Karakalpak Republic (käˌrəkŭlpäkˈ) [key], autonomous republic (1992 pop. 1,312,000), c.61,000 sq mi (158,000 sq km), W Uzbekistan, on the Amu Darya River. Nukus is the capital. The republic comprises parts of the Ustyurt plateau, the Kyzyl Kum desert, and the Amu Darya delta on the Aral Sea. It is the major Central Asian producer of alfalfa; other crops are cotton, rice, corn, and jute. Livestock raising (notably cattle and Karakul sheep) and silkworm breeding are widespread. There are many light industries, and deposits of petroleum and natural gas have been discovered. The population, concentrated in the delta, consists of Turkic-speaking Karakalpaks (31%), Uzbeks (31%), Kazakhs (26%), Turkmens, Russians, and Tatars. The Karakalpaks, known since the 16th cent., when they lived along the lower and middle courses of the Syr Darya River, were partly subjugated by the Kazakhs; they are more closely related to the Kazakhs than the Uzbeks. In the 18th cent. they migrated to their present homeland and in the 19th cent. came under the rule of the khanate of Khiva. The khanate passed under Russian control at the end of the 19th cent. and under Bolshevik control by 1920. The Karakalpak Autonomous Region was formed in 1925 within the Kazakh Autonomous Republic. It became an autonomous republic itself in 1932 and was transferred to the Uzbek SSR (now Uzbekistan) in 1936. The economy and the environment in Karakalpak are deteriorating due to the evaporation of the Aral Sea and misuse of agricultural chemicals.
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