Theme 13. Revolution of three districts (sanqu geming) or Eastern Turkistan Republic of in Ili, Altay and Tarbaghatay in 1944-1949
Revolution in three dsitricts neighboring Soviet Kazakhstan (Ili, Altay and Tarbaghatay) in 1944. Soviet Union’s role in the Muslim peoples revolt against the Guomindang power. Sarikol (Tashkurghan) uprising in Southern Xinjiang. Decalaration of establishing the government of Eastern Turkistan Republic in three districts. Soviet-Chinese relations during the late 1940s with regard to the Ili incident. Formation of coalition government of the province with Zhang zhizhong as head of the government. American and British position towards political developemnts in Xinjiang. Split among the political eliete of the local peoples.
The Second East Turkestan Republic, commonly referred to simply as the East Turkestan Republic (ETR), was a short-lived Soviet-backedTurkic socialist people's republic. The ETR existed in the 1940s (November 12, 1944 – October 20, 1949) in present-day Xinjiang. It began as a revolution in three northern districts (Ili, Tarbaghatai, Altai) of Xinjiang province of the Republic of China, resulting in the Ili Rebellion. The rest of Xinjiang was under Kuomintang control. This region is now the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China (PRC).
Many of the Turkic peoples of the Ili region of Xinjiang had close cultural, political, and economic ties with Russia and then the Soviet Union. Many of them were educated in the Soviet Union and a community of Russian settlers lived in the region. As a result, many of the Turkic rebels fled to the Soviet Union and obtained Soviet assistance in creating the Sinkiang Turkic People's Liberation Committee (STPNLC) in 1943 to revolt against Kuomintang rule during the Ili Rebellion. The pro-Soviet Uyghur who later became leader of the revolt and the Second East Turkestan Republic,Ehmetjan Qasim, was Soviet educated and described as "Stalin's man" and as a "communist-minded progressive". Qasim Russified his surname to "Kasimov" and became a member of theCommunist Party of the Soviet Union.
Following Sheng Shicai's departure from Xinjiang, the new Kuomintang administration had increasing trouble maintaining law and order. On September 16, 1944, troops that had been sent to Gongha county, a majority Kazak region, were unable to contain a group of rioters. By October 8, the rioters had captured Nilka, the county seat. During October, the Three Districts Rebellionbroke out south of Ghulja in the Ili, Altay and Tarbagatay districts of northern Xinjiang. Aided by the Soviet Union, and supported by several Xinjiang exiles trained in the Soviet Union, the rebels quickly established control over the three districts, capturing Ghulja in November. The ethnic Chinese population of the region was reduced by massacre and expulsion. According to United States consular officials, the Islamic scholar Elihan Töre declared a "Turkistan Islam Government":
The rebels assaulted Kulja on 7 November 1944 and rapidly took over parts of the city, massacring KMT troops, however, the rebels encountered fierce resistance from KMT forces holed up in the power and central police stations and did not take them until the 13th. The creation of the "East Turkestan Republic" (ETR) was declared on the 15thThe Soviet Army assisted the Ili Uyghur army in capturing several towns and airbases. Non-communists Russians like White Russians and Russian settlers who had lived in Xinjiang since the 19th century also helped the Soviet Red Army and the Ili Army rebels. They suffered heavy losses. Many leaders of the East Turkestan Republic were Soviet agents or affiliated with the Soviet Union, like Abdulkerim Abbas, Ishaq Beg, Saifuddin Azizi and the White Russians F. Leskin, A. Polinov., and Glimkin. When the rebels ran into trouble taking the vital Airambek airfield from the Chinese, Soviet military forces directly intervened to help mortar the Airambek and reduce the Chinese stronghold.
The rebels engaged in massacres of Han Chinese civilians, especially targeting people affiliated with the KMT and Sheng Shicai. In the "Kulja Declaration" issued on 5 January 1945, the East Turkestan Republic proclaimed that it would "sweep away the Han Chinese", threatening to extract a "blood debt" from the Han. The Declaration also declared that the Republic would seek to especially establish cordial ties with the Soviets. The ETR later deemphasized the anti-Han tone in their official proclamations after they were done massacring most of the Han civilians in their area. The massacres against the Han occurred mostly during 1944-45, with the KMT responding in kind by torturing, killing, and mutilating ETR prisoners. In territory controlled by the ETR like Kulja, various repressive measures were carried out, like barring Han from owning weapons, operating a Soviet style secret police, and only making Russian and Turkic languages official and not Chinese. While the non-Muslim Tungusic peoples like the Xibe played a large role in helping the rebels by supplying them with crops, the local Muslim Tungan (Hui) in Ili gave either an insignificant and negligible contribution to the rebels or did not assist them at all.
