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  • Uyghur Nation: Reform and Revolution on the Russia-China Frontier by David Brophy
  • Xuan Li
Uyghur Nation: Reform and Revolution on the Russia-China Frontier, by David Brophy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016. 368 pp. US $39.95 (Hardcover). ISBN: 9780674660373.

How was the Uyghur ethnonym, which fell out of use for hundreds of years, revived at the beginning of the 20th century to become the national name of the sedentary Turkic Muslims of the Tarim Basin? This is an important question that has attracted the attention of several Uyghur-studies scholars. However, it is not one easily answered. It requires students to consult Chinese, Chagatay, Eastern Turki, modern Uyghur, and Russian sources. Scholars proficient in these languages can be counted on one hand. David Brophy's linguistic skills are outstanding. His new book, Uyghur Nation: Reform and Revolution on the Russia-China Frontier, which was published in 2016, succeeds in utilizing his talents with languages to solve the problem. Instead of focusing on the settled Muslims inside Xinjiang, he chose to start from the Muslims migrating from Xinjiang into Russian Turkestan, so as to display the ethnogenesis of modern Uyghur nationalism through investigating Muslim groups located between China and Russia during the 19th and 20th centuries.

In chapters 1 and 2, Brophy demonstrates how two Muslim groups—Taranchi and Kashgari—form in Russian Turkestan. These two groups originated from settled Turkic Muslims of southern Xinjiang. During the Dzungar Khanate (1634–1758), the Dzungars relocated some settled Turkic Muslims to northern Xinjiang to work on agriculture in order to promote the development of Altay and Ili. The Muslims who migrated to northern Xinjiang were called Taranchi (tillers). This policy even extended until the Qing dynasty conquered southern Xinjiang. In the middle and late periods of the 19th century, Tsarist Russia took the opportunity of the revolts in Xinjiang to occupy the Ili River Valley. After the Sino-Russian treaty was signed in 1881, about 10,000 Taranchi households moved their residences to the Semireche in Russian Turkestan (p. 68). In southern Xinjiang, the settled Turkic Muslims were called Kashgari by Westerners, because Kashgar was the city with the highest popularity in the Tarim Basin. Beginning in 17th century, some Kashgari moved to live in the Feghana Valley in Central Asia. The Qing's conquest of southern Xinjiang accelerated the Kashgari who followed the Khoja family to move into Ferghana. In the middle and late periods of the 19th century, more and more merchants and seasonal [End Page 237] labors of southern Xinjiang arrived in Central Asia, thus forming the Kashgari community there.

In chapter 3, Brophy analyzes the ways in which Islamic reform movements affected the Turkic Muslims located between China and Russia at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. The Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang had already established friendly ties to the Ottoman Empire as early as the Qing Dynasty, which encouraged some people to go to Istanbul to engage in business and studying positively. The Islamic reform movement (Jadidism) of Tartar initiated from Crimea and Volga was also spread in the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century. Because Jadidism advocated new methods of education to modernize Islam, it also received embrace from the Muslims of Xinjiang in Istanbul. They brought Jadidism to Xinjiang to improve the religious schools. The local merchants in Xinjiang, such as the Musabayev family expressed strong support for reformed schooling. They established or subsidized modern schools, recruited teachers from foreign countries and even sent local students to study in Tsarist Russia and Ottoman. With the promotion of an elite class at the beginning of the 20th century, both Ili in northern Xinjiang and Kashgar in southern Xinjiang have been distributed with modern schools. Through education, Turkic Muslim elites in Xinjiang were no longer unfamiliar to the secular modernity.

Chapters 4 and 5 discuss the Taranchi and Kashgari as the Qing and Russian empires weakened. Before and after the Xinhai Revolution of 1911, Russian Muslims were interested in exploring Xinjiang. Among them, there was one Taranchi poet named Abdusamadov who started to use the pseudonym "Uyghur Balisi" (or the child of Uyghur) after he traveled to Xinjiang...


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