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The Islamic Republic of Eastern Turkestan and the Formation of Modern Uyghur Identity in Xinjiang

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Master's thesis

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Lasting from 1933-1934, the Turkic-Islamic Republic of Eastern Turkestan TIRET was the culmination of various rebellions in Xinjiang, China. Founders of this republic, influenced by Pan-Islamism and Pan-Turkism used it to promote a Turkic-Muslim identity independent from Chinese and Soviet control and unique to the sedentary, oasis-dwellers of Xinjiang. The qualities of this political identity were formalized and given the label Uyghur in 1934. The significance of the TIRET, despite its troubled and short existence, was that its message transcended localized identities to create a Uyghur political consciousness. Though Uyghur identity has continued to shift and adapt since then, the TIRET remains the starting point from which Uyghurs today trace their present relationship and contention with the Chinese state. This study examines the military and political actions surrounding the formation and dissolution of the TIRET in the early 1930s, the republics ideological origins in Pan-Islamism and Pan-Turkism, and finally the social and political conditions in Xinjiang that facilitated the creation of Uyghur identity as a result of rebellions from 1931 to 1934. I argue that modern Uyghur identity emerged from the events surrounding the TIRET was a combination of a nascent Uyghur nationalism combined with interests of the Chinese Nationalist to create ethnic categories for the people of Xinjiang. My purpose is to show that the formation of Uyghur identity in Xinjiang was a result of the same process that led to the creation of Turkic Muslim ethnic nationalities in the Soviet Union. In this respect, I will show how ideologies of Pan-Islam, Pan-Turkism and the reforms carried out through the Jadid movement supported identity formation and affected Central Asia including Xinjiang.

Subject Categories:

  • Government and Political Science
  • Sociology and Law
  • Humanities and History

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