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State-building in the Soviet Union and the Idea of the Uyghurs in Central Asia



Nationalists usually emphasise the timeless and primordialist origins of the nation, but states also make conscious efforts to construct nations. Drawing on the case of the Uyghurs, this article shows how states support certain nationalist tendencies and use them – with varying degrees of success – to advance particular ideologies. In the 1930s, as a consequence of Soviet national policy, different ethnicities joined a new Uyghur nation. The state therefore constructed the Uyghurs (together with other ethnic groups) through a political decision. In doing so the state emphasised the primordial aspect of Uyghurdom, however, whereby the nation should have existed from time immemorial and its attributes should be stable and firm. After World War II, both the Chinese government and Uyghur leaders in Xinjiang fighting against that government adopted this Soviet-inspired concept of a united Uyghur nation, and it was also adopted by Uyghurs in post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. States have the capacity to construct new nations, but other factors (geographic, political, cultural and intercommunal) can nullify or amplify these efforts. This is evident in southern Kyrgyzstan, where coexistence with Uzbeks has led to the assimilation of the Uyghurs, while in the north the Uyghurs have maintained their cultural characteristics.
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State-building in the Soviet Union and the Idea of
the Uyghurs in Central Asia
Petr Kokaisl
To cite this article: Petr Kokaisl (2020): State-building in the Soviet Union and the Idea of the
Uyghurs in Central Asia, Asian Studies Review, DOI: 10.1080/10357823.2020.1738337
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Published online: 26 Mar 2020.
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State-building in the Soviet Union and the Idea of the
Uyghurs in Central Asia
Petr Kokaisl
Czech University of Life Sciences
Nationalists usually emphasise the timeless and primordialist origins
of the nation, but states also make conscious eorts to construct
nations. Drawing on the case of the Uyghurs, this article shows how
states support certain nationalist tendencies and use them with
varying degrees of success to advance particular ideologies. In the
1930s, as a consequence of Soviet national policy, dierent ethnici-
ties joined a new Uyghur nation. The state therefore constructed the
Uyghurs (together with other ethnic groups) through a political deci-
sion. In doing so the state emphasised the primordial aspect of
Uyghurdom, however, whereby the nation should have existed
from time immemorial and its attributes should be stable and rm.
After World War II, both the Chinese government and Uyghur leaders
in Xinjiang ghting against that government adopted this Soviet-
inspired concept of a united Uyghur nation, and it was also adopted
by Uyghurs in post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. States have
the capacity to construct new nations, but other factors (geographic,
political, cultural and intercommunal) can nullify or amplify these
eorts. This is evident in southern Kyrgyzstan, where coexistence
with Uzbeks has led to the assimilation of the Uyghurs, while in the
north the Uyghurs have maintained their cultural characteristics.
Uyghurs; Soviet national
policy; Central Asia;
Kyrgyzstan; Kazakhstan;
ethnic identity; nationalism;
The Constructivist Role of States in Nation-building
The main objective of this article is to assess the extent to which perceptions of belonging
to a particular ethnicity are stable. The Uyghur ethnogenesis during the 20
shows this is not a search for a place on an axis delimited on the one side by primordial
theorists and on the other by constructivist theorists. The article demonstrates with
emphasis on the Kyrgyz and Kazakh Uyghurs how a state can assume a constructivist
role in the formation of a nation, while at the same time imposing, through its ideology,
an entirely antithetical theory: the nation as an age-old and stable category.
The second objective is to illustrate through the example of Uyghurs living in two
geographically and culturally diverse areas of Kyrgyzstan and a compact Uyghur ethnic
minority in Kazakhstan the impact of state intervention on the formation of ethnic
identity. The example of the Kyrgyz Uyghurs demonstrates the strong inuence that the
state had on the formation of the nation while also showing that such interventions may
have completely dierent manifestations within a given society. Drawing on the example
CONTACT Petr Kokaisl
© 2020 Asian Studies Association of Australia
of Kyrgyzstan, it is possible to explain how the policy towards the Uyghurs changed, how
members of the Uyghur ethnic group responded to this policy, and how there were
completely dierent manifestations of Uyghur ethnicity within given societies. The
Kazakh example shows how a united ethnic group with the ethnonym Uyghur is
internally dierentiated based on its cultural ties to Xinjiang.
Data were obtained from eldwork with the Uyghur ethnic group in China during
2006 and 2007, northern Kyrgyzstan (in 2013 and 2015), and southern Kyrgyzstan and
Kazakhstan (in 2016 and 2017). During the research, the emphasis was on the use of
qualitative methods (semi-structured interviews). A total of 113 respondents took part in
the interviews. Among the rst participants contacted were the chairmen of Uyghur
associations in Ulugchat and Kashgar (China), Bishkek and Kashgar Kishlak (northern
and southern Kyrgyzstan) and Alma-Ata (Kazakhstan). Through these, other respon-
dents were then recruited (snowball-sampling procedure). However, because some
Uyghurs were not organised into associations, additional respondents were recruited
through Uyghurs working in Uyghur restaurants and in areas where Uyghurs worked
and lived (such as bazaars and villages). Most respondents (48) were of working age,
while 37 were of retirement age (60+) and 28 respondents were under 20. The male to
female ratio was approximately 60:40.
Research on the Uyghurs, their ethnogenesis and their cultural characteristics is fre-
quently informed by ideology. Political repression of the Uyghurs in China means that
several authors (Uzbekov & Kurmanov, 2014, p. 148) consider it necessary to help this
oppressed nation by pointing out the ancient origins of Uyghur ethnicity. They thus use
various historical constructs to highlight the bravery of Uyghurs. This continuity between
the ancient and modern Uyghur people is, however, highly controversial. Consequently,
some scholars, although unequivocallyrecognising the ancient Uyghur people, prefer to use
geographical aliations such as the Turfan people (Dittrich, 2000, pp. 2627).
Other scholars seriously distort the Uyghur question. For example, Kozhirova (2014,p.3)
quotes statistics from Zarubin (1925) claiming that 100,516 Uyghurs, comprising 60,988
Taranchis and 39,528 Kashgars, lived in Tsarist Russia in 1917. However, scrutiny of statistics
pertaining to the Tsarist period shows that the ethnonym Uyghur is never mentioned
(Troynitskiy, 1897). Moreover, Zarubin clearly states that, in the 1917 census, only
Kashgarlik/Kashgartsy and Taranchis were counted. According to Zarubin (1925,p.19),it
was only in 1925, after the ocial Soviet creation of Uyghur nationhood, that the Taranchis,
Kashgars and Sarts accepted the common name Uyghur although this claim still requires
When legitimising the demands of the Uyghur state, some current Uyghur leaders
point to a (controversial) connection between old state units in the present-day territory
of Chinas Uyghur Autonomous Region (Xinjiang) and the Uyghur nation. For present
Uyghur national movements, it is often less important that they were Pan-Turkist (not
Uyghur) movements with distinctive elements of extremist Islam involving the execution
of unbelieversand converts (Wingate, 1950).
Chinese historiography presents a remarkably unied impression of the events sur-
rounding the migration of the Turkic population from the present-day Uyghur
Autonomous Region into the territory of Tsarist Russia (and later the USSR): the
separatist movement acted against the wishes of all ethnic groups. In the 19
the population was referred to as the Uyghur, although this ethnonym was later used
both ocially and unocially in the USSR and China. The reason for leaving these
inhabitants within the territory of the Tsarist Empire, Chinese historians claim, was not
Chinas persecution but Russian aggression(e.g., Xing, 2012).
Taiwanese authors, however, have no problem describing the population living in the
rst half of the 20
century in the territory of modern-day Xinjiang as Turkish Muslims.
According to Taiwanese authors, the founding of the rst Turkestan Republic is asso-
ciated with right-wing Muslim nationalists, while the founding of the Second Republic in
1933 is linked to left-wing Turkish Muslim nationalists supported by the Soviet Union.
This increase in nationalism is attributed to the arrival of the Chinese population and the
strengthening of Chinas control over Xinjiang (e.g., Wu, 2006).
Answering the National Question in the USSR: Two Phases
Unlike Western Europe, the former Soviet bloc, especially Central Asia, has experienced
the ethnogenesis of nations with numerous dierences. In Europe, the basic formation of
most nations primarily took place in the Middle Ages. In Central Asia, new ethnic groups
emerged from lineages in the 19
century and, quite often, also in the 20
Accounts by travellers and historians have chronicled that some Central Asian people
were often labelled with a uniform ethnonym on the basis of their external appearance, or
alternatively on the basis of geography.
