|Literal meaning||Northern Xinjiang|
Dzungaria is a geographical region in northwest China corresponding to the northern half of Xinjiang, also known as Beijiang (Chinese: 北疆; pinyin: Běijiāng; literally: "Northern Xinjiang"). Bounded by the Tian Shan mountain range to the south and the Altai Mountains to the north, it covers approximately 777,000 km2 (300,000 sq mi), extending into western Mongolia and eastern Kazakhstan. Formerly the term could cover a wider area, conterminous with the Zunghar Khanate, a separatist state led by the native Oirats in the 18th century which was based in the area.
Although geographically, historically, and ethnically distinct from the Turkic-speaking Tarim Basin area, the Qing dynasty and subsequent Chinese governments integrated both areas into one province, Xinjiang. As the center of Xinjiang's heavy industry, generator of most of Xinjiang's GDP, as well as containing its political capital Ürümqi ("beautiful pasture" in Mongolian), northern Xinjiang continues to attract intraprovincial and interprovincial migration to its cities. In comparison to southern Xinjiang (Nanjiang, or the Tarim Basin), Zungharia is relatively well-integrated with the rest of China by rail and trade links.
The name Zungharia is a corruption of the Mongolian term "Züün Gar" or "Jüün Gar" depending on the dialect of Mongolian used. "Züün"/"Jüün" means "left" and "Gar" means "hand". The name originates from the notion that the Western Mongols are on the left hand side when the Mongol Empire began its division into East and West Mongols. After this fragmentation, the western Mongolian nation was called "Zuun Gar". Today, the cradle of this former nation retains its name: Zungharia.
Xinjiang consists of two main geographically, historically, and ethnically distinct regions, Dzungaria and the Tarim Basin, before Qing China unified them into one political entity called Xinjiang province in 1884. At the time of the Qing conquest in 1759, Dzungaria was inhabited by steppe dwelling, nomadic Tibetan Buddhist Oirat Mongol Dzungar people, while the Tarim Basin was inhabited by sedentary, oasis dwelling, Turkic speaking Muslim farmers, now known as the Uyghur people.
The core of Zungharia is the triangular Zungharian Basin (also Jungar Basin) with its central Gurbantünggüt Desert. It is bounded by the Tian Shan to the south, the Altai Mountains to the northeast and the Tarbagatai Mountains to the northwest. The three corners are relatively open. The northern corner is the valley of the upper Irtysh River. The western corner is the Dzungarian Gate, a historically important gateway between Zungharia and the Kazakh Steppe; presently, a highway and a railway (opened in 1990) run through it, connecting China with Kazakhstan. The eastern corner of the basin leads to Gansu and the rest of China. In the south an easy pass leads from Ürümqi to the Turfan Depression. In the southwest the tall Borohoro Mountains branch of the Tian Shan separates the basin from the upper Ili River.
The basin is similar to the larger Tarim Basin on the southern side of the Tian Shan Range. Only a gap in the mountains to the north allows moist air masses to provide the basin lands with enough moisture to remain semi-desert rather than becoming a true desert like most of the Tarim Basin, and allows a thin layer of vegetation to grow. This is enough to sustain populations of wild camels, jerboas, and other wild species.
The Dzungarian Basin is a structural basin with thick sequences of Paleozoic-Pleistocene rocks with large estimated oil reserves. The Gurbantunggut Desert, China’s second largest, is in the center of the basin.
The Zungharian basin does not have a single catchment center. The northernmost section of Dzungaria is part of the basin of the Irtysh River, which ultimately drains into the Arctic Ocean. The rest of the region is split into a number of endorheic basins. In particular, south of the Irtysh, the Ulungur River ends up in the (presently) endorheic Lake Ulungur. The Southwestern part of the Zungharian basin drains into the Aibi Lake. In the west-central part of the region, streams flow into (or toward) a group of endorheic lakes that include Lake Manas and Lake Ailik. During the region's geological past, a much larger lake (the "Old Manas Lake") was located in the area of today's Manas Lake; it was fed not only by the streams that presently flow toward it, but also by the Irtysh and Ulungur, which too were flowing toward the Old Manas Lake at the time.
