History and modernity
The Autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan, a member of the Independent Republic of Uzbekistan, is situated on the north-west of the country and owns an area of 165 thousand square kilometers. That is considered to be 40% of the entire state area. In the north and east it borders with the Republic of Kazakhstan, and in the south the Republic of Turkmenistan is its neighbor.
Population is about 1.5 million people. The majority of them are the Karakalpaks and Uzbeks.
Karakalpaks are the representatives of the Central Asian racial group with a strong Mongoloid admixture.
Religion: Islam. Confession: Sunni Muslim.
Official languages: Uzbek and Karakalpak.
The capital of Karakalpakstan is Nukus city (262 thousand people).
Almost the entire territory of autonomy is occupied by the mysterious Ustyurt plateau, irrevocably drying Aral Sea and the desert of Kyzylkum. Climate is sharply continental with cold winters and extremely hot summers. In addition, it has recently exacerbated in connection with the drying of the Aral Sea.
Settlement of the territory of Karakalpakstan, located in the Khorezm oasis and the Lower Amu Darya started long time ago, at the end of IV — beginning of II-th millennium BC, as evidenced by numerous archaeological finds. At this time, irrigated agriculture, animal husbandry and fishing began to develop. Semi-nomadic tribes came from the Eurasian steppe also started to populate at this place.
In general, the history of the current autonomy as a part of the once mighty civilization of Khorezm abounds with the facts of ups and downs, rise and decline.
In the middle of V century BC Khorezm was captured by Achaemenids. Thus, a wide cultural exchange began. At the turn of the V-IV centuries BC Khorezm gained independence. A proper artistic culture was formed by fusion of local and borrowed items. In VIII century, after the conquest by the Arabs, a lifestyle, art and culture became more to get features that were characteristic for all countries of the Caliphate. After that it was the era of the Great Khorezm and the conquest of the Mongols in the XIII century. At this time, Urgench town — the capital of Khorezm, which lied on the crossroads of caravan trails of the Great Silk Road, became one of the largest craft and cultural centers of Central Asia.
Since the middle of XVI until XVIII centuries, nomadic ethnic Karakalpaks inhabiting the steppe region of the Syr Darya and the Aral Sea come and remain in these places. By XIX century this process was completed. Tribes turned into settled, built permanent dwellings, developed agriculture, stock breeding and fisheries.
Such a way, ancient and medieval civilizations contributed to the unique culture and art. And a proof of that are archaeological sites, which are still extant, that witnessed the history of Karakalpakstan, stretching back many centuries.
These days, Karakalpakstan is a sovereign state within the Republic of Uzbekistan. It has its own flag, emblem and anthem. It is composed of 15 districts, 12 cities, 16 towns and 112 villages.
Karakalpakstan is rich with minerals. There is a huge amount of deposits of gas, iron, kaolin clay, Glauber’s salt, marble and granite in its subsoil.
Fundamentals of state economy are considered to be: agriculture, which includes cotton and rice growing, production of melons, fruits and licorice, as well as industrial karakul and industry, represented by energy, metalworking, food and textile industries.
Administrative, political and cultural center of Karakalpakstan is its capital, the city of Nukus. Emerged in 1932 year in a place of a small village, Nukus, thanks to a good location, already in 1939 year became the capital of autonomy. Modern Nukus, with an area of more than 200 square kilometers, was built on the site of the ancient city named Shurcha, which was found in the IV century BC and existed during almost eight centuries. Today the capital of Karakalpakstan is a modern city with established infrastructure, which is populated by about 300 thousand inhabitants. A lot of different theaters, sports and entertainment facilities, hotels, restaurants, shops and markets are open in Nukus. High technology is embedded in the all aspects that are the inherent attributes of our time: high-speed Internet, satellite TV, cellular with roaming all over the world. However, the main interests for tourists in the city, along with its historical monuments, are, of course, museums.
Only a few museums can boast of such a rich collection of paintings by Russian artists, and such popularity in the world community as the Nukus Museum of Arts named after Savitsky. The museum was named after a Moscow artist, I.V. Savitsky, who arrived to Nukus in the 50-s of last century, and in 1966 year, was appointed on the position of the director of the museum. Igor Vitalevich began to gather a collection of contemporary art, mostly of avant-garde artists, the paintings of whom were strictly banned by the existing regime. As a result, the collection was replenished with 50 000 units of paintings of avant-garde and post-avant-garde periods. Therefore, namely here in a far Nukus, you could see what was persecuted in the USSR for so long time.
More than 90,000 copies of the exhibition belong to a modern exposition of Nukus Museum of Arts has, including: a collection of Russian avant-garde, paintings of Uzbek artists, exhibits of folk-applied art of Karakalpakstan, Khorezm ancient art, a series of canvases — remarkably executed copies of famous paintings from the Louvre.
According to experts’ evaluation, this gathered collection is one of the best art collections in the Asian region and the world’s second-largest in volume collection of Russian avant-garde.
Republican Museum of Karakalpakstan, located on the first floor building occupied by the Museum of Art is also of undoubted interest and is one of the oldest museums in Uzbekistan. Founded in 1929, during the years of existence, 56 thousand copies were added to its collection. The museum consists of three exhibits: the nature, archeology and ethnography. The department of modern history, which focuses on the achievements of autonomy since its independence, also deserves attention. The layout of the ancient settlements, and household objects found on excavations are used to be of particular interest for visitors to enjoy. In the halls of ethnography an old woman’s dress with intricate embroidery ornament and wealth of jewelry draws attention. Household items, kitchen utensils, and all that housed a nomad yurt is also exhibited here.
The department of Nature is able to boast with meticulously executed dioramas landscapes of Ustyurt plateau, the Kyzylkum and the Aral Sea.
There is a great variety of unique attractions, wonderful monuments of archeology, history and culture in Nukus and the surrounding area.