Military Review

The fight for Xinjiang. Ospan-Batyr, Kazakh Robin Hood

The fight for Xinjiang. Ospan-Batyr, Kazakh Robin Hood
Ospan-Batyr, Marshal H. Choibalsan and USSR Envoy to the MPR I. A. Ivanov

Xinjiang's strategic position and rich resources attracted the closest attention of the great powers: Russia, Great Britain, the USA and Japan. The situation was complicated by the national liberation struggle of the peoples of the region for independence.

Xinjiang in the plans of the great powers

An important strategic position and rich resources of Xinjiang attracted the close attention of Russia (then the USSR), Britain, Japan and several other countries. The situation was complicated by the constant Uyghur uprisings for independence. The Chinese government, in conditions of complete spiritual, military-political and economic decline of the power, controlled the north-western region only partially.

Britain, which was the first to “open” China to the West (under the sights of naval guns), showed an active interest in Xinjiang in the first half of the XNUMXth century. The British entered the Middle Kingdom, entrenched there. England was easier than, for example, the United States. But Britain wanted to keep the conquered and, if possible, expand its sphere of influence. Xinjiang was important because it bordered on the "pearl" of the British colonial empire - India. Xinjiang also interested the British as a possible springboard against the Russian Empire. However, the British attempts to gain a foothold in the region in the XNUMXth century, including through the national liberation movement, did not lead to success. Britain managed to gain a foothold only in the south of the province - in Kashgar.

After the outbreak of the First World War, Russia's positions in the region were noticeably shaken, and after the revolution and during the Civil War they generally collapsed. However, Britain was not able to use this period to strengthen its position in Xinjiang. It is worth noting that the region became a place of attraction for refugees from Russian Turkestan after the suppression of the 1916 uprising there, and then for white emigration. And after the end of the Civil War, Russia, already Soviet, quickly restored and strengthened its position in Xinjiang. This was largely due to the fact that Xinjiang's foreign trade was oriented toward Russia. A weak Chinese economy could not satisfy the needs of the region.

In the early 1920s, Soviet authorities, with the help of the Chinese, liquidated the White Guard outbreak in Xinjiang. The leaders of the White Guards were eliminated, most of the ordinary soldiers and Cossacks under an amnesty returned to Russia. Strong trade was established between the USSR and Xinjiang. Mostly industrial goods were brought from Russia, from Xinjiang - agricultural products, livestock, horses. In the 1930s, Xinjiang was actually funded by the Soviet Union, and subsidies were paid mainly by raw materials. With the growing economic influence of Russia in the region, Britain lost its political position there.

In 1931-1934 The British tried to regain their influence in the region with the help of the powerful national liberation movement of Muslim peoples. However, London lost in this field. The uprising was crushed. British diplomacy overestimated the capabilities of the rebels, besides the British were afraid that the fire of the uprising would affect the neighboring Muslim regions of India, therefore they behaved cautiously. The Soviet Union actively helped in the suppression of the uprising. As a result, Moscow outplayed London. Xinjiang entered the sphere of influence of the USSR. Further attempts by England (in 1937, in the first half of the 1940s) to establish themselves in Xinjiang again did not lead to success. The British colonial empire was already bursting at the seams (India gained independence in 1947), and London was not up to Xinjiang. In addition, Britain was replaced by the United States from the position of the leader of the Western world.

The second major imperialist predator interested in Xinjiang was the Japanese Empire. The Japanese elite claimed all of Asia. Tokyo was not interested in trade with Xinjiang. However, the region was an excellent strategic bridgehead for extending its power to Central Asia, the Pamirs, Tibet, and British India. Also, the north-western region could be used to attack the USSR. Later, the Japanese became interested in the rich natural resources of Xinjiang. Like Britain, Japan was most active during the years of World War I, revolution and unrest in Russia. Japanese intelligence entered the province, Japanese goods began to fill the market. Further, the successes of the USSR in the region and the struggle with the United States in central China forced Japan to somewhat ease the pressure.

A new stage in the expansion of Japan is associated with the capture of Manchuria and the creation of the puppet state of Manzhou-Guo in 1931. The Japanese began to harbor the idea of ​​creating a similar puppet state (Muslim) in Xinjiang. At the same time, the Japanese, like the British, tried to use the Muslim uprisings, but the defeat of the rebels put an end to these plans. In addition, Japanese agents had to operate in more difficult conditions than the British and Russians. Xinjiang was too far from Japan (the British relied on consulates). In the second half of the 30s, Japan tried to resume penetration into the province. But the sharp strengthening of Moscow's position in the region, which since the invasion of Japan in China in 1937 has become the main rear base and communication of the Celestial Empire, has destroyed these plans. And the war with the United States finally pushed them to the second or third plan.

