is an independent Republic inside Uzbekistan. Karakalpak means "black hat
people" but no more remnants of black hats can be found there nowadays. The
Karakalpak used to be nomads and fishers. The Aral Sea, which is in the north,
was big and full of fish. Now, as a result of unsuccessful and water wasting
irrigation to keep the cotton growing during long years, the land is dry and
the lake has shrunk to one quarter of its original size, and became very
salty. A lot of pesticides, defoliants and fertilizer had to be used to
increase the cotton harvest and traces are still to be found everywhere. The
streets often look like there has been a light snowfall. However, this is the
result of the constant wind, blowing the salt from the dry lake bed all over
the area surrounding it. On top of that, a drought struck in the year 2000,
leaving the people poor and without anything to eat. A Karakalpak woman showed
me her house in Muynak, a village that used to border the Aral sea.
house was a holiday house on the beach, where she spent many happy days with
her children; the shore now was between 50 and 100 kilometers away. In this
village, all people used to be fishermen, and are now sitting, unemployed and
bored, on their doorsteps, watching the days go by. An old fisher museum
reminds of better times.In and around Muynak, boats are stranded
everywhere. They just stayed in the water until the water disappeared, no need
to rescue them since there were not a lot of other fishing possibilities in a
doubly landlocked country.
have their own language, which is a Turkic language, like Uzbek. It resembles
Kazakh language more than Uzbek. You see also a lot of camels in this region,
running freely across the road.
The capital is Nukus, a city which exists
since 1932. Here you will find the
Savitsky museum, also called Art Museum,
and as I understood, now involuntary renamed "State Museum". The rich artist Savitsky collected here in the 1920's about 70,000 art pieces, to prevent
Stalin to erase all non-socialist art. Hardly anybody knew this collection
existed until the Soviet Union collapsed. The collection is far too big to
exhibit, even after the recent move to a new building.
only 10% of the collection hangs on the wall or stands around, a little bit crammed because it
is still an enormous quantity. Strangely enough, the museum also exhibits
copies of famous European artworks, when there are still so many treasures hidden away in the basement of the
museum. Luckily it hardly ever rains so the paintings will not suffer much
damage. To the left one of the famous paintings hanging in the museum.
Even though Nukus is not older than a mere 70 years, in Karakalpakstan and the
neighboring Khorezm people have been living for thousands of years and have
left their traces. The most famous ruin from the third or fourth century is Topraq-quala (qala means city), on top of a hill overlooking the river Amu
Darya. It still has three 25 meter high
towers and if you use your imagination
only a little bit, you can imagine how people must have lived here. Qavat Qala
was unfortunately mostly destroyed by Jenghiz Khan, but of Ayaz Qala, Janpyq
Qala (1st century) and Elliq qala (fifty cities) you can still find beautiful
of the ruins were fortresses in the old days and to ensure safety, they were
built on a high place, offering a most beautiful view over the Karakalpak
land. In the middle of the desert, suddenly little lakes and green patches
emerge; there is even a small Nature Park, called Badai-Tugai, where is said
that the desert cat, jackal, wild boar and fox are still having their habitat.