First East Turkestan Republic

First East Turkestan Republic

Infobox Former Country
conventional_long_name= Turkish Islamic Republic of East Turkestan "or" Republic of Uyghurstan
common_name= East Turkestan
continent= Asia
era= Interwar period
status_text= Satellite state of China
status= Islamic constitutional republic
year_start= 1933
year_end= 1934
life_span= 1933 - 1934
p1= Republic of China
flag_p1= Flag_of_the_Republic_of_China.svg
s1= Republic of China
flag_s1= Flag_of_the_Republic_of_China.svg

capital= Kashgar
common_languages= Uyghur
religion= Islam
currency= Copper ( pul ), silver ( tanga ), gold ( tilla ) coins minted in Kashgar in 1933 under name "Uyghurstan Jumhuriyetti"

The First Eastern Turkestan Republic (ETR), or Turkish Islamic Republic of East Turkestan (TIRET), or, Republic of Uyghurstan, was a short-lived break-away would-be constitutional republic founded in 1933. It was centered around the city of Kashgar in what is today the People's Republic of China-administered region of Xinjiang. Although primarily the product of the separatist, Islamic and nationalist aspirations of the Uyghur population living there, the ETR was multi-ethnic in character, including Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and other Turkic minorities in its government and its population.

With the sacking of Kashgar in 1934 by Hui warlords theoretically allied with the Kuomintang government in Nanjing, the first ETR was effectively eliminated. Its example, however, served to some extent as inspiration for the founding of a Second East Turkestan Republic a decade later, and continues to influence modern Uyghur nationalist support for the creation of an independent East Turkestan. Isa Alptekin was the General Secretary of the First East Turkestan Republic.

Origins of the ETR Movement

"See also: History of Xinjiang, East Turkestan independence movement"

The stirrings of Uyghur separatism during the early 20th century were greatly influenced by the Turkish jadidist movement, which spread as wealthier Uyghurs, inspired by notions of Pan-Turkism, traveled abroad to Turkey, Europe, and Russia, and returned home determined to modernize and develop the educational system in Xinjiang. The first major school founded on the European model was located outside of Kashgar and, unlike the traditional curricula of the madrassah, focused on more technical areas of study such as science, mathematics, history, and language studies. Jadidism emphasized the power of education as a tool for personal and national self-advancement, a development sure to disturb the traditional status quo in Xinjiang. The ruler of Xinjiang, Governor Yang Zengxin (楊增新), responded by closing down or interfering with the operations of several of the new schools.

The birth of the Soviet Union and the socialist Central Asian Republics also influenced the Uyghurs, increasing the popularity of nationalist separatist movements and the spread of the Communist message. Although a local Communist revolutionary organization was established in Xinjiang in 1921, the area also served as a refuge for many intellectuals fleeing the advent of Soviet Communism in Central Asia, which formed a division within the Xinjiang Turkic nationalist movement.

The situation in Xinjiang deteriorated with the assassination of Yang Zengxin in 1928 and the rise to power of his deputy, Jin Shuren (金樹仁), who declared himself governor after arresting and executing Yang's assassin, a rival official named Fan Yaonan (樊耀南) who had planned to assume the position for himself. Autocratic, corrupt, and ineffective at managing the province's development, Jin further antagonized the populace by reinstituting Sinicization policies, increasing taxes, prohibiting participation in the hajj and bringing in Han Chinese officials to replace local leaders.


"See also: History of Xinjiang"

The situation came to a head in 1930, when the khan of Hami Prefecture (Kumul) in eastern Xinjiang, Shah Mexsut, died. In policies carried over from the Qing era, the khan had been allowed to continue his hereditary rule over the area consistent with the principles of feudalism or satrapy. The importance of Hami territory, strategically located straddling the main road linking the province to eastern China and rich in undeveloped farmland, together with a desire by the government to consolidate power and eliminate the old practice of indirect rule, led Jin to abolish the khanate and assert direct rule upon Shah Mexsut's death.

