UYGURISTAN - EASTERN TURKESTAN
Uyguristan (Eastern Turkestan) lies in the heart of Asia bordering Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan,
Tajikistan, Mongolia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Tibet and China. The area of Eastern Turkestan is 1,6 million km˛, which is about a sixth of the total area of the People’s Republic of China.
According to official Chinese statistics 1996, the population of Eastern Turkestan is
approximately 16 million, of which the Uighurs number, the indigenous people of
Eastern Turkestan, are 7,2 million and the Chinese number is 6,4 million.
There are also numbers of Kazakhs, Kirgiz, Mongols and other nationalities.
Culture and Language
The main languages in Eastern Turkestan are Uyghur and Chinese.
At the end of the 19th and the first few decades of the 20th century, scientific and
archaeological expeditions to the region along the Silk Road in Eastern Turkestan led
to the discovery of numerous Uyghur cave temples, monastery ruins, wall paintings,
statues, frescoes, valuable manuscripts, documents and books. The manuscripts,
documents and the books discovered in Eastern Turkestan proved that the Uyghurs
had a very high degree of civilisation.
The first Uyghur literary works were mostly translations of Buddhist and Manicheist
religious books. Besides, during the expeditions some narrative, poetic, and epic
works were also discovered. Some of these books have been translated into German,
English, Russian, and Turkish. After embracing Islam, Uyghurs continued to preserve
their culture dominance in Central Asia.
The Uyghurs embraced Islam in 934, during the reign of Satuk Bughra Khan. He was
the first Turkic ruler who embraced Islam in Central Asia. At this time, instead of
temples, mosques were built. Almost 300 mosques were built only in the city of
Kashgar. Among them, most famous are the Azna Mosque, built in the 12th century,
Idgah Mosque built in the 15h century, and Appak Khoja Mosque, built in the 18th
In the city of Kashgar alone there were 18 big Madrasas (mosque schools),
and up to two-thousand students enrolled in these schools in any given year. these
schools were one of the important facilities not only for teaching the Uyghur children
reading, writing, and subjects Islamic in nature, but also such familiar subjects as
mantik (logic), arithmatik (arithmetic), hendese (geometry), hai'a (ethics),
astronomiye (astronomy), tibb (medicine), and falaha (agriculture). The Mesudi
Library built in the 15th century, had a collection of almost 200,000 books.
The Uyghurs adopted a sedentary life style earlier that the other Turkic peoples. Thus,
the Uyghurs knew how to cultivate land as early as 2nd century A.D. The Uyghurs
were engaged in a much more advanced agriculture by the 7th century. They raised
wheat, maize, corn millet, potatoes, sesame, sugarbeet, peanuts, peaches, grapes,
melons and cotton. The fields were irrigated with water brought from far distances by
the "kariz" (water canals) built by the Uyghurs. These "kariz" are still in use today
around the city of Turfan(Turpan) today.
Cotton was one of the principle local products of commercial value. Cotton and
products manufactured from cotton contributed to the prosperity of the region.
Another product of commercial value was carpets. The cities of Hoten, Kashgar, and
Turfan(Turpan) were carpet manufacturing centres.
Natural resources of the area are uranium, platinum, gold, silver, iron, lead, copper,
sulphur, tin, mica, emeralds, coal, natural gas and petroleum.
Despite the fierce protests of the Uyghurs, the Chinese Communist leaders continue to
order nuclear testing at Lop Nor in Eastern Turkestan that has for three decades
produced ecological disaster endangering human life, polluting drinking water and
food supplies and affecting millions of animals. According to a report released by the
Registry of the Peoples Hospital of Urumchi in 1993, the rate of fatal cancer was at
least 70 per day out of an average 1,500 daily sick visits in this hospital.
Eastern Turkestan is represented in the UNPO through Eastern Turkestan National
Congress which is based in Munich, Germany.
- Eastern Turkestan Refugee Committee in Istanbul, Turkey
- Eastern Turkestan Uyghur Union in Bishkek, Kirgisistan
- Eastern Turkestan Uyghur Cultural Center in Almaty, Kazakhstan
- Eastern Turkestan Union in Europe in Munich, Germany
- Uyghur American Association in New York, USA
- Eastern Turkestan World Youth Congress
The Uyghurs are the native people of Eastern Turkestan, also known as Xinjiang or
Xinjiang-Uyghur Autonomous Region. The name "Uyghur" is mentioned in the
chronicles of the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. - 220 A.D.), Wei Dynasty (265-289 A.D.),
Tang Dynasty (618-906 A.D.), and Sung Dynasty (906-960).