Immediately after the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and the founding of the USSR in
the 1920s, the theories of Lenin and Stalin were also applied in Central Asia to answer the
national question. It is dicult to identify the true author of the Stalinist concept of the
nation, for there is considerable similarity in the writings of Austrian Marxists such as Klaus
Kautsky (Fadeitcheva, 2012, p. 336). Lenin and Stalin considered the issue of nationalism to
be extremely important in building a socialist multinational state. Their primary goal,
however, was always the proletarian revolution, which had priority over questions of
national identity. In 1922, Lenin proposed the establishment of the USSR as a free associa-
tion of national states, each with a considerable degree of autonomy; he emphasised, for
instance, the use of distinct languages. Stalin criticised this approach and preferred the
complete unity of the population. However, in the early years of the Bolshevik Revolution,
a European model for solving the national question was adopted: political units should
bring together people of the same language and nationality (ethnic origin).
This model was also adapted and applied to education. Increasing literacy among non-
Russian peoples created a strong link between language and nationality/nationhood. The
government then built up new nationalities, with their own administrative units, and
codied the relevant standard languages. This change occurred after 1938, when Russian
was strongly preferred (Bahry et al., 2017, p. 3). The administrative units were centrally
established and had dierent degrees of autonomy, from autonomous districts to union
It was assumed that the development of the nation could only take place within its own
political unit. According to Ingeborg Baldauf (1991, pp. 9192), the impact of this policy
on the inhabitants of Central Asia and other areas of the USSR was crucial, because it
created a completely new understanding of the nation (natsiya). In the pre-Soviet era, the
term nationin Central Asia was perceived geographically, while in the Soviet period it
was dened as persons associated by language, customs and race.
The second phase of answering the national question in the USSR did not build on the
rst; on the contrary, it completely contradicted it. From the late 1930s, any hint of national
characteristics had begun to be described as a nationalist deviation, for which a number of
top Soviet ocials at the head of autonomous national units were executed. At the same
time, most autonomous national units were abolished. Disagreements over the proposed
answers to the national question did not upset Stalin. He felt that answers to the national
question provided by the bourgeoisie were always wrong, whereas if they were provided by
a Soviet government, the question was answered correctly (Stalin, 1925). It was only after
Stalins death that Soviet scholars began to develop new theoretical concepts of ethnicity.
The USSR in the 1950s was an arena for political liberalisation where representatives of
most Soviet republics sought to increase their autonomy.
Whereas in the early 1930s the rapid and articial creation of a new national identity in
Central Asia had been documented, the concept of transnational Soviet identity had been
enforced since the late 1950s. In the USSR, the term ethnos, introduced in the 1920s by
S. M. Shirokogorov, was used for ethnic groups. More salient, however, was the introduc-
tion of this term by Y. V. Bromley (1983, p. 212, p. 294, p. 338), who claimed that ethnos
varies according to geographic conditions and is fundamentally inuenced by whether
ethnic processes are formed in capitalist or socialist conditions. Soviet identity was origin-
ally associated with the Soviet state, Soviet ideology and Soviet patriotism (the creation of
a Soviet man), within which a lower layer of identity could also include ethnic identity.
In the 1980s, several signicant theories of ethnicity appeared that were unacceptable to
the Soviet school. The work of J. Hobsbawm and T. Ranger (1983) introduced the concept
of the invention of traditionwhich completely contradicted the Soviet understanding of
the nation although the Soviet regime was very inventive in creating new traditions.
Soviet ideology attempted to apply a primordialist approach to the study of nations as
Soviet leaders did not want to be inuenced by other concepts that had a substantial impact
on the understanding of ethnicity in the West. For instance, Benedict Andersonsconcept
of Imagined Communitiesemphasised the transience and volatility of communities, and
was applied to both ethnic groups and nations (Anderson, 1983). Gellner, however, justied
not accepting Western concepts of ethnicity in the Soviet Union for ideological reasons. He
presented a parallel with 19
-century research conducted by Western anthropologists,
some of whom favoured the study of savagesand primitive societies. Similarly, Soviet
scientists studied society before the socialist revolution which, in a scenario the reverse of
that today, was the period when communist society was built. According to Gellner, a
Soviet ethnographer (the Russian term used in place of anthropologist)isalso,roughly
speaking, a student of pre-capitalist social structures(Gellner, 1975, p. 595).
Comaroexplored the dierences between Western and Soviet scholars regarding the
denition of nationality. He argued that both groups deal with similar problems, such as
the causes of ethnic conicts; however, the fundamental dierence between them lies in
their understanding of nationality. For Soviet scholars, nationality is a typical primordi-
alist notion, in that nations have had their own identities since time immemorial and
their development follows similar historical patterns (Comaro,1991).
It cannot be said that Andersons concept of nationalism is easier to apply to Soviet
conditions than Gellners (or vice versa). In this respect it is necessary to keep in mind the
completely dierent Soviet concept of scientic and political discourses. The Soviet
Union was undoubtedly a totalitarian state where ideology was centrally directed. It
was not the task of scientists to prove or refute the validity of various theories through
their research. These theories and not just in the case of the national question were
deemed unquestionable facts. The task of scholars was therefore to nd and publish facts
that were in line with the centrally presented ideology. To resist doing so was perceived as
an attack on the state and would mean the end of their professional careers. Thus, it was
not the task of scholars in the totalitarian Soviet Union (especially during the reign of
Lenin and Stalin) to seek answers to questions and reconcile reality with current thinking.
These answers were assumed to have already been found by political leaders, and scholars
would acknowledge this in their research. Thus, if the Soviet ideology included a theory
on the evolutionary development of nations from pre-capitalist through to capitalist and
then socialist society, research results had to be presented in accordance with this.
An example of this is a protocol from the meeting of the Scientic Committee of
20 September 1924,
where one of the points concerned the task of creating Kara-
Kyrgyzstan history with the help of professors Brodskiy and Bartold. In the case of the
Uyghurs, it did not matter that the decision to use their ethnonym was taken by the central
government, which was clearly a constructivist element of the formation of the nation, at
the beginning of the 20
century. The task of scholars was to create this nations ancient
history a primordialist element of the origin of the nation in accordance with the
evolutionary development of the nation from primitive to socialist society. Thus, from
seemingly contradictory principles (constructivism and primordialism), Soviet leaders
were able to create the idea of a transformation from pre-socialist to socialist nations.
In this respect, the methods of todays Central Asian regimes are similar to those of the
Soviet era. Representatives of the Central Asian republics speak of their independence as
achieving the millennial desire of nations(Kokaisl & Kokaislová, 2009,p.49).Thisispart
of an eort to ensure leadership of the state for members of titular nationalities. There is
thus a preferred primordial conception of the nation, along with references to Soviet
historians of the 1920s and 1930s (such as V. V. Bartold) who created the glorious history
of the Central Asian nations, which corresponded to the newly established union republics.
Although the Soviet constitutions declared the equal rights of all peoples of the USSR
and guaranteed their ability to use their native language, the actual situation was some-
what dierent. The creation of the union republics often solved nationality questions for
the primary nationality only, while members of other nations became lower-ranking
citizens. This could also aect members of prestigiousnations if they lived in other
republics. The Uyghur situation in the USSR was even more complicated in this respect
because Uyghurs did not have a state of their own, and their living conditions were
closely tied to Soviet policy towards China.
A New Uyghur Nation in Central Asia
The situation in the USSR in the 1920s and 1930s could appear to external observers as
agenerousoer of support for the cultural development of nations through the granting of
political autonomy. The reality, however, was often very dierent, as ethno-demographic
processes in the 1920s and 1930s led to a preference for selected nations only. In parallel,
there was a strong and controlled assimilation of nations that, as a result of political
decisions, were identied as undesirable. For example, Kazakhs, Uzbeks and Azerbaijanis
in the 1930s intensively assimilated smaller Muslim nations in their periphery (Maksudov,
1999, pp. 763796).
