Second East Turkestan Republic

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East Turkestan Republic
شەرقىي تۈركىستان جۇمھۇرىيىتى
Satellite state of the Soviet Union[1][2][3][4]

1944 – 1949


Located in three contiguous prefectures in Xinjiang, or Northwest China. Contiguous, but with three Chinese enclaves.
The Ili, Tarbagatay, and Altay districts (red) in which the East Turkestan Republic was located.
Capital Ghulja[5]
Languages Uyghur (official)
Government Secular republic[2][6]
President Ali Khan Türe (1944–1946)
Ehmetjan Qasim (1946–1949)
 -  Established November 12, 1944
 -  Disestablished October 20, 1949
Currency Som

The Second East Turkestan Republic, usually known as the East Turkestan Republic (ETR), was a short-lived Soviet-backed Turkic people's republic. The ETR existed in the 1940s (November 12, 1944 – October 20, 1949) in present day Xinjiang. It began as a revolution in three northern districts (Ili, Tarbaghatai, Altai) of Xinjiang province of the Republic of China, resulting in the Ili Rebellion. This region is now the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China (PRC).


From 1934 to 1941 Xinjiang was under the influence of the Soviet Union, similar to the Soviet Union's influence in Outer Mongolia. The local warlord Sheng Shicai was dependent on the Soviet Union for military support and trade. Soviet troops entered Xinjiang twice, in 1934 and 1937, for a limited periods of time to give direct military support to Sheng Shicai's regime. After suppressing the 36th Division General Ma Chung-yin in 1934 and the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1935, the USSR sent a commission to Xinjiang to draw up a plan for reconstruction of the province, led by Stalin's brother-in-law, Deputy Chief of Soviet State Bank, Alexander Svanidze, which resulted in a Soviet five-year loan of five million gold rubles to Sheng Shicai's regime. The draft was signed by Sheng Shicai on May 16, 1935, without consultation or approval by the Central Government of China. After Soviet intervention in 1937 and quelling of both Tungan and Uyghur rebels on the South of Xinjiang with liquidation of the 36th Tungan Division and 6th Uyghur Division, the Soviet Government did not withdraw all Soviet troops. A regiment of soldiers from the Ministry of Internal Affairs remained in Kumul beginning in October 1937, in order to prevent a possible offensive from the Imperial Japanese Army into Xinjiang through Inner Mongolia. In exchange, concessions were granted for oil wells, tin and tungsten mines, and trade terms highly favorable to the USSR.

In 1936, after Sheng Shicai expelled 20,000 Kazakhs from Xinjiang to Qinghai, Hui led by General Ma Bufang massacred their fellow Muslim Kazakhs, until only 135 remained.[7][8]

On November 26, 1940, Sheng Shicai concluded an Agreement granting the USSR additional concessions in the province of Xinjiang for fifty years, including areas bordering India and Tibet. This placed Xinjiang under virtually full political and economic control of the USSR, making it part of China in name only. Sheng Shicai recalled in his memoir, "Red failure in Sinkiang," published by the University of Michigan in 1958, that Joseph Stalin pressured him to sign the secret Agreement of Concessions in 1940. The Agreement of Concessions, prepared by Stalin and seventeen articles long, would have resulted in Xinjiang sharing the same fate as Poland. Sheng Shicai was informed of this intended result by Soviet representatives in Urumchi Bakulin and Karpov.

The first article of Agreement stated that "The Government of Sinkiang agrees to extend to the Government of the USSR within the territory of Sinkiang exclusive rights to prospect for, investigate and exploit tin mines and its ancillary minerals." The USSR established a trust known as Sin-Tin as an independent juridical person subject only to legislative procedures of the USSR for implementation of the provisions of Agreement in accordance with Article 4 with right "to establish without hindrance branch offices, sub-branch offices and agencies within the whole territory of Sinkiang" with all supplies of needs of concessions, deliveries of equipment and materials and other imports from USSR and exports of minerals from Sinkiang free of custom duties and other imposts and taxes and payment of fixed price of five percent of the cost of mined minerals to the Xinjiang Government.[9]

