by Ismail Sloan

Uyghur, which is also spelled Uighur and which is pronounced "we-gar", is a race, tribe or culture with a homeland in the areas of Kashgar, Urumqi and Turfan, China and in neighboring areas of the former Soviet Union. I have been receiving a lot of mail with questions about the Uyghur people. The reason I get these inquiries is not because I am a recognized authority on the subject, as I am not, but rather because I have been to the area where these people live, as few others have. That area has long been closed to outsiders. Marco Polo, who went through there in 1272, was just about the last European person to go there. The British sent a delegation to Kashgar and Yarkand in the 1880s and a book was written about that.

When I went there in February, 1985, I knew that I would be one of the first Europeans in that area since that British delegation from the 1880s. Actually, some hippie backpackers had proceeded me, but they had been kicked out of town the same day they arrived and not allowed to stay, because the area was prohibited to foreigners. I arrived in Kashgar just a few days after the city was first legally opened to foreigners. There were no other foreigners in the city when I got there. I know that because all foreigners were required to stay in the Shin Binguan Hotel, and I was the only guest.
A Typical Uyghur Girl in Kashgar

The reason that the British sent a delegation there in the 1880s was that Kashgar was then thought of as a key card in the "great game" immortalized by Rudyard Kipling. Following the injunction of Peter the Great to find a "warm water port" for Russia, the Russians were advancing southward, conquering Samarkand and Bukhara. The British wanted to protect India from a Russian invasion, so they advanced north. The British conquered Gilgit, Hunza, Mardan, Dir, Swat and Chitral. Not being able completely to defeat the Afghans, the British set up a buffer state called Afghanistan in 1891. No such country had existed previously. They even swapped territory with the Russians, giving the Russians some territory considered to be part of Afghanistan in the North West. This is why Afghanistan dips down in its Northwestern corner. (The Afghans want that back, by the way). In return, because the British wanted to make sure that Russia did not directly touch India, they signed a treaty which made the Wakhan Corridor, a narrow neck of land only 8 miles wide at one point, part of Afghanistan. They made sure that the Wakhan Corridor touches at its Eastern extremity the territory of Kashgar, so that Russia would not touch India.

The ruler of Kashgar at that time was Yakub Beg. He wanted to establish a country called "Greater Turkistan". Because Yakub Beg feared both the Chinese and the Russians, he wanted to sign up and join the British Empire. He invited the British to come visit him. The British came but decided that it was too hard to get to Kashgar, as it involved crossing some of the highest mountain passes in the world. The group who favored British expansion into the North were called advocates of the "Forward Policy". They got their way to the extent that the British decided to annex Gilgit and Hunza. However, Kashgar was too far away and the British decided to reject the overtures of Yakub Beg. Soon thereafter, the Chinese from one side and the Russians from the other side moved in. They killed Yakub Beg and took over. Nobody else was allowed in since.

I have attempted to study Uyghur history. The problem is that everybody who writes about the Uyghurs has a political motivation. Three major groups have a reason to be deeply interested in the Uyghurs. These are the Chinese, the Soviets, and the Turks. The Chinese want to prove that the Uyghurs are nothing more than a type of Chinese and that Kashgar is historically part of China. The Soviets want to differentiate the Uyghurs with the surrounding ethics groups. The Turks, who have no reason to want to slant history, because the truth is that the Uyghurs are actually Turks, devote most of their efforts to refuting what the Chinese and Soviets say. The result is that you can take almost everything that has been written about Uyghur history and throw it in the trash.

For example, the name of Yakub Beg is not mentioned in any Chinese or Soviet history book, although he ruled Kashgar for at least 13 years. When I was in Kashgar, I asked the local people what they knew about him. They had heard the name but were not really sure who he was or when he lived.

I have my own theories about Uyghur history and my own reasons for being interested in this subject. Since I really have no way of proving whether my theories are correct or not, I am writing this as a way to stir up trouble and to formulate the questions I have about the Uyghurs. I will attempt to provide the answers which I think I are correct, in the hope that somebody will write me and tell me that I am wrong, and why.

