Central Asian War
|Name(s):||Central Asian War|
|Start of hostilities:||1946|
|End of hostilities:||1949|
|Winning side:||Losing side:|
Republic of Ezo
|Resulting treaty/treaties:||Treaty of Tehran (?)|
|Major consequences:||China broken up; Russian sphere of influence expands|
The Central Asian War is the name given to the conflict between Russia and its satellites on one side and China and its satellites on the other, between 1946 and 1949. The war, in most ways a conflict in its own right with its own causes and consequences, is often seen by scholars from East and West as an offshoot or a second theatre of either the Second Great War or the Great Oriental War.
Causes of the War
There was considerable ill-feeling between China and Russia during the decades leading up to the Central Asian War. China had supplied arms to the Turkestanis during the Basmaçı Revolt, and then aided the Turkestanis again during the attempted Russian invasion of 1931. Russia still felt cheated by China in their 1924 deal over Siberia, and both nations were seeking to avenge what they regarded as their losses in the Sino-Russian War of 1934-1938.
China was at this point in its history quite expansionistic, and was already embroiled in the Great Oriental War against the Austronesian coalition. Russia was fighting the Second Great War to its west. Neither power really wanted an all-out war against the other right at that moment, even though mutual hostility was high. However, both China and Russia seem to have felt that they could seize the moment while the other power was distracted with its own war to acquire new territory in Central Asia.
China was looking mostly north, wanting to gain the mineral-rich lands of southern Siberia for itself, as well as cut off the Russian Far East from European Russia.
Russia was looking to deny Chinese access to what it regarded as its own sovereign territory: Turkestan, Mongolia, Siberia and the Russian Far East.
Turkestan, for its part, was already firmly within the Chinese ambit, and after the 1931 invasion by Russia, had undergone a crash program of modernization of its forces. The Turkestani government were hoping to use a Chinese-Turkestani joint victory to reunite the two halves of the parted Qazaqstan territory. Anti-Russian feeling ran fairly high during this period, and the late 1930s-1940s was no exception.
Outbreak of Hostilities
In 1943, Russia, aided by Japan and the Republic of Ezo, attacked the Chinese Far Eastern territory of Manchuria. The "Allianz" (as historians name this axis, noting that Russia and the Holy Roman Empire were partners in the "Grossartige Allianz") was initially successful, managing to overrun large sections of Manchuria. The Chinese Imperial Army eventually managed to stop the Allianz within sight of the city of Shenyang, and the war became mired in an uneasy, shifting stalemate.
The Central Asian War itself began in 1946 when China and its ally Turkestan tried to open a second front by attacking Russian Qazaqstan from bases in Turkestan and Xinjiang. This counterattack took the White Army completely by surprise; the perception in St. Petersburg was that China was already fully engaged in two theatres of conflict - in both Manchuria and Australasia, and did not have the resources for a third conflict. The Chinas, however, have a vast population, which at that time was unified in a single nation. In addition, Turkestan itself has a quite respectable population to draw upon, and it was the Turkestanis who made up the bulk of the fighting force in this third theatre of conflict.
The initial Turkestani-Chinese joint attack was highly successful, though it did pull the Snorist state of Mongolia fully into the war on the Russian side. The southern Qazaq steppes fell before the advancing Turkestani-Chinese forces, aided by local uprisings of Qazaqs in some areas.
Biological Warfare and the Central Asian War
When the Chinese started to use biological agents against the Austronesian League in 1943, the Russian government began a program of emergency preventive vaccination along the border area with China and Turkestan. China, fearing that this meant that the Russians had developed biological agents of their own, instituted their own vaccination programs in its own border areas and in its ally Turkestan.
As far as Turkestan was concerned, this was exceptionally good news. Vaccinations against such killer diseases as diphtheria, cholera and so on in pre-independence Turkestan were virtually nonexistent, and even in the Qurultaı period the general lack of education in the populace meant that many remained unvaccinated. The Chinese program of vaccinations, however, managed to include far more people and far more diseases than Turkestan could afford to cover on its own; Turkestan, and to a lesser extent Mongolia, were the big winners in this program.
In the end, no bioweapons were used in the Central Asian theatre. China strongly believed that the Russians had their own bioweapons and were fearful of employing their own against the SNOR lest the Russians respond in kind. Russia had seen the devastation of Chinese biological attacks on the Austronesian League, and had no desire to release such weapons in territories it was hoping to add to its own sphere of influence.
Course of the War
Initially, the Russian-Japanese-Ezoan alliance made deep thrusts into Chinese territory, overrunning most of Manchuria. The Chinese were eventually able to halt the Russian advance, however. In Central Asia itself, the Chinese-Turkestani alliance was more successful, managing to make inroads into Mongolia and severely blunt the Russian advance in Turkestan.
The Central Asian War was largely a very mobile, free-flowing affair; territory was taken, ceded and retaken by either side again and again. Turkestani and Mongolian military forces were largely geared to this sort of warfare anyway, as it closely matched their traditional styles of campaign. Russian and Chinese forces quickly learned not to dismiss the formerly weak and backward Central Asian militaries, which proved astonishingly adept at this kind of war of manoeuvre. Turkestan had more people than Mongolia, though, and was thus able to field a bigger army, and in the early years of the war it was China and Turkestan who seemed to be on the advance.
Gradually, though, the increasing pressure that the Russian military were able to bring to bear on the theatre proved telling. Turkestan's Qurultaı government formally surrendered to the White Army in late 1948, but the war had already moved into Chinese territory. Xinjiang Province of China seceded from the dying Chinese Empire as the Republic of Uyguristan in 1949, a few months before the atomic bomb was dropped on Beijing.
End of the War
After this event, the war was largely over. A couple of Chinese generals in northwestern China continued to resist the White forces, but after the destruction of the Imperial government, they were cut off from each other and from resupply. Refusing to recognise the "illegal" interim Chinese government installed by the Austronesian League, they turned to banditry and became a thorn in the side of both Uyguristan and the Chinese successor states of Beihanguo and Nanhanguo for some years. Nanhanguo was especially hard hit by these bandit warlords, and this may have been a factor in the later overrun of parts of its territory by the aggressive Buddhist regime of Tibet.
The final peace treaty between the SNOR and its allies and the interim Chinese government was signed in Tehran, Persia, (who had a historic interest in the region but had been neutral in the conflict) in late 1949.
Several hundred thousand people on both sides lost their lives in the conflict. While the loss of life was much smaller than in either the Great Oriental War proper or the Second Great War, this must be balanced against the proportionally smaller populations of Central Asia.
China was broken up into smaller states by the settlement terms of the Great Oriental War; at least two of these (Uyguristan and Inner Mongolia) became Russian client states with pro-Russian Snorist governments. Inner Mongolia was reunited with the already-Snorist Republic of Outer Mongolia.
Turkestan remained a client state, but moved from the Chinese to the Russian sphere of influence. Considering Russian views of Turkestan before the war as "an integral part of Russian soil", it is perhaps remarkable that the nation remained independent. Most historians believe that the Russian decision was in part based on a general change in policy toward its satellites, combined with a desire to portray the SNOR as "non-expansionistic" to foreign media.