Following this agreement, large-scale geological exploration expeditions were sent by the Soviets to Xinjiang in 1940 to 1941, and large deposits of diverse mineral resources, including uranium and beryllium, were found in the mountains near Kashgar and in the Altai region. Ores of both minerals continued to be delivered from Xinjiang Altai mines to the USSR until the end of 1949. Soviet geologists continued to work in Xinjiang until 1955, when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev refused Mao Zedong's demand to hand over to the technology to produce PRC nuclear weapons. A Chinese atomic project was initiated using facilities built by the Soviet Union in Chuguchak and Altai in Northern Xinjiang. These facilities were used by the Soviet Union for nuclear weapon design and the creation of the first Soviet atomic bomb, successfully tested in USSR on August 29, 1949. Thousands of Japanese POWs disappeared without traces during forcible participating in this project.

Following Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, and the entry of the United States into World War II in December 1941, the Soviet Union became a far less attractive patron of the ETR than the Kuomintang. At the end of 1942, Sheng demanded that the Soviet Union withdraw all military forces and political officers from Xinjiang. Sheng was appointed the head of the Kuomintang branch in Xinjiang in 1943 and allowed Kuomintang cadres into the province. In the summer of 1944, following the German defeat on the Eastern Front, Sheng attempted to reassert control over Xinjiang and turned to the Soviet Union for support again. He arrested a number of Kuomintang cadres in Urumchi and sent a letter to Stalin with offer to "incorporate Xinjiang into USSR as its 18th Soviet Socialistic Republic."[10] Sheng Shicai asked Stalin for the post of a Ruler of the new Soviet Republic. Stalin refused to deal with Sheng and forwarded this confidential letter to Chiang Kai-shek. As a result, the Kuomintang removed him from the province in August 1944 and appointed him to a low-level post in the Ministry of Forestry in Chongqing.


Following Sheng Shicai's departure from Xinjiang, the new Kuomintang administration had increasing trouble maintaining law and order. On September 16, 1944, troops that had been sent to Gongha county, a majority Kazak region, were unable to contain a group of rioters. By October 8, the rioters had captured Nilka, the county seat. During October, the Three Districts Rebellion broke out south of Ghulja in the Ili, Altay and Tarbagatay districts of northern Xinjiang. Aided by the Soviet Union, and supported by several Xinjiang exiles trained in the Soviet Union, the rebels quickly established control over the three districts, capturing Ghulja in November. The ethnic Chinese population of the region was reduced by massacre and expulsion. According to United States consular officials, the Islamic scholar Elihan Töre declared a "Turkistan Islam Government":

"The Turkestan Islam Government is organized: praise be to Allah for his manifold blessings! Allah be praised! The aid of Allah has given us the heroism to overthrow the government of the oppressor Chinese. But even if we have set ourselves free, can it be pleasing in the sight of our God if we only stand and watch while you, our brethren in religion ... still bear the bloody grievance of subjection to the black politics of the oppressor Government of the savage Chinese? Certainly our God would not be satisfied. We will not throw down our arms until we have made you free from the five bloody fingers of the Chinese oppressors' power, nor until the very roots of the Chinese oppressors' government have dried and died away from the face of the earth of East Turkestan, which we have inherited as our native land from our fathers and our grandfathers."

The demands of the rebels included termination of Chinese rule, equality for all nationalities, recognised use of native languages, friendly relations with the Soviet Union, and opposition to Chinese immigration into Xinjiang. The military forces available to the rebellion were the newly formed Ili National Army (INA) and later renamed the East Turkestan National Army, which included mostly Uighur, Kazakh and White Russian soldiers (around 60,000 troops, armed and trained by the Soviet Union, strengthened with regular Red Army units, that included up to 500 officers and 2,000 soldiers), and a group of Kazak Karai tribesmen under the command of Osman Batur (around 20,000 horsemen). The Kazaks expanded to the north, while the INA expanded to the south. By September 1945, the Kuomintang Army and the INA occupied positions on either side of the Manasi River near Ürümqi. By this time the ETR held Zungaria and Kashgaria, while the Kuomintang held the Ürümqi (Tihuwa) area.

