Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Karakalpakstan – a Republic with Right to Secede from a Unitary State

Paul Goble

               Staunton, July 3 – There are many anomalies in the post-Soviet world, but one of the strangest is the case of Karakalpakstan, the Region.Expert portal says. That republic has the unilateral right to secede from Uzbekistan even though Uzbekistan is not a federal state but a unitary one (region.expert/karakalpak/).

               When it appeared that Tashkent was prepared to take away this right, the Karakalpaks went into the streets and the central Uzbek government was forced to back down, an indication of just how important this enumerated right is to them even though the country of which they are a part is not a federation and even though neither Nukus nor Tashkent intends now to act on it.

               That raises some intriguing and potentially unsettling questions for republics within the Russian Federation, a country that is nominally a federation but in fact a unitary state and one that explicitly rejects the possibility that republics can secede on any basis, unilaterally or by agreement with the center.

               Indeed, the regionalist portal says, at present “it is more appropriate to write the word ‘republic’ in quotation marks, just as it is to do the same thing with ‘federation’” in the case of Russia. But at the same time, the arrangements newly highlighted in Karkalpkstan and Uzbekistan suggest yet another possible way forward.

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