The demands of the rebels included termination of Chinese rule, equality for all nationalities, recognised use of native languages, friendly relations with the Soviet Union, and opposition to Chinese immigration into Xinjiang. The military forces available to the rebellion were the newly formed Ili National Army (INA) and later renamed the East Turkestan National Army, which included mostly Uighur, Kazakh and White Russian soldiers (around 60,000 troops, armed and trained by the Soviet Union, strengthened with regular Red Army units, that included up to 500 officers and 2,000 soldiers), and a group of Kazak Karai tribesmen under the command of Osman Batur (around 20,000 horsemen). The Kazaks expanded to the north, while the INA expanded to the south. By September 1945, the Kuomintang Army and the INA occupied positions on either side of the Manasi River near Ürümqi. By this time the ETR held Zungaria and Kashgaria, while the Kuomintang held the Ürümqi (Tihuwa) area.
The "Ili National Army" (INA) which was established on 8 April 1945 as the military arm of the ETR, was led by the Kirghiz Ishaq Beg and the White Russians Polinov and Leskin, and all three were pro Soviet and had a history of military service with Soviet associated forces.The Soviets supplied the INA with ammunition and Russian style uniforms, and Soviet troops directly helped the INA troops fight against the Chinese forces.The INA uniforms and flags all had insignia with the Russian acronym for "East Turkestan Republic", VTR in Cyrillic (Vostochnaya Turkestanskaya Respublika). The Soviets admitted their support of the rebels decades later when they transmitted a radio broadcast in Uyghur from Radio Tashkent into Xinjiang on 14 May 1967, boasting of the fact that the Soviets had trained and armed the East Turkestan Republic forces against China. Thousands of Soviet troops assisted Turkic rebels in fighting the Chinese army. In October 1945 suspected Soviet planes attacked Chinese positions.
As the Soviet Red Army and Turkic Uyghur Ili Army advanced with Soviet air support against poorly prepared Chinese forces, they almost succeeded in reaching Ürümqi; however, the Chinese military threw up rings of defences around the area, sending Chinese Muslim cavalry to halt the advance of the Turkic Muslim rebels. Thousands of Chinese Muslim troops under General Ma Bufang and his nephew General Ma Chengxiang poured into Xinjiang from Qinghai to combat the Soviet and Turkic Uyghur forces.
Much of the Ili army and equipment originated from the Soviet Union. The Ili rebel army pushed the Chinese forces across the plains and reached Kashgar, Kaghlik and Yarkand. However, the Uyghurs in the oases gave no support to the Soviet-backed rebels and, as a result, the Chinese army was able to expel them. The Ili rebels then butchered livestock belonging to Kirghiz and Tajiks of Xinjiang.The Soviet-backed insurgents destroyed Tajik and Kirghiz crops and moved aggressively against the Tajiks and Kirghiz of China. The Chinese beat back the Soviet supported rebellion in Sarikol from August 1945-1946, defeating the siege of the "tribesman" around Yarkand when they had rose up in rebellion in Nanchiang around Sarikol, and killing Red Army officers.
The Chinese Muslim Ma Clique warlord of Qinghai, Ma Bufang was sent with his Muslim Cavalry to Urumqi by the Kuomintang in 1945 to protect it from the Uyghur rebels from Ili. In 1945, the Tungan (Hui) 5th and 42nd Cavalry were sent from Qinghai to Xinjiang where they reinforced the KMT 2nd Army, made out of 4 divisions. Their combined forces made for 100,000 Hui and Han troops serving under KMT command in 1945.It was reported the Soviets was eager to "liquidate" Ma Bufang. General Ma Chengxiang, another Hui Ma Clique officer and nephew of Ma Bufang, commanded the First Cavalry Division in Xinjiang under the KMT, which was formerly the Gansu Fifth Cavalry Army.
A cease-fire was declared in 1946, with the Second East Turkestan Republic in control of Ili and the Chinese in control of the rest of Xinjiang, including Ürümqi.