Although the USSR Constitution of 1924 referred to the Turkish-Tatars language
throughout Turkestan (CIK SSSR, 1924), the concept of a single Turkish-Tatar nation in
Soviet Central Asia was soon abandoned and new ethnic groups came into existence
under the leadership of Moscow. For example, when the Uzbek SSR was formed, only
Uzbeks were counted. Sarts were not, despite being more numerous. Because this was
a settled population (Štolfová, 2014), they could not boast as much military success as the
Uzbeks (for example, as the pillar of Tamerlans troops). In the 1926 census, roughly
1.5 million Sarts (from the previous census) vanished from the statistics. Sarts, along with
other Turkic ethnic groups (such as Kurama), received the Uzbek ethnonym and became
part of the new Uzbek nation. The ethnonym Uzbek also began to be used retroactively
for ethnic people who had lived in Uzbekistan in the past (Hejzlarová, 2014). Some Sarts
accepted Uyghur nationhood.
The ethnonym and origin of the Uyghurs
The ethnonym Uyghuris of ancient origin, but until the 19
century was used only for
ethnic groups that had lived in the past. Information about the Uyghurs often mirrored
the assumptions of the authors. For example, Kuropatkin (1877), the Russian ocer and
Governor-General of Turkestan, associated the ancient Uyghurs with the Huns in his
historical description of Kashgaria. Other scholars, meanwhile, equated the Uyghurs with
the Ugric peoples, and saw the Uyghurs as relatives of FinnoUgric peoples. The
Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary (Arsenev, 1907) described Uyghurs as an
East-Turkish nation mentioned in Chinese annals in the 4
century AD. Early in the 20
century, several Turkish nations used the ethnonym Uyghur to describe separate
families/lineages. For ethnic groups, the Uyghur ethnonym was used only on the border
of Tibet. Ottos encyclopedia, which was also produced at that time, describes Uyghurs as
an extinct nation that gave rise, for example, to the Uzbeks. For Otto, they were a branch
of the Turkish Uyghur tribe, which completely crumbled and merged with other peoples.
The name Uzbeks was generally used to describe nomads, while inhabitants of the cities
were called Sarts. The Uzbeksclosest relatives were the Kashgars residing in Chinas East
Turkestan (Otto, 1907).
Owen Lattimore (1973, pp. 233242), who visited China in 1927, after World War II,
and again in 1972, asserted that Uyghurs were labelled as Sarts by Russian travellers. At
the same time, he noticed that even after World War II, Turkic inhabitants living in
Chinese territory did not dene themselves as Uyghurs but in terms of the oases from
which they came Kashgars or Turfans. In Tsarist Russia in the region of Russian
Turkestan this Turkic Muslim population arrived from modern-day China along with
other ethnic groups seeking a safer life.
Xinjiang was not previously politically or culturally unied; the northern area
(Dzhungaria) was inhabited by Mongol-lingual nomads and Tibetan Buddhism was
widespread. In the southern part of the Tarim Basin, there was a relatively settled
Turkic Muslim population. This area was called Altishahr (six cities, the list of which
varies) or Kashgaria. In the mid-18
century, China had gained direct authority over
both regions. Kuropatkin, for example, states that approximately one million people
were involved in the Dzhungarian massacre. At the same time, large population
movements were beginning: the Chinese established a military crew of Mongolian
families and invited poor Chinese to settle in the region. Also at this time, according
to Kuropatkin (1877), Chinese Muslims (Dungans) arrived in Dzhungaria. A number
of rebellions were carried out against the Chinese administration, which, despite
occasional but partial success, were always suppressed, with a large number of residents
having to leave their homes.
In the 1820s, after a suppressed Jahangir Khoja revolt, a large number of Kashgars known
as Taglyk (mountaineers) came to Tsarist Russia. They primarily colonised the Fergana
region. Valikhanov (1985,pp.1112) reports that there were 70,000 families that, with further
emigration, grew to reach 300,000 in number. Rebellions by the Muslim population against
the Chinese government also moved beyond the boundaries of modern-day Xinjiang. The
brutal liquidation of the Dungansuprising in Gansu between 1862 and 1869 is mentioned by
Przhevalskiy (1946, p. 232), who visited the area.
The declaration of the independent Ili sultanate (18641871) also provides evidence
for the fact that ghting took place between the people of East Turkestan and China, and
also occurred frequently among the local population. The Russian army exploited the
instability in the area and, in 1871, initiated an occupation under the pretext of protecting
the sultanate against the Chinese. Based on agreements between the Russian and Chinese
governments it was stipulated in St Petersburg on 24 February 1881 that sovereignty over
the territory would again be assumed by the Chinese. Taranchis (the ethnonym for the
settled Turkic-Muslim population from China, later sometimes referred to as the Ili-
Ujgur) and Dungans were permitted to migrate to Russia within one year. The Russian
government, through immigration, sought to boost its border areas and thus weaken the
Chinese side. Taranchis left whole villages in China, travelling to their compact settle-
ment in Russia. Another wave of Chinese immigrants then came to Central Asia in
connection with the uprising in the early 20
Into the Soviet Period
The uniform designation of the Uyghur ethnonym to previously separate groups, espe-
cially the Kashgars and Taranchis, dates back to 1923 when, in an extraordinary session,
representatives of the Central Asian Communists adopted a special resolution on the
nationwide use of the ethnonym Uyghur (Khoshamberdi, 2007, p. 355). Like several
other Central Asian nations, the Uyghur ethnonym rst appears in the Soviet census in
1926. Statistics on Tsarist Russia in the 1897 census did not indicate Uyghur nationhood,
only the nationhood of the Taranchis (56,469) and the Kashgars (14,938) (Troynitskiy,
1897). However, in the next population census (1939), references to the nationality of the
Taranchis and Kashgars disappeared, replaced by the Uyghur ethnonym. The more
unreliable data becomes on the association between the ethnonym used in the past and
the current Uyghur ethnic group, the more it becomes possible to exploit dierent
historical views for political reasons. Thus, when the USSR recognised the Uyghur
nationality in the 1920s, the ideological exploitation of this nationality began.
Because the Marxist ideology presented by Stalin regarded language as the main
attribute of nationhood, the USSR established Uyghur schools in the rst phase and
provided assistance for teaching in Uyghur. This care for ethnic minorities encompassed
not only the Uyghurs but also numerous national minorities. There was another reason
for the emphasis on language: its new codication and an increase in the literacy of the
population meant that ideological writings could be disseminated among wider popula-
tions. Given the general diculty in objectively determining the level of education
(Kolman, Rymešová, & Michálek, 2012), it was much easier to use education as a tool
of propaganda: actual knowledge was secondary to ideological inuence. Overall,
88 per cent of the population of Central Asia was illiterate; among Kashgars, the illiteracy
rate was even higher, at 94 per cent (CSU SSSR, 1928).
Within the framework of building autonomous units on a national basis, Uyghurs in
the USSR had their own autonomy. In the rst half of the 20
century, autonomous
Uyghur villages were established in the territory of present-day Uzbekistan and, in 1934,
the Uyghurs gained two autonomous districts in the territory of present-day Kazakhstan:
Shonzhy and Shelek in the Alma-Ata region. With the continuation of the rebellion of
people (of dierent nationalities) in East Turkestan against the Chinese government
(19311934 and 1937), support for Uyghurs and Uyghur culture in the USSR became an
increasingly political issue.
These uprisings in Chinese territory and then the First East-Turkestan Republic (less
than 10 per cent of the territory of modern-day Xinjiang) were quelled by the united
SovietChinese troops. It is also important to note that the word Uyghur was not
incorporated into the name of this republic because the eorts of supporters of the Pan-
Turkism movement prevailed over the fragmentation of the Turkic population among
the new ethnic groups. According to numerous scholars, this state did not function in
most respects, but the commemoration of its existence later became an important part of
the Uyghur national movement, while at the same time China tried to ignore any
mention of its existence (Klimeš,2015, pp. 123124).
In connection with the change in the USSRs national politics in the 1930s, all Uyghur
cultural and educational centres in the territory of present-day Kyrgyzstan were closed.
A total of 67 Uyghur schools in Kazakhstan were reorganised as a result of a government
regulation in 1938 so that Uyghur ethnic school sections would disappear. The dissolu-
tion of national education aected 377 schools of 20 dierent nationalities in Kazakhstan
(Shmidt, 2004, p. 145).
The USSR sought to maintain its inuence in Xinjiang after the announcement of the
Second East-Turkestan Republic in 1944, this time in the territories of the Chinese
prefectures of Ili, Tarbagatai and Altai. This republic received both military and eco-
nomic aid, as well as its ideological background, from the USSR. The emergence of the
Peoples Republic of China and the collapse of the East-Turkestan Republic (with
substantial aid from the USSR) then led to a decline in the support for Uyghur studies
in the Soviet Union, which were realised mainly in the Kazakh SSR. According to Wang
(1999, pp. 321336), the Ili regime was a strong feudal Muslim nationalist regime that
was supported and controlled by the Soviet Union only because it had similar goals to the
Soviets and, ultimately, the Chinese Communist Party.
