China's Last Nomads: The History and Culture of China's Kazaks

China's Last Nomads: The History and Culture of China's Kazaks

China's Last Nomads: The History and Culture of China's Kazaks

China's Last Nomads: The History and Culture of China's Kazaks

Synopsis

A growing interest in China's borderlands accelerated after the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union, which brought independence to new states like Kazakhastan as well as a new configuration of power to Central Eurasia. Despite renewed interest in the region and its peoples, information on the Kazakhs, and particularly on the Kazakhs living in China, has remained limited. This new study, based on Chinese publications and archival materials as well as on recent field-work, provides an up-to-date treatment of Kazakh history and culture, emphasizing the Kazakhs in twentieth century China and, in particular, their status today as one of China's minority nationalities.

Excerpt

For 150 years, Central Asian peoples like the Kazaks were the reluctant subjects of powerful neighboring empires, their lands being added to the expanding territories of Russia and China through a series of conquests in the nineteenth century. From the west, czarist armies swept eastwards across the Urals, conquering Central Asian khanates and acquiring vast stretches of the Kazak steppe. From the east, the Manchu rulers of China asserted their authority over the grasslands of today's Xinjiang-Uyghur Autonomous Region--the easternmost geographical extension of the Central Eurasian steppes. China's military conquest led to the formal incorporation of an area once known as Eastern Turkestan into the Qing dynasty's empire in 1884, making it a province for the first time in China's history. In the twentieth century, the revolutionary successor states of both empires maintained their claims over Central Eurasia, dividing people like the Kazaks with new international borders, separating not only clans but also individual families on either side of the Sino-Soviet frontier.

The imposition of communist rule over traditionally nomadic peoples like the Kazaks was accomplished despite their resistance to such revolutionary change. Thereafter, both the Soviet and Chinese governments carefully controlled access to Kazak lands, with the result that scholars interested in Kazak history and culture have had to glean what they could from government-generated statistics or from scholarly accounts heavily dominated by Marxist rhetoric. Although isolation and government controls did not totally suppress research, political circumstances nonetheless meant that the study of this region was greatly restricted.

In 1991, the Central Eurasian regions of the USSR abruptly became independent; for the first time in this century, Muslim peoples like the Kazaks, Uzbeks, and Kirghiz governed their own states--a dramatic change that immediately raised concerns for Russia, the former Soviet republics, and the government of the neighboring People's Republic of . . .

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