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Savitsky Museum

The Karakalpak State Museum of Art named after I.V. Savitskiy is located right near our Jipek Joli Hotel. It is acknowledged by experts to contain one of the top art collections in Asia and is the second biggest and most significant collection of Russian Avant-Garde in the world. The English newspaper "The Guardian" called the museum "one of the most outstanding museums of the world"; (Amelia Gentleman, "Saviysky's" secret Hoard ."The Guardian"; January 1, 2001). The story of how the museum was established and developed is as unique as the collection.

The museum is a treasury that illustrates cultural periods from the third century BC to the present day. There are items of the material and artistic culture of Ancient Khorezm, including the Folk and Applied Art of the Karakalpaks, a small, formerly semi-nomadic ethnic group living in north-west Uzbekistan with a primordial history and original culture. The Fine Arts section of the museum is the largest display of artwork. It not only houses the national art school of Karakalpakstan but also works by the founders of the pictorial culture of Uzbekistan, a multi-national group of artists working in Central Asia at the beginning of the 20th century. So, the significance and scale of the Nukus museum's collection of Russian Avant-Garde makes it, according to the experts, the second museum in the world after the world-wide known Russian Museum in St. Petersburg.

In a remarkably short period of time, unprecedented in the history of museum collecting, the Nukus museum grew into a rich collection of approximately 90 thousand articles. This phenomenon was made possible by the genius of one man: Igor Vitalievich Savitskiy, founder of the Nukus museum.

Real official recognition of Savitskiy's activity and his collection came with the changes in the country. The museum began to gain in popularity from 1991 when Nukus became freely accessible to journalists and experts, foreign embassies and international organizations. Correspondents from leading broadcasting corporations, newspapers and magazines began to publicize the paradoxical facts of the museum. The name of the museum entered numerous prestigious reference books of the world.

Toprak-Kala Palace (I-IV century AD)

Toprak-Kala city site is located in Ellikkalinsky region of Republic of Karakalpakstan. The area of the city site is 500 x 350 meters. It has a rectangular shape. The site is surrounded by fortress walls still existing in the form of an embankment that at times reaches the height of 8-9 m. It was established that one of the city quarters was occupied by temples that traditionally were built here throughout the history of the city.

The horns of a wild sheep decorated with gilded bronze bracelets were found in another building. Many offerings, including glassware, jewelry and fragments of alabaster sculptures were lying around on the floor, while there were many frescos on the walls with images of mystical dancing masks. The Hall of Warriors contained the figures of warriors and the Hall of Kings contained the sculptures of kings made from non-burned clay.

The main section of the palace is built on the foundation made from adobe bricks that supports the northern and western city walls. The palace had a shape of a truncated pyramid. Three additional sections were built on higher foundations. The larger part of the palace was occupied by state rooms and shrines related to various aspects of the king's worship. The walls were decorated with frescos.

The Hall of Kings is a dynastic shrine where the fire burned on the altar in front of large pictures of 23 kings. They were located on benches separated by partitions into several lodges. Each of them in addition to the sculpture of the king contained two pictures of women and one picture of a man.

The walls of the Hall of Victory were decorated by bas-reliefs of kings sitting on their thrones surrounded by soaring goddesses.

The Hall of Black-Skinned Warriors. Here the bas-reliefs of kings in the niches are located under clay moldings in the form of stylized huge ram horns. The black-skinned warriors were glorifying the kings.

The Hall of Deer was decorated with figures of these animals. Above them there was a belt with images of gryphons.

The Hall of Dancing Masks still had partial images of men and women dancing in pairs. The main niche contained the image of a great goddess with a wild animal. Podium of the altar is located in the centre of the hall. The hall was designed to hold mystical ceremonies that symbolized the king's connection with the fertile forces of nature. The fact that this shrine was directly connected to the main section of the throne ensemble indicates its special importance.

Kyrk-Kyz-Kala Fortress, I-II, XII-XIII century AD

The fortress is located 27 km to the north of Birunii. The site was first discovered by Khoresm Archeological and Ethnographic Expedition in 1938. The fortress is build on a plain and has a shape that is almost square with the size of 65 x 63 m. It is oriented in such a way that its corners point in cardinal directions. The outside wall had two tiers of arrow loops. The building was obviously built as defensive fortress and was a part of Khoresm fortifications built by the state to protect the northeastern border of ancient Khoresm.

At the same time the fortress was a centre of agriculture and the junction of caravan roads passing over Sultanuizdag mountainous range.

Ayaz-Kala City Site, IV-II century BC

The city site is located 41 km to the north east of Berunii. It has a rectangular shape with sides oriented towards cardinal directions. The site is built on a flat top of the hill and is surrounded by deep ravines from three sides. There is no inner layout. Some remaining walls are build from adobe bricks. There is a blind corridor between the walls with no skylights or arrow loops with camber arches. The bricks of the arch have trapezoid shape. The arch was covered by clay mortar from inside. The blind corridor has packing for the floor. An arch-like passage has been cleared in the northern wall right behind the second tower from the northeastern corner.