At the end of the 1950s, the Great Leap Forwardpolicy and the construction of
village communesthat took place in China (including in Xinjiang) had consequences
even more terrible for the inhabitants than the tragic collectivisation in the 1920s and
1930s in the USSR (Kokaisl, 2013, pp. 127128). During September and October 1958,
cooperatives were merged into communes that were created as paramilitary units.
Everything, including dishes, was owned by the communes. Slave labour and hunger
caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. At that time, the central govern-
ment began relocating Chinese peasants from Inland China to Xinjiang while locals
moved to desert areas. Many Uyghurs were accused of nationalism, and consequently
about 200,000 people migrated from East Turkestan to the USSR.
During this period there was signicant development of the Uyghur culture in the
USSR, not only in the Kazakh SSR, where most Uyghurs lived, but also in Kyrgyz SSR.
According to Uyghur respondents in Kyrgyzstan, this wave of refugees from China made
a signicant contribution to the culture of the Kyrgyz Uyghurs, who had lived for more
than a generation in the USSR; knowledge of the Uyghur language and customs was
renewed. However, the newly arrived Uyghurs had to deal with completely dierent
conditions, as well as not being able to speak Kyrgyz, Kazakh or Russian. Moreover, most
had only a limited education. Dierences were wiped out over one generation, although
some Kyrgyz Uyghurs do not consider higher education to have a high value, preferring
employment in, for example, restaurants. Nevertheless, scientists and cultural gures
emerged among Uyghurs.
The Idea of a Uyghur Nation
The number of Uyghurs in China increased from 3.6 million in 1953 to 11.6 million in
2010, representing 96.8 per cent of all Uyghurs worldwide. Kazakhstan is home to
250,000 Uyghurs, and Kyrgyzstan to 60,000 (Uyghur, 2019), showing that contemporary
Uyghur ethnicity is well established. Uyghurs are unequivocally opposed to surrounding
ethnicities, and, in all respects, they fully meet the criteria of nationhood. It is remarkable
that the formation of this ethnic group took place in the relatively short period of about
one generation. Through state intervention in the USSR to create a new nation and
historical myths, linkage to an ancient ethnic group with the same name was established,
and thus the new nation managed to anchor itself historically.
This procedure was similar to the creation of other Sovietnations (Uzbeks, for
example): the unequivocal support of a new nation and total assimilation of the sur-
rounding ethnic group. The concept of a united Uyghur nation then supplanted the
USSR after World War II, among both China and representatives of the anti-Chinese
movement in Xinjiang. From a relatively diverse ethnic and geographical group, a united
group of Uyghurs, recognised by both opposing parties the Chinese government and
representatives of the Uyghur Movement abandoning the Pan-Turkism idea emerged.
However, Mao Zedongs concept of the nationdiered in some ways from that proposed
by Stalin. For instance, Stalin posited the evolutionary sequence of ethnos, natsya, narod
(nation) while Mao created the unied and egalitarian concept of minzu. Stalin also dened
the nation in terms of components, all of which must be present, whereas Mao approached
the identication of components exibly and did not require all of them to be present.
Furthermore, Stalin dened the nation as a product of capitalism, which he saw as an
essential prerequisite, whereas capitalism as a prerequisite of minzu was completely ignored
by Mao. Another important dierence is that Stalin unequivocally excluded religion as
a sign of ethnicity (nation), whereas Mao dened some minzu as based on just and purely
religious dierentiation. Finally, Stalin understood the nation to be a historical community
while Mao perceived it as an entity based on kinship (Horálek, 2011, pp. 7980).
Dru Gladney, an expert on Chinas ethnic minorities, regards Chinese ethnic groups
(minzu) as articially created through political decisions. He argues that there were no
references to a collective group known as Uyghur in the reports of travellers and
researchers from the 16
to the 20
century. Even Islam, one of the important cultural
elements of the Uyghurs, is seen as a product of the current orientation of Chinese
politics. At the beginning of the 1950s, China sought to establish good relations with
Muslim Middle Eastern countries to break free of international isolation, and Uyghur
Islam was generally supported. However, from 1957 to 1978, China adopted the opposite
policy, according to which Islam was a source of backwardness, feudalism and local
nationalism. This resulted in the exoticisationof the Uyghurs in Chinese society. The
leading role of the Chinese nation in shaping the identity of other ethnic groups is
therefore indisputable (Gladney, 1992).
This ts with the concept of the Soviet nation. Most of the Soviet population had long
been identied with Soviet culture, in which membership of a nation or geographic
location was secondary. This was expressed, for example, in a once-popular song: My
address is not a house or street, my address is the Soviet Union. However, these identities
were tied tightly to a specic state body. Once the state had ceased to exist, the previous
state-ethnic identity disappeared. What came rst is therefore important: if ethnic
consciousness had been created earlier and the state arose later, the ethnic identity of
the creation of the state was strengthened. If a state (for example, the USSR) came into
existence rst, and (Soviet) ethnicity then derived from this, it was more or less bound to
the existence of that state and thus, after the dissolution of the USSR, the Soviet nation
ceased to exist.
Stable ethnicity thus depends greatly on the degree of state intervention. However, if
ethnicity is derived directly through a particular state, ethnic consciousness is potentially
unstable. The following sections illustrate this point by considering the case of the
Uyghurs in various parts of the former Soviet Union.
Uyghurs in Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyz Uyghurs provide a good example of the variability of an ethnic group: drawing on
their example, it is possible to show other inuences shaping ethnic identity. The Kyrgyz
SSR was founded in 1936 but was culturally divided into two dierent areas: north and
south. The north of the country was signicantly closer to Russian culture and the
adoption of the Russian language, whereas the south was much more traditional due to
the strong inuence of the culture of settled farmers and the use of Uzbek as
a predominant language.
The Turkic-speaking Muslim population arrived in the territory of modern-day
Kyrgyzstan from Xinjiang in a similar way to other Central Asian republics: in the rst
incoming wave, it was still Tsarist Russia. The arrival of Turkic Muslims/Uyghurs in the
territory of present-day Kyrgyzstan at dierent times led to the formation of distinct
groups that can be dierentiated by the form of writing used. The oldest generation of
Uyghurs (and also the Uyghurs who came to the USSR in the 1950s and 1960s) used
Arabic writing, through which they became much more culturally interconnected with
Xinjiang while at the same time largely isolated from Russian and European culture.
Through writing, there was also a signicant cultural division between the Soviet and
Chinese Uyghurs (Ibragimov & Baudinova, 2008).
In Kyrgyzstan, the number of Uyghurs continues to rise: in recent years, the annual
growth rate has been more than 2 per cent. This trend also applies to other Turkic
peoples in Kyrgyzstan, whose populations have above average growth: Turkmens, Turks,
Kyrgyz and Uzbeks (with Tatars being the only exception).
Uzbekisation in southern Kyrgyzstan
The territory of modern-day southern Kyrgyzstan was previously a specicarea where
the populations of various ethnic groups, with a large number of languages and con-
siderable religious diversity, were mixed. For many centuries this area has been called
the Babylon of Central Asia. During the Soviet period, the specicity of this territory
was reected in, for example, education. It was an area that was ocially Kyrgyz and the
largest ethnic group of Uzbeks did not have any autonomy. However, education was
paradoxically conducted in both Russian and Uzbek. The Uyghurs therefore did not
learn the Uyghur language in schools; nor were there any subjects in which they could
learn about national history or Uyghur characteristics.
The Uzbekisation of Uyghurs in southern Kyrgyzstan began in the 1920s. According
to the Uyghur respondents in the Osh region, which I visited during my eldwork in
2016, the main event associated with Uzbekisation was the establishment of the Uzbek
SSR in 1924. Most of the Turkic-speaking population of southern Kyrgyzstan spoke the
Chagatai dialect, but nationhood in relation to papers/passports became important. The
prestigious status of Uzbek nationhood was not only evident in the Uzbek SSR but also in
southern Kyrgyzstan, where (apart from the Slavic population) most of the scholars or
executives were Uzbeks, who were often referred to as Sarts.
