Cultural traditions influence historical processes in the form of structural norms, as well as the ideologies, behavioural types and judgement standards of social actors. This article studies how people react and what social results have emerged from their interactions in a rapidly changing society based on the case of Osman Batur in the Kazakh society in Xinjiang, China, in the 1940s. Although Osman passed away 60 years ago, his influence lives on and the debate on this historical figure continues: whether “East Turkistan Republic” in the 1940s was a separatist rebellion or revolutionary movement, and whether Osman was a national hero who defended China’s unity or a counter-revolutionary bandit. This debate will continue under new conditions and influence ethnic relations in the 21st century.