The cold climate of nearby Siberia influences the climate of the Dzungarian Basin, making the temperature colder—as low as −4 °F (−20 °C)—and providing more precipitation, ranging from 3 to 10 inches (76 to 254 mm), compared to the warmer, drier basins to the south. Runoff from the surrounding mountains into the basin supplies several lakes. The ecologically rich habitats traditionally included meadows, marshlands, and rivers. However most of the land is now used for agriculture.
It is a largely steppe and semi-desert basin surrounded by high mountains: the Tian Shan (ancient Mount Imeon) in the south and the Altai in the north. Geologically it is an extension of the Paleozoic Kazakhstan Block and was once part of an independent continent before the Altai mountains formed in the late Paleozoic. It does not contain the abundant minerals of Kazakhstan and may have been a pre-existing continental block before the Kazakhstan Block was formed.
Dzungaria and its derivatives are used to name a number of pre-historic animals hailing from the rocky outcrops located in an eponymous sedimentary basin of that region, the Junggar Basin.
A recent notable find, in February 2006, is the oldest tyrannosaur fossil unearthed by a team of scientists from George Washington University who were conducting a study in the Dzungarian Basin. The species, named Guanlong, lived 160 million years ago, more than 90 million years before the famed Tyrannosaurus rex.
Dzungaria is home to a semi-desert steppe ecoregion known as the Dzungarian Basin semi-desert. The vegetation consists mostly of low scrub of Anabasis brevifolia. Taller shrublands of saxaul bush (Haloxylon ammodendron) and Ephedra przewalskii can be found near the margins of the basin. Streams descending from the Tian Shan and Altai ranges support stands of poplar (Populus diversifolia) together with Nitraria roborovsky, N. sibirica, Achnatherum splendens, tamarisk (Tamarix sibirimosissima), and willow (Salix ledebouriana).
The northeastern portion of the Dzungarian Basin semi-desert lies within Great Gobi National Park, and is home to herds of Onagers (Equus hemionus), goitered gazelles (Gazella subgutturosa) and Wild Bactrian camels (Camelus ferus).
One of the earliest mentions of the Dzungaria region occurs when the Han dynasty dispatched an explorer to investigate lands to the west, using the northernmost Silk Road trackway of about 2,600 kilometres (1,600 mi) in length, which connected the ancient Chinese capital of Xi'an to the west over the Wushao Ling Pass to Wuwei and emerged in Kashgar.
Dzungaria is named after a Mongolian kingdom which existed in Central Asia during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It derived its name from the Dzungars, who were so called because they formed the left wing (züün, left; gar, hand) of the Mongolian army, self-named Oirats. Dzungar power reached its height in the second half of the 17th century, when Kaldan (also known as Galdan Boshigtu Khan), repeatedly intervened in the affairs of the Kazakhs to the west, but it was completely destroyed by the Kazakhs about 1757–1759. It has played an important part in the history of Mongolia and the great migrations of Mongolian stems westward.
Since 1761, its territory fell mostly to the Qing dynasty during the campaign against the Zunghars (Xinjiang and north-western Mongolia) and partly to Russian Turkestan (earlier Kazakh state provinces of Semirechye- Jetysu and Irtysh river).
Its widest limit included Kashgar, Yarkand, Khotan, the whole region of the Tian Shan, and in short the greater proportion of that part of Central Asia which extends from 35° to 50° N and from 72° to 97° E.
As a political or geographical term Dzungaria has practically disappeared from the map; but the range of mountains stretching north-east along the southern frontier of the Jeti-su, as the district to the south-east of Lake Balkhash preserves the name of Dzungarian Alatau. It also gave name to Dzungarian Hamsters.
Dzungaria and the Silk Road
A traveler going west from China must go either north of the Tian Shan mountains through Dzungaria or south of the mountains through the Tarim Basin. Trade usually took the south side and migrations the north. This is most likely because the Tarim leads to the Ferghana Valley and Iran, while Zungharia leads only to the open steppe. The difficulty with south side was the high mountains between the Tarim and Ferghana. There is also another reason. The Taklamakan is too dry to support much grass, and therefore nomads when they are not robbing caravans. Its inhabitants live mostly in oases formed where rivers run out of the mountains into the desert. These are inhabited by peasants who are unwarlike and merchants who have an interest in keeping trade running smoothly. Dzungaria has a fair amount of grass, few towns to base soldiers in and no significant mountain barriers to the west. Therefore trade went south and migrations north.
