Taken from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karakalpakstan
Karakalpakstan (Karakalpak: Qaraqalpaqstan / Қарақалпақстан; Uzbek: Qoraqalpogʻiston), officially the Republic of Karakalpakstan (Karakalpak: Qaraqalpaqstan Respublikası / Қарақалпақстан Республикасы; Uzbek: Qoraqalpogʻiston Respublikasi) is an autonomous republic within Uzbekistan. It occupies the whole northwestern end of Uzbekistan. The capital is Nukus (Noʻkis / Нөкис). The Republic of Karakalpakstan has an area of 160,000 square kilometers (62,000 sq mi). Its territory covers the classical land of Khwarezm, though in classical Persian literature area was known as Kāt (کات).
Karakalpakstan is now mostly desert and is located in western Uzbekistan near the Aral Sea, in the lowest part of the Amu Darya basin. It has an area of 164,900 km² and is surrounded by desert. The Kyzyl Kum desert is located to the east and the Karakum Desert is located to the south. A rocky plateau extends west to the Caspian Sea.
From about 500 BC to 500 AD, the region of Karakalpakstan was a thriving agricultural area supported by extensive irrigation. The Karakalpak people, who used to be nomadic herders and fishers, were first recorded in the 16th century. Karakalpakstan was ceded to the Russian Empire by the Khanate of Khiva in 1873. Under Soviet rule, it was an autonomous area within the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic before becoming part of Uzbekistan in 1936. The region was probably at its most prosperous in the 1960s and 1970s when irrigation from the Amu Darya was being expanded. Today, however, the drainage of the Aral Sea has rendered Karakalpakstan one of Uzbekistan's poorest regions. The region is suffering from extensive drought, partly due to weather patterns, but also largely because the Amu and Syr Darya rivers are exploited mostly in the eastern part of the country. Crop failures have deprived about 48,000 people of their main source of income and shortages of potable water have created a surge of infectious diseases.
The population of Karakalpakstan is estimated to be around 1.7 million, and in 2007 it was estimated that about 400,000 of the population are of the Karakalpak ethnic group, 400,000 are Uzbeks, and 300,000 are Kazakhs. Their name means "Black Hat", but Karakalpak culture was so lost through Sovietization that the original meaning of the black hat is now unknown [verification needed]. The Karakalpak language is considered closer to Kazakh than to Uzbek. The language was written in a modified Cyrillic in Soviet times and has been written in the Latin alphabet since 1996.