Jin Shuren then proceeded to double agricultural taxes upon the local Uyghur population, expropriated choice farmland, and distributed it among Han Chinese refugees from neighboring Gansu province, subsidizing their efforts and resettling displaced Uyghurs on poor-quality land near the desert. The new garrison stationed in Hami proved even more antagonizing, and by 1931, scattered revolts, mobs, and resistance movements were emerging throughout the area. The final straw was in February 1931 when an ethnic Chinese officer Chieng wished to marry a Uyghur girl from a village outside Hami. Uyghur accounts usually claim that the girl was raped or the family coerced, but as Islamic law forbids Muslim girls to marry non-Muslim men it was clearly offensive to the Uyghur community.

Rebellion broke out on February 20,1931 with a massacre of Chieng and his 33 soldiers on wedding ceremony, 120 Han Chinese refugees from Gansu also were killed. It was not confined to the ethnic Uyghur population alone; Kazaks, Kyrgyz, Han Chinese and Hui commanders all joined in revolt against Jin's rule, though they would occasionally break to fight one another.

The Kuomintang (KMT) and Soviet Union governments further complicated the situation by dispatching troops to come to the aid of Jin and his military commander Sheng Shicai (盛世才), as did White Russian refugees from the Soviet Union living in the Ili River valley region.

Principle fighting initially centered around Urumchi, which Uyghur and Hui forces laid under siege until Sheng Shicai's troops were reinforced by White Russian and Manchurian soldiers who had previously fled the Japanese invasion into northeast China. In April of 1933, Jin was deposed by a combination of these forces and succeeded by Sheng, who enjoyed Soviet support. Newly bolstered, Sheng split the opposing forces around Urumchi by offering several Uyghur commanders (led by Xoja Niyaz Hajji, an advisor to the recently deceased Hami khan) positions of power in southern Xinjiang if they would agree to turn against the Hui armies in the north, led by Ma Zhongying (馬仲英).

Another Hui faction in southern Xinjiang, meanwhile, had struck an alliance with Uyghur forces located around Kucha under the leadership of Timur Beg and proceeded to march towards Kashgar. The joint Uyghur and Hui force surrounding the city split again, as Hui commander Ma Zhancang (馬占倉) allied with the local provincial authority representative, a fellow Hui named Ma Shaowu (馬紹武), and attacked the Uyghur forces, killing Timur Beg.

Establishment of the ETR

While this was transpiring, in the nearby southern Tarim Basin city of Khotan, three brothers of rich Bughra family educated in the jadidist tradition had led a rebellion of gold miners who worked in mines near Keriya city, also in Yurunkash and Karakash mountain rivers, and established themselves as emirs of the city, having declared the Khotan Emirate and Independence from China on March 16,1933.

Local provincial authorities and troops were annihilated by the miners throughout Khotan vilayet, rare Chinese population in most cases saved their lives and property, but was forced to accept Islam under the threat of execution. The Khotan Emirate dispatched one of the three brothers, Shahmansur Amin Bughra (known also as Amir Abdulla ), and a former publisher named Sabit Damolla to Kashgar, where they established the Kashgar Affairs Office of the Khotan Government, led by Muhammad Amin Bughra, in July of 1933. By the fall of that year, the office had shed many of its links to the Khotan government and reformed itself into the multi-ethnic, quasi-nationalist East Turkestan Independence Association, which drew heavily on ideas of Islamic reformism, nationalism and jadidism.

In September 1933, Sabit Damolla declared the establishment of the East Turkistan Republic with Xoja Niyaz as its president — despite the fact that the respected commander was engaged in fighting in northern Xinjiang and had actually allied his forces with those of Sheng Shicai.

On November 12 1933 Independent Republic (Turkish Islamic Republic of Eastern Turkestan- TIRET or Republic of Uyghurstan, both names were used at the same time ) was proclaimed.