Red xinjiang

Since the 30s, the Soviet government has not only developed trade (by the mid-30s, the SSR had an almost complete monopoly in Xinjiang trade), but invested in road construction in the region. In 1935 alone, a number of roads were built by Soviet specialists in Xinjiang: Urumqi - Khoros, Urumqi-Zaysan, Urumqi - Bakhty, Urumqi - Hami. Moscow helped in the development of agriculture: it sent specialists, transport, cars, implements, seeds and pedigree cattle. With the help of the Union, the industrialization of the region began.

Against the backdrop of the complete collapse of China, local authorities have repeatedly raised the question of Xinjiang’s accession to the USSR. In April 1933, as a result of a military coup, colonel Sheng Shitsai (soon general and governor of the region) came to power in Xinjiang. He pursued a pro-Soviet policy. Interestingly, the former White Guards (Colonel Pavel Papengut) helped Sheng Shitsu to seize power and form his army. In November 1934, the rebellious Uyghurs created the East Turkestan Republic. General Sheng Shitsai paid a visit to Moscow and received the full support of the USSR. The Soviet Union helped in the suppression of the Uyghur uprising, as it feared increased influence in the region of England and Japan. And the creation of a Muslim state near by was dangerous. To help Sheng Shitsuy, the so-called Altai Volunteer Army, formed from the Red Army. As a result, the uprising was crushed in 1934, the Muslim Republic was abolished.

In 1937, a new Uyghur uprising began (not without the help of British intelligence), but it was also suppressed by the joint efforts of the Soviet-Chinese forces. The Sino-Japanese war, which began in 1937, further strengthened Moscow’s position in Xinjiang. The region, with the help of the SSR, has become a powerful rear base for China, its most important communication for communication with the world. Soviet specialists continued to build roads and develop industry. They even built an aircraft factory where they assembled fighters.

Thus, before the outbreak of World War II, Xinjiang firmly entered the sphere of influence of the USSR. Trade, finance (to the extent that the local currency was provided by the State Bank of the USSR), the economy, the armed forces, everything was under the control of Moscow. It got to the point that Sheng Shitsai joined the Communist Party of the USSR. Xinjiang obeyed the Chinese government of Chiang Kai-shek only formally. Moscow was interested in Xinjiang because of strategic military considerations: the region was covered by Soviet Turkestan and it could not be surrendered to hostile powers, in particular, Japan. On the other hand, by this time strategically important resources had been discovered in Xinjiang: uranium, tungsten, nickel, tantalum, etc.

Xinjiang Governor General in the years 1933-1944 Sheng Shitsai

During World War II

The outbreak of a new world war dramatically changed the situation in the region. “Prince of Xinjiang” Sheng Shitsai, impressed by the USSR’s major defeats at the first stage of the war, following the Kuomintang government of China, abandoned the previous policy of rapprochement with Moscow. In China and Xinjiang, they decided that the Soviet state would no longer be able to provide assistance in the same volume, so we need to look for a new partner. In addition, after Japan attacked the United States, the Americans changed their attitude towards China. Britain opened its consulate in Urumqi (the capital of Xinjiang). The Kuomintang China began to receive financial and military assistance from the United States. American military advisers come to the country. Xinjiang has acquired in the United States plans the position of a strategic region, the main transport artery for supplying the Chinese and their forces.

As a result, the "prince" of Xinjiang began repression against the Chinese Communists. Xinjiang, like China, took up anti-Soviet positions. Kuomintang troops are being transferred to the province. By 1943, cooperation between Xinjiang and the Soviet state was almost completely broken. The trade and activities of joint ventures (essentially Soviet) were curtailed, Soviet specialists and troops were withdrawn. The USSR takes the place of the USSR in the region. The Americans open a consulate general in Urumqi, build military facilities.

On the other hand, Washington at that time was not interested in aggravating relations with the USSR (Germany and Japan had not yet been defeated), and therefore pursued a cautious policy. So, the Americans helped in removing from the province objectionable Moscow, the Governor-General of Xinjiang Sheng Shitsai. Also, American diplomats turned a blind eye to the active support of the Soviet Union for the local national liberation movement and the creation in 1944 of the Second East Turkestan Republic, which included the three northern districts of the province: Ili, Tachen and Altai. The republic existed until 1949, when, with the permission of the USSR, it became part of the People's Republic of China. After defeating Japan, the United States tried to strengthen its position in China, but there, with the help of Moscow, the Communists defeated. Therefore, the plans of the Americans to gain a foothold in China and Xinjiang (there were going to rely on the Muslim movement) collapsed.