Already, I have told you that the Uyghurs are actually Turks. This will surprise almost everybody who has never been there, again for the reason already mentioned, which is that Uyghurs are written about mostly by the Chinese and the Soviets, both of whom have their own reasons to vehemently deny that the Uyghurs are Turks. They have a good reason for this. Both the Russians and the Chinese have been historically terrified about the prospect of the emergence of a "Greater Turkestan". The fact is that Turkic speaking peoples are one of the largest and potentially most powerful people in the world. There is a stretch of land about four thousand miles long which is dominated by Turkic speaking peoples. This goes from Urmuqi, the capital of Xinjiang Autonomous Region in China, to the East to Western Turkey and parts of Bulgaria in the West. There are no breaks along the way, although there a few pockets of stubborn resistance, such as Armenia and Georgia. The entire area of Northern Iran, Northern Afghanistan and the former Soviet Republics of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrghizia and Azerbaijan are all predominantly Turkic speaking. Tabriz in Northwest Iran is a Turkish speaking city as is Mazari Shariff in Afghanistan.

The Soviets greatly feared that all these people would get together and unite. To stop this, they imposed different written languages on each of them, each with a different writing system, although all were based on the Cyrillic alphabet.

With the breakup of the Soviet Union, I believe that gradually you will see all these groups and nationalities abandon the Cyrillic alphabet and all start writing their languages in Turkish, which is based upon the Roman alphabet. Because Turkish only recently started being written in the Roman alphabet (previously it was written in the Arabic alphabet for religious reasons) it is one of the few languages in the world which is perfectly phonemic. This means that every letter has a unique sound and every unique sound has its own letter. Turkish is regarded by linguists as the most linguistically perfect spoken language in the world, almost completely free of irregularities. When Esperanto was being invented, there were those who said that everybody should just learn Turkish instead (an idea which has not exactly caught on).

By the way, I am not a Turk and I do not speak Turkish. I am just stating known and linguistically recognized facts.

The language which the Uyghurs speak is classified as a separate language. However, when Turks come to Kashgar, they find themselves speaking their own language. When Mao took over Kashgar in 1949, the former leaders and prominent personalities of that area fled and went to live in Istanbul, where their own language was spoken. The Turkic language spoken in Kashgar is so similar to that spoken in Istanbul that it is probably about the same as the difference between the Spanish spoken in Spain as compared to the Spanish spoken in Argentina.

The explanation for this is linguistically obvious. The Turkic languages spread from one common source at a relatively recent point in time. Tests have been developed to determine how long ago two related languages divided. For example, most people think that English is very much unlike German. However, English and German were originally the same language, and this is a proven fact. This can be seen for example from comparison of the English "good better best" with the German "gut besser bester". (Please correct me, German is not one of my languages) and by comparing "I am you are he is" with "Ich bin du bist er ist". The split up between these two languages did not come very long ago, I think only about 1200 years ago. (Here again, I am hoping somebody will write me a nasty letter and inform me that it only happened 1100 years ago. I am trying to give the general picture here and not trying to be fastidiously accurate).

The Turkic languages are clearly more closely related to each other than are English and German for example. Therefore, we know that the Turkic languages spread recently from one common origin. This spread took place somewhere around 800 years ago, or perhaps more recently, but not earlier than that. We know this from purely linguistic evidence, without any knowledge of the written history of the region.

If we go back 800 years in written history, we see a lot of things happening in this region of the world. Around 800 years ago Genghis Khan swept through the region. Everyone disputes exactly what he was. The Turks claim him as their own. I believe that it is generally agreed that the people who now live in the village and the area of Mongolia where Genghis Khan was born are not the descendants of his tribe. The people who live there now took over and pushed out the tribe of Genghis Khan from that area within only about 100 years after he died.

When Genghis Khan died from injuries sustained from falling off a horse, he left three sons who became famous in their own right. Two of them expanded his empire. The first son of Genghis Khan went West. His legions became the Golden Horde which ruled Russia and Eastern Europe for 400 years. The third son of Genghis Khan went East and became the ruler of China.

The second son of Genghis Khan did not go anywhere. His name was Chughtay, also spelled Jagatai, Chagatai and numerous other ways. He stayed in Kashgar and, preferring to make love not war, left 13 sons when he died, none of whom succeeded him as ruler. The descendants of Jagatai later swept down into India and became the Mogul rulers of India.

In summary, the three sons of Genghis Khan became the rulers of the three greatest and most powerful nations of the world: China, India and Russia!

But is this really true? I don't know. I wasn't there. However, I can say this: If I was the ruler of a minor princely state in that time of that region of the world, I would tell everybody that I was a grandson of Genghis Khan so that everybody would respect and fear me. On the other hand, if I were a common person at that time, I would want a son of Genghis Khan to be my ruler for the purposes of safety and protection.

