Thursday, January 19, 2012


Flag of Karakalpakstan

Coat of Arms of Karakalpakstan

The northwestern third of Uzbekistan constitutes the autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan. Karakalpakstan (Kara-Kalpakstan) is known as Qaraqalpaqstan in Karakalpak, Qoraqalpoghistan in Uzbek and Karakalpakiya in Russian. It is an autonomous republic within Uzbekistan, situated southeast and southwest of the Aral Sea and extends across roughly 164,900 square kilometers.

It is bordered on the east by the rest of Uzbekistan and to the north and east by Kazakhstan, and to the south by Turkmenistan. The Aral Sea extends from Kazakhstan into the northeastern corner of the republic. On the east Karakalpakstan occupies the western half of the Kyzylkum Desert, a vast plain covered with shifting sands. The central part consists of the valley and delta of the Amu Darya (river), a low-lying area intersected by watercourses and canals. The west the republic includes the southeastern part of the Ustyurt Plateau, a slightly undulating area characterized by flat summits rising to some 958 feet (292 m) above sea level. The climate is marked by cool winters and hot summers. Average rainfall is only 75 to 100 mm (3-4 inches).

Karakalpaks are Turkic-speaking people who live mostly within the Autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan. Politically the Republic is part of Uzbekistan, and occupies the arid and sparsely inhabited northwest region of the country. Karakalpakstan’s total population is around 1.5 million, of which just over a third identify themselves as ethnically Karakalpak. Uzbeks and Kazakhs comprise most of the remaining 60% of the population along with small numbers of Turkmens and Russians.  Like many other Turkic peoples, Karkalpaks are of obscure origin. However what is known is that contemporary Karakalpaks are the descendants of Turkic tribes—Kytai, Kongyrat, Kipchak, Keneges, Mangyt, Muyten—that formed a confederacy at the end of the 15th century and settled along the lower part of the Syr Darya River, in what is now Kazakhstan. Later they migrated south toward the Aral Sea, following the delta of the Amu Darya to reach their current territory.The first historical reference to them dates from the end of the 16th century. During the 18th century they settled in the Amu Darya region, came partly under Russian rule in 1873, and by 1920 were totally incorporated into the Soviet Union.

Established as an autonomous oblast (province) of the Kazakh A.S.S.R. in 1925, Karakalpakstan came under the administration of the Russian S.F.S.R. in 1930 and two years later was constituted as an autonomous republic. In 1936, while retaining its status, it was made a part of the Uzbek S.S.R. and became part of Uzbekistan with that country’s independence in 1991.

About one-half of the population is urban. Nukus, the capital, Xojeli, Beruniy, Takhiatosh, Chimbay, Turtkul, and Altykyl are the chief settlements. Total Pop. (2007 est.) 1,678,191.

Photo: Nukus City

Map of Karakalpakstan : District / District capital
1 Amudarya District Man'g'it
2 Beruniy District Beruniy
3 Shimbay District Shimbay
4 Ellikqala District Bostan
5 Kegeyli District Kegeyli
6 Moynaq District Moynaq
7 No'kis District Aqman'g'it
8 Qonliko‘l District Qanliko‘l
9 Qon'irat District Qon'irat
10 Qarao'zek District Qarao'zek
11 Shomanay District Shomanay
12 Taxtako‘pir District Taxtako‘pir
13 To'rtko‘l District To‘rtko‘l
14 Xojeli District Xojeli
Republican Capital : Nukus

Districts in Uzbek, Karakalpak and Russian and Capital in Russian

1 Amudaryo A’muda’rya Амударьинский (Мангит)
2 Beruniy Beruniy Берунийский (Беруни)
3 Chimboy Shimbay Чимбайский (Чимбай)
4 Elliqala Ellikqala лликкалинский (Бустан)
5 Kegeyli Kegeyli Кегейлийский (Кегейли)
6 Mo’ynoq Moynaq Муйнакский (Муйнак)
7 Nukus No’kis Нукусский (Акмангит)
8 Qanliko’l Qanliko’l Канлыкульский (Канлыкуль)
9 Qo’ng’irot Qon’irat Кунградский (Кунград)
10 Qorao’zak Qarao’zek Караузякский (Караузяк)
11 Shumanay Shomanay Шуманайский (Шуманай)
12 Taxtako’pir Taxtako’pir Тахтакупырский (Тахтакупыр)
13 To’rtko’l To’rtko’l Турткульский (Турткуль)
14 Xo’jayli Xojeli Ходжейлийский (Ходжейли)
capital Nukus No’kis г. Нукус

The economy is predominantly agricultural. The industrial sector, while limited, includes light manufacturing, refineries that process oil from nearby petroleum fields, several building-materials plants that utilize the abundant limestone, gypsum, asbestos, marble, and quartzite of the area, and a power station in Takhiatosh. Cotton is cultivated along the Amu Darya and in its delta and is processed in mills located in Chimbay, Kungrad, Beruni, Takhtakupyr, Xojeli, and Mangit.