The Dzungar (or Zunghar), Oirat Mongols who lived in an area that stretched from the west end of the Great Wall of China to present-day eastern Kazakhstan and from present-day northern Kyrgyzstan to southern Siberia (most of which is located in present-day Xinjiang), were the last nomadic empire to threaten China, which they did from the early 17th century through the middle of the 18th century. After a series of inconclusive military conflicts that started in the 1680s, the Dzungars were subjugated by the Manchu-led Qing dynasty (1644–1911) in the late 1750s.
Clarke argued that the Qing campaign in 1757–58 "amounted to the complete destruction of not only the Zunghar state but of the Zunghars as a people." After the Qianlong Emperor led Qing forces to victory over the Zunghar Oirat (Western) Mongols in 1755, he originally was going to split the Zunghar Empire into four tribes headed by four Khans, the Khoit tribe was to have the Zunghar leader Amursana as its Khan. Amursana rejected the Qing arrangement and rebelled since he wanted to be leader of a united Zunghar nation. Qianlong then issued his orders for the genocide and eradication of the entire Zunghar nation and name, Qing Manchu Bannermen and Khalkha (Eastern) Mongols enslaved Zunghar women and children while slaying the other Zunghars.
The Qianlong Emperor issued direct orders for his commanders to "massacre" the Zunghars and "show no mercy", rewards were given to those who carried out the extermination and orders were given for young men to be slaughtered while women were taken as spoils. The Qing extirpated Zunghar identity from the remaining enslaved Zunghar women and children. Orders were given to "completely exterminate" the Zunghar tribes, and this successful genocide by the Qing left Zungharia mostly unpopulated and vacant. Qianlong ordered his men to- "Show no mercy at all to these rebels. Only the old and weak should be saved. Our previous campaigns were too lenient." The Qianlong Emperor did not see any conflict between performing genocide on the Zunghars while upholding the peaceful principles of Confucianism, supporting his position by portraying the Zunghars as barbarian and subhuman. Qianlong proclaimed that "To sweep away barbarians is the way to bring stability to the interior.", that the Zunghars "turned their back on civilization.", and that "Heaven supported the emperor." in the destruction of the Zunghars. According to the "Encyclopedia of genocide and crimes against humanity, Volume 3", per the United Nations Genocide Convention Article II, Qianlong's actions against the Zunghars constitute genocide, as he massacred the vast majority of the Zunghar population and enslaved or banished the remainder, and had "Zunghar culture" extirpated and destroyed. Qianlong's campaign constituted the "eighteenth-century genocide par excellence."
Qianlong emperor moved the remaining Zunghar people to China and ordered the generals to kill all the men in Barkol or Suzhou, and divided their wives and children to Qing soldiers. In an account of the war, Qing scholar Wei Yuan, wrote that about 40% of the Zunghar households were killed by smallpox, 20% fled to Russia or the Kazakh Khanate, and 30% were killed by the army, leaving no yurts in an area of several thousands of li except those of the surrendered. Clarke wrote 80%, or between 480,000 and 600,000 people, were killed between 1755 and 1758 in what "amounted to the complete destruction of not only the Zunghar state but of the Zunghars as a people." 80% of the Zunghars died in the genocide. The Zunghar genocide was completed by a combination of a smallpox epidemic and the direct slaughter of Zunghars by Qing forces made out of Manchu Bannermen and (Khalkha) Mongols.
Anti-Zunghar Uyghur rebels from the Turfan and Hami oases had submitted to Qing rule as vassals and requested Qing help for overthrowing Zunghar rule. Uyghur leaders like Emin Khoja were granted titles within the Qing nobility, and these Uyghurs helped supply the Qing military forces during the anti-Zunghar campaign.