There is no doubt that the second son of Genghis Khan was the ruler of Kashgar. Are the Uyghurs descended from him, or were they already there, or did they arrive later? This is obviously a central and very important question. Yet, I have never seen this question even addressed in any of the writings I have read about Uyghur history.

History tells us that Genghis Khan swept through what we now call Central Asia wiping out entire civilizations and killing everything in his path. It is said that in Bamyan in Central Afghanistan where a female ruler stopped his army and forced him to lay siege for a long time, when Genghis Khan finally overcame the lady, by cutting off her water supply (I have been to that place, by the way), he killed not only all her people but all the animals too. He even killed every blade of grass in her valley. Why did Genghis Khan do this? What was his motivation? We only have this quote, the only quotation ascribed directly to Genghis Khan:

"The greatest pleasure a man can have derives from killing his enemies and then enjoying the warm embrace of the most beautiful and desirable of their women."

So, this was the driving force behind Genghis Khan. He wanted sex with the daughters of his vanquished enemies!

While on this subject, I must mention that the most beautiful women I have found anywhere in the world were in Kashgar. Everybody is surprised to hear this. Nobody thinks of Chinese Turkistan as a place for beautiful women. I have been to 76 countries of the world, and nowhere have I found the women so beautiful as in Kashgar. I must confess that this is what attracts me to the place. I have posted the picture I took of one girl in Kashgar at . I have some other pictures which I will try to scan and post when I have time. Unfortunately, the most beautiful women I saw there would not allow me to take their pictures, because of their strict Muslim religion.

Here is what I believe to be the history of the Uyghurs. I am not trying to state facts here. I know that this is mostly conjecture. However, I am hoping to provide a starting point for further investigation.

First, it is stated in history books that the Uyghurs moved into the region relatively recently. I believe that this is not true. I believe that the Uyghurs have been in Kashgar for at least two thousand years and possibly longer. One reason why I say this is that the mass migration of people is relatively rare in human history. Even the greatest story of travel by a race or tribe, the story of the "wandering Jews", I believe to be a fable. I believe that when DNA testing reveals who we all really are and where we really came from, as it will soon, we will find that most Jews never wandered at all and simply converted to Judaism from what ever religion they had previously. As part of their religion, they were required to claim descent from one of the sons of Jacob.

Regarding my statement that the Uyghurs have lived in Kashgar for at least 2,000 years, most of why I say this is based on personal observation. The Uyghurs are clearly a European race. They do have a wisp of Mongolian to them, but they are by no means Chinese. They also do not look like Turks. They look primarily like Western Europeans.

They bear a physical resemblance to the people of Chitral, which is a valley in the extreme northwest of Pakistan. In addition, the Chitralis sometimes call themselves "Qashqari". They say that they are the people of Kashgar. Yet, the Chitralis most definitely did not come from Kashgar (although there are a few people in Chitral whose grandparents actually did come from Kashgar relatively recently). It is known that the Chitralis have been in Chitral for around 3500 to 4000 years. We know this from linguistic evidence and from old grave sites. The earliest Indo-European invaders from about 4,000 years ago buried their dead in a certain way. Their non-Indo-European predecessors buried their dead in a different way. By carbon-dating the grave sites, we can find out how long the people have been there. Moreover, the histories of Alexander the Great, who came to the region in 327 BC, describe a race of light skinned European type people who we can recognize from the customs and habits described as being the people of Chitral and neighboring Nuristan today. Those reports were disbelieved for centuries until the Chitralis were recently rediscovered. "Alexander of Macedon" by Peter Green (1991), devotes a page to this.

It is simply my personal observation that the Uyghurs bear a physical resemblance to the Chitralis. Every Uyghur person I saw in Kashgar reminded me of someone I knew in Chitral.

However, we know that the Turkic languages spread within the last 500 years. This means that the Turkic language either originated from the Uyghur people, or else they learned it from someone else, or they came from somewhere else.

I believe that they learned it from someone else. This means that before they learned Turkish, they spoke some other language. What was that language?

There are two Indo-European languages which are known to have been spoken in the Tarim Basin until around 1200 years ago. The names which have been given to these two languages are Tocharian A and Tocharian B. Some writings have survived from these languages. This is an area which merits investigation. Was Tocharian A or Tocharian B ever spoken by the Uyghurs?