Established distinct from the Khotan Emirate, the ETR claimed authority over territory stretching from Aksu along the northern rim of the Tarim Basin to Khotan in the south. In fact, the government in Kashgar was strapped for resources, plagued by rapid inflation, and surrounded by hostile powers — including the Hui forces under Ma Zhancang. Although established as a multiethnic republic, as reflected in the choice of the "East Turkestan" name used in its founding constitution, the first coins of the new government were initially minted under the name "Republic of Uyghurstan" ("Uyghurstan Jumhuriyiti"). In some sources, it is known as the "East Turkestan Islamic Republic", suggesting a greater role for Islam in its founding character. The extent of Islam's influence in the foundation of the ETR is disputed; while the constitution endorses sharia as the guiding law, the jadidist modernizing tradition places much greater emphases on reform and development, which is reflected in subsequent passages of the constitution that focus on health, education, and economic reforms.

The efforts of "Turkish Islamic Republic of Eastern Turkestan" (TIRET) to receive international recognition had been failed despite of despatching the numerous envoys having been sent by Prime-Minister Sabit Damolla to USSR (Tashkent, Moscow), Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey and British India. Soviet Union rejected all offers of dealing with islamists. In Kabul Kashgar representatives met with new-proclaimed King of Afghanistan Mohammad Zahir Shah and Prime-Minister Sardar Mohammad Hashim Khan, asking for aid and supply of arms. But both preferred to keep neutrality and not to interfere into China affairs. The same way reacted other countries, refusing to deal with envoys as representatives of independent country. No one wanted to make a challenge to the powerful Soviet Union and China in their politics and become to be engaged in bloody fighting in Sinkiang, which already claimed lives of around 100,000 of its populace. Thus leaving to the fledgling Republic, which was surrounded from almost all sides by hostile powers (Tungans, Soviets, Chinese), a very little chance to survive.

Republic of Eastern Turkestan and Axis Powers links

"See also: Republic of Eastern Turkestan and Axis Powers Links"

The "Turkish-Islamic Republic of Eastern Turkestan"(TIRET) had some links with Axis Powers, because of the Axis interest during 1930-37 to exploit Pan-Islamic sentiments. TIRET as a result tried (through German representatives in Kabul), but failed to receive recognition from Germany, instead Nazi Germany supported the KMT.

End of the First East Turkestan Republic

"See also: History of Xinjiang"

In the north, aid came to Sheng Shicai's forces on January 241934 in the form of two Soviet brigades, the Altaiskaya and Tarbaghataiskaya, disguised as "White Russian Cossack Altai Volunteer Army" and led by Red Army General Volgin. The Japanese annexation of Manchuria and rumored support for Ma Zhongying's Hui forces were one cause for concern; equally troubling for Stalin was the prospect that rebellion in Xinjiang might spread to the Soviet Central Asian Republics and offer a haven to Muslim basmachis. Trade ties between Xinjiang and the Soviet Union also gave the Soviets motivation to support Sheng further.

The Soviet brigades, backed by air support, scattered Ma Zhongying's troops surrounding Urumchi and forced them to retreat southward. On February 161934 the siege of Urumchi was lifted, terminating the period of uncertainty and despair for Sheng and White Guards Cossack troops, which were trapped in the city by Ma forces since January 071934.

Hoja Niyaz Hajji had by this time arrived in Kashgar to assume presidency of the ETR, going against his previous deal with Sheng. Arrived with him another prominent uyghur leader from Eastern Sinkiang ( Turpan, Kumul ) Mahmut Muhiti ( known as Mahmut "Sijan", i.e. division general ) had agreed to become a minister of Defence in ETR Government, accepting the offer of Prime-Minister Sabit Damolla.

Nevertheless, the ETR (TIRET) proved to be short-lived. The Hui forces retreating from the north linked up with Ma Zhancang's forces in Kashgar allied themselves with the Kuomintang in Nanjing, and attacked the TIRET, forcing Niyaz, Sabit Damolla, and the rest of the government to flee on February 6 1934 to Yengi Hissar south of the city. The conquering Hui army killed many of those who remained, and a rapid procession of betrayals among the survivors, following their expulsion from Kashgar, spelled the effective end of the TIRET.

