Uyghur (Old Turkic: ) history is divided by some historians into four distinct phases: Pre-Imperial (300 BC – AD 630), Imperial (AD 630–840), Idiqut (AD 840–1200), and Mongol (AD 1209–1600), with perhaps a fifth modern phase running from the death of the Silk Road in AD 1600 until the present. In brief, Uyghur history is the story of a small nomadic tribe from the Altai Mountains competing with rival powers in Central Asia, including other Altaic tribes, Indo-European empires from the south and west, and Sino-Tibetan empires to the east. After the collapse of the Uyghur Khaganate in AD 840, ancient Uyghur resettled from Mongolia to theTarim Basin, assimilating the Indo-European population, which had previously been driven out of the region by the Xiongnu. Ultimately, the Uyghurs became civil servants administering the Mongol Empire.
The history of the Uyghur people, as with the ethnic origin of the people, is an issue of contention between Uyghur nationalists and the Chinese authority. Uyghur historians viewed the Uyghurs as the original inhabitants of Xinjiang with a long history. Uyghur politician and historian Muhemmed Imin Bughra wrote in his book A history of East Turkestan, stressing the Turkic aspects of his people, that the Turks have a 9000-year history, while historian Turgun Almas incorporated discoveries of Tarim mummies to conclude that Uyghurs have over 6400 years of history, and the World Uyghur Congress claimed a 4,000-year history. Chinese historians however generally traced the origin of the Uyghurs to the Tiele, some to the Dingling as well as other people mentioned in ancient Chinese texts such as theGuifang. Official Chinese view asserts the Uyghurs to be of Tiele origin, and only became the main social and political force in Xinjiang during the ninth century when they migrated to Xinjiang from Mongolia after the collapse of the Uyghur Khaganate, replacing the Han Chinese that they claimed were there since the Han Dynasty. Many modern Western scholars however do not consider the modern Uyghurs to be of direct linear descent from the old Uyghur Khaganate of Mongolia, rather they are descendants of a number of people, of which the ancient Uyghurs are but one.
Some Uyghur nationalist claimed that they were descended from the Tocharians. Discovered well-preserved Tarim mummies of a people European in appearance indicates the migration of an Indo-European people into the Tarim area at the beginning of the Bronze age around 2,000 BCE. These people probably spokeTocharian, and were suggested by some to be the Yuezhi mentioned in ancient Chinese text and who later founded the Kushan Empire. The Uyghur claim is based partly on a word, which they argued to be Uyghur, found in written scripts associated with these mummies, although other linguists suggested that it was a Sogdian word later absorbed into Uyghur. Later migrations brought peoples from the west and northwest to the Xinjiang area, probably speakers of various Iranian languages such as the Saka tribes. Other ancient people in the region mentioned in ancient Chinese texts include the Xiongnu who fought for supremacy in the region against the Chinese for several hundred years. Some Uyghur nationalists claimed descent from the Xiongnu (as well as being related to the White Huns), however this view is contested by modern Chinese scholars. This Xiongnu claim originated from various Chinese historical texts; for example, according to Chinese history Weishu, the founder of the Uyghurs was descended from a Xiongnu ruler.
Many historians traced the ancestry of the Uyghur tribe to the Altaic pastoralists called Tiele (Tura in Uyghur), who lived in the valleys south of Lake Baikal and around the Yenisei River. The Tiele first appear in history AD 357 under the Chinese ethnonym Gaoche (Qangqil in Uyghur), referring to the ox-drawn carts with distinctive high wheels used for yurttransportation. Tiele tribal territories had previously been occupied by the Dingling, an ancient Siberian people, some of whom had been absorbed into the Tiele. The Tiele practiced some minor agriculture and were highly developed metalsmiths due to the abundance of easily available iron ore in the Yenisei River.
The Tiele were subjugated by the Xiongnu in c 300 BC, who put them to work manufacturing weapons. After the collapse of the Xiongnu empire they were passed as vassal metalsmiths to the Rouran and Hepthalite States.
A Tiele tribe of twelve clans, the Fufuluo (Chinese: 副伏罗; pinyin: Fùfúluó), gathered enough power to create a state, the A-Fuzhiluo kingdom (AD 481-520), in Dzhungaria. The Fufulo are often listed as Uyghur ancestors in Chinese history, famously in the Suishu.
