Karakalpak People

The Karakalpaks (also Qaraqalpaqs) are a Turkic people. They mainly live in the lower reaches of the Amu Darya and in the (former) delta of Amu Darya on the southern shore of the Aral Sea in Uzbekistan. The name “Karakalpak” comes from two words: “qara” meaning black, and “qalpaq” meaning hat. The Karakalpaks number nearly 520,000 worldwide, out of which about 400,000 live in the Republic of Karakalpakstan.

The Karakalpak population is mainly confined to the central part of Karakalpakstan that is irrigated by the Amu Darya. The largest communities live in Nukus, the capital of Karakalpakstan, and the surrounding large towns, such as Khodzheli, Shimbay, Takhtaitash, and Kungrad. Rural Karakalpaks mainly live on former collective or state farms, most of which have been recently privatised. Many rural Karakalpaks have been seriously affected by the desiccation of the Aral Sea, which has destroyed the local fishing industry along with much of the grazing and agricultural land in the north of the delta. Karakalpaks have nowhere to go. The majority of Karakalpakstan is occupied by desert - the Kyzyl Kum on the eastern side, the barren Ustyurt plateau to the west, and now the growing Aral Kum to the north, once the bed of the former Aral Sea. Although their homeland bears their name, the Karakalpaks are not the largest ethnic group to live in Karakalpakstan. They are increasingly being outnumbered by Uzbeks, many of whom are being encouraged to move into the rich agricultural region around Turtkul and Beruni.

The Karakalpak language belongs to the Kipchak-Nogay group of Turkic languages, which also includes Kazakh, Nogay, and Kyrgyz. Spoken Karakalpak has two dialects: Northeastern and Southwestern. Written Karakalpak uses a both a modified form of the Cyrillic alphabet and Latin alphabet, with the former being being standard during the Soviet Union and the latter modelled off of the Uzbekistan’s alphabet reform for Uzbek. Before the Soviet Union, Karakalpak was rarely written, but when it was it used a modified form of the Perso-Arabic alphabet. Due to the geography and history of the Karakalpak people, Karakalpak has been influenced by Uzbek, Tajik, and Russian. A Karakalpak-Uzbek pidgin language is often spoken by those bilingual in both languages.The word Karakalpak is derived from the Russian Cyrillic spelling of their name and has become the accepted name for these people in the West. The Karakalpaks actually refer to themselves as Qaraqalpaqs, whilst the Uzbeks call them Qoraqalpogs. The word means “black hat” and has caused much confusion in the past, since historians linked them with other earlier, who have borne the appellation “black hat” in Slavic vernacular. Many accounts continue to link the present day Karakalpaks with the Slavic Cherniye Klobuki of the 11th century, whose name also means “black hat” in Russian. Cherniye Klobuki were mercenary military troops of the Kievan Rus. Apart from the fact that their names have the same meaning, there is no archaeological or historical evidence to link these two groups, . Recent archaeological evidence indicates that the Karakalpaks may have formed as a confederation of different tribes at some time in the late 15th or the 16th centuries at some location along the Syr Darya or its southern Zhany Darya outlet, in proximity to the Kazakhs of the Lesser Horde. This would explain why their language, customs and material culture are so similar to that of the Kazakhs.

Karakalpaks are primarily followers of the Hanafi School of Sunni Islam. It is probable they adopted Islam between the 10th and 13th centuries, a period when they first appeared as a distinct ethnic group. Dervish orders such as the Naqshbandi, Kubrawiya, Yasawi and Qalandari are fairly common in this region. The religious order that established the strongest relation with the people of the region is the Kubrawiya, which has Shi'i adherents. Although there were 553 mosques in the year of 1914, there are not so many mosques left today. The mosques that are present are located in Nukus, Törtkül, Hocaeli and Çimbay.

Source for Photos


Karakalpak women in folk costumes.

