|alternative Chinese name|
East Turkestan, also known as East Turkistan, Uyghuristan, and Uyghurstan (Uyghur: Şerqiy Türkistan; Uyğuriye), refers to the eastern part of the greater Turkestan region of Central Asia, and is concurrent with the present-day Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China. More specifically, at times, the term East Turkestan only referred to Xinjiang area south of Tian Shan mountains; North of Tian Shan mountains was called Dzungaria (Zungaria). The area is largely inhabited by the 8 million Uyghurs, 7 million Han Chinese, 1 million Kazakhs and 16 other ethnic groups with significant numbers.
The area was part of various Khanates before it became part of China's Tang Dynasty until the 9th century. The local empire, Kara-Khanid Khanate ruled from 840 to 1212. The region had been ruled as a section of the Chagatai Khanate, from the Mongol invasion of Central Asia of the 13th Century. In the late 17th Century it experienced fragmentation and annexation by Mongol groups. It again became part of China during the Qing Dynasty with the defeat of the Dzungars from 1757 to 1759 except for the period of the Hui uprising in the latter half of the 19th century which led to the conquest of the region by Yakub Beg.
By 1865 Yakub Beg had become Commander-in-Chief of the army of Kokand. Taking advantage of the Hui uprising in Xinjiang Province, in Chinese controlled Eastern Turkestan, he captured Kashgar and Yarkand from the Chinese and gradually took control of most of the region of Eastern Turkestan, including Khotan, Aksu, Kucha, and other cities in 1867. He made himself the ruler of Kashgaria with its capital in Kashgar. He died in 1877. After his death his state of Kashgaria rapidly fell apart, and Kashgar was reconquered by the Qing Dynasty.
In 1912, the Qing Dynasty was replaced by the Republic of China. Yuan Dahua, the last Qing governor, fled. One of his subordinates Yang Zengxin (杨增新), took control of the province and acceded in name to the Republic of China in March of the same year. Through Machiavellian politics and clever balancing of mixed ethnic constituencies, Yang maintained control over Xinjiang until his assassination in 1928. Multiple insurgencies arose against his successor Jin Shuren (金树仁) in the early 1930s throughout Xinjiang, involving Uyghurs, other Turkic groups, Russians and Hui (Muslim) Chinese. In the Kashgar region on November 12, 1933, the short-lived self-proclaimed East Turkestan Republic was declared, after some debate over whether the proposed independent state should be called "East Turkestan" or "Uyghuristan." The ETR claimed authority over territory stretching from Aksu along the northern rim of the Tarim Basin to Khotan in the south. Xinjiang was eventually brought in 1934 under the control of northeast Chinese warlord Sheng Shicai (盛世才), who ruled Xinjiang for the next decade with close support from the Soviet Union, many of whose ethnic and security policies Sheng instituted in Xinjiang. Sheng invited a group of Chinese Communists to Xinjiang, but in 1943, fearing a conspiracy, Sheng executed them all, including Mao Zemin, the brother of Mao Zedong. A Second East Turkestan Republic (2nd ETR, also known as the Three Districts Revolution) existed from 1944-1949 with Soviet support in what is now Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture in northern Xinjiang.
The Second East Turkistan Republic came to an end when the People's Liberation Army (PLA) entered Xinjiang in 1949. According to the PRC interpretation, the 2nd ETR was Xinjiang's revolution, a positive part of the communist revolution in China; the 2nd ETR acceded to and welcomed the PLA when it entered Xinjiang, a process known as the Peaceful Liberation of Xinjiang. However, independence and secessionist proponents view the ETR as an effort to establish an independent state, and the subsequent PLA entry as an invasion. The autonomous region of the PRC was established on October 1, 1955, replacing the province. The PRC's first nuclear test was carried out at Lop Nur, Xinjiang, on October 16, 1964.
Greater Turkestan is subdivided into West (former Soviet Union countries) and East Turkestan (administered as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China). The Tian Shan (Tengri Tagh) and Pamir mountain ranges form the rough division between the two Turkestans.
Xinjiang, officially called ' Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region,' (Uyghur： شىنجاڭ Chinese： 新疆维吾尔自治区; Xīnjiāng wéiwú'ěr zìzhìqū,) is located in the North West of China, in the Mongolian Uplands. It is on the traditional Silk Road.
The northwestern border region of Xinjiang, lauded variously as a land of song and dance, melons and fruits, precious stones, and carpets, is situated in the heart of the Eurasia Continent. Xinjiang was a key link on the Silk Road and a hub for east-west cultural exchanges in ancient times. The local folklore is rich and varied.
The province is largely populated by Mainland ethnic minority groups, such as the Mongols, Kazaks, Kyrgyzs and Uighurs. Like Tibet, the demographic composition of the province has shifted over the past few decades. In 1949, Xinjiang's population was approximately 85% Uighur and 8% Han Chinese; today it is about 45% Uighur and 40% Han Chinese.
Already Kashgar is feeling the effects of the railway line completed in 1997. This town at the center of the silkroad is seeing its winding mud brick streets becoming gradually flattened in favour of Chinese-style streets typical of any other city in China.
Recommended reading for those interested includes Eurasian Crossroads: A History of Xinjiang by James Millward and The Mummies of Urumqi by Elizabeth Wayland Barber. Most great game literature also covers aspects of Xinjiang's history. Blogs covering current events in Xinjiang include The New Dominion, The Opposite End of China， and Far West China.
As everywhere in China, the official language is Mandarin. However, many other languages are spoken in Xinjiang. The most common is Uyghur, a Turkic language similar to Uzbek but written in Arabic script. Other languages include Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Tajik and Mongol.
Lamb. Barbequed, grilled, fried, boiled, you name it, they eat it.
Watermelons. Ubiquitous small round tasty watermelons, in some cities at every second street-corner. Justly famous and renown throughout all of China!
Xinjiang is home to a lively bazaar culture where anything and everything is traded. But hordes of people crammed into confined spaces also present a prime opportunity for pickpockets, who often operate in teams and can be very efficient at what they do (I know from experience). Be very careful with your valuables when you are out and about. As a foreign traveler you are a prime target.
Be careful when paying with 100 yuan bills in smaller restaurants or shops. The owner may switch the bill with a counterfeit one and claim that you gave him/her a fake bill. You should also check your bills when you are returned your hotel deposit.
Xinjiang borders eight countries, making it ideal for exploring the surrounding countries. Korgas and Alashankou lead to Kazakhstan, the Torugart and Irkeshtam passes lead to Kyrgyzstan, the Kulma pass leads to Tajikistan, and the Karakorum Highway leads south to Pakistan.
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