The forebears of the Tiele belonged to those Xiongnu descendants, having the largest divisions of tribes. They occupied the valleys, and were scattered across the vast region west of the Western Sea [Black Sea]
At the area north of the Duluo River (Tuul River), are the Pugu, Tongluo, Weihe (Orkhon Uyghur), Bayegu, Fuluo (Fufuluo), which were all called Sijin (Irkin). Other tribes such as Mengchen, Turuhe, Sijie (Esegel , (Pin. Asijie, Sijie 思結), Hun (Hunyu), Hu, Xue (Huxue) and so forth, also dwelled in this area. They had a 20,000 strong invincible army.
The names of these tribes differ, but all of them can be classified as Tiele. The Tiele do not have a master, but are subjected to the both Eastern and Western Tujue (Göktürks) respectively. They don’t have a permanent residence, and move with the changes of grass and water. Their main characteristics are, firstly, they possessed great ferocity, and yet showed tolerance; secondly, they were good riders and archers; and thirdly, they showed greed without restraint, for they often made their living by looting. The tribes toward the west were more cultivated, for they bred cattle and sheep, but fewer horses. Since the Tujue had established a state, they were recruited as the auxiliary of empire and conquered both east and westward, annexing all of the northern regional lands.
The customs of the Tiele and Tujue are not much different. However, a man of the Tiele lives in his wife’s home after marriage and will not return to his own home with his wife until the birth of a child. In addition, the Tiele also bury their dead under the ground.— Suishu, 84
In AD 546, the Fufulo led the Tiele tribes in a struggle against the Türk tribe in the power vacuum left by the breakup of the Rouran state. As a result of this defeat, they were forced into servitude again. This incident marked the beginning of the historic Türk-Tiele animosity that plagued both Göktürk Khanates. (Note: at this time Tiele replaces Gaoche in Chinese history.) At some point during their subjugation, nine Tiele tribes formed a coalition called Tokuz-Oguzes Nine-Tribes which also included the Xueyantuo (Syr-Tardush), Basmyl, Oguz, Khazar, Alans, Kyrgyz, Tuva and Yakut under the leadership of the Xueyantuo.
In AD 600, Sui China allied with Erkin Tegin, Bey of the Uyghur tribe, against the Göktürk Empire, their common enemy. This alliance was the first historical mention of the Uyghur tribe, which then resided in the Tuul River Valley with a population of 10,000 yurts (~40,000 people). In AD 603, the alliance dissolved in the aftermath of Tardu Khan’s defeat, but three tribes came under Uyghur control: Bugut, Tongra and Bayirqu.
In AD 611, the Uyghur led by the Seyanto (Ch. Xueyantuo) defeated a Göktürk invasion; however, in AD 615 they were placed under Göktürk control again by Shipi Qaghan. In AD 627 the Uyghur, now led by Pusa Ilteber, participated in another Tokuz-Oguz revolt against the Göktürks, again spearheaded by the Seyanto tribe. In AD 630 the Göktürk Khanate was decisively defeated by the Emperor Tang Taizong. The Uyghur occupied second position after the Xueyantuo in the Tokuz-Oguz. However, in AD 646 when the Uyghur bey, Tumitu Ilteber (吐迷度) was granted the Chinese title Prefect (Chinese: 刺史; pinyin: cìshǐ) it established a legal precedent for Uyghur rule. He overthrew the Xueyantuo and established a short lived Uyghur state over the Mongolian steppe.
From AD 648-657, the Uyghur, under Pojuan Ilteber (婆闰), worked as mercenaries for the Chinese in their annexation of the Tarim Basin. In AD 683, the Uyghur bey Tuchiachi was defeated by Göktürks and the Uyghur tribe moved to the Selenga River Valley. From this base, they struggled against the Second Göktürk Empire.
