measures taken to ensure the safety and to strengthen law and order in the region.

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev acknowledged that there have been fatalities among security personnel and civilians during unrest in Karakalpakstan, the Central Asian nation's restive autonomous republic, with another report saying that more than 1,000 people had been injured in the turmoil. In a speech reported by his press office on July 3, Mirziyoev did not provide numbers or details of deaths or injuries during protests ignited by his plans, now dropped, to make constitutional changes to weaken the autonomous republic's status. "Unfortunately, there are fatalities among civilians and law-enforcement officers," Mirziyoev said, according to his press office.

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Page last modified: 04-07-2022 19:29:33 ZULU