Historical Background

The territory of Karakalpakstan has been inhabited since ancient times. Earliest settlements include temporary Palaeolithic, Neolithic and Bronze Age sites at the foot of the Sultan Uvays Dag mountain range and along the Amudarya River banks, used by hunters and fishermen who had a simple way of life.

In addition, there is a hypothesis of a Palaeolithic migration from the Northern Caucasus and its adjourning territories. It is assumed that migration could occur during the periods when the Caspian Sea level decreased significantly and its northern part dried up, creating a direct land link between the Northern Caucasus, Mangyshlak and Ustyurt.

The first Neolithic sites date back to approximately the IV century B.C. During this era, there were two main distinctive areas with different natural conditions, lifestyle and culture. The first area is an ancient delta of the Amudarya ( the south delta of Akchadarya River) in Southern Karakalpakstan. The second area is located on the vast expanses of the Ustyurt Plateau.

The Akchadarya Delta was an abundant water flood plain with lakes, islands and swamps rich in fish, wild animals and birds. This area gave birth to the so-called Neolithic Kelteminar culture of ancient fishermen and hunters (IV–III centuries B.C.). It should be noted that Kelteminar culture had large scale villages which were each separate matriarchal clan settlements.

During the Bronze Age the Southern Aral Sea region was a place where the tribes and cultures of different origins actively mixed together. Later on, a Khorasmiya nation developed on this basis.

In the VI century B.C., the first Khorezm cities currently located in the regions of Khorezm, Uzbekistan and Tashoguz, Turkmenistan were founded. At that time, Khorezm was part of the Achaemenid Empire. According to Herodotus, it was part of the Persian Empire’s 16th satrapy. Moreover, it is mentioned that Khorezm warriors served in the Achaemenid army and took part in the construction of Persepolis.

The State of Ancient Khorezm originated at the cusp of the V and IV centuries B.C. The majority of its monuments are located within the boundaries of modern Karakalpakstan. During this period a number of fortified towns in the form of a unified fortress system were constructed.

The first centuries A.D. of Ancient Khorezm history are known as the Kushan Period, although it is still unknown whether Khorezm was an official part of the Kushan Empire.

Starting from the IV century A.D, Khorezm was ruled by the Afrigids dynasty that governed the country till the end of the X century After the Arab invasion Khorezm was divided into two parts: Kyate (right bank) that was left to the Afrigids dynasty, and Gurganzh, ruled by the Arab governor, the emir.

At the end of the VI–VII centuries, the Kerder culture originated in the Amudarya Delta (the Aral Sea region). It was distinguished by its own coins, original moulded ceramics and a new settlement layout. Its centre, Kerder city, was located on the ancient site of the Khaivan Kala Settlement in the Nukus district.

In the XI century a new state of the Khorezm Shahs (Khwarazmian) Dynasty was founded on the territory of Ancient Khorezm. It collapsed in the XIII century as a result of Mongol invasion. Despite mass destruction, Amudarya west bank lands were restored during the Golden Horde reign. Thus, in the XIV century Khorezm became the richest cultural area of the Golden Horde. It played a significant role in international trade that spread over a vast territory from China to Rome and the Baltic Sea to India.

In the XIX century the territory of modern Karakalpakstan was part of the Khiva Khanate. In 1924, the Karakalpak Autonomous Region with an administrative centre in Turtkul city was formed. In 1992, Karakalpakstan was transformed into a sovereign republic as a part of Uzbekistan.