By AD 688, the Ugyhur were controlled again by the Göktürks. After a series of revolts coordinated with their Chinese allies, the Uyghur emerged as the leaders of the Tokuz-Oguz and Tiele once again. In AD 744 taking advantage of the power shift caused by the Battle of Talas, the Uyghur, with their Basmyl and Qarluq allies, under the command of Qutlugh Bilge Köl, defeated Göktürks. The following year, they founded the Uyghur Khaganate at sacred Mount Ötüken. Control of Mt. Ötüken had been, since the Xiongnu, a symbol of authority over the Mongolian steppe.
stretched from the Caspian Sea to Manchuria and lasted from AD 745 to 840. It was administered from the imperial capital Ordu-Baliq, one of the biggest ancient cities in Mongolia. During the imperial phase, the term Uyghur (Chinese: 维吾尔; pinyin:Wéiwú’ěr) denoted any citizen of the Uyghur Khaganate, as opposed to the Uyghur tribe.
Large numbers of Sogdian refugees came to Ordu-Baliq to escape the Islamic conquest of their homeland. They converted the Uyghur nobility from Buddhism to Manichaeism. Thus, the Uyghurs inherited the legacy of Sogdian Culture. Sogdians ran the civil administration of the empire. They were helpful in outflanking the Chinese diplomatic policies which had destabilized the Göktürk Khaganate. In AD 840, following a famine and civil war, the Uyghur Khaganate was overrun by the Kirghiz, another Turkic people. As a result, the majority of tribal groups formerly under Uyghur control migrated to what is now northwestern China, especially to the modern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous region.
Several laws enforcing racial segregation of foreigners from Chinese were passed by the Han Chinese during the Tang dynasty. In 779 the Tang dynasty issued an edict which forced Uyghurs in the capital to wear their ethnic dress, stopped them from marrying Chinese females, and banned them from pretending to be Chinese. Chinese disliked Uyghurs because they practiced usury The magistrate who issued the orders may have wanted to protect „purity“ in Chinese custom.
Following the collapse of the Uyghur Khaganate, the Uyghur gave up Mongolia and dispersed into present day Gansu andXinjiang. In 843 Chinese forces watched over Uyghur leftovers located in Shanxi province during a rebellion, until reinforcements arrived. The Uyghur later founded two kingdoms:
Yugur, the easternmost state formed by the Yugur people, was the Ganzhou Kingdom (AD 870–1036), with its capital near present-day Zhangye in the Gansu province of China. There, the Uyghur converted from Manichaeism to Lamaism, Tibetan and Mongol Buddhism. Unlike Turkic peoples further west, they did not later convert to Islam. Their descendants are now known as Yugurs (or Yogir, Yugur, and Sary Uyghurs, literally meaning „yellow Uyghurs“) and are distinct from modern Uyghurs. In AD 1028–1036, the Yugurs were defeated in a bloody war and forcibly absorbed into the Tangut kingdom. These Yugur stayed Lamaist and did not convert to Islam. Modern historians refer to them as Uighurs.
Kingdom of Qocho, created during AD 856–866, is also called the „Idiqut“ („Holy Wealth, Glory“) state, and was based on the cities of Qocho (winter capital) near Turpan, Beshbalik (summer capital), Kumul, and Kucha. A Buddhist state, with state-sponsored Buddhism and Manichaeism, it can be considered the center of Uyghur culture. The Uyghurs sponsored the construction of many of the temple caves in nearby Bezeklik. The Uyghurs abandoned the old alphabet and adopted the scripts of the local population which later came to be known as the Uyghur script. The Idiquts (title of the Karakhoja rulers) ruled independently until they become a vassal state of the Kara-Khitans. In 1209, the Kara-Khoja ruler Idiqut Barchuq declared his allegiance to the Mongols under Genghis Khan and, as the kingdom existed as a vassal state until 1335. After they submitted to the Mongols, the Uyghurs went into the service of the Mongol rulers as bureaucrats, providing the expertise that the initially illiterate nomads lacked. The Uyghurs of the Kingdom of Qocho were allowed significant autonomy by the Mongols, but was finally destroyed by the Chaghataid Mongols in late 14th century.
Kara-Khanids, or the Karakhans (Black Khans) Dynasty, was a state formed by a confederation of Karluks, Chigils,Yaghmas and other Turkic tribes. Some historians argued that the Karakhanids were linked to the Uyghurs of Uyghur Khaganate through the Yaghmas, a people associated with the Toquz Oghuz, although other historians argued differently.The Karakhanid Sultan Satuq Bughra Khan (920–956 AD) converted to Islam in 934, and a mass conversion of the Karakhanids followed in 960. The first capital of the Karakhanids was established in the city of Balasagun in the Chu River Valley and later was moved to Kashgar.