It would be quite feasible to determine this. The way to do this would be to compare the dialect of Turkish spoken by the Uyghurs with other varieties of Turkish. If a word is only spoken by the Uyghurs, investigate its origin. Most will be borrowed words, perhaps from Arabic, Persian, Chinese, Russian or even English. Some will be innovations, words the Uyghurs invented themselves. However, there will still be remnants, words left over from the old language. Place names, which usually do not change even when a new conquering tribe moves in, could provide strong hints or clues as to what the prior language was.

Although I cannot prove this, I believe that the prior language of the Uyghurs was Indo-European. The fact that the Uyghurs look European buttresses this fact. However, we know that the Indo-European language did not come from Western Europe, nor did it come from India. The home of the Indo-European family of languages was an area where Turkic languages are now spoken. This was an area south of the Ural Mountains, north of the Caspian Sea. This is accepted as fact, not theory.

How do we know this? It comes from linguistic evidence. For example, every Indo-European language in the world has essentially the same word for horse chariot and for birch tree. Therefore, we look for a place with lots of horses and where birch trees grow. With a few other examples like this, the location of the origin of the Indo-European language has been narrowed down to a small area south of the Urals. The people who dispute this, such as Germans who can often be heard to claim that this language came from the shores of the Baltic Sea where Germany is located, have simply never studied this subject and do not know what they are talking about.

I will stop now because I am just trying to raise the questions here, not provide the answers.

Ismail Sloan

From: "Restore Melbourne Email Account" ( )
Subject: Uighurs, what I know by Tayfun or Tian Fung

To Sloan,

I wish to briefly address a few points you have raised in your article concerning Uighurs. Firstly your claim that the Turkic races have spread over the last 500 years is not logically feasible when you reconsider that Mongolia particularly east, northeast of the Altai mountain chain has been homeland to the Turkic race since around 4000 BC. Before the 5th century AD Turks began to migrate out of Mongolia heading southwest into what we now call Afghanistan and northern Pakistan, the Turkic languages reaching Iran, Iraq, and Turkey only became possible after the Seljuk Mercenaries Defected from this main group of Oguz in the early 11th century with the grandeur of war booty on the horizon. Also consider the fact that the Turkish migrations from Mongolia westward were not completed in one, two or even ten campaigns instead becoming successive and gradual spacing at least 800 years under 16 different Tribes. Knowing this can you support the 500 years theory.

You also note that the descendants of Jagatai (Cagatay) invaded India, however Babur (lion) who founded the Mogul dynasty after crushing the Gaznavid Turks was the Grandson of the Turkic conqueror Tamerlane (Timurlenk) on his father's side and only related to Genghis maternally. Tamerlane's identity has also been somewhat tainted because of the fact that he claimed ancestry to Genghis after marrying his granddaughter. In his time there was no such a conception of Turk-Mongol, instead loyalties relied on tribal, family or even animistic \ shamanistic affiliations.

Last but not least, your theory that Uighurs are of Indo-European stock is invalid. I can understand however the reason for making such a misconception, in making these comparisons you have taken ethnic examples from the western Oguz Turks who are my own tribe (in Azerbaijan, Turkey, Turkmenistan) who have since the introduction of Islam by the Arabs in the Ferghana valley intermingled with their subject peoples (Iranians, Kurds, Arabs, Greeks, Anatolians) through Islamic marriage. This continued from the time of the Gokturks 4th century to the collapse of the Ottoman after World War 1, even though the Seljuks and Ottomans cut off ties with the eastern Turks in 744, you can observe that many of the Russian Turks (Azers, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Turkomans) show Iranian ethnic traits.

During the first migrations of the Turks westwards, the Uighurs as a tribe stayed in Mongolia and sometimes afterward following a mass genocide and slaughter of the Uighurs by another tribe it is said they crossed the Turfan basin into what is now Chinese Turkistan. We know that the first ancestors of the Turks as a political entity were the Huns whom to all Turks claim descent are in turn also said to be the direct descendants of the Uighur tribe. Also the fact that the Uighurs were the first Turks to establish a Turkish style of art and literature only indicates that if anything Uighur are the typical unspoiled ethnic Turks both in feature and language.

The Uighur Turks are Turkic in not only language but race. However most of the popular Turks in western Turkistan and Turkey have become Turkish linguistically and culturally however not genetically.

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