It was not until generations later that Dzungaria rebounded from the destruction and near liquidation of the Zunghars after the mass slayings of nearly a million Zunghars. Historian Peter Perdue has shown that the decimation of the Dzungars was the result of an explicit policy of extermination launched by Qianlong, Perdue attributed the decimation of the Dzungars to a "deliberate use of massacre" and has described it as an "ethnic genocide". Although this "deliberate use of massacre" has been largely ignored by modern scholars, Dr. Mark Levene, a historian whose recent research interests focus on genocide, has stated that the extermination of the Dzungars was "arguably the eighteenth century genocide par excellence." The Dzungar (Zunghar) genocide has been compared to the Qing extermination of the Jinchuan Tibetan people in 1776.
Demographic changes due to the genocide
The Qing "final solution" of genocide to solve the problem of the Zunghar Mongols, made the Qing sponsored settlement of millions of Han Chinese, Hui, Turkestani Oasis people (Uyghurs) and Manchu Bannermen in Dzungaria possible, since the land was now devoid of Zunghars. The Dzungarian basin, which used to be inhabited by (Zunghar) Mongols, is currently inhabited by Kazakhs.
The Qing identified their state as "China" (Zhongguo), and referred to it as "Dulimbai Gurun" in Manchu. The Qing equated the lands of the Qing state (including present day Manchuria, Dzungaria in Xinjiang, Mongolia, and other areas as "China" in both the Chinese and Manchu languages, defining China as a multi ethnic state. The Qianlong Emperor explicitly commemorated the Qing conquest of the Zunghars as having added new territory in Xinjiang to "China", defining China as a multi ethnic state, rejecting the idea that China only meant Han areas in "China proper", meaning that according to the Qing, both Han and non-Han peoples were part of "China", which included Xinjiang which the Qing conquered from the Zunghars. After the Qing were done conquering Dzungaria in 1759, they proclaimed that the new land which formerly belonged to the Zunghars, was now absorbed into "China" (Dulimbai Gurun) in a Manchu language memorial. The Qing expounded on their ideology that they were bringing together the "outer" non-Han Chinese like the Inner Mongols, Eastern Mongols, Oirat Mongols, and Tibetans together with the "inner" Han Chinese, into "one family" united in the Qing state, showing that the diverse subjects of the Qing were all part of one family, the Qing used the phrase "Zhong Wai Yi Jia" 中外一家 or "Nei Wai Yi Jia" 內外一家 ("interior and exterior as one family"), to convey this idea of "unification" of the different peoples.
After 1759 state farms were established, "especially in the vicinity of Urumchi, where there was fertile, well-watered land and few people." From 1760 to 1830 more state farms were opened and the Chinese population in Xinjiang grew rapidly to about 155,000.
The Qing identified their state as "China" (Zhongguo), and referred to it as "Dulimbai Gurun" in Manchu. The Qing equated the lands of the Qing state (including present day Manchuria, Dzungaria in Xinjiang, Mongolia, and other areas as "China" in both the Chinese and Manchu languages, defining China as a multi ethnic state. When the Qing conquered Dzungaria, they proclaimed that the new land was absorbed into "China".
Xinjiang at this time did not exist as one unit. It consisted of the two separate political entities of Dzungaria and the Tarim Basin (Eastern Turkestan). Dzungharia or Ili was called Zhunbu 準部 (Dzungar region) Tianshan Beilu 天山北路 (Northern March), "Xinjiang" 新疆 (New Frontier), or "Kalmykia" (La Kalmouquie in French). It was formerly the area of the Zunghar Khanate 準噶爾汗國, the land of the Dzungar people. The Tarim Basin was known as "Tianshan Nanlu 天山南路 (southern March), Huibu 回部 (Muslim region), Huijiang 回疆 (Muslim frontier), Chinese Turkestan, Kashgaria, Little Bukharia, East Turkestan", and the traditional Uyghur name for it was Altishahr (Uyghur: التى شهر, ULY: Altä-shähär). It was formerly the area of the Eastern Chagatai Khanate 東察合台汗國, land of the Uyghur people before being conquered by the Dzungars.