The reign of the Karakhanids is a significant part of Turkic culture and art history. During this period mosques, schools, bridges, and caravansarais were constructed in the cities. Kashgar, Bukhara and Samarkand became centers of learning, and Turkic literature developed. Among the most important works of the period is Kutadgu Bilig (English: „The Knowledge That Gives Happiness“), written by Yusuf Balasaghuni between the years 1060–1070, and Lughat-at-Turk (The Turkic dictionary) by Mahmud of Kashgar.
After the rise of the Seljuk Turks in Iran, the Karakhanids became vassals of the Seljuks. The Karakhanid states later submitted and served the suzerainty of theKara-Khitans who defeated the Seljuks in the Battle of Qatwan. The Karakhanid states finally ended when they were divided up between the Khwarezmids andKuchlug, an usurper of the Kara-Khitan’s throne.
Most Uyghur inhabitants of the Besh Balik and Turpan regions did not convert to Islam until the 15th century expansion of the Yarkand Khanate, a Turko-Mongol successor state based in western Tarim. Before converting to Islam, Uyghurs were Tengriist, Manichaeans, Buddhists, or Nestorian Christians.
The Uighur Idiqut, Barchukh, voluntarily submitted Genghis Khan (r.1206-1227) and was given his daughter, Altani (ᠠᠯᠲᠠᠨ) in 1209. From the 1260s onwards, they were directly controlled by the Yuan Dynasty of the Great Khagan Kublai (r.1260-1294). Starting from the 1270s, Mongol princes, Qaidu and Duwa, from Central Asia repeatedly launched raids into Uighurtsan to take the control from the Yuan. Most of the Uighurs including the ruling dynasty fled to Gansu (under Yuan Dynasty) due to the conflict between the Mongols. The Uighur troops served the Mongol war machine in Central Asia, China and the Middle East. Because they were one of the many highly developed nations under the Mongols, the Uighurs held high-positions at the Mongol court. Tata-tunga was the first scribe of Genghis Khan and mastermind behind the Uighur-Mongolian script that the Mongols used till now. The founder of the Eretna (1335–1381) in Anatolia was an Uighur commander of the Ilkhanate.
The Chagatai Khanate was a Mongol ruling khanate controlled by Chagatai Khan, second son of Genghis Khan. Chagatai’s ulus, or hereditary territory, consisted of the part of the Mongol Empire which extended from the Ili River (today in eastern Kazakhstan) and Kashgaria (in the western Tarim Basin) to Transoxiana (modernUzbekistan and Turkmenistan). The exact date that the control of Turfan and other areas of Uighurtsan was transferred to another Mongol Dynasty, Chagatai Khanate, is unclear.). Many scholars claim Chagatai Khan (d.1241) inherited Uighurstan from his father, Genghis Khan, as appanage in the early 13th century.By the 1330s, the Chagatayids exercised the full authority over the Uighur Kingdom in Turfan.
After the death of the Chagatayid ruler Qazan Khan in 1346, the Chagatai Khanate was divided into western (Transoxiana) and eastern (Moghulistan/Uyghuristan) halves, which was later known as „Kashgar and Uyghurstan,“ according Balkh historian Makhmud ibn Vali (Sea of Mysteries, 1640). By 1348, the Mogul (Mongol in Persian) khan, Tughlug Timur, had converted, along with their 160,000 subjects. A small Mongol Dynasty, Qara Del, was founded in Hami where the Uighurs also lived in 1389.
Kashgar historian Muhammad Imin Sadr Kashgari recorded Uyghurstan in his book Traces of Invasion (Asar al-futuh) in 1780. Power in the western half devolved into the hands of several tribal leaders, most notably the Qara’unas. Khans appointed by the tribal rulers were mere puppets. In the east, Tughlugh Timur (1347–1363), an obscure Chaghataite adventurer, gained ascendancy over the nomadic Mongols, and converted to Islam. In 1360, and again in 1361, he invaded the western half in the hope that he could reunify the khanate. At their greatest extent, the Chaghataite domains extended from the Irtysh River in Siberia down toGhazni in Afghanistan, and from Transoxiana to the Tarim Basin.
