Uighurs become independent
The Uighurs convert to Islam
Growing wheat and cotton
The collapse of trade along the Silk Road around this same time, though, made everybody who had lived from Silk Road trade much poorer than they had been before, and the Uighurs were no exception. They settled down and used irrigation to grow wheat and melons and cotton.
China conquers the Uighurs
In 1759 AD, the Qianlong Emperor expanded China to conquer the Uighur land to China’s west. Ahmad Shah Durrani, the ruler of the newly independent country of Afghanistan, tried to force Qianlong to leave the Uighurs alone, but he didn’t have enough money or soldiers.
Ahmad Shah stopped trade with China and sent messengers to Qianlong, but Qianlong was determined to keep control of the Tarim Basin.
The role of the cotton gin
The Uighurs fight for their freedom
Again in 1864 – during the American Civil War – the Uighurs tried to get free of the Qing Dynasty, just like the enslaved African-Americans were trying to get free in the United States.
Who was Empress Cixi?
More about the Ottoman Empire
Russia and the Crimean War
Britain helps China defeat the Uighurs
But in 1876, Queen Victoria of Britain began to be afraid that Russia would get too much power if the Uighurs became part of Russia. She gave Empress Cixi money to bring a big army to counter-attack and take back control of the Uighur people.
Uighurs try again for independence
When the Qing Dynasty ended in 1912, and the Republic of China began, the Uighurs began to think again about getting their independence. In 1933, they had another rebellion, helped out by the Russian leader Stalin. In 1944, they tried again – again with Stalin’s help. But the Uighurs lost to the Chinese army both times.
But China still controls the Uighurs today
Today, there are about 9 million Uighurs living in China, but they are divided on how they feel about it. Some Uighurs want to be Chinese; others would rather be Russian. Some want to have their own independent country again. Some feel more part of Islam, others feel more part of the Turkic world. Because there are huge amounts of oil and gas under the ground in the Tarim Basin, where the Uighurs live, China’s not likely to let them get independent anytime soon.
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