After Qing dynasty defeated the Dzunghars Oirat Mongols and exterminated them from their native land of Dzungaria in the Zunghar Genocide, the Qing settled Han, Hui, Manchus, Xibe, and Taranchis (Uyghurs) from the Tarim Basin, into Dzungharia. Han Chinese criminals and political exiles were exiled to Dzhungaria, such as Lin Zexu. Chinese Hui Muslims and Salar Muslims belonging to banned Sufi orders like the Jahriyya were also exiled to Dzhungaria as well. In the aftermath of the crushing of the 1781 Jahriyya rebellion, Jahriyya adherents were exiled.
Taranchi was the name for Turki (Uyghur) agriculturalists who were resettled in Dzhungaria from the Tarim Basin oases ("East Turkestani cities") by the Qing dynasty, along with Manchus, Xibo, Han and other ethnic groups in the aftermath of the destruction of the Dzhunghars. The Manchu garrisons were supplied and supported with grain cultivated by the Han soldiers and East Turkestani (Uyghurs) who were resettled in agricultural colonies in Zungharia. The Manchu Qing policy of settling Chinese colonists and Taranchis from the Tarim Basin on the former Kalmucks (Dzungar) land was described as having the land "swarmed" with the settlers. The amount of Uyghurs moved by the Qing from Altä-shähär (Tarim Basin) to depopulated Zunghar land in Ili numbered around 10,000 families. The amount of Uyghurs moved by the Qing into Jungharia (Dzungaria) at this time has been described as "large". The Qing settled in Dzungaria even more Turki-Taranchi (Uyghurs) numbering around 12,000 families originating from Kashgar in the aftermath of the Jahangir Khoja invasion in the 1820s. Standard Uyghur is based on the Taranchi dialect, which was chosen by the Chinese government for this role. Salar migrants from Amdo (Qinghai) came to settle the region as religious exiles, migrants, and as soldiers enlisted in the Chinese army to fight in Ili, offen following the Hui.
After a revolt by the Xibe in Qiqihar in 1764, the Qianlong Emperor ordered an 800-man military escort to transfer 18,000 Xibe to the Ili valley of Dzungaria in Xinjiang. In Ili, the Xinjiang Xibe built Buddhist monasteries and cultivated vegetables, tobacco, and poppies. One punishment for Bannermen for their misdeeds involved them being exiled to Xinjiang.
The Qing resorted to incentives like issuing a subsidy which was paid to Han who were willing to migrate to northwest to Xinjiang, in a 1776 edict. There were very little Uyghurs in Urumqi during the Qing dynasty, Urumqi was mostly Han and Hui, and Han and Hui settlers were concentrated in Northern Xinjiang (Beilu aka Dzungaria). Around 155,000 Han and Hui lived in Xinjiang, mostly in Dzungaria around 1803, and around 320,000 Uyghurs, living mostly in Southern Xinjiang (the Tarim Basin), as Han and Hui were allowed to settle in Dzungaria but forbidden to settle in the Tarim, while the small amount of Uyghurs living in Dzungaria and Urumqi was insignificant. Hans were around one third of Xinjiang's population at 1800, during the time of the Qing Dynasty.
Professor of Chinese and Central Asian History at Georgetown University, James A. Millward wrote that foreigners often mistakenly think that Urumqi was originally a Uyghur city and that the Chinese destroyed its Uyghur character and culture, however, Urumqi was founded as a Chinese city by Han and Hui (Tungans), and it is the Uyghurs who are new to the city.
Han and Hui merchants were initially only allowed to trade in the Tarim Basin, while Han and Hui settlement in the Tarim Basin was banned, until the Muhammad Yusuf Khoja invasion, in 1830 when the Qing rewarded the merchants for fighting off Khoja by allowing them to settle down permanently, however, few of them actually took up on the offer. Robert Michell noted that as of 1870, there were many Chinese of all occupations living in Dzungaria and they were well settled in the area, while in Turkestan (Tarim Basin) there were only a few Chinese merchants and soldiers in several garrisons among the Muslim population.
