If they’d played their cards differently, or if their overlords had done so, or if the Russians had gotten historically lucky and poked a little harder east, much of China’s Xinjiang province may have today been an independent East Turkestan, as has been attempted now and again for kicks and bloody protests.
The Muslim Uighur population used to constitute about 90% of the region, but that’s been cut in half as Han Chinese have moved in and urbanized the region. Kashgar was once a major Silk Road city, with a famous Sunday market that continues today on a much more limited scale. During the 19th Century, both Great Britain and Russia maintained major consular presences here.
Today it’s another big Chinese city, with an historical pocket that’s steadily being bulldozed. But there’s no shortage of Uighurs.
I made the mistake of saying ‘thank you’ in Chinese in a Uighur restaurant, and the young waiter boy corrected me with the Uighur alternative. Smartass. In any case, it’s another Turkic language. Who’d have thought that my 50 words of Kazakh would’ve been so useful?