Tughlugh Timur was unable to completely subjugate the tribal rulers. After his death in 1363, the Moghuls left Transoxiana, and the Qara’unas‘ leader Amir Husayn took control of Transoxiana. Tīmur-e Lang (Timur the Lame), or Tamerlane, a Muslim native of Transoxiana who claimed descent from Genghis Khan, desired control of the khanate for himself and opposed Amir Husayn. He took Samarkand in 1366, and was recognized as emir in 1370, although he continued to officially act in the name of the Chagatai khans. For over three decades, Timur used the Chagatai lands as the base for extensive conquests, conquering the rulers of Heratin Afghanistan, Shiraz in Persia, Baghdad in Iraq, Delhi in India, and Damascus in Syria. After defeating the Ottoman Turks at Angora, Timur died in 1405 while marching on the Ming dynasty China. The Timurid dynasty continued under his son, Shah Rukh, who ruled from Herat until his death in 1447.
By 1369, the western half (Transoxiana and further west) of the Chagatai Khanate had been conquered by Tamerlane in his attempt to reconstruct the Mongol Empire. The eastern half, mostly under what is now Xinjiang, remained under Chagatai princes that were at times allied or at war with Timurid princes. Until the 17th century, all the remaining Chagatai domains fell under the theocratic regime of Uyghur Apak Khoja and his descendant, the Khojijans, who ruled East Turkestan.
Both Transoxiana and the Tarim Basin of East Turkestan became known as Moghulistan or Mughalistan, named after the ruling class of Chagatay and Timurid states which descended from the „Moghol“ tribe of Doghlat, but was Islamicized and Turkified in language. This Moghol Timurid ruling class established the Timurid rule on the Indian Subcontinent known as the Mughal Empire.
Under the Chagatay Khanate’s rule in East Turkestan/Uyghurstan, the culture of the Karakhanids (Uyghurs) dominated the largely Muslim state, and the Buddhistpopulations of the former Karakhoja(Uyghurs) Idikut-ate largely converted to the Muslim faith. All Chagatai-speaking Muslims, regardless whether they lived in Turpan or Kashgar, became known by their occupations as Moghols (ruling class), Sarts (merchants and townspeople) and Taranchis (farmers). This triple division of classes among the same Muslim Turkic folk also existed in Transoxiana, regardless whether they were under Timurid or Chagatay, the sense of ethnic kinship between the modern Uyghur and Uzbek peoples remain strong until today.
It is widely believed[who?] that the modern Uyghur nation acquired its current demographic composition and cultural identity during the East Turkestani Chagatay period. The Chagatay period in East Turkestan was marked by instability and internecine warfare kingdoms, with Kashgar, Yarkant and Qomul as major centers. Some Chagatay princes allied with the Timurids and Uzbeks of Transoxiana, and some sought help from the Buddhist Kalmyks. The Chagatay prince Mirza Haidar Kurgan escaped his war-torn homeland Kashgar in the early 16th century to Timurid Tashkent, only to be evicted by the invading Shaybanids. Escaping to the protection of his Mughal Timurid cousins, then rulers of Delhi, India, he gained his final post as governor of Kashmir, and wrote the famous Tarikh-i-Rashidi, widely acclaimed as the most comprehensive work on the Uyghur civilization during the East Turkestani Chagatay reign.
The Khojijans were originally the Aq Tagh tariqa of the Naqshbandi order, which originated in Timurid Transoxiana. Struggles between two prominent Naqshbandi tariqas, the Aq Taghlik and the Kara Taghlik, engulfed the East Turkestani Chagatay domain in the late 17th century. Apaq Khoja triumphed both as a national religious and political leader. The last ruling Chagatay princess married one of the ruling Khojijan princes (descendants of Apaq) and became known as Khanum Pasha. She ruled brutally after the death of her husband, and singlehandedly slaughtered many of her Khojijan and Chagatayid rivals. She was known to have boiled alive the last Chagatayid princess who could have continued the dynasty. The Khojijan dynasty fell into chaos, despite the brutality of Khanum Pasha.