The Uzbek group, however, was not isolated from the rest of society. On the contrary,
the Uyghur respondents reported that ocials persuaded and coerced members of ethnic
minorities to register as Uzbeks, which many did. This could have allowed them to play
a greater role in the ruling party and to obtain other social benets. Travel documents
and passports that identied the holder as a registered Uyghur were often negatively
received. In recent decades, some Uyghurs have adopted Uzbek nationality to avoid
political repression; many people were executed in the 1930s for their involvement in, or
mere sympathy real and presumed towards, the Uyghur rebellion in China, which the
USSR helped to liquidate. Respondents from southern Kyrgyzstan cited instances of
relatives who were devoted to the Communist Party as well as to the revival of the Uyghur
nation or Uyghur statehood. Some of these activists, who corresponded with Uyghur
activists in China, changed their nationality from Uyghur to Uzbek after 1945.
The Uyghurs living in southern Kyrgyzstan had their own national societies.
According to representatives of these societies, however, they have largely disappeared
but would have been more distinct from their surroundings and in most respects
resemble the Uzbeks apart from an awareness of belonging to Uyghur nationhood.
In southern Kyrgyzstan, most Uyghurs live in the Osh region, which is home to 11,181
Uyghurs, or 23 per cent of the total for Kyrgyzstan. Most of the Uyghurs (93 per cent) in
Osh live in the Kara-Suu district. One of the most signicant features of the Uyghur
population is that it is rural: 94 per cent of people in the Uyghur Osh region live in
villages. The Uyghurs in this region, together with the Uzbeks or Turks, belong to ethnic
groups with a below-average educational structure; only 4.4 per cent of Uyghurs have
received a higher education. By contrast, Tatars and Russians have a signicantly higher
than average educational structure; the proportion of Kyrgyz people who have under-
taken higher education is slightly above average (Abdykalykov, 2010).
There are 3,271 Uyghurs in the Jalalabad region, representing 6.7 per cent of all
Uyghurs in Kyrgyzstan. The population in this area is also predominantly rural, whereas
almost a third of Uyghurs live in cities. Most of the Uyghur population (59 per cent)
report their native language as being Uyghur (Abdykalykov, 2010).
In the case of mixed marriages, there is some assimilation. If Uyghur women marry
Kyrgyz men, it is common for their husbands family to exert pressure on them to speak
Kyrgyz. These Uyghur women may be proud of their national cultural attributes (history,
cuisine and traditions) but do not have much opportunity to engage in them.
Nevertheless, in their everyday lives, they describe a constant combination of various
Kyrgyz, Uzbek and Uyghur cultural elements. In the case of marriages between Uyghur
men and Uzbek or Kyrgyz women, the situation is dierent. If the father emphasises his
Uyghur nationality, the children are automatically considered Uyghur, although due to
the mothersinuence they also adopt a number of other customs, including the use of
However, certain changes are taking place in the use of the Uyghur language in the south
of Kyrgyzstan. According to the 2009 census, the majority of Uzbeks in the Osh region use
Uzbek as their rstlanguage,butthedierence is not great (52 per cent). A total of
45 per cent of Uyghurs declared Uyghur to be their native language. Regarding
the second language, Kyrgyz (41 per cent), Russian (29 per cent) and Uzbek (28 per cent)
are most commonly used (Abdykalykov, 2010). However, many people use up to ve
languages Uyghur, Kyrgyz, Uzbek, Russian and Turkish although not at the same level.
Even though the Uyghur ethnonym is used quite commonly by both the Uyghur
population and the Kyrgyz authorities, it is still possible to meet people using the original
ethnonym Kashgars/Kashgartsy (mostly members of the middle and older generations).
Although the main waves of Uyghur migration into the territory of modern-day
Kyrgyzstan date back to the 19
and 20
centuries, the oral tradition of the local population
in the village of Kashgar Kishlak claims that Uyghurs came to this area 200 or 300 years ago.
Uyghurs in northern Kyrgyzstan
In northern Kyrgyzstan, the Uyghurs predominantly live in rural areas: more than
80 per cent of Uyghurs live in the villages of the Chui region. The dierence in the use
of the Uyghur language between Uyghurs from northern and southern Kyrgyzstan was
already evident in Soviet times. If the political situation allowed, the Uyghurs from North
Kyrgyzstan placed a great emphasis on Uyghur-language education. This emphasis in the
northern part of Kyrgyzstan is also evident from statistics: there are 15,276 Uyghurs
(31 per cent of all Kyrgyzstan, most in the Ysyk-ata and Alamudun districts) living in the
Chui region. Of these, 93 per cent stated that Uyghur was their rst/native language.
There are 13,380 Uyghurs (28 per cent of all Kyrgyz Uyghurs) in Bishkek, the capital,
90 per cent of whom use Uyghur as their native language (Abdykalykov, 2010).
Such high gures are in sharp contrast to the situation in southern Kyrgyzstan. In
northern Kyrgyzstan a question about knowledge of the Uyghur language is often con-
sidered to be inappropriate among respondents: Of course I speak Uyghur, I am Uyghur!
Another immense dierence from South Kyrgyzstan concerns those Uyghurs who speak
multiple languages: 88 per cent of them commonly use Russian. Language is not the only
attribute of Uyghur culture; aside from an awareness of the Uyghurshistorical unity,
Uyghur cuisine, which is highly valued by other ethnicities, is also important.
A comparison of the Uyghurssituation in northern and southern Kyrgyzstan shows
that the inuence of the state and a unied state policy has a substantial impact on ethnic
expression, but local factors have to be considered when determining the extent of state
intervention. While there was massive Uzbekisation supported by local Uzbek represen-
tatives in the south of the country, Uyghurs in the north continued to use the Uyghur
Uyghurs in Kazakhstan
The Uyghurs in Kazakhstan are the fth largest Kazakh ethnic group, with a total
population of 256,295. Their proportion of the total population of Kazakhstan is not
high (1.45 per cent), but due to the compactness of their settlement 96 per cent live in
Alma-Ata and surrounding suburban districts they constitute a signicant ethnic
minority. There is a fundamental dierence from the situation in Kyrgyzstan: the
Uyghurs either make up an absolute majority in some districts (e.g., Uyghur district,
57 per cent) or a signicant proportion (e.g., Panlov, 28 per cent; Enbekshikazakh,
18 per cent) of the total population (Demograya, 2016).
Some Uyghurs consider these places to be part of the great Uyghuristan and, during
occasional inter-ethnic clashes, Uyghurs opposed to Kazakh use the slogan the state is
maybe yours, but the country is ours. While in Soviet times inter-ethnic conicts did not
occur often, the situation changed after the collapse of the USSR. Traditionally, minority-
Muslim nations felt solidarity with the Kazakhs in defending their position against the
Russians or Ukrainians. However, after proclaiming Kazakh independence, these nations
found themselves in opposing positions due to the rise of Kazakh nationalism.
The Kazakh Uyghurs do not, however, currently form a homogenous ethnic group.
Within the ethnic Uyghurs, it is possible to determine roughly three groups, according to
the time of emigration to the territory of modern-day Kazakhstan: yerliklar (locals), who
were born in Kazakhstan and whose families have lived in the area since 1900; kelganlar
(incomers), who migrated from the 1950s and 1960s; and khitailiklar (Chinese), who
come to Kazakhstan from China to work or trade.
There are conicts and disagreements between these groups because the descendants
of the rst wave of emigrants are more closely identied with Kazakhstan than with
Xinjiang. Migrants from the 1960s and their descendants, however, were active agents of
Xinjiangs push for independence and the creation of a Uyghur state (Kozhirova, 2014,
p. 4). These disagreements have been evident since the 1990s and have been manifested in
a large number of Uyghur national societies in Kazakhstan. The focus of these societies is
broad, from cultural issues only (e.g., maintaining and strengthening Uyghur culture in
Kazakhstan) through to political aims, such as the non-violent attainment of autonomy
or the creation of a separate Uyghur state. At the extreme end, this has led to the
formation of militant groups, which have vowed to ght for change in the current
arrangement by all means possible (Syroezhkin, 2003, pp. 486552).
In contrast to Kyrgyzstan, there is much more opposition to the Uyghurs among the
Kazakhs. There are a variety of arguments made (e.g., because Uyghurs have come to
the Kazakhscountry, they must adhere to Kazakh customs), but even the name of one
of the areas where Uyghurs live the Uyghur district, which was adopted in Soviet
times has caused controversy. Some Kazakhs in this area call this a second Kosovo.
