At least 18 people were killed and 243 wounded during last week’s government crackdown on protests in Uzbekistan’s autonomous province of Karakalpakstan.
- The protests had broken out in response to the government’s plan to restrict the region’s long-held autonomy.
- The name Karakalpakstan is derived from the Karakalpak people, an ethnic minority group of around 2 million. Karakalpak translates to ‘black hat’, referring to their traditional headgear.
- The Karakalpaks consider themselves to be a distinct cultural group in Uzbekistan.
- Their Turkic language – Karakalpak – is closely related to Kazak.
- Their separate language is a crucial aspect of their cultural identity.
- In their genealogical narrative, the Karakalpaks claim to share a common point of origin with the neighbouring Kazakhs, Uzbeks and Turkmen, but believe that over time they diverged from the others.
- This narrative marks the Karakalpaks as culturally separate from their neighbouring groups.
- When Uzbekistan declared its independence from the Soviet Union in August 1991, Karakalpakstan was formally recognized as an autonomous republic in Uzbekistan’s constitution of 1992, and has the right to secede from on the basis of a nation-wide referendum.