A well-developed system of irrigation canals supplies water from the Amu Darya to the crops. Besides cotton, crops include alfalfa, rice, and corn (maize) are grown in the delta. Cattle and Karakul sheep are raised in the Kyzylkum Desert.

Agricultural farmlands particularly those lands in the lower Amu Darya and near the Aral Sea have become salinized owing to the effects of over-irrigation. The shrinkage of the Aral Sea has also eliminated most of the republic’s fisheries and resulted in a much harsher climate and a shorter growing season.

Transport facilities in the republic include a railway from Kungrad to Turkmenabat in Turkmenistan, motor roads that link several cities of the republic, and air connections with Moscow, Tashkent and other cities.

Source: Encyclopædia Britannica

Monday, January 9, 2012

Ustyurt Plateau - Saiga

The unique grassland steppe of the Ustyurt Plateau, a temperate desert lying between the Caspian and the Aral seas cover a vast area, about 200,000 square kilometers shared between Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan.

The landscape is a mosaic of eroded hills, shallow basins, and extensive escarpments, with no permanent streams or open fresh-water sources.

With a high degree of endemism -- species that can only be found locally -- the plateau is home to vegetation types well-adapted to a harsh environment, including gypsum- and salt-tolerant plants.

Still found are ungulates like the goitered gazelle (Gazella subgutturosa subgutturosa) and the Ustyurt urial (Ovis vigneri arcal), as well as mammal predators such as the marbled polecat (Vormela peregusna).

The plateau's most famous resident is undoubtedly the saiga antelope (Saiga tatarica tatarica). With its bulbous, tubular nose and bulging eyes, the nomadic antelope is certainly one of the world's strangest-looking mammals. It's also on a list of critically endangered species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

A range of human-related impacts are denuding and fragmenting the landscape and its habitats, affecting species' diversity, number, and migration. Meanwhile, social and economic difficulties have caused a sharp decline in funding for conservation efforts in a landscape susceptible to degradation and desertification.

In 1991, Uzbek authorities designated a protected area of 1,000,000 ha in Ustyurt to safeguard saiga lambing grounds. Likewise in Kazakhstan, the Ustyurt Nature Reserve protects 223,000 hectares of the plateau and in Turkmenistan's the 282,000-hectare Kaplankyr Nature Reserve covers the Ustyurt Plateau's southern spur.

The saiga population however has shrunk from more than 1 million in the 1990s to around 40,000 today. In particular the Ustyurt population is vulnerable, with less than 10,000 on the plateau with the population still in sharp decline.

As of today this species of ancient steppe antelope is represented by 5 dissociated groupings of 5-15 thousand of animal units each: Mongolian (in Mongo-lia), Kalmyk (in the Russian Federation), Urals (Kazakhstan), Usturt (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan) and Turgai-Betpakdala (Kazakhstan), which keep decreasing by 20-40% per year. If this population decline rate is continued, then taking into account the biological peculiarities of this species (a number of natural enemies, climate effect, and susceptibility to diseases) and high demand for the products made of their horns one may talk about the complete loss of this species within next 5-7 years.

This unsustainable increase in poaching for Saiga is occurring because demand for its meat and very sadly for its antlers (used in traditional Chinese medicine as an alternative to the rhinoceros horn). The use of the antlers is totally unfounded and is not based on traditional Chinese medicinal practise at all, but on a combination of lots of greed (particularly that of the smugglers & other middle men) and way way too much money in the hands of too many backward and superstition people living in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and other parts of the far east who are buying at very high prices antlers & antler preparations which have historically have NEVER ever been used in any traditional Chinese medicinal preparations.

The saiga will face extinction unless very strong conservation measures in Central Asia and the Russian Federation are put in place and efforts by the Chinese/ Taiwan / Kong Kong governments ect. are steeped up considerably ie. making a real effort to stop the sale of the antlers and other by-products of the Saiga and prosecuting whomever is involved (as was done to save the panda in the PRC).