Kazakhs in China
中国哈萨克族 (Chinese)
جۇڭگو قازاقتارى (Kazakh)
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Xinjiang (Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture, Aksai Kazakh Autonomous County, Barkol Kazakh Autonomous County, Mori Kazakh Autonomous County)
Kazakh, Russian, Mandarin
Sunni Islam
Related ethnic groups
Turkic peoples
Kazakhs in China
Chinese name
Simplified Chinese中国哈萨克族
Traditional Chinese中國哈薩克族
Kazakh name
Kazakhجۇڭگو قازاقتارى
Қытайда тұратын қазақтар

Kazakhs are a Turkic ethnic group and one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China. There is one Kazakh autonomous prefecture – Ili in Xinjiang – and three Kazakh autonomous counties – Aksay in Gansu, and Barkol and Mori in Xinjiang.


Kazakh nomads in the 19th century

During the fall of the Dzungar Khanate in the mid-18th century, the Manchus massacred the native Dzungar Oirat Mongols of Dzungaria (northern Xinjiang Province) in the Dzungar genocide, and afterwards colonized the depopulated area with immigrants from many parts of their empire. Among the peoples who moved into the depopulated Dzungaria were the Kazakhs from the Kazakh Khanates.[1]

In the 19th century, the advance of the Russian Empire troops pushed the Kazakhs to neighboring countries. Russian settlers on traditional Kazakh land drove many over the border to China, causing their population to increase in China.[2] Comparatively, the Kazakhs received more benefits in the Chinese-controlled areas than the Russian-controlled areas. Russian settlers fought against the nomadic Kazakhs, which led the Russians to believe that the Kazakhs would be a liability in any conflict against China. The Kazakhs were certain that in an upcoming war, China would defeat Russia.[3]

In the early 20th century, Kazakhs fled to China to escape Russian persecution and slaughter during the Basmachi movement in 1916.[4] During the Russian Revolution, when Muslims faced tsarist conscription, Xinjiang again became a sanctuary for Kazakhs fleeing Russia.[5] During the 1920s, hundreds of thousands of Kazakh nomads moved from Soviet Kazakhstan to Xinjiang to escape Soviet persecution, famine,[note 1] violence, and forced sedentarization.[6] Kazakhs that moved to China fought for the Soviet Communist-backed Uyghur Second East Turkestan Republic in the Ili Rebellion (1944–1949).

Toops[who?] estimated that 326,000 Kazakhs, 65,000 Kirghiz, 92,000 Hui, 187,000 Han, and 2,984,000 Uyghur (totaling 3,730,000) lived in Xinjiang in 1941. Hoppe[who?] estimated that 4,334,000 people lived in Xinjiang in 1949.[7]

In 1936, after Sheng Shicai expelled 30,000 Kazakhs from Xinjiang to Qinghai, Hui Chinese led by General Ma Bufang massacred Kazakhs, until there were only 135 of them left.[8]

Kazakh claims against other ethnic groups

From 1934 to 1938, Qumil Elisqan led about 18,000 Kerey Kazakhs to migrate to Gansu and Qinghai.[9] Over the span of 2 years of battles, 5,000 Kazakhs were killed by Hui Muslim Chinese and Tibetans in Gansu. Led by Eliskhan Batur Elifuglu (1919–1943), the 13,000 survivors fled towards India in September 1940.[10]

Tibetan troops robbed and killed Kazakhs 400 miles east of Lhasa at Chamdo when the Kazakhs were entering Tibet.[11][10] To stop the migrants, a Tibetan cavalry numbering 1,000 attacked and fought the Kazakhs for three days in north Tibet, but ultimately lost.[10] Afterwards, the Tibetan government sent the Kazakhs to the Ladakh region of Kashmir in British India.[12] When they arrived at the Kashmir border, many Kazakhs died when the British ordered Indian guards to shoot. Once it was realized that they were civilians, the 3,039 surviving Kazakhs were let into India via Chuchul checkpoint in September 1941. Over these 3 years, 15,000 Kazakhs were killed.[10]

Upon crossing the border, however, the Kazakhs were unwelcome in Kashmir, and were confined to an open mountainous camp on the outskirts of Muzaffarabad. Due to poor living conditions and the monsoon rains, more Kazakhs and their livestock died daily. In April 1942, with the help of local Muslims, the Kazakhs were allowed to move to Gari Habibullah, and then Ternova village, where Indian Muslims hosted them. Nevertheless, additional Kazakhs died from illness, poor diet, and the warm climate. The remaining Kazakhs were granted residence permits, and with the help of regional nawabs, resettled elsewhere, with most eventually ending up in Pakistan after the Partition of India in 1947.[10]


Kazakh autonomous prefectures and counties in China.

By province

By county

(Only includes counties or county-equivalents containing >1% of county population.)