Despite presence of Russian troops in Ili army, Uyghur mobs attacked White Russians during riots.

The Chinese Muslim General Ma Bufang was sent with his Muslim Cavalry to Ürümqi by the Kuomintang in 1945 to protect it from the Uyghur army from Hi (name for Ili at that time).[11][12][13][14]

Negotiations and coalition government in Ürümchi[edit]

In August 1945, China signed a Treaty of Friendship and Alliance granting the Soviet Union a range of concessions that the United States promised at the Yalta conference. This ended overt Soviet support for the East Turkistan Republic. The Kuomintang reached a negotiated settlement with the leaders of the ETR in July 1946. In effect, little changed. The ETR remained a de facto separate pro-Soviet state with its own currency and military forces. Political activity in the Republic was limited to the Union for the Defense of Peace and Democracy, a party on the Leninist one-party model. Kuomintang officials were prohibited from the Three Districts, and in return the Kuomintang actively supported opposition politicians. By this time, these opposition politicians included Elihan Töre, who disappeared visiting the Soviet Union, and the Kazak leader Osman Batur, who broke with the other rebels when their pro-Soviet orientation became clear. The Kuomintang appointed several important Uyghurs as advisors to the Xinjiang administration and made Ehmetjan Qasim, the leader of the ETR, the Provincial Vice Chairman.

Bai Chongxi, a Muslim and the Defence Minister of China, was considered for appointment as the Governor of Xinjiang. The position was then given to Masud Sabri, a pro-Kuomintang Uyghur who was an anti-Soviet politician.[15]

Kazakh Defection[edit]

Osman Batur, the Kazakh leader, defected to the Kuomintang, and started fighting against the Soviet Union and the Mongolian army during the Pei-ta-shan Incident. The Tungan (Chinese Muslim or Hui) 14th Cavalry Regiment, which worked for the Kuomintang, was sent by the Chinese government to attack Soviet and Mongol Army at Peitashan on the Xinjiang-Mongolia border.

Pei-ta-shan Incident[edit]

The Pei-ta-shan Incident was a border conflict between the Republic of China and the Mongolian People's Republic. The Chinese Muslim Hui cavalry regiment was sent by the Chinese government to attack Mongol and Soviet positions, resulting in the conflict.[16]

A Xinjiang police station manned by a Chinese police force with Chinese sentry posts existed in Xinjiang both before and after 1945.[17]

Chinese Muslim and Turkic Kazakh forces working for the Chinese Kuomintang, battled Soviet Russian and Mongol troops. In June 1947, the Mongols and the Soviets launched an attack against the Kazakhs, driving them back to the Chinese side of the border. Fighting continued for another year, with thirteen clashes taking place between June 5, 1947, and July 1948.[18]

Mongolia invaded Xinjiang to assist Li Rihan, the pro-Russian Special Commissioner, gain control of Xinjiang from Special Commissioner Us Man (Osman), who supported the Republic of China.[clarification needed] The Chinese defence ministry spokesman announced that Outer Mongolian soldiers were captured at Peitashan, and stated that troops[clarification needed] were resisting near Peitashan.[19]

Elite Qinghai Hui cavalry were sent by the Chinese Kuomintang to destroy the Mongols and the Russians in 1947.[20][21]

The Chinese troops recaptured Peitashan and continued to fight against Soviet and Mongolian bomber planes. China's Legislative Yuan demanded a firmer policy against Russia.[22]

The Chinese General Ma Xizhen and the Kazakh Osman Batur fought against the Mongol troops and airplanes throughout June, 1947.[23] The MPR used a battalion size force and had Soviet air support on June 1947.[24] The Mongolians repeatedly probed the Chinese lines.[25][26]

Osman continued to fight against the Uyghur forces of the Yili regime in north Ashan after being defeated by Soviet forces.[27]


American telegrams reported that Uyghur mobs in parts of Xinjiang were calling for White Russians to be expelled from Xinjiang after the Han Chinese were expelled from the area. They said, "We freed ourselves from the yellow men, now we must destroy the white."[15] Races native to Xinjiang, such as the Uyghurs, frequently attacked people of other races, such as Russians and Chinese. General conscription of all races continued in the Ili zone.