Traditional Karakalpak jewelry has some similarities to the jewelry of the neighbouring nomadic and semi-nomadic Turkic tribes such as the Qazaqs and the Turkmen. However it has much less in common with that of the settled Khorezmian Uzbeks. During the 17th and early 18th centuries the Karakalpaks living along the Syr Darya lived close to, and were frequently governed by, the Qazaqs of the Lesser Horde. As they migrated into the Aral delta they settled near to, and formed an alliance with, the Aral Uzbeks. Over time they were both forced to acknowledge the authority of the Khivan Uzbeks. The Karakalpaks who settled in the western and southern parts of the delta came into contact with Yomut, Chodor and Arabachi Turkmen, many of whom were far from friendly. (x)


Karakalpaks/Karakalpakstan-Karakalpakstan is its own autonomous republic within Uzbekistan, home to the Karakalpaks. While Karakalpakstan has the ability to veto decisions concerning it passed by Uzbekistan, their ability to secede is limited by the veto power of Uzbekistan’s legislature over any decision to secede. The Karakalpaks themselves have traditionally lived as fishermen around the Aral Sea, although their livelihood has been seriously effected by the desertification of the region.

Otoyomegatari: Part 3

Part 3 will be a shared post for the twins and Talas. The name Talas was likely inspired by either the Talas River (which runs through Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan) or the Talas Province of Kyrgyzstan. The twins’ names (Laila and Leyli) might’ve been inspired by Leyli o Majnun (“The Madman and Layla” in Persian), a love story that originated as a short, anecdotal poem in ancient Arabia and later significantly expanded and popularized in a literary adaptation by Azerbaijani poet Nizami Ganjavi.

Unlike Amira and Karluk, our secondary characters’ hometowns are named. Talas lives in Karaza. I tried searching for this place on Google, but have not found any information on it. It is possible the romanization is off (as Talas is often translated using the Japanese pronunciation “Taras” or “Tarasu”) or the town could be a fictional one devised by Mori. However, if I had to guess, the town Karaza is likely in Karakalpakstan. Aside from the obvious reason of the area’s name coinciding with Talas’ ethnicity, there are also two other reasons. The Karakalpak language is so close to Kazakh that some claim it is a dialect of it; considering it was Amira that Talas shared her feelings for Mr. Smith with, I think the high mutual intelligibility of their native languages helped Talas to more precisely describe her thoughts about the situation to Amira. Secondly, Mr. Smith later has to go west and cross the Aral Sea to get to Turkey. The Aral Sea is primarily in the Karakalpak region.

The twins are stated to be from the fishing town Mo‘ynoq, also spelled as Muynak and Moynaq. Mo'ynoq is a city in northern Karakalpakstan, meaning Mr. Smith didn’t get too far from Karaza before he met the the twins. The twins are also Tajik, meaning, like Amira and Karluk, they are not a majority group to the area. In fact, mnxmnkmnd.tumblr.com pointed out that Tajiks are not even Turkic, they are Persian! This raises some questions as to what language the twins speak, as there is little to no mutual intelligibility between Tajik and Turkic languages. Judging by the lack of trouble Mr. Smith has communicating with them (compared to the difficulty he has talking with Anis’ husband, who is implied to be Persian), I would say it’s safe to assume the twins communicate in the Turkic language of that region.

It seems Mori prefers to focus on the smaller/less common groups of a region.


Mid.-19th century. Karakalpaks. Khorezm Oasis

“Saukele” - women bridal headdress, originality consists in the abundance of metal badges and large corals, which in a wedding dress symbolize fertility and prosperity. Headgear Karakalpak bride reflects the relationship of ritual female attire, was common among the nomadic peoples of Central Asia, with the armor.

Russian Museum of Ethnogpraphy

Otoyomegatari Shtuff Part 2

Figured I’d do Talas and the twins as well. It’s harder to find pictures of young women from those ethnic groups though on Google though.

Karakalpak Women (Talas)

Tajik Girl (The Twins)

The second picture looks more like how I imagine Talas, but the first girl has the same kind of melancholic look in her eyes.

It’s a shame the girl for the twins isn’t a little more tanner, then she’d be just perfect for them.