Sunday, July 5, 2009

Nukus City

Nukus is the capital of the Karakalpakstan Autonomous Republic (Qoraqalpoghiston) located in Western Uzbekistan near the head of the Amu Darya (river) delta, west of the Kyzyl Kum desert, in the Khorezm oasis some 1,255 km west of the nation’s capital, Tashkent. It is a beautiful modern city, the centre of economical and cultural life of the republic. Flying into Nukus it is striking how the huge expanse of endless desert plains suddenly changes into irrigated fields, growing quickly into an ever denser carpet of green contrasting the grey and barren surroundings. The population is approx. 271,400 (2010 estimate).
Many centuries ago the ancient city Shurcha was located in what is now the north-western part of Nukus (not far from our house). According to historians, the town was one of the defensive fortresses, protecting the border of the ancient state of Khorezm and allow the control of the Amu Darya waterway. At the end of the 19th century, when Russia incorporated the Khiva Khanate, Petro-Aleksandrovsk (Turtkul) became the centre of the Amu Darya division. The first records about the modern city are dated from the second half of the 19th century. At that period of time it was a little (aul) village made up by rows of yurts surrounded by high clay wall.

It had been decided to build a large military fort on the site of village, which was completed in 1874. (Note: Armin Vamberi the great orientalist an historian  from Hungary, who travelled through the country in 1883, in his accounts of the trip mentioned the fort of Nukus located on the banks of the Amudarya). Soon the population of the fortress, mostly consisted of Kazakhs, began to grow and hospitals, schools and administrative buildings were built around the fortress.

When the Soviet authority came to power, Turtkul stayed the administrative centre of the Karakalpak autonomous region. But in the 20ies the threat that the Amu Darya would erode Turtkul town area caused the move of the capital to Nukus. The once tiny Nukus settlement by 1932 had achieved the status of a city, while in 1939 it replaced Turtkul as the capital of the Kara-Kalpak A.S.S.R. (now Qoragalpoghiston). Today, in spite of the fact that the sands of Kyzylkum desert approach closely the city walls, the streets and avenues of Nukus are buried in verdure, the squares are decorated with flowerbeds. Today it is the economic, administrative, political and cultural centre of Karakalpakstan. The city is decorated with modern buildings, boulevards, public gardens and parks.  The present city has a number of food-processing and other light industries, the Qoragalpoghiston branch of the Uzbek Academy of Sciences, Nukus State University, two museums, and a theatre.

The famous Art Museum of Karakalpakstan named after Savitsky is located in the city. Its unique collection of Avante Guarde paintings by Russian and Uzbek artists attracts and amazes visitors from around the world. Besides the museum Nukus and the surrounding area has many unique archaeological, historical and cultural monuments. Near Nukus, on the outskirts of Khodjeyli town there lies the ancient necropolis Mizdahkan. Locals believe that it contains  the tomb of Adam or Gayomarda (Gayamaretana) the first man according to Zoroastrian mythology.