Uyghurs (also called Uighurs, Uygurs, or Uigurs) (Template:Zh-stp) are a Turkic ethnic group of people living in northwestern China (mainly in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, where they are the dominant ethnic group together with Han people), Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, Russia. Another group of Uyghurs lives in Taoyuan county of Hunan province in Southcentral China. Uyghurs form one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China.



Along with the so-called Kokturks (a.k.a. Gokturks), the Uyghurs were one of the largest and most enduring Turkic-speaking peoples living in Central Asia. They existed as a tribal federation ruled by the Juan Juan from 460545, and then by the Hephthalites from 541565 before being taken over by the Gokturk Khaganate. Known as Huihe (回紇 huh) and Huihu in Chinese sources, they established a khanate in the 8th century when they displaced the Gokturks. Their ethnonym Huihu is the origin of the term Huihui (回回) used for Muslims which is now used for the Hui nationality in China.

Their Khaganate stretched from the Caspian Sea to Manchuria, and lasted from 745840. when they were overrun by the Kirghiz, with the result that tribal groups from the Uyghurs migrated to a number of new areas, including modern Xinjiang and Gansu regions and Central Asian steppes. In Jungaria and the Tarim Basin, they established the Idiqut kingdom which lasted until 1209 when they submitted to the Mongol under Genghis Khan.

Empire Of The Steppes by Grousset reports that the Uyghurs took up a settled agricultural lifestyle in the Tarim. They had an opportunity to resume nomadism after the Kirghiz were driven out of Mongolia by other tribes, but the Uyghurs chose not to do so.

A small number of Uyghurs also migrated to what is now Gansu province in China around the late 9th century, where they converted from Manicheism to Tibetan Buddhism. Unlike their kinfolk further west, they did not later convert to Islam at that time; they are thus unusual amongst Turkic people. Their descendants still live there to this day, where they are known as Yugurs (population approximately 10,000).

Turks in the western Tarim Basin began to convert to Islam in the 10th century. Most Uyghurs in the Besh Balik and Turfan regions did not convert until the 15th century expansion of the Yarkand Khanate, a Mongol successor state based in the western Tarim. With conversion to Islam, the traditional ethnonym Uyghur was dropped and the ancestors of modern Uyghurs identified themselves by the terms Turki and Musulman.

Before converting to Islam, Uyghurs included Manichaeans, Buddhists and even some Nestorian Christians. Genetically and culturally, modern Uyghurs descend from the nomadic Turkic tribes as well as the many "Aryan" or Iranian speaking groups such as Saka and Sogdians who preceded them in the Tarim Basin oasis cities, and the centum Indo-European-speaking Tocharians (or Tokharians). Today, one can still see Uyghurs with light-coloured skin and hair. At the present time, the Turkic and Islamic cultural elements are dominant in the Tarim, reflecting the Uyghur emigration to the Tarim region as well as the replacement of previous religious traditions by Islam. This has had an effect on modern politics, as despite a long, on-and-off association with China, the people of the region have some extremely ancient roots as well as more recent Islamic traditions. These have resulted in a troubled relationship with past and present Chinese political institutions reflected in the dominant Chinese ethnic group, the Han.

Modern usage of the Uyghur ethnonym as referring to the descendant settled Turkic urban oasis-dwelling and agricultural population of Xinjiang is widely credited as having first occurred in 1921 with the establishment of the Organization of Revolutionary Uyghur (Inqilawi Uyghur Itipaqi), a Communist nationalist movement with intellectual and organizational ties to the Soviet Union.

In fact, Uyghur students and merchants living in Russia had already embraced the name prior this date, drawing on Russian studies that established a linkage between the historical khanate and Xinjiang's current inhabitants. Official recognition of the Uyghurs came under the rule of Sheng Shicai, who deviated from the official Kuomintang "five races of China" stance in favor of a Stalinist policy of delineating fourteen distinct ethnic nationalities within Xinjiang.

Notable Uyghurs

Famous Uyghurs include Tumen, Koltekin,Bayanchur Khan,Sultan Satuq Bughra Khan, Kashgarli Mehmud(Mehmud kashgari), Yusuf Balasaguni(Yusuf Has Hajip), Farabi(Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Tarkhan ibn Uzalagh al-Farabi), Sultan Said Khan, Abdurashid Khan , Amannisa Khan, Yakubbeg(Bedewlet), Ipar Khan(Xiang Fei), Ehmetjan Qasimi, Mehmet Emin Boghra, Turghun Almas, Alptekins(Isa Yusuf Alptekin & Erkin Alptekin), Rebiya Kadeer and Wu'er Kaixi.


  • Mackerras, Colin. Ed. and trans. 1972. The Uighur Empire according to the T'ang Dynastic Histories: a study in Sino-Uighur relations 744–840. University of South Carolina Press.
  • Millward, James A. and Nabijan Tursun, "Political History and Strategies of Control, 1884–1978" in Xinjiang: China's Muslim Borderland (ISBN 0765613182).

See also: Uyghur language, East Turkestan, Uyghuristan, Kushan

External links

Chinese ethnic groups (classification by PRC government)

Achang - Bai - Blang - Bonan - Buyei - Chosen - Dai - Daur - De'ang - Derung - Dong - Dongxiang - Ewenki - Gaoshan - Gelao - Gin - Han - Hani - Hezhen - Hui - Jingpo - Jino - Kazak - Kirgiz - Lahu - Lhoba - Li - Lisu - Man - Maonan - Miao - Monba - Mongol - Mulao - Naxi - Nu - Oroqen - Pumi - Qiang - Russ - Salar - She - Sui - Tajik - Tatar - Tu - Tujia - Uygur - Uzbek - Va - Xibe - Yao - Yi - Yugur - Zang - Zhuang


de:Uiguren es:Uigur fr:Oughour ja:ウイグル人 no:Uighurer fi:Uiguurit ug:Uighurs zh:维吾尔族


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