The Zhengde Emperor of the Ming dynasty had a homosexual relationship with a Uyghur Muslim leader from Hami. His name was Sayyid Husain, and he served as Muslim overseer in Hami during the Ming Turpan Border Wars. In addition to having relationships with men, the Zhengde Emperor also had relationships with women. He sought the daughters of many of his officials. The other Muslim in his court, a Central Asian called Yu Yung, sent Uighur women dancers to the emperor’s quarters for sexual purposes. The emperor favored non Chinese women, such as Mongols and Uighur.
The Zhengde Emperor was noted for having a Uighur woman as one of his favorite concubines. Her last name was Ma, and she was reportedly trained in military and musical arts, in archery, horse riding, and singing music from Turkestan.
The invading of the Manchu-led Qing dynasty over the Jungars brought Qing military governorship to the Ili Valley north of Tarim basin. Khojijan princes struggled against Qing rule until the Qing dynasty was overthrown by the Xinhai Revolution.
The Qing dynasty conquered Moghulistan in the 18th century. It invaded Dzungaria in 1759 and dominated it until 1864. The territory was renamed Xinjiang, soon after the Qing invasion of the Dzungars. „Historians estimate that a million people were slaughtered, and the land so devastated that it took a generation for it to recover.“ During this period, the Uyghurs revolted 42 times against Qing Dynasty rulers.
The Han Hui (currently known as Hui Chinese) and Han Chinese had to wear the queue to demonstrate loyalty to the dynasty, but Turkic Muslims like the Chanto Hui (Uyghur) and Sala Hui (Salars) did not have to wear the queue. After the invasion of Kashgar by Jahangir Khoja, Turkistani Muslim begs and officials in Xinjiang eagerly fought for „privilege“ of wearing a queue to show their steadfast loyalty to the Empire. High ranking begs were granted this right. The eagerness of Turki begs to voluntarily wear the queue contrasted with the Han and Hui, who were forced to wear it.
Chinese did not distinguish between the Turki Uyghurs and the Central Asian invaders under Jahangir, killing Turks who tried to bribe Chinese and sought refuge with them. Many Chinese and Chinese Muslims (Dungan) had been killed by Jahangir, so they were eager for revenge.
In the revolt of 1864, the Uyghurs were successful in expelling the Qing Dynasty officials from East Turkestan, and founded an independent Kashgaria kingdom, called Yettishar (English: „country of seven cities“). Under the leadership of Yakub Beg, it included Kashgar, Yarkand, Hotan, Aksu, Kucha, Korla and Turpan. The kingdom was recognized by the Ottoman Empire (1873), Tsarist Russia (1872), and Great Britain (1874), which established a mission in the capital, Kashgar.
Uyghur Muslim forces under Yaqub Beg declared a Jihad against Chinese Muslims under Tuo Ming (T’o Ming) during the Dungan revolt. The Uyghurs thought that the Chinese Muslims were Shafi`i, and since the Uyghurs were Hanafi, they should wage war against them. Yaqub Beg enlisted non-Muslim Han Chinese militia under Xu Xuehong (Hsu Hsuehkung) in order to fight against the Chinese Muslims. T’o Ming’s forces were defeated by Yaqub in the Battle of Urumqi (1870), who planned to conquer Dzungaria. Yaqub intended to seize all Dungan territory. At Kuldja some Taranchi Turkic Muslims massacred Chinese Muslims, forcing them to flee into Ili.
Large Qing (Manchu) Dynasty forces under General Zuo Zongtang attacked Kashgaria in 1876. Fearing Tsarist expansion into East Turkestan, Great Britain supported the Qing invasion forces through loans by British banks (mostly through Boston Bank, located in Hong Kong). After this invasion, East Turkestan was renamed „Xinjiang“ or „Sinkiang“, which itself means „New Dominion“ or „New Territory“ but should really known as „Old Territory Newly Returned“ „旧疆新归“ and was shortened to „Xingjiang“ „新疆“ in Chinese, by the Qing empire on November 18, 1884.