Conversely, a large number of respondents oppose the national divide, which only
creates articial hostility among people in Kazakhstan. Opponents of Kazakh nation-
alism argue that the border between peoples was created by China and the Soviet
Union. Previously, residents from the territory of Kazakhstan and Kashgar made
frequent reciprocal visits and inhabitants were welcomed with the words Good day,
my brother. To weaken the indigenous population, the people were divided into new
articial nations. Yet, when the red terrorin the USSR began, entire villages went to
Kashgar to theirs. When the persecution began in China, people went in the opposite
direction, but again to theirs.
According to the census, the characteristics of Kazakh Uyghurs include being largely
a peasant population (57 per cent live in villages), a relatively high use of Uyghur as
a mother tongue (85 per cent), almost universal knowledge of the Russian language
(96 per cent), and largely being adherents of Islam (98 per cent). In contrast to
Kazakhstan as a whole, only about half of the Uyghurs have received higher education
(Smailova, 2011).
The Uyghurs in Kazakhstan provide a good example of the combination of dierent
inuences on the formation of ethnic identity. All Uyghur groups adopted the Soviet
(and later Chinese) construct of the creation of a unied Uyghur nation. However, while
emphasising national characteristics, we can observe rather large dierences between
Uyghur groups: some derive their ethnicity from a geographic and historical point of
view and feel primarily bound to Kazakhstan. In terms of culture, they consider them-
selves to be much more local Kazakh than Chinese Uyghurs. Other groups of Kazakh
Uyghurs, however, often build their ethnic identity through solidarity with the Uyghurs
in China and identify with their eorts to gain independence. There is little consensus,
however, on how to achieve this independence, as is reected in the high degree of
fragmentation at the level of national societies.
Based on the case of the Uyghurs, this article has illustrated how state interventions can
signicantly shape the ethnogenesis of a given nation. First, the USSR decided to create
a Uyghur nationality, thereby extinguishing the nationality of the Kashgars and Taranchis.
In a relatively short period of time, this concept (the creation of a unied Uyghur nation)
was adopted by most of the former ethnic groups, whose ethnic consciousness was weak
because they were tied to the geographical area from which they came.
Soviet national politics was able to connect two conicting approaches in
practice primordialism and constructivism. The nation was thus constructed
by a political decision but in its manifestations the primordial aspect, according to
which the nation had existed for a long time and its attributes were stable and
xed, was emphasised. For members of the newly formed nation, it was not
dicult to accept these new explanations; this was true not only for Uyghurs,
but also for many other Soviet nations.
The newly-formed Uyghur nation, however, was not supported in some areas of the
USSR, especially in southern Kyrgyzstan. For instance, in areas where members of the
new Uyghur nationality and members of the Uzbek nationality lived side by side, the
Uyghurs were largely assimilated by taking on Uzbek nationality, which was considered
more prestigious or more appropriate. In present-day Kyrgyzstan, dierences in
respecting Uyghur cultural traditions and the use of language among Uyghurs living in
the north and south are also evident.
In southern Kyrgyzstan, it was enough for Uyghur ethnicity to be exposed to the
inuence of the neighbouring Uzbek ethnicity, and most Uyghurs adopted Uzbek nation-
ality, language, culture and habits. In contrast, in northernKyrgyzstan the Uyghurs (despite
russication in the Soviet era) retained most of their national characteristics, including the
use of their own language. In Kazakhstan, where Uyghur connections exist on both sides of
the border, there has been a signicant division among Uyghurs: for some Uyghurs the
culture of their Chinese co-ethnics is remote and foreign, while for others these Chinese
Uyghurs are considered to be of the same blood.
The Soviet approach to the ocial formation of new nations was also adopted by
China after World War II, and the concept of a united Uyghur nation was included
in both its legislation and its national policy. In China, other ethnicities also joined
a state recognised by the Uyghur nation. The subsequent persecution of the Chinese
Uyghurs, which followed the earlier Pan-Turkistic tradition of struggles for libera-
tion from the Chinese government, resulted in their mass migration to the USSR.
These emigrants, however, often became part of another cultural tradition due to
the Soviet way of life, and cultural dierences began to emerge between them and
the Chinese Uyghurs.
The case of the Uyghurs in China and the Central Asian republics shows that the
state is powerful, but not omnipotent, in the creation and destruction of national-
ities. It has the means to create new nations, the subsequent development of which
may support the state. How far such development (or strong assimilation) extends,
however, depends on other factors, such as geography, politics, culture and
intercommunal relations.
1. Such distortions are not new in Central Asian historiography. For example, on the anni-
versary of 2,200 years of Kyrgyz statehood, the ocial Kyrgyz historiography highlighted
that records of the Grand Historian of ChineseSima Qian mentioned the Geguns, who
should allegedly be Kyrgyz (Kokaisl & Kokaislová, 2009, p. 10).
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La situation au Xinjiang, région du Nord-Ouest de la Chine, a ces dernières années suscité une attention internationale croissante. Les rapports sur les internements massifs de Ouïghours et d’autres groupes ethniques dans des camps de rééducation, le travail forcé, les stérilisations forcées et autres atteintes aux droits humains font la une de l’actualité et affectent les relations entre la Chine et ceux qui la critiquent. Le gouvernement chinois, en revanche, justifie sa manière d’agir par la lutte contre le terrorisme, l’extrémisme islamique et le séparatisme ethnique. << Le Xinjiang – la Chine et les Ouïghours >> présente pour la première fois en français une analyse scientifique plus approfondie de ce sujet très controversé. La première partie du livre constitue une introduction prégnante, claire et vivante de l’histoire complexe de la région. La deuxième partie présente l’évolution au XXIe siècle, dressant un tableau à multiples facettes du développement économique, de l’identité ethnique et de la politique linguistique et religieuse. La troisième partie remet en question les interprétations courantes du conflit au Xinjiang, analyse les protestations et les actes de terrorisme de même que les mesures de répression de l’État et la dimension internationale du conflit. Proche des sources, basé sur les résultats de la recherche la plus récente et avec un souci constant de neutralité, << Le Xinjiang – la Chine et les Ouïghours >> offre une image équilibrée des conflits actuels.
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Die Situation in Chinas nordwestlicher Region Xinjiang hat in den letzten Jahren zunehmende internationale Aufmerksamkeit erfahren. Berichte über Masseninternierungen von Uiguren und anderen ethnischen Gruppen in Umerziehungslagern, Zwangsarbeit, Zwangssterilisation und weitere Menschenrechtsverletzungen beherrschen die Schlagzeilen und belasten die Beziehungen zwischen China und seinen Kritikern. Die chinesische Regierung rechtfertigt ihr Vorgehen hingegen als Kampf gegen Terrorismus, islamistischen Extremismus und ethnischen Separatismus. „Xinjiang – China und die Uiguren“ präsentiert erstmalig in deutscher Sprache eine tiefergehende wissenschaftliche Auseinandersetzung mit diesem kontroversen Thema. Prägnant und anschaulich führt der erste Teil des Buchs in die komplexe Geschichte der Region ein. Der zweite Teil stellt die Entwicklungen im 21. Jahrhundert dar. Hierbei zeigt sich ein facettenreiches Bild der sozioökonomischen Entwicklung, der ethnischen Identität sowie der Sprach- und Religionspolitik. Der dritte Teil hinterfragt die gängigen Deutungen des Xinjiang-Konflikts, analysiert Proteste und Terrorismus ebenso wie die staatlichen Repressionsmaßnahmen und die internationale Dimension der Auseinandersetzung. Quellennah, basierend auf den Ergebnissen der neuesten Forschung und in einem unaufgeregten Ton vermittelt „Xinjiang – China und die Uiguren“ ein ausgewogenes Bild der aktuellen Konflikte.
