Pawns in Central Asia’s Playground: Uyghurs Between Moscow and Beijing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this article, I would like to show that China’s rough treatment of Uyghurs is related not only to domestic tensions in Xinjiang but also to the legacy of Uyghurs’ association with the Soviet Union and Russia against China’s nationality policy. Both, but particularly Moscow, used the Uyghurs in their virtual propaganda and, moreover, also in actual acts of organizing outfits—mainly civilian but also military—including espionage, sabotage, and even preparations for invasion. While most—if not all—of these attempts failed, the memories of these actions still survive. Behind the apparent friendship between China and Russia today are hidden mutual suspicions as well as unsettled accounts going back as far as the seventeenth century. Given these potential, and occasionally actual, tensions and China’s growing economic advantage over Russia, a future conflict is an eventuality that should be taken into consideration, meaning that Uyghurs may become pawns in this playground yet again.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-116
Number of pages16
JournalEast Asia
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.


  • Central Asia
  • China
  • Eastern Turkestan
  • Russia
  • Soviet Union
  • Uyghurs
  • Xinjiang

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Political Science and International Relations


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