Meanwhile, the „Great Game“ between Russia and Britain was underway in Central Asia, with former ethnic cultures from Afghanistan through Tajikistan andUzbekistan to Uyghurstan being divided. Artificial lines drawn between Shiite Persian speakers and Sunni Chagatay Turkic speakers within the same Uzbek cultural sphere gave rise to the modern Tajik and Uzbek nationalities, whereas the rather similar Sart-Taranchi populations around Kashgar(Xinjiang) andAndijan(Uzbekistan) divided into Uyghur and Uzbeks, Turpan, Qumul, Korla, Kashgar, Yarkant, Yengihissar, Khotan, Gulja through the Tarim Basin and the edges of Sinkiang, were recognized as Uyghur.
Throughout the Qing Dynasty, the sedentary Uyghur inhabitants of the oases around the Tarim speaking Qarluq/Old Uyghur–Chagatay dialects, were largely known as Taranchi, Sart, ruled by their Moghul rulers of Khojijan. Other parts of the Islamic World still knew this area as Moghulistan or as the eastern part of Turkestan.
Before being renamed ‚Xinjiang‘ by Qing, this eastern part of Turkestan was more often known as Hui Jiang in China, or „The Islamic territory“.
The Uyghur identified themselves to each other by their oasis, as ‚Keriyanese‘, ‚Khotanese‘, or ‚Kashgari‘. The Soviets met with the Uyghur in 1921 during a meeting of Turkic leaders in Tashkent. This meeting established the Revolutionary Uyghur Union (Inqilawi Uyghur Itipaqi), a communist nationalist organization that opened underground sections in principal cities of Kashgaria and was active until 1926, when the Soviets recognized the post Qing Sinkiang Government and concluded trade agreements with it.
By 1920, Uyghur nationalism had become a challenge to Chinese warlord Yang Zengxin (杨增新) who controlled Siankiang. Turpan poet Abdulhaliq, having spent his early years in Semey (Semipalatinsk) and the Jadid intellectual centres in Uzbekistan, returned to Sinkiang with a pen name that he later styled as a surname: „Uyghur“. He wrote the famous nationalist poem Oyghan, which opened with the line „Ey pekir Uyghur, oyghan!“ (Hey poor Uyghur, wake up!). He was later martyred by the Chinese warlord Sheng Shicai in Turpan in March, 1933 for inciting Uyghur nationalist sentiments through his works.
There were several Uighur factions during Yang’s rule in Xinjiang, which did not intermarry and were fierce rivals. The Qarataghlik Uighurs were content to live under Chinese rule, while the Agtachlik Uighurs were hostile to Chinese rule.
Uyghur independence activists staged several uprisings against post Qing and Sheng-Kuomintang rule. Twice, in 1933 and 1944, the Uyghurs successfully regained their independence(backed by the Soviet Joseph Stalin): the First East Turkestan Republic was a short-lived attempt at independence of land around Kashghar, and it was destroyed by Chinese Muslim army under General Ma Zhancang and Ma Fuyuan at the Battle of Kashgar (1934). The Uyghurs had revolted with the Kirghiz who were another Turkic people. The Kirghiz were angry at the Chinese Muslims for crushing their Kirghiz Rebellion so they and the Uyghurs in Kashgar targeted Chinese Muslims for killing along with Han Chinese during their revolt.
The Second East Turkistan Republic existed from 1944 to 1949 in what is now Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture. The Ili Rebellion was fought by the Kuomintangagainst the Second East Turkestan Republic, the Soviet Union, and the Mongolian People’s Republic.
The pro independence Uighurs were divided between pro Turkey and pro Soviet factions. They confronted each other violently.
In 1949, after the Chinese Nationalists (Kuomintang) lost the civil war in China, Second East Turkestan Republic’s rulers refused to form a confederate relation within Mao Zedong’s People’s Republic of China; however, a plane crash killed many of the East Turkestan Republic’s delegation. The surviving leader, Saifuddin Azizi, joined the Chinese Communist Party and professed loyalty to the PRC. Soon afterward, General Wang Zhen marched on East Turkestan through the deserts, suppressing anti-invasion uprisings. Mao turned the Second East Turkistan Republic into the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture, and appointed Azizi as the region’s first Communist Party governor. Many Republican loyalists fled into exile in Turkey and Western countries.
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