At the start of the 19th century, 40 years after the Qing reconquest, there were around 155,000 Han and Hui Chinese in northern Xinjiang and somewhat more than twice that number of Uyghurs in southern Xinjiang. A census of Xinjiang under Qing rule in the early 19th century tabulated ethnic shares of the population as 30% Han and 60% Turkic, while it dramatically shifted to 6% Han and 75% Uyghur in the 1953 census, however a situation similar to the Qing era-demographics with a large number of Han has been restored as of 2000 with 40.57% Han and 45.21% Uyghur. Before 1831, only a few hundred Chinese merchants lived in southern Xinjiang oases (Tarim Basin) and only a few Uyghurs lived in northern Xinjiang (Dzungaria).
Uyghur nationalists often incorrectly claim that 5% of Xinjiang's population in 1949 was Han, and that the other 95% was Uyghur, erasing the presence of Kazakhs, Xibes, and others, and ignoring the fact that Hans were around one third of Xinjiang's population at 1800, during the time of the Qing Dynasty.
The autonomous region of the PRC was established on October 1, 1955, replacing the province. In 1955 (the first modern census in China was taken in 1953), Uyghurs were counted as 73% of Xinjiang's total population of 5.11 million. Although Xinjiang as a whole is designated as a "Uyghur Autonomous Region", since 1954 more than 50% of Xinjiang's land area are designated autonomous areas for 13 native non-Uyghur groups. The modern Uyghur people experienced ethnogenesis especially from 1955, when the PRC officially recognized that ethnic category - in opposition to the Han - of formerly separately self-identified oasis peoples.
The People's Republic of China has directed the majority of Han migrants in Xinjiang towards the sparsely populated Dzungaria (Junggar Basin), before 1953 most of Xinjiang's population (75%) lived in the Tarim Basin, so the new Han migrants resulted in the distribution of population between Dzungaria and the Tarim being changed. Most new Chinese migrants ended up in the northern region, in Dzungaria. Han and Hui made up the majority of the population in Dzungaria's cities while Uighurs made up most of the population in Kashgaria's cities. Eastern and Central Dzungaria are the specific areas where these Han and Hui are concentrated. China made sure that new Han migrants were settled in entirely new areas uninhabited by Uyghurs so as to not disturb the already existing Uyghur communities. Lars-Erik Nyman noted that Kashgaria was the native land of the Uighurs, "but a migration has been in progress to Dzungaria since the 18th century".
Both Han economic migrants from other parts of China and Uyghur economic migrants from southern Xinjiang have been flooding into northern Xinjiang since the 1980s.
Southern Xinjiang is where the majority of the Uyghur population resides, while it is in Northern Xinjiang cities where the majority of the Han (90%) population of Xinjiang reside. Southern Xinjiang is dominated by its nine million Uighur majority population, while northern Xinjiang is where the mostly urban Han population holds sway. This situation has been followed by an imbalance in the economic situation between the two ethnic groups, since the Northern Junghar Basin (Dzungaria) has been more developed than the Uighur south.
From the 1950s to 1970s, 92% of migrants to Xinjiang were Han and 8% were Hui. Most of these migrants were unorganized settlers - "as [they are still] now", coming from neighboring Gansu province to seek trading opportunities.
Beginning in the 1960s, the Soviet Union incited separatist activities in Xinjiang through propaganda, encouraging Kazakhs to flee to the Soviet Union and attacking China. China responded by reinforcing the Xinjiang-Soviet border area specifically with Han Bingtuan militia and farmers. The Soviets massively intensified their broadcasts inciting Uyghurs to revolt against the Chinese via Radio Tashkent since 1967 and directly harbored and supported separatist guerilla fighters to attack the Chinese border, in 1966 the amount of Soviet sponsored separatist attacks on China numbered 5,000. The Soviets transmitted a radio broadcast from Radio Tashkent into Xinjiang on 14 May 1967, boasting of the fact that the Soviets had supported the Second East Turkestan Republic against China. In addition to Radio Tashkent, other Soviet media outlets aimed at disseminating propaganda towards Uyghurs urging that they proclaim independence and revolt against China included Radio Alma-Ata and the Alma-Ata published Sherki Türkistan Evazi ("The Voice of Eastern Turkestan") newspaper. After the Sino-Soviet split in 1962, over 60,000 Uyghurs and Kazakhs defected from Xinjiang to the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic, in response to Soviet propaganda which promised Xinjiang independence. Uyghur exiles later threatened China with rumors of a Uyghur "liberation army" in the thousands that were supposedly recruited from Sovietized emigres.
