Reviews

This article focuses on two distinct groups of Uighurs living in the Ili River Valley region of eastern Kazakhstan: an older group consisting of descendants of migrants that began in the 1880s, and a second group made of first-generation migrants and their children who came to the USSR between 1954 and 1963.  The authors’ aim is to illuminate the context around this latter exodus of Uighurs to the USSR, primarily by interviewing participants and eye-witnesses of those events currently living in Central Asian countries.  The chapter on the historical background to the migration provides a detailed overview of the respective political contexts that gave way to successive migration waves, between the reassessment of full Qing control over Xinjiang in the early 1880s and the massive return of Soviet passport holding cooperation volunteers active in Xinjiang in the 1940s and 1950s.  A special chapter is devoted to the ‘radical period’ in China and Xinjiang in the aftermath of Khrushchev’s discourse at the Twentieth Congress of the CPSU in 1956, and of the movement that came to be known as the Hundred Flowers campaign, launched in the same year in the People’s Republic.  The economic and social consequences of the Great Leap Forward, the impact of Soviet propaganda in Xinjiang are assessed in the launching of the subsequent wave of Uighur migration towards the USSR, until the closure of the boundaries between the two countries in 1963.  The authors also shortly reconstruct the May 29, 1962 incident in Ghulja, where a crowd of protesters against limited means for emigration through the Khorgos Pass, then briefly opened by the Soviet authorities to those wishing to migrate westwards, were caught in machine-gun fire from public buildings.  In all, this pioneering study in oral history of contemporary Central Asia insists on the quantitative significance of the 1962 migration wave in the current composition of the Uighur population of the Ili River Valley of eastern Kazakhstan.  The authors notably stress how before leaving Xinjiang, the Soviets arranged a political action which aimed at demonstrating the failure of the Chinese national policy.  One of the main consequences of this migration, besides the arrival of numerous Uighur intellectuals, was the creation of two groups of Uighurs, respectively the Yärliks (descendants of people who had migrated in earlier times) and the Khitailiqs (“those from China:” the migrants of the 1950s-60s), whose poor mutual integration remained a characteristic of the Uighur population of Kazakhstan till the appearance of new waves of migrants in the 1980s.

The Redaction
CER: I-7.4.G-684