County-level distribution of Kazakhs (2000)
Сounty/City % Kazakh Kazakh pop Total pop
Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region 6.74 1,245,023 18,459,511
Aksay Kazakh autonomous county 30.5 2,712 8,891
Ürümqi city 2.34 48,772 2,081,834
Tianshan district 1.77 8,354 471,432
Saybag district 1.27 6,135 482,235
Xinshi district 1.06 4,005 379,220
Dongshan district 1.96 1,979 100,796
Ürümqi county 8.00 26,278 328,536
Karamay city 3.67 9,919 270,232
Dushanzi district 4.24 2,150 50,732
Karamay district 3.49 5,079 145,452
Baijiantan district 3.35 2,151 64,297
Urko district 5.53 539 9,751
Hami city 8.76 43,104 492,096
Yizhou district 2.71 10,546 388,714
Barkol Kazakh autonomous county 34.01 29,236 85,964
Yiwu county 19.07 3,322 17,418
Changji Hui autonomous prefecture 7.98 119,942 1,503,097
Changji city 4.37 16,919 387,169
Fukang city 7.83 11,984 152,965
Midong district 1.94 3,515 180,952
Hutubi county 10.03 21,118 210,643
Manas county 9.62 16,410 170,533
Qitai county 10.07 20,629 204,796
Jimsar county 8.06 9,501 117,867
Mori Kazakh autonomous county 25.41 19,866 78,172
Bortala Mongol autonomous prefecture 9.14 38,744 424,040
Bole city 7.10 15,955 224,869
Jinghe county 8.27 11,048 133,530
Wenquan county 17.89 11,741 65,641
Ili Kazakh autonomous prefecture 1.78 5,077 285,299
Kuytun city 1.78 5,077 285,299
Ili prefecture direct-controlled territories 22.55 469,634 2,082,577
Ghulja city 4.81 17,205 357,519
Ghulja county 10.30 39,745 385,829
Qapqal Xibe autonomous county 20.00 32,363 161,834
Huocheng county 7.96 26,519 333,013
Gongliu county 29.69 45,450 153,100
Xinyuan county 43.43 117,195 269,842
Zhaosu county 48.43 70,242 145,027
Tekes county 42.25 56,571 133,900
Nilka county 45.15 64,344 142,513
Tacheng prefecture 24.21 216,020 892,397
Tacheng city 15.51 23,144 149,210
Usu city 9.93 18,907 190,359
Emin county 33.42 59,586 178,309
Shawan county 16.23 30,621 188,715
Toli county 68.98 55,102 79,882
Yumin county 32.42 15,609 48,147
Hoboksar Mongol autonomous county 22.59 13,051 57,775
Altay prefecture 51.38 288,612 561,667
Altay city 36.80 65,693 178,510
Burqin county 57.31 35,324 61,633
Koktokay county 69.68 56,433 80,986
Burultokay county 31.86 24,793 77,830
Kaba county 59.79 43,889 73,403
Qinggil county 75.61 40,709 53,843
Jiminay county 61.39 21,771 35,462


Kazakh yurts

Some Kazakhs are nomadic herders and raise sheep, goats, cattle, and horses. These nomadic Kazakhs migrate seasonally in search of pasture for their animals. During the summer the Kazakhs live in yurts, while in winter they settle and live in modest houses made of adobe or cement blocks. Others live in urban areas and tend to be highly educated and hold much influence in integrated communities. The Islam practiced by the Kazakhs in China contains many elements of shamanism, ancestor worship, and other traditional beliefs and practices.[13]

Notable people

See also



  1. ^ Smagulova, Anar. "XVIII – XIX Centuries. In the Manuscripts of teh Kazakhs of China". East Kazakhstan State University. ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  2. ^ Alexander Douglas Mitchell Carruthers; Jack Humphrey Miller (1914). Unknown Mongolia: A Record of Travel and Exploration in North-west Mongolia and Dzungaria. Hutchinson & Company. p. 345.
  3. ^ Marshall, Alex (22 November 2006). The Russian General Staff and Asia, 1860–1917. Routledge. pp. 85–. ISBN 978-1-134-25379-1.
  4. ^ Sydykova, Zamira (20 January 2016). "Commemorating the 1916 Massacres in Kyrgyzstan? Russia Sees a Western Plot". The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst.
  5. ^ Andrew D. W. Forbes (9 October 1986). Warlords and Muslims in Chinese Central Asia: A Political History of Republican Sinkiang 1911–1949. CUP Archive. pp. 17–. ISBN 978-0-521-25514-1.
  6. ^ Genina, Anna (2015). Claiming Ancestral Homelandsː Mongolian Kazakh migration in Inner Asia (PDF) (A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Anthropology) in The University of Michigan). p. 113.
  7. ^ Bellér-Hann, Ildikó (2008). Community Matters in Xinjiang, 1880–1949: Towards a Historical Anthropology of the Uyghur. BRILL. pp. 64–. ISBN 978-90-04-16675-2.
  8. ^ "Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science". American Academy of Political and Social Science. A.L. Hummel. 277: 152. 1951. Retrieved 28 June 2010. A group of Kazakhs, originally numbering over 20000 people when expelled from Sinkiang by Sheng Shih-ts'ai in 1936, was reduced, after repeated massacres by their Chinese coreligionists under Ma Pu-fang, to a scattered 135 people.
  9. ^ Benson, Linda (1988). The Kazaks of China: Essays on an Ethnic Minority. Ubsaliensis S. Academiae. p. 195. ISBN 978-91-554-2255-4.
  10. ^ a b c d e Devlet, Nadir (2004). "Studies in the Politics, History and Culture of Turkic Peoples" (PDF). Istanbul: Yeditepe University. pp. 191, 192 – via academia.edu.
  11. ^ Blackwood's Magazine. William Blackwood. 1948. p. 407.
  12. ^ Hsaio-ting Lin (1 January 2011). Tibet and Nationalist China's Frontier: Intrigues and Ethnopolitics, 1928–49. UBC Press. pp. 231–. ISBN 978-0-7748-5988-2.
  13. ^ Elliot, Sheila Hollihan (2006). Muslims in China. Philadelphia: Mason Crest Publishers. pp. 62–63. ISBN 1-59084-880-2.
  14. ^ "Jumabieke Tuerxun: From The Rural Edges of China to the UFC". Fightland. Retrieved 24 October 2014.