Moscow after the "flight" Sheng Shitsai began to support the rebel movement, which previously helped to crush. With the help of the Soviets, the Second East Turkestan Republic (WTR) was created. Marshal Alikhan Tura was proclaimed president of the republic. Xinjiang was split into two parts: with the Chinese government and the rebel with the capital in the city of Gulja. In 1945, the national army of the WTR was formed. The army was based on the Uyghurs, Kazakhs and Russians. The republic’s troops conducted a number of successful operations against the Kuomintang.

"Field commander" Ospan-Batyr Islam

Ospan batyr. The conflict at Baytak Bogdo

The East Turkestan Republic was not united. There was a split in the government, two groups fought. The leaders of individual districts and units showed separatism. This was especially pronounced in the actions of one of the most striking "field commanders" of Ospan-Batyr (Osman-Batyr) of Islam. In the 1930s, he was a little-known gang leader. In 1940, Ospan became one of the leaders of the Kazakh uprising in the Altai district against Governor General Sheng Shitsai. The uprising was caused by the decision of the authorities to transfer the pastures and watering places to the settled peasants - Dungans and Chinese. In 1943, Altai Kazakhs rebelled again due to the decision of the authorities to relocate them to the south of Xinjiang, and place Chinese refugees in their nomads. After Ospan meets with Choibalsan, leader of the Mongolian People’s Republic weapons rebels supplied the MPR. In the spring of 1944, Osman Batyr was forced to retreat to Mongolia. Moreover, the departure of his unit was covered by the air forces of the MPR and the USSR. In the fall of 1945, the Osman-Batyr detachment took part in the liberation of the Altai District from the Kuomintang. After that, Ospan-Batyr was appointed by the Government of the WTR Governor of the Altai District.

However, such a high position did not satisfy the rebel commander. Disputes immediately began between him and the WTR government. The Altai governor refused to comply with the instructions of the leadership of the republic, and his troops did not obey the command of the army. In particular, when the WTR army suspended military operations against the Kuomintang troops (the WTR leadership accepted the proposal to start negotiations with the aim of creating a single coalition government in Xinjiang), the Ospan-Batyr detachments not only failed to comply with this instruction, but, on the contrary, intensified their activities. At the same time, his gangs were smashed and plundered not only by the Kuomintang units and wagons, but also by the villages controlled by the VTR. It was not for nothing that Stalin called the Ospan-Batyr "a social bandit."

Ospan himself hatched plans to create the Altai Khanate, completely independent of the WTR and China, hoping for support from Mongolia. This caused concern for Moscow. The head of the NKVD, Beria, turned to Molotov with a request to coordinate actions against this Kazakh Robin Hood with Marshal MPR Choibalsan. However, attempts by the command of the army and the leadership of the WTR, Soviet representatives and personally Choibalsan to reason the rebellious commander did not succeed. In 1946, referring to the disease, he left the post of governor, returned to the free life of the “field commander”. Robbed the settlements that were part of the WTR.

At the end of 1946, Ospan took the side of the Kuomintang authorities and received the post of specially authorized Xinjiang government in the Altai District. He became one of the most dangerous enemies of the WTR and the MPR. At the beginning of June 1947, a detachment of Ospan-Batyr of several hundred fighters, with the support of Kuomintang army units, invaded the territory of Mongolia in the Baytak-Bogdo region. Ospan's bandits destroyed the border outpost and invaded the depths of the MPR. On June 5, Mongol troops approached with the support of the Soviet aviation knocked out the enemy. Then the Mongols invaded Xinjiang, but were defeated in the area of ​​the Chinese outpost of Betashan. Subsequently, both sides exchanged several raids; skirmishes continued until the summer of 1948. After the Baytak-Bogdo incident, Beijing and Moscow exchanged notes with mutual accusations and protests.

Ospan remained on the side of the Kuomintang government, received reinforcements by people, weapons, ammunition, and in the fall of 1947 fought in the Altai District with the troops of the World Trade Organization. He was even able to temporarily capture the capital of Shara-Sume County. The authorities of the republic had to carry out additional mobilization. Soon, Ospan-Batyr was defeated and fled east. In 1949, the Kuomintang in China were defeated. The Communists defeated and occupied Xinjiang. Ospan rebelled against the new government. In 1950, the rebellious leader was caught and executed.