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The aim of this work was to answer the question, what mostly influencedthe culture (understood in its wide conception – culture as way of living)and cultural changes of the Kyrgyz population on the territory ofKyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, China and Afghanistan. The changes of Kyrgyz way of live given by the changes of politicalorganization after the USSR disintegration could be observed on theexample of former Soviet republics Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. In bothrepublics was created a new ideology and new system that tried to comefrom Islam and that, by pointing out the famous traditions of the Kyrgyznation (in Kyrgyzstan) and Tajik nation (in Tajikistan), triedto consolidate the national togetherness. Creation of the national state in Kyrgyzstan had significant influenceto national awareness of the Kyrgyz. It was aroused here an interest in thehistory of own nation, there were presented historical constructs to thepopulation about the ancientness and certain exclusivity of the Kyrgyzethnic group, what many inhabitants adopted. The Chapter 3. (p. 9) dealswith the often very unstable basis of new history. Stronger national awareness started to manifest by crystallisationagainst another ethnic groups – it was clear in relationship with theRussians shortly after establishing the independent Kyrgyzstan. Later, thenational politics was changed and the motto Kyrgyzstan to the Kyrgyz wasreplaced by much more conciliatory Kyrgyzstan – our common house. Nevertheless, many respondents, e.g. in Batken Province, comparedthe actual situation with the times of USSR and pointed out the much lessimportance of ethnic affiliation in the past. In a region, where the Kyrgyz,Uzbek, Tajik population is living very closely, the nationality was nottook into account so much and marriages among these groups were closedvery often. Today, the situation is different, and although the relationshipsare not without problems, the marriages are closed primarily among themembers of same nationality. But the Russian, Ukrainian or Tatar population was perceiveddifferently by the Kyrgyz. If there were nationally mixed villages, theneven in the times of USSR there were not preferred the marriages amongthe “European” nations and the “local”, what remained till today. The change in understanding of traditions started after the USSRdisintegration. There existed ancient Kyrgyz traditions tested by history ofmany hundreds years, but actually are emphasised more the traditionsfrom times immediately before the October Revolution, what is refusedby many people. The reason is a connection of this period with the time offeudalism and rule of bajs and manaps. Although these traditions areentering unnoticeably into the family ceremoniousness (mainly by TVand radio), there were rediscovered new traditions, mainly religious, andthere were created also quite new traditions at the same time. In the country persists the sorting to north and south manifested indifferent degree of keeping the traditions. In the families on the south ismore apparent the patriarchal structure –women are on formal terms withtheir husband, children are on formal terms with their parents. On thenorth are these habits also visible, but they are disappearing gradually. Although the south of country use to be marked as substantially morereligious, the keeping of religious traditions (and mainly the activereligious life) is very half-hearted in both parts of the country. Even whenthe importance of religion increased, in the life of people both on thenorth and south, its role is not too high. Higher religious engagement ofthe inhabitants on the south is bound more to the Uzbeks. At the Tajik Kyrgyz in the rayon of Murgab, there is traditionallystrong relation to the Kyrgyz from Osh. The Tajik Kyrgyz are searchingtheir brides in the southern Kyrgyzstan too; they use to go to study, tobusiness, into hospitals to Osh. This linkage was also in times of USSR(e.g. during the bloody disturbances between the Kyrgyz and Uzbeks inOsh and Uzgen in 1990, the Kyrgyz of Murgab wanted to go out to helpto the Kyrgyz from Osh, but the local administrative prevented them to doit). Also the cultural changes are very similar. On both places started therenewing of old habits and traditions that were repressed in the times ofUSSR. It concerns mainly the celebration of Muslim feasts, but also thelowering of importance of the payment for the bride. In the villages ofTajik Kyrgyz too, there started to be built new mosques after the USSRdisintegration (also on places, where they were not even before theOctober Revolution). But also here is the religious life more half-hearted. The Kyrgyz from Tajik Murgab had, till the closing of Chineseborder, frequent contacts with the Kyrgyz on the territory of today’sChina (Kashgar, Kyzil-su). Whilst in Kyrgyzstan, there is very known themythical Kyrgyz integrator Manas, at the Kyrgyz in Murgab, theawareness of this Kyrgyz hero is ether very low or none at all. The Kyrgyz living in China are forming two relatively considerablydifferent groups. One of them is living in the Ili-Kazakhs autonomousdistrict in the mountains of Tarbagatai and these Kyrgyz are non-typicalin many aspects. Even if there is typical the low religious engagement ofmany Kyrgyz, certain connection with Islam is typical for this ethnicgroup. The Kyrgyz of Tarbagatai are Buddhists in larger part (what is areason for wondering of many Kyrgyz in Kyrgyzstan). Anotherunusualness lies in their language – almost all are speaking Kazakh. Nevertheless, they are keeping a relatively strong common nationalawareness and are closing the marriages exclusively inside the own group(although they are speaking Kazakh, they are crystallizing against thelocal Kazakhs). The religious difference (Buddhists x Muslims) is nota reason for separating the religious groups – the marriages are closedamong the Kyrgyz across the religion, also the cemeteries are common. Similarly as the nationality, also the religious belief is given by thefather’s line. But it is not an exception that in a religiously mixed familymay be the children Buddhists after the father, but they are circumcised,because it is a tradition that is mother used to it. The religious belief ismostly not expressed by active religious life, but it is more a certaintradition (father was Muslim, thus we are Muslims too). At these Kyrgyzis known the tradition of national hero Manas – it is obvious fromderivation of their origin during narrations, but also from some localnames (city Manas, lake Manas, river Manas). The second group of Chinese Kyrgyz is living in the KyrgyzAutonomous Region (prefecture) Kizilsu. Compared to the Kyrgyz fromTarbagatai, all are Muslims here, and they do not consider their beliefformally – all family members are praying several times a day. The localKyrgyz are speaking Kyrgyz very well, only with partial Uyghur dialect –in the schools is taught in Kyrgyz. Only new worlds in the language werereplaced by Chinese expressions (in Kyrgyzstan by Russian). Also atthese Kyrgyz we meet the strong national awareness and habits, fromwhich the most important are payment for the bride (still often habit onthe village is to give a horse to the bride’s parents and only later theagreed kalym), building of yurts and wearing the traditional huts –kalpaks. The political easing and increasing purchasing power of the villageinhabitants causes the increased migration – sometimes, there is an effortonly to move nearer to the bigger cities, but some members of youngergeneration of the Chinese Kyrgyz (it concerns both Kyrgyz groups) areleaving to study in cities (Ürümchi) and do not come back. Nevertheless,they have contacts with the Kyrgyz community also in these cities (bothwith Chinese and Kyrgyz Kyrgyz). Here is not strongly taken into accountthe closing the marriage inside own ethnic group and occurs mergingwith the majority society. The Afghan Kyrgyz are depending the least from all mentionedgroups on the state power – in the absolute majority, they do not knowany Afghan representatives, or the president. These Kyrgyz mostly do notknow, how old they are. Whilst they are living in a very low dependenceon the central government, they know the local Kyrgyz leaders very well,and they are in frequent contact with them. These leaders are mediatorsbetween them and government. Here is very good functional thehierarchical delegation of power with emphasis to lover levels –parliamentary election, central government composition or work ofpresident, it is quite unknown for the local Kyrgyz and they do not takecare about these activities. But they have their representatives in whichthey have confidence. The religious life is very active at these Kyrgyz,taking into account the regular prayers during the day. The Kyrgyz aredistinguishing themselves from their surroundings in the religious area –they belong among the Sunni Muslims, another population are mainlyIsmailits. Different are the sacral rooms and separated are cemeteries. Thesurroundings society keeps the traditions very strongly (e.g. there is veryapparent the covering of women); also the Kyrgyz paid attention to thecovering of women formerly. It is interesting that just the covering ofwomen is considered by local Kyrgyz as the most noticeable change –now, it is not practiced, although there were not any pressures from anyside to change something in this aspect. If we should make any summary, what effect has the biggest impacton the cultural changes, then, according to the made research, it isobvious that the biggest impact have the state interventions. Theinterventions of state on the territory of former USSR led to a quite totalleaving the active religious life, but there remained here, in a limiteddegree, only external demonstrations. On places, where the state did notinfluence the religious life, there were maintained all the demonstrationsof religious life. But it is not fully clear from the made research, howmuch was influenced the religious life of the national minorities in Chinaduring the Mao’s rule and during the tensed periods of Chinese history(Cultural revolution). Impacts into the culture caused by modernisation are similar on allplaces – departure to the cities and gradual leaving the original culture. The fact that the culture is changing spontaneously also withoutnoticeable external impacts, is obvious at the Afghani Kyrgyz in changingof dressing and covering the women. For all Kyrgyz in all investigated areas is common relatively highhistorical awareness of membership to the Kyrgyz nation. This perceptionis not bound to the language– some Kyrgyz are speaking Kazakh(mountains of Tarbagatai), another Kyrgyz can speak Tajik, but a singleethnic identity is common to all of them. The perception of commonidentity is not bound even on a single mythical ancestor – the cult ofManas almost does not appear at the Tajik, Afghan and Chinese Kyrgyzfrom the Kashgar surroundings. All Kyrgyz have awareness of membership to their lineage, but thetraditional knowledge of seven ancestors dzheti ata is disappearingalmost on all places. Also the habits connected with closing the marriage are very similarat the Kyrgyz in all investigated areas. Although the total payment for thebride was decreased (at the Tajik Kyrgyz even after intervention of theTajikistan president), the kalym is a linking element for all Kyrgyz. But differences are in selecting the bride – whilst at the majority ofKyrgyz is requested to close the marriage outside the own lineage, or sublineageat least, the marriages at the Afghani Kyrgyz are closed evenbetween the cousins. The interventions of parents into selection thepartner relate to the rate of maintaining the traditions – the lowestinterventions are in the northern Kyrgyzstan, significantly higher are inthe south of country, the highest are at the Afghani Kyrgyz. The traditions connected to the eating habits are essentiallyinfluenced by the environment – what is regarded as national food bysome Kyrgyz, is not known by another Kyrgyz. The production anddrinking of fermented mare milk kumys is typical for the northernKyrgyzstan and only for smaller part of the South; we do not meet thistradition in China, Afghanistan, or Tajikistan. Only the production ofkurut – dried yoghurt (the principle is roughly the same, differences areonly in the question, if the material is cooked or not, the Afghan Kyrgyzare producing the kurut from goat milk too) is common for all Kyrgyz. Also the tea drinking may show the adaptation to the environment – in thenorthern Kyrgyzstan is usually drunk black tea, on the southern green tea,the Chinese and Afghan Kyrgyz are drinking salty tea with milk andbutter (similarly as in the Kyrgyz Alay). All Kyrgyz living beyond the Kyrgyzstan border perceive verysimilarly the creation of national state. It is a symbol of their nationalidentity for them, to which they are looking up with a certain respect. Whilst in the times of USSR, these Kyrgyz did not use the symbols ofunion’s republic (the awareness of Kirgiz SSR was definitelyovershadowed by the perception of the whole USSR), today, these abroadKyrgyz show, by the state symbols of Kyrgyzstan (flag, emblem), theirtogetherness with this state. Kyrgyzstan use to be signed in thisconnection (both by the Kyrgyz and by the Kyrgyzstan representatives) astheir historical fatherland. Also the Afghani Kyrgyz that usually do notknow the Kyrgyzstan state symbols, express the wishes to visitKyrgyzstan, a country, where they can feel as at home. They absolutelydo not mind that this historical fatherland was created by politicaldecision in 1930s and, on many places, by very unnatural demarcating theborders. More important that the proper area is the own existence of theKyrgyz state that, already by its name, offers a certain proximity to theKyrgyz living outside its borders.
