Minorities of Turkestan

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Introduction

The term "minorities" in Turkestan refers to those peoples who are not one of the six "majority" peoples of the country: Üzbeks, Qazaqs, Turcomans, Tajiks, Kırğız and Qaraqalpaqs. This is true regardless of the relative populations of the two groups; the largest "minority" groups (such as the Russians) almost outnumber the smallest "majority" populations (the Kırğız and Qaraqalpaqs).

These are some of the minority groups known to exist in Turkestan:

Russians

Flag used by the Council of Russian Turkestanis

There have been Russians (InterTurkic: Oruslar) in Turkestan since the XVIII Century. They were a small and despised minority during the Qurultaı period, but their numbers were swelled during the rule of the following Snorist government, and now they constitute the largest of Turkestan's minorities.

These days, most consider themselves "Russian Turkestanis", and almost all speak at least one of Turkestan's official languages as well as Russian, which they do continue to speak among themselves. Third-generation Russian Turkestanis and their descendents are likely to write both Turkestani languages and Russian in the Soğdo script, and must be taught the Cyrillic alphabet in order to read their own language.

Russian Turkestanis are almost all Russian Orthodox, and are unlikely to marry outside of their own race.

Tsigani

Flag invented by civil rights campaigners for the Tsigani

Main article: Lulat

Central Asian gypsies (InterTurkic: Cigänler) are probably the least highly regarded of Turkestan's minorities. Their reputation in Turkestan is as thieving, dishonest, dirty and ignorant, and this reputation is not helped by their insularity and refusal to assimilate to Turkestani culture.

More superstitious and rural Turkestanis often attribute all manner of petty malign powers to the Cigäni, saying they are "bad luck", "have the evil eye" and so on. Even more sophisticated urban Turkestanis are likely to retain large doses of this latent prejudice.

For their part, the Cigäni regard themselves as a people who follow their own path in a world where everyone's hand is against them. They live life on their own terms, not bound or beholden to anyone outside their own community.

The official attitude to the Cigäni is that they are full citizens with equal rights to all other Turkestanis. In practice, however, a Cigän trying to claim these rights is met with obstructionism more often than not.

Uygurs

Uyguristan flag

The Uygur minority (InterTurkic: Uyğırlar) are concentrated in eastern Turkestan, particularly in the Kashgaria Special Region, but also in eastern Qazaqstan, parts of Kırğızstan, and to a lesser extent, Tajikistan.

Relations between the Uygurs and the other Turkestani groups can be quite tense, but the hostility is nothing like as bad as a the height of the Qaşgar War.

There are several majority-Uygur towns in Kashgaria and eastern Qazaqstan, particularly Şunja (Uygur: Çundja), which has served as an unofficial cultural capital for the Uygurs in Turkestan since before the Qaşgar War, and has something of a rivalry with Qaşgar itself for this role.

The Uygur language is readily mutually intelligible with Üzbek, but rather less so with Qazaq and Kırğiz.

Kalmyks

Flag used by Kalmyks in Turkestan

If you encounter a Buddhist in Turkestan, chances are that he or she is a Kalmyk. Kalmyks (InterTurkic: Qalmıqlar) comprise almost 60% of Turkestan's Buddhist community, with Tibetans making up another 30%. There are also Chinese and Mongolians, both of which groups are Buddhist, but Kalmyks are the majority.

The Kalmyk minority is concentrated in the Qaraköl region of Jungaria (Qazaqstan and Kırğızstan). Their particular culture and language is dying out in Turkestan due to their small numbers, and through emigration to Kalmykia. The remaining Kalmyks are particularly keen on preserving their distinctive culture, however, and