Mongol cavalry
Photos used:

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  1. Pessimist22
    Pessimist22 2 May 2020 05: 10 New
    Interestingly, I read about VTR, but I didn’t know such details, thanks for the information.
  2. Vladimir_2U
    Vladimir_2U 2 May 2020 05: 37 New
    Personally, I have a little-known history page, thanks to the author.
    It is worth noting that the region has become a place of attraction for refugees from Russian Turkestan after the suppression there. uprising of 1916and then for white emigration

    What will the admirers of Tsarist wife Nika II say about the "one and indivisible" Russian Empire?
  3. Basil50
    Basil50 2 May 2020 05: 48 New
    In Xinjiang, the peoples who came there were surprisingly intertwined, and all of them claim that they are indigenous. It would be interesting to read the prevailing version of the settlement of Xinjiang today.
  4. Aleksandr1971
    Aleksandr1971 2 May 2020 05: 49 New
    If Xinjiang became independent, then, taking into account a number of circumstances, one would have to predict the transformation of Xinjiang into a failed state, even worse than Afghanistan, since Xinjiang did not have traditions of stable statehood (with the exception of the bloodthirsty Dzungaria).

    China is a difficult neighbor, but it would be worse for us to adjoin Dzungaria. And now there is civilization in Xinjiang. Several years ago there were regular flights from Barnaul to Urumqi.
    Urumqi is a completely modern, civilized city, which is somewhat spoiled by apparently backward-looking Uigurs in their colorful national robes - chapans. However, due to the Uyghurs, Urumqi still maintains an oriental flavor. Uyghurs are similar to Uzbeks, only significantly less Europeanized than Uzbeks.
    1. SERSH1972
      SERSH1972 2 May 2020 10: 29 New
      Have you been in Uzbekistan for a long time ??? Compared to current Xinjiang, Uzbekistan is just a big AUL ...
      1. Aleksandr1971
        Aleksandr1971 2 May 2020 11: 20 New
        And there is. Xinjiang is far ahead of Uzbekistan. But at the expense of the Chinese, not the Uyghurs. Uyghurs, as a people, are more backward than Uzbeks.
      2. Od. 44
        Od. 44 2 May 2020 16: 50 New
        Have you ever been to Xinjiang? Or watched on TV ??
        My relatives live there, on some private houses instead of gates they hang cloth, such as a blanket and clay walls
        I suggest you come to Samarkand, Khiva, Bukhara and Kokand. Pearls of Central Asia.
  5. Aviator_
    Aviator_ 2 May 2020 10: 39 New
    An interesting article, respect to the author.
  6. barium
    barium 2 May 2020 10: 59 New
    I have a father from there! there he fought for eastern Turkestan, had awards. unfortunately, he died, I know little about where and how he fought there. they were taken out of VT, into the union, all documents were taken away, and they were warned - tell me where you fought, neither you, nor your family, nor who will find !!!!
    KVU-NSVD 2 May 2020 19: 21 New
    Natural thug without any ideas, except for freemen, power and money. At the crossroads of interests of major players, he ascended high, but he finished classically - they caught, spanked and just something business. Where there is no strong power, such batyrs, basmachi, fathers and chieftains appear like mushrooms after rain
  8. Tests
    Tests 2 May 2020 23: 11 New
    It is interesting whether it has been declassified to the end for today or not "quick and dirty" from East Turkestan, the USSR extracted and sent for the implementation of a nuclear project, for example, beryllium. Or we play everything "in secrecy", as with the disclosure of documents on the atrocities of the Nazis and the storming of European cities in 1945 ... And the blood of our and Mongolian soldiers and officers was shed there oh so much ...
  9. The comment was deleted.
  10. Zymran
    Zymran 9 May 2020 18: 22 New
    The article made a mistake, Stalin could not call the Ospan-Batyr a social bandit, he didn’t even know such words. The term social banditry / social banditry was coined by the English Marxist scholar Eric Hobsbawm in 1959 and is used primarily in English-language literature.
  11. Zymran
    Zymran 9 May 2020 18: 32 New
    The article is good for those who first hear about these events, but it missed many points, for example, the full support of the rebels by the Soviet Union with the sending of both weapons and their commandos. :) At first, the Mongols sold small batches of weapons to the ospan-batyr, but then Stalin personally ordered the insurgents to send a large caravan of weapons and ammunition for 100 extra camels.