Historians believe that Ayaz-Kala fortress was built in IV-III century BC, but strangely was never used. Moreover, there is a theory that for some reason construction of the fortress was not completed. Archeologists found no evidence of people living here, although a lot of prepared but unused construction materials was discovered. Still, it looks like this fortress that stood there for many centuries was abandoned just recently. Its rough grayish pink adobe walls with narrow arrow loops, menacing towers and round and equilateral arches of portals still look intimidating today.

There are many legends and tales about these grandiose ruins. People still believe that in many fortresses there are hidden underground passages guarded by evil forces and that anybody who tries to find countless treasures here will die. Fortunately, not a single archeologist died here during the site studies.

Koy-Kyrylgan-Kala Fortress and Temple

Koy-Kyrylgan-Kala, the ruins of a round-shaped fortification, is located northeast of Turtkul. One of the few large fully excavated ancient sites, it is characterized by its unique layout. Originally this was a round two-storey building surrounded by two walls that formed a shooting gallery divided by towers into nine sections. The entrance was in the eastern section. All structure was surrounded by a moat.

Ceramics of the lower horizon represent a single complex with a certain set of dishware which was well treated and covered with red sgraffitoes or red colour decorations.

During the lengthy period of neglect the building of Koy-Kyrylgan Kaly was used by tradesmen, in particular by potters. However, this site is traditionally remembered as a major religious centre. Burial vessels were placed here during the period of neglect.

A large collection of artifacts found during excavations, including terra-cota and alabaster statuettes, bas-reliefs on ceramic flasks, sculptured ceramic urns and burial vessels, fragments of frescos, and stone seals characterize unique art of ancient Khoresm. A small number of written records, the most ancient in the Central Asia, are of great interest.


This fortress dating back to IV century BC I century AD is located on the northwestern slope of a flat rocky hill at the end of the range of hills stretching southeast of Sultanuizdag.

In 1946-48 the fortress was photographed from air. It has a rectangular shape (200 x 170 m). Collected artifacts, mainly ceramics, are characteristic for early ancient (Kangui) culture of Khoresm.

Major Guldursun

This fortress, dating back to IV-III century BC to XII-XIII century AD, is located 20 km to the east of Berunii. Major Guldursun, one of the large border fortresses of Khoresm, was built on the basis of a desolate ancient fortress. It has a shape of an irregular rectangle (350 x 230 m). The corners of the structure point in cardinal directions. Archeological excavations inside the fortress discovered a great number of ancient and Middle Age ceramics, bronze artifacts and jewelry as well as ancient and Middle Age coins. Judging by the coins, this site was last used in 1220.

Mizdahkan (Khodjeili Gyaur-Kala) is an archeological and architectural site dating back to IV century BC XIV century AD. The archeological site of ancient Mizdahkan is located on the large territory of over 200 ha along the major highways to Kunya-Urgench (Turkmenistan) and northern regions of Republic of Karakalpakstan (Kungrad and Muinak) and to Ustyurt plateau.

The sites major sections are located on three hills located in the southwest edge of the town of Khodjeili. The site includes Gyaur-Kala fortress, Shamun-Nabi, Mazlumkhan-Sulu, Khalfa-Erezhep mausoleums, and a caravanserai. Unique burial vessel sites, coins, utensils, glassware and artful gold jewelry were discovered during excavation.

Nazlumkhan-Sulu Mausoleum

This mausoleum is located in the western part of the northern half of the hill. Half of the site is buried under ground. Only cupolas and entrance portal are above ground. A staircase from the portal leads through a vaulted corridor down to a small intermediary domed structure. From here a second set of stairs leads to a central room. Based on coins, the building of the mausoleum dates back to the first half of XIV century. It is related to the heyday of trading cities of the Golden Horde Khoresm. Mizdahkan was of such cities located on busy routes of international trade.

Chilpyk (Shylpyk) is a religious structure dating back to II-IV, IX-XII century AD. This circular structure is located on the route of an automobile road, 43 km south of Nukus (leading to Khiva, Samarkand and Tashkent) at the top of the conical 35-40 m hill. It has a shape of an unclosed, slightly flattened circle with the diameter of 65-79 m. The height of walls reaches 15 m. In II-IV century it was built as a fire-worshipers dakhma. In IX-XI century it was used by locals as a beacon tower.

Janpyk-Kala is an ancient city site dating back to IX-XII, XIII-XIV century AD. The site is located 6 km to the southeast of Karatau village on the southwestern offsets of Sultanuizdag mountainous range. It is one of the most picturesque sites on the right bank of Amudarya River. The site has a complex shape. A rectangular citadel with hard-burned brick wall is located in the eastern part of the site. The walls are decorated by semi-pillars that meet at the top in paired stepped arches.

Archeological excavations allowed recreating the chronology of the site. The most ancient ceramics dates back to IV century BC I century AD. The coins found at the site indicate that the latest inhabitation was in 1319-1320 and 1345-1346. Many artifacts earlier brought from various eastern and western countries (China, Egypt, Russia, Europe, India) were found during the excavations. During Middle Ages the city was used as a port. At the edge of Janpyk-Kala you can see the vast vistas of Badai-Tugai reserve.

Materials taken from Karakalpakstan Online site (

Did you know that..

Karakalpakstans flood-plain forests were once home to the unique Turan Tiger, the last of which was extinguished in 1978.

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