The Soviet Union was involved in funding and support to the East Turkestan People's Revolutionary Party (ETPRP), the largest militant Uyghur separatist organization in its time, to start a violent uprising against China in 1968. In the 1970s, the Soviets also supported the United Revolutionary Front of East Turkestan (URFET) to fight against the Chinese.
"Bloody incidents" in 1966-67 flared up as Chinese and Soviet forces clashed along the border as the Soviets trained anti-Chinese guerillas and urged Uyghurs to revolt against China, hailing their "national liberation struggle". In 1969, Chinese and Soviet forces directly fought each other along the Xinjiang-Soviet border.
The Soviet Union supported Uyghur nationalist propaganda and Uyghur separatist movements against China. The Soviet historians claimed that the Uyghur native land was Xinjiang and Uyghur nationalism was promoted by Soviet versions of history on turcology. Soviet turcologists like D.I. Tikhonov wrote pro-independence works on Uyghur history and the Soviet supported Uyghur historian Tursun Rakhimov wrote more historical works supporting Uyghur independence and attacking the Chinese government, claiming that Xinjiang was an entity created by China made out of the different parts of East Turkestan and Zungharia. These Soviet Uyghur historians were waging an "ideological war" against China, emphasizing the "national liberation movement" of Uyghurs throughout history. The Soviet Communist Party supported the publication of works which glorified the Second East Turkestan Republic and the Ili Rebellion against China in its anti-China propaganda war. Soviet propaganda writers wrote works claiming that Uyghurs lived better lives and were able to practice their culture only in Soviet Central Asia and not in Xinjiang. In 1979 Soviet KGB agent Victor Louis wrote a thesis claiming that the Soviets should support a "war of liberation" against the "imperial" China to support Uighur, Tibetan, Mongol, and Manchu independence. The Soviet KGB itself supported Uyghur separatists against China.
Uyghur nationalist historian Turghun Almas and his book Uyghurlar (The Uyghurs) and Uyghur nationalist accounts of history were galvanized by Soviet stances on history, "firmly grounded" in Soviet Turcological works, and both heavily influenced and partially created by Soviet historians and Soviet works on Turkic peoples. Soviet historiography spawned the rendering of Uyghur history found in Uyghurlar. Almas claimed that Central Asia was "the motherland of the Uyghurs" and also the "ancient golden cradle of world culture".
Xinjiang's importance to China increased after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, leading to China's perception of being encircled by the Soviets. The China supported the Afghan mujahideen during the Soviet invasion, and broadcast reports of Soviet atrocities on Afghan Muslims to Uyghurs in order to counter Soviet propaganda broadcasts into Xinjiang, which boasted that Soviet minorities lived better and incited Muslims to revolt. Chinese radio beamed anti-Soviet broadcasts to Central Asian ethnic minorities like the Kazakhs. The Soviets feared disloyalty among the non-Russian Kazakh, Uzbek, and Kyrgyz in the event of Chinese troops attacking the Soviet Union and entering Central Asia. Russians were goaded with the taunt "Just wait till the Chinese get here, they'll show you what's what!" by Central Asians when they had altercations. The Chinese authorities viewed the Han migrants in Xinjiang as vital to defending the area against the Soviet Union. China opened up camps to train the Afghan Mujahideen near Kashgar and Khotan and supplied them with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of small arms, rockets, mines, and anti-tank weapons.
Since the Chinese economic reform from the late 1970s has exacerbated uneven regional development, more Uyghurs have migrated to Xinjiang cities and some Hans have also migrated to Xinjiang for independent economic advancement. Increased ethnic contact and labor competition coincided with Uyghur separatist terrorism from the 1990s, such as the 1997 Ürümqi bus bombings.
In the 1980s, 90% of Xinjiang Han lived in north Xinjiang (Jiangbei, historical Dzungaria). In the mid-1990s, Uyghurs consisted of 90% of south Xinjiang (Nanjiang, historical Tarim)'s population. In 1980, the liberal reformist Hu Yaobang announced the expulsion of ethnic Han cadres in Xinjiang to eastern China. Hu was purged in 1987 for a series of demonstrations that he is said to have provoked in other areas of China. The prominent Xinjiang and national official Wang Zhen criticized Hu for destroying Xinjiang Han cadres' "sense of security", and for exacerbating ethnic tensions.