The Uyghurs established their first true state in 744, with the city of Karabalgasun, on
the banks of the Orkhun River, as its capital. The founder of this Uyghur state was
Kutluk Bilge Kul Khagan (King or Ruler). In 747, he was succeeded by his son
Moyunchur, a powerful leader who subdued other Turkic clans, consolidated the
monarchy, and extended his rule in the north to Lake Baikal, in the east to Gansu and
in the southwest to India.
After several conflicts and rebellions in the past, the Kyrgyz attacked the tottering state
in 840, killed the Khagan, and took the capital. This first part of Uyghur political history shows the Uyghurs as the protectors of the Chinese empire for almost a century. On the other hand, the relationship was not really a friendly one. There was abiding resentment on the Chinese side. The reason was that the Middle Kingdom was obliged to be protected by a "barbarian" people.
The Uyghurs, for their part, never gave the Chinese the respect which the latter would have liked. After the fall of the first Uyghur empire, a group of Uyghurs emigrated to the west banks of the Yellow River in Kansu (Gansu); a second group emigrated via Yetti Su to the Southern part of Khan Tengri or Tianshan in Eastern Turkestan; the third and the largest group emigrated to the northern part of Khan Tengri where their ancestors are still living.
The Kanchou (Ganzhou) Uyghur Kingdom
The Kanchou (Ganzhou) Uyghur Kingdom, which was established in today's Kansu
province of China, in 850, never became a major power, but the Chinese had great
respect for it as seen from the Chinese court praise Kanchou (Ganzhou) Uyghur King
when an Uyghur and a Tibetan ambassador visited the Chinese capital in 911.
Nevertheless, this kingdom was absorbed in 1228 by the Tankuts who established a
state in the area known as Western Hsia.
The Karakhoja Uygur Kingdom
The Uyghurs living in the northern part of Khan Tengri (Tianshan Mountains) in
Eastern Turkestan established the Karakhoja Uyghur Kingdom (Qocho) near the
present day city of Turfan (Turpan), in 846. The Chinese recognized this kingdom and
sent Wang Yen (Yan) De in 981 to Karakhoja as their ambassador. Wang Yen (Yan)
De stayed in Karakhoja for three years.
The Karakhanid Uyghur Kingdom
The Uyghurs living in the southern part of Khan Tengri, established the Karakhanid
Uyghur Kingdom in 840 with the support of other Turkic clans like the Karluks,
Turgish and the Basmils, with Kashgar as its capital. In 934, during the rule of Satuk Bughra Khan, the Karakhanids embraced Islam. Thus, in the territory of Eastern Turkestan two Uyghur kingdoms were set up: the Karakhanid, who were Muslims, and the Karakhojas, who were Buddhists. In 1397 this Islamic and Buddhist Uyghur Kingdoms merged into one state and maintained
their independence until 1759.
History of the Conflict
The Manchus who set up a huge empire in China, invaded the Uyghur Kingdom of
Eastern Turkestan in 1759 and dominated it until 1862. During this period the
Uyghurs revolted 42 times against the Manchu rule with the purpose of regaining their
independence. In the last revolt of 1863, the Uyghurs were successful in expelling the
Manchus from their motherland, and founded an independent kingdom in 1864. The
kingdom was recognized by the Ottoman Empire, Tsarist Russia, and Great Britain.
But for fear of Tsarist expansion into Eastern Turkestan, Great Britain persuaded the
Manchu court to conquer Eastern Turkestan. The money for the Manchu invasion was
granted by the British Banks.
Large forces under the overall command of General Zho Zhung Tang attacked Eastern
Turkestan in 1876. After this invasion, Eastern Turkestan was given the name
Xinjiang which means "new territory" or "New Dominion" and in 1884 it was
annexed into the territory of the Manchu empire. In 1911, the Nationalist Chinese,
overthrew Manchu rule and established a republic.
The Uyghurs, who also wanted to free themselves from foreign domination, staged
several uprisings against the nationalist Chinese rule during this period. Twice, in
1933 and 1944, the Uyghurs were successful in setting up an independent Eastern
Turkestan Republic. But these independent republics were overthrown by the military
intervention and political intrigues of the Soviet Union. It was in fact the Soviet Union
that proved deterrent to the Uyghur independence movement during this period. In
1949 Nationalist Chinese were defeated by the Chinese Communists. After that,
Uyghurs fell under Chinese Communist rule.
Since East Turkestan is under Chinese control, the Chinese Administration
discriminates against the Uyghurs in all walks of life. The Uyghurs have no public
representation in their own country. They will be discriminate in employment,
population growth, health care, education, literature and economy by the Chinese.
Source: Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO)
Photos: Daniel C. Waugh, Nathan Light, Kanato Ochiai
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