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The main objective of this paper is to illuminate the relatively little-known process of collectivisation in Soviet Central Asia. The aim is to show the specifics of the collectivisation of Soviet agriculture, using the example of Kazakhstan. The peasants were first given some land, only to have it taken it away over the course of several years, during the process of collectivisation. The poor farmers, especially those who lacked good civil morals, perceived the process chance to control the future development of the countryside. It seems most of them did not see or were not able to see the purpose of the changes in the social structure of the village, or especially the real intentions of the communists. Any manipulative ideological influence on the countryside is very harmful in its effect, and the consequences are difficult to remove even after a long period of time. This article deals with the current economic and agricultural transformations in Central Asia and demonstrates a risk for the insensitive procedures used in agricultural transformation to be repeated.
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The natsional'noe razmezhevanie in Central Asia (1924-1925) aimed at the formation of "national republics and territories." In the cases of Kazakhs, Kirghiz, Turkmens, and to a certain degree Tadzhiks, the question of ethnic coherence and self-denomination of the emerging nations could be solved without major problems. The rest of the sedentary, seminomadic, and nomadic Turkic-speakign Turkestanians, larger by number than any of the other groups, had never in history formed an ethnic or national unit; there existed several pre-modern concepts of self-identification based on regional, tribal, or even religious definition, none of them depicting congruency with the European romantic, language-centered concept of a nation. The introduction of this concept by Lenin-Stalinist national politics made it necessary to define a new nationality. Out of the prenational identificatory concepts Sart, Chagatay, Muslim, Turk, and Uzbek, "Uzbek" was chosen to give a name to the nation, and to its territory, the Uzbekistan SSR. The paper traces some of the problems the nation-builders found themselves confronted with in the process of shaping the Uzbek socialist nation. /// Le découpage national (nacional'noe razmeževanie) en Asie Centrale (1924-1925) visait à former des "républiques et des territoires nationaux". Dans le cas des Kazakhs, des Kirghizes, des Turkmènes et dans une certaine mesure des Tadzhiks, la question de la cohérence ethnique et de l'auto-dénomination des nations créées pouvait être résolue sans soulever de difficulté majeure. Le reste des habitants de langue türke, sédentaires, semi-nomades et nomades, plus importants en nombre que les autres groupes, n'avait jamais constitué une unité ethnique ou nationale; il existait plusieurs concepts pré-modernes d'auto-identification basée sur une définition régionale, tribale ou même religieuse dont aucun ne correspondait au concept romantique européen de nation, centré sur la langue. L'introduction de ce concept par la politique nationale léniniste-stalinienne obligea à définir une nouvelle nationalité. Parmi les concepts pré-nationaux de sart, tchagataï, musulman, turc et ouzbek, c'est celui d'ouzbek qui fut choisi pour donner un nom à la nation, et à son territoire, la RSS d'Ouzbekistan. Cet article retrace quelques-uns des problèmes auxquels les fondateurs de la nation furent confrontés au cours du "façonnement" de la nation socialiste ouzbeke.
In the Middle Ages, the Uighurs, who are one of the oldest and largest peoples of Central Eurasia (CE), were driven into East Turkestan and then conquered by the Qing Empire. The Chinazation policy carried out in relation to these people led to the mass exodus of the freedom-fighting Uighurs to the CE countries. The Uighurs are vigorously engaged in economic activity; in other spheres they are traditionally closed and alienated from the outside world, which prevents them from becoming actively integrated into contemporary society. This article analyzes the roots and reasons for this social phenomenon, which is having a certain influence on the foreign and domestic policy of the Kyrgyz Republic (KR), as well as on political stability and security of the entire Central Asian region.
In the autumn of 1972, the author returned to China and travelled in the Chinese-Russian frontier zone including the People's Republic of Mongolia, revisiting territories that he had not seen since 1927. He describes general conditions in China's northern frontier lands, as they have developed since that time, and particularly since the Great Cultural Revolution.
National identities never arise in a vacuum. Rather than purely cultural or primordial bases for identity, national identities are constructed in relation to the interpretation of one's own myths of nostalgic descent from a common ancestry. This imagined identity, to use Benedict Anderson's 1 phrase, is formed in the context of changing socio-economic circumstances -situations most often defined by the nation-state in the modern world, which has regularly abrogated to itself the tank of identifying, labelling, and colonising ethnic identities. 1 have argued in a separate article 2 that the Uighur provide an excellent illustration of this process in which a group of oasis-dwelling Turkic-speaking people shared a general historical experience but did not begin to think of themselves as a single national identity until the early part of this century, when Soviet and Chinese states identified them as one of several Turkic nationalities. Foreigner travel accounts of Xinjiang from the mid-16th century to the early 20th century, by famous explorers such as Muhammad Haidar, Sven Hedin, Paul Pelliot and Owen Lattimore, contained no references to any collective group referred to as Uighur, but instead found people identifying themselves as Turki (from their language family), Sart (meaning "caravaneer" in old Persian), and other oasis-based ethnonyms, such as Kashgarlik. Turpanlik. and Kotanlik.
Social anthropology, in the West and in Russia, sprang in part from an interest in the evolution of mankind: "primitive" society was relevant as a kind of surrogate time-machine, as evidence about the earlier "stages" in the development of human society. But the British and Russian traditions went in markedly different directions in the 20th century. Under the impact of the Malinowskian revolution, social anthropology in Britain acquired a marked synchronic bias. Even with a later revival of interest in history, the effects of this "functionalist" attitude continue to be felt, notably in the absence of any coherent typology of social forms. By contrast, Russian anthropology (locally called ethnography nowadays) has, through assuming Marxist forms in the U.S.S.R., inherited the Marxist concern with a typology of social formations, and moreover one inevitably inspired by the idea of an overall evolution of humanity. The article explores the benefits and the difficulties of the Fragestellung inspired by such a vision, notably the difficulties which arise from any rigid application of the five-plus typology of social forms found in traditional Marxism, and the manner in which contemporary Soviet scholars cope with these problems.