Mahmut Muhiti retreated with remainder of Army to Yarkand and Hotan, while Hoja Niyaz Hajji fled through Artush to Irkeshtam on Soviet/Chinese border, with tungan troops on his heels, which were chasing after him till the border. Hoja Niyaz took refuge in the USSR, where he was blamed by Soviets for accepting from Sabit Damolla the position of first leader of TIRET (President), but was promised a military aid and "great prospects for the future" if he would help Sheng Shicai and Soviets "to dissolve TIRET".

After signing the Document of TIRET dismissal and disbanding of its troops Hoja Niyaz Hajji returned to Eastern Turkestan where he turned Sabit and several other TIRET ministers to Sheng, who rewarded him with control over southern Xinjiang as previously promised; those who escaped fled to India and Afghanistan.

The KMT-aligned Hui forces under Ma Zhongying were suppressed, and Sheng consolidated his rule over the province thanks to extensive Soviet support. The seat of Hoja Niyaz Hajji Southern Xinjiang Autonomous Government had initially been established in the city of Aksu, but later he was urged by Sheng Shicai to move to Urumchi to assume position of the vice-chairman of Xinjiang Government. His forces received 15,000 rifles and ammunition from USSR, but each rifle, each bullet and each bomb, that was dropped on Tungan troops from Soviet airplanes, had been paid by Hoja Niyaz Hajji to USSR by gold.


* James A. Millward and Nabijan Tursun, "Political History and Strategies of Control, 1884-1978" in "Xinjiang: China's Muslim Borderland" (ISBN 0-7656-1318-2).
* Michael Zrazhevsky, " Russian Cossacks in Sinkiang ". Almanach " The Third Rome ", Russia, Moscow, 2001
*Sven Gedin, " The flight of Big Horse ". New-York, USA, 1936• Burhan S. 鲍尔汗, Xinjiang wushi nian 新疆五十年 [Fifty Years in Xinjiang] , (Beijing, Wenshi ziliao, 1984).• Clubb, O. E., China and Russia: The 'Great Game’. (NY, Columbia, 1971).• Forbes, A. D. W. Warlords and Muslims in Chinese Central Asia: A Political History of Republic Sinkiang, 1911-1949 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1986).• Hasiotis, A. C. Jr. Soviet Political, Economic and Military Involvement in Sinkiang from 1928 to 1949 (NY, Garland, 1987).• Khakimbaev A. A., 'Nekotorye Osobennosti Natsional’no-Osvoboditel’nogo Dvizheniya Narodov Sin’tszyana v 30-kh i 40-kh godakh XX veka' [Some Characters of the National-Liberation Movement of the Xinjiang Peoples in 1930s and 1940s] , in Materialy Mezhdunarodnoi Konferentsii po Problemam Istorii Kitaya v Noveishchee Vremya, Aprel’ 1977, Problemy Kitaya (Moscow, 1978) pp.113-118.• Lattimore, O., Pivot of Asia: Sinkiang and the Inner Asian Frontiers of China (Boston, Little, Brown & Co., 1950).• Rakhimov, T. R. 'Mesto Bostochno-Turkestanskoi Respubliki (VTR) v Natsional’no-Osvoboditel’noi Bor’be Narodov Kitaya' [Role of the Eastern Turkestan Republic (ETR) in the National Liberation Struggle of the Peoples in China] , A paper presented at 2-ya Nauchnaya Konferentsiya po Problemam Istorii Kitaya v Noveishchee Vremya, (Moscow, 1977), pp.68-70.• Wang, D., 'The USSR and the Establishment of the Eastern Turkestan Republic in Xinjiang', Journal of Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica, Taipei, vol.25 (1996) pp.337-378.• Whiting, A. S., and Sheng Shih-ts’ai, Sinkiang: Pawn or Pivot? (Michigan, East Lansing, 1958).

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