In the 1990s, there was a net inflow of Han people to Xinjiang, many of whom were previously prevented from moving because of the declining number of social services tied to hukou (residency permits). As of 1996, 13.6% of Xinjiang's population was employed by the publicly traded Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (Bingtuan) corporation. 90% of the Bingtuan's activities relate to agriculture, and and 88% of Bingtuan employees are Han, although the percentage of Hans with ties to the Bingtuan has decreased. Han emigration from Xinjiang has also resulted in an increase of minority-identified agricultural workers as a total percentage of Xinjiang's farmers, from 69.4% in 1982 to 76.7% in 1990. During the 1990s, about 1.2 million temporary migrants entered Xinjiang every year to stay for the cotton picking season. Many Uyghur trading communities exist outside of Xinjiang; the largest in Beijing is one village of a few thousand.
A chain of aggressive and belligerent press releases in the 1990s making false claims about violent insurrections in Xinjiang, and exaggerating both the number of Chinese migrants and the total number of Uyghurs in Xinjiang were made by the former Soviet supported URFET leader Yusupbek Mukhlisi.
In 2000, Uyghurs "comprised 45 per cent of Xinjiang's population, but only 12.8 per cent of Urumqi's population." Despite having 9% of Xinjiang's population, Urumqi accounts for 25% of the region's GDP, and many rural Uyghurs have been migrating to that city to seek work in the dominant light, heavy, and petrochemical industries. Hans in Xinjiang are demographically older, better-educated, and work in higher-paying professions than their Uyghur cohabitants. Hans are more likely to cite business reasons for moving to Urumqi, while some Uyghurs also cite trouble with the law back home and family reasons for their moving to Urumqi. Hans and Uyghurs are equally represented in Urumqi's floating population that works mostly in commerce. Self-segregation within the city is widespread, in terms of residential concentration, employment relationships, and a social norm of endogamy. As of 2010, Uyghurs constitute a majority in the Tarim Basin, and a mere plurality in Xinjiang as a whole.
Han and Hui mostly live in northern Xinjiang (Dzungaria), and are separated from areas of historical Uyghur dominance south of the Tian Shan mountains (southwestern Xinjiang), where Uyghurs account for about 90% of the population.
The Dzungar, Oirat Mongols who lived in an area that stretched from the west end of the Great Wall of China to present-day eastern Kazakhstan and from present-day northern Kyrgyzstan to southern Siberia (most of this area is called Xinjiang nowadays), were the last nomadic empire to threaten China, which they did from the early 17th century to the middle of the 18th century. After a series of inconclusive military conflicts that started in the 1680s, the Dzungars were subjugated by the Manchu-led Qing dynasty (1644–1911) in the late 1750s and subjected to the Zunghar Genocide at the hands of the Qing. According to Qing scholar Wei Yuan, 40% of the 600,000 Zunghar people were killed by smallpox, 20% fled to Russia or sought refuge among the Kazakh tribes, and 30% were killed by the army. Clarke has argued that the Qing campaign in 1757–58 "amounted to the complete destruction of not only the Zunghar state but of the Zunghars as a people." Historian Peter Perdue has attributed the decimation of the Dzungars to a "deliberate use of massacre" and has described it as an "ethnic genocide". Mark Levene, a historian whose recent research interests focus on genocide, has stated that the extermination of the Dzungars was "arguably the eighteenth century genocide par excellence." The Qing subsequently began to repopulate the area with Turki people from the south (the Turkic-speaking peoples now known as Uyghurs).
The population in the 21st century consists of Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Mongols, Uyghurs and Han Chinese. Since 1953, northern Xinjiang has attracted skilled workers from all over China—who have mostly been Han Chinese—to work on water conservation and industrial projects, especially the Karamay oil fields. Intraprovincial migration has mostly been directed towards Dzungaria also, with immigrants from the poor Uyghur areas of southern Xinjiang flooding to the provincial capital of Ürümqi to find work.
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