Many Ining Muslim leaders planned to move to Tihwa (Urumchi and escape to Inner China to escape Soviet pressure. They feared that they were going to be murdered by the Soviet army.

Ehmetjan Qasim demanded Masud Sabri to be removed as Governor and all prisoners to be released from Kuomintang jails.

Absorption by the People's Republic of China[edit]

In July 1949, the advancing People's Liberation Army crossed the Yangtze River and cut off the Kuomintang administration in southern Xinjiang. Some Kuomintang officials fled to Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan, but most surrendered to the Communist Party of China. In August 1949, the Communist Party of China sent Deng Liqun to negotiate with the ETR's leadership in Ghulja (Yining in Chinese). Mao Zedong invited the leaders of the ETR to take part in the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference later that year. The leaders of the ETR traveled to the Soviet Union on August 22, accompanied by Soviet vice-consul at Ghulja Vasiliy Borisov, where they were told to cooperate with the Communist Party of China. On August 24, Ehmetjan Qasim, Abdulkerim Abbas, Ishaq Beg, Luo Zhi and Delilhan Sugurbayev boarded a plane in Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan, headed for Beijing. On September 3, the Soviet Union informed the Chinese government that the plane had crashed near lake of Baikal en route to Beijing, killing all on board.

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, former KGB leaders revealed that five top ETR leaders were killed on Stalin's orders in Moscow on August 27, 1949, after a three-day imprisonment in former Tsar's stables. This was allegedly done in accordance with a deal between Stalin and China's communist leader Mao Zedong[citation needed], but this allegation has never been confirmed. The remaining important figures of the ETR, including Saifuddin Azizi, agreed to incorporate the three districts into the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and accept important positions within the administration. However, some Kazakhs led by Osman Batur continued their resistance until 1954.[28][29] Saifuddin then became the first chairman of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, which replaced Xinjiang Province in 1955.

National army[edit]

The National Army of the Second East Turkestan Republic was formed on April 8, 1945, and originally consisted of six regiments:

  1. Suidun infantry regiment
  2. Ghulja regiment
  3. Kensai regiment
  4. Ghulja reserve regiment
  5. Kazakh cavalry regiment
  6. Tungan regiment
  7. Sibo battalion
  8. Mongol battalion

General conscription of all races, except the Chinese, into National Army was enforced in the Ili zone.[15]

Later, Sibo and Mongol battalions were upgraded to regiments. When Kazakh irregulars under Osman Batur defected to the Kuomintang in 1947, the Kazakh cavalry regiment of National Army also defected to Osman Batur. The motorized part of Army consisted of an Artillery Division, which included twelve cannons, two armoured vehicles, and two tanks. National aviation forces included forty two airplanes, captured on Kuomintang air base in Ghulja on January 31, 1945, all of them were damaged during battle for air base. Some of these aircraft were repaired and put into service by Soviet military personnel in ETR. These airplanes participated in the battle between Ili rebels and the Kuomintang for Shihezi and Jinghe in September 1945.

This battle resulted in capturing of both KMT bases and oil fields in Dushanzi. During the battle one more Kuomintang air plane was captured, detachments of National Army reached Manasi River north of Urumchi, which caused panic in the city. Government offices were evacuated to Kumul. An offensive on Xinjiang's capital was cancelled due to direct pressure from Moscow on Ili rebels' leadership, which agreed to follow orders from Moscow to begin peace talks with Kuomintang. Moscow ordered the National Army to cease fire on all frontiers. First peace talks between Ili rebels and Kuomintang followed Chiang Kai Shek's speech on China State Radio, offering "to peacefully resolve Xinjiang crisis" with the rebels. These peace talks were mediated by the Soviet Union and started in Urumchi on October 14, 1945.

The National Army enlisted 25,000 to 30,000 troops. In accordance with the peace agreement with Chiang Kai-Shek signed on June 6, 1946, this number was reduced to 11,000 to 12,000 troops and restricted to stations in only three districts (Ili, Tarbaghatai and Altai) of Northern Xinjiang. The detachments of National Army were also withdrawn from Southern Xinjiang, leaving the strategic Old City of Aksu and opening the road from Urumchi to Kashgar Region. This gave the Kuomintang the opportunity to send 70,000 troops from 1946 to 1947 and quell Rebellion in Pamir Mountains.

This rebellion was broken on August 19, 1945, in the Sariqol area of Taghdumbash Pamir. Rebels under leadership of Uyghur Sadiq Khan Khoja from Kargilik and Sariqoli Tajik Karavan Shah captured all boundary posts near the Afghanistan, Soviet and Indian frontiers (Su-Bashi, Daftar, Mintaka Qarawul, Bulunqul), and a Tashkurgan fortress, killing Kuomintang troops. The revels took Kuomintang troops by surprise as they celebrated the capitulation of Japanese Army in Manchuria. Few Kuomintang forces in Sariqol survived and fled to India during the rebel attack. The original base of the rebellion was situated on the mountainous Pamir village of Tagarma, close to the Soviet border. On September 15, 1945, Tashkurgan rebels took Igiz-Yar on the road to Yangihissar, while another group of rebels simultaneously took Oitagh, Bostan-Terek, and Tashmalik on the road to Kashgar.

By the end of 1945, Tashkurgan rebels launched an offensive on Kashgar and Yarkand districts. On January 2, 1946, while the Preliminary Peace Agreement was signed in Urumchi between Ili rebels and Kuomintang representatives under Soviet mediation, rebels took Guma, Kargilik, and Poskam, important towns controlling communications between Xinjiang, Tibet, and India. On January 11, 1946, the Kuomintang Army launched a counter-attack in the Yarkand military zone, bringing reinforcements from Aksu Region. The counter-attackers repelled Tashkurgan rebels from outskirts of Yarkand, recaptured towns Poskam, Kargilik, Guma and brought the Tashkurgan Region back under Chinese control by the summer of 1946.

Only a few hundred of the 7000 rebel forces survived. The survivors retreated to the mountainous Pamir base in Qosrap (village in present day Akto County of XUAR). The National Army was inactive from 1946 to 1949 until the arrival of People's Liberation Army (PLA) units to Xinjiang.

Deng Li-Chun, a special envoy of Mao Zedong, arrived at Ghulja on August 17, 1949, to perform negotiations with ETR leadership about future of the ETR. Deng sent a secret telegram to Mao about ETR forces following day. He listed these forces as including about 14,000 troops, armed mostly by German weapons, heavy artillery weaponry, 120 military trucks and artillery towing vehicles, and around 6,000 cavalry horses. Soviet military personnel were present in the Army and serviced fourteen airplanes, which were used as air bombers. On December 20, 1949, the National Army was incorporated into the PLA as its Xinjiang 5th Army Corps.


The newspaper of East Turkestan was Azat Sherkiy Turkistan (Free Eastern Turkestan), first published on November 17, 1944, in Ghulja five days after establishing of Second ETR Government. The newspaper was later renamed as Inqlawiy Sherkiy Turkistan (Revolutionary Eastern Turkestan).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ David D. Wang. Under the Soviet Shadow: The Yining Incident; Ethnic Conflicts and International Rivalry in Xinjiang, 1944–1949. pg. 406
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ David Wang. The Xinjiang question of the 1940s: the story behind the Sino-Soviet treaty of August 1945
  4. ^ Into Tibet: Thomas Laird. The CIA's First Atomic Spy and His Secret Expedition to Lhasa pg. 25
  5. ^ Andrew D. W. Forbes (1986). Warlords and Muslims in Chinese Central Asia: a political history of Republican Sinkiang 1911–1949. Cambridge, England: CUP Archive. p. 176. ISBN 0-521-25514-7. Retrieved 2010-09-20. 
  6. ^ Andrew D. W. Forbes (1986). Warlords and Muslims in Chinese Central Asia: a political history of Republican Sinkiang 1911–1949. Cambridge, England: CUP Archive. p. 376. ISBN 0-521-25514-7. Retrieved 2010-09-20. 
  7. ^ American Academy of Political and Social Science (1951). The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Volume 277. American Academy of Political and Social Science. p. 152. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  8. ^ American Academy of Political and Social Science (1951). Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Volumes 276-278. American Academy of Political and Social Science. p. 152. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  9. ^ Agreement of Concessions, Article 7.
  10. ^ Besides of original 15 Soviet Republics of the Soviet Union, Sheng Shicai considered Mongolia as 16th Soviet Republic and Tuva, whose incorporation into USSR was under way, as 17th Soviet Republic.
  11. ^ Paul Preston, Michael Partridge, Antony Best. British documents on foreign affairs: reports and papers from the Foreign Office confidential print. From 1946 through 1950. Asia, Volume 1. University Publications of America. p. 63. ISBN 1-55655-768-X. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  12. ^ Paul Preston, Michael Partridge, Antony Best. British documents on foreign affairs: reports and papers from the Foreign Office confidential print. 1946–1950. Asia, Volume 1. University Publications of America. p. 63. ISBN 1-55655-768-X. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  13. ^ Paul Preston, Michael Partridge, Antony Best. British documents on foreign affairs: reports and papers from the Foreign Office confidential print. 1946–1950. Asia, Volume 1. University Publications of America. p. 63. ISBN 1-55655-768-X. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  14. ^ Paul Preston, Michael Partridge, Antony Best. British documents on foreign affairs: reports and papers from the Foreign Office confidential print. From 1946 through 1950. Asia, Volume 1. University Publications of America. p. 63. ISBN 1-55655-768-X. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  15. ^ a b c Unsuccessful attempts to resolve political problems in Sinkiang; Extent of Soviet aid and encouragement to rebel groups in Sinkiang; Border incident at Peitashan
  16. ^ Li, Chang. THE SOVIET GRIP ON SINKIANG. JSTOR 20031047. 
  17. ^ Taylor & Francis. China and the Soviet Union. p. 233. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  18. ^ Andrew D. W. Forbes (1986). Warlords and Muslims in Chinese Central Asia: a political history of Republican Sinkiang 1911–1949. Cambridge, England: CUP Archive. p. 215. ISBN 0-521-25514-7. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  19. ^ "Political Implications in Mongolian Invasion of N. China Province". The Canberra Times. 13 June 1947. 
  20. ^ Andrew D. W. Forbes (1986). Warlords and Muslims in Chinese Central Asia: a political history of Republican Sinkiang 1911–1949. Cambridge, England: CUP Archive. p. 214. ISBN 0-521-25514-7. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  21. ^ Dickens, Mark. "The Soviets in Xinjiang 1911–1949". Oxus Communications. Retrieved 2008-11-18. 
  22. ^ "CHINESE TROOPS RECAPTURE PEITASHAN". The Canberra Times. 13 June 1947. 
  23. ^ David D. Wang (1999). Clouds over Tianshan: essays on social disturbance in Xinjiang in the 1940s. NIAS Press. p. 87. ISBN 87-87062-62-3. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  24. ^ Xiaoyuan Liu (2006). Reins of liberation: an entangled history of Mongolian independence, Chinese territoriality, and great power hegemony, 1911–1950. Stanford University Press. p. 380. ISBN 0-8047-5426-8. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  25. ^ "CHINA: Encirclement". TIME magazine. 6 October 1947. 
  26. ^ "A Letter From The Publisher, Oct. 20, 1947". TIME magazine. 20 October 1947. 
  27. ^ David D. Wang (1999). Under the Soviet shadow: the Yining Incident : ethnic conflicts and international rivalry in Xinjiang, 1944–1949. Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press. p. 577. ISBN 962-201-831-9. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  28. ^ Xinjiang by S. Frederick Starr
  29. ^ Sinkiang and Sino-Soviet Relations


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