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Looking For China's Elusive Kyrgyz

A Eurasianet partner post from RFE/RL

KASHGAR, China -- Visiting the neighbors isn't easy when you live in Kyrgyzstan and they live in China's Xinjiang Province.

But as a native of a village not far from the Kyrgyz-Chinese border who grew up hearing how my grandfather's generation often visited back and forth, I wanted to see what was on the other side, too.

Particularly since nobody I knew could say exactly what I would find there.

I knew only that some 170,000 Kyrgyz lived in the Kizilsu-Kirghiz Autonomous Prefecture abutting the borders of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, where they were mostly nomadic herders. Others lived in smaller autonomous villages and some in Urumqi, the provincial capital of Xinjiang.

Yet what autonomy meant for these Kyrgyz was unclear. Especially since the majority of the population of the Kizilsu-Kirghiz Autonomous Prefecture is not ethnically Kyrgyz but Uyghur. And overall in Xinjiang, the Kyrgyz are just a drop in the sea of the province's total population of 18 million people, which is made up mostly of Uyghurs, closely followed by Han Chinese, then Kazakhs, Chinese Muslims, and many smaller groups.

To read the full story

A Eurasianet partner post from RFE/RL

Looking For China's Elusive Kyrgyz

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