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20th Century Developments

By around 1900 the population of Chinese Turkestan was estimated at about one million and a half. It was almost entirely confined to the oases, chief of which are Kashgar with 300,000, Yangi Shahr with 200,000, Yarkand with 200,000, and Aksu and Khotan each with 190,000 inhabitants. The population may also be grouped into two main classes as "settled" and "nomadic," with a small semi-nomadic division. The nomads, together with the semi-nomads, did not aggregate more than 125,000 in all.

Hsin-chiang, or "the New Province," as the Chinese termed it, included the province now generally known as Chinese Turkestan, together with Urumchi and other districts situated to the north of the Tian Shan. It has had many names, such as Lesser Bokhara, Moghulistan, Tartary, High Tartary, Eastern Turkestan, the Six Cities and Kashgaria, the last four names having been in use most recently.

Since the establishment of the Republic no real administrative control over this region had been exercised by the Government at Peking. By 1920 there was, in fact, little organized government in Sinkiang, such local political authority as existed being in the hands of the native tribal chieftains (termed Begs). Yang Zengxin became governor of Xinjiang in 1911 and ruled until his assassination in 1928. He maintained the status, retaining the framework of civil administration used by the Qing Imperial court. He was an experienced official of the civil service, who flew the flag of the Republic but ruled the province for himself.

The Uygurs, who wanted to free themselves from foreign domination, staged several uprisings against the nationalist Chinese rule. Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples throughout Xinjiang, influenced to some degree by pan-Islamic and pan-Turkic sentiments, rose against Chinese control but were divided among themselves. In 1933 (when the Chinese central government had effectively ceased to exist) a short-lived state was proclaimed in present day Xinjiang with names "Republic of Uighuristan", "Islamic Republic of East Turkestan", or "Turkic-Islamic Republic of Eastern Turkestan" (all these names were used). By whatevre, name, the Republic was proclaimed in Khotan on 12 November 1933, directed towards the establishment of a radical Islamic system, based on the Shari'a.

The new republic was in many ways the descendant of the regime of Yakub Beg that had controlled the Kashghar region from 1867 to 1877 and this continuity is important to Uyghur nationalists today. This independent republic was overthrown on 06 February 1934 by the military intervention and political intrigues of the Soviet Union.

In 1945 Muslim freedom-fighters took up arms and set up an independent Turkestan Republic or East Turkestan Republic in a mass-uprising supported by the Soviet Union. The Soviets supported this attempt at independent Uighur rule in the northern part of Xinjiang, which fought against the Chinese Nationalists (KMT) who were holding southern Xinjiang. This independent Kazakh and Uyghur East Turkestan Republic controlled the northwestern Ili or Ghulja region from 1944 to 1949. In 1949 the Nationalist Chinese were defeated by the Chinese communists and Eastern Turkestan fell under Chinese communist rule. The leader of the 1940s, Aysa Beg, fled to Turkey in 1949 after the Communists came to power.



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