Wednesday, September 1, 2021

The Kazakhs of Turkey Came from China via Tibet, India and Pakistan

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 31 – The Kyrgyz of the Wakhan who fled Central Asia to China and then China to Afghanistan only to be forced out recently by the Taliban have attracted attention because of recent developments in Afghanistan ( and

            But they are hardly the only Central Asia group that has experienced such an odyssey. Indeed, the Kazakhs who now live in Turkey fled China through Tibet into India and Pakistan before reaching their current home had a longer but far less well-documented path. That makes any coverage of their long march especially valuable.

            One has now appeared. In an article on the Islamosfera portal, historian Makhmut Yashar provides fresh details on their remarkable 18-year-long flight between 1936 and 1954 (

            Some of the Kazakhs in Xinjiang (Eastern Turkestan) had been there for centuries by the 1920s. But many more fled from Kazakhstan in the latter part of that decade or in the first years of the 1930s as a result of Soviet sedentarization and collectivization campaigns that led to mass famines and even armed resistance.

            The Chinese did not want them there, and in 1936, they launched a campaign against them. In response, the Kazakhs left Xinjiang from Gansu Province which was dominated by Chinese Muslims. The Chinese Muslims accepted them, but the Chinese government put pressure on them to expel the Kazakhs who in 1940 headed south on foot under Elishan Batura.

            They walked through Tibet and the Himalayas and thousands of them died from hunger and as a result of attacks by Chinese troops and criminal gangs. As a result, of the 18,000 who left Gansu, only 3039 reached India. They were put in camps but ultimately given the status of refugees and allowed to settle in cities. Their most important center was Bhopal.

            When partition occurred, they fled to Pakistan, and then six years later, 1800 of them moved to Turkey where they formed the core of a new Kazakh community in that country. Few if any of them have been attracted back to Kazakhstan under Nur-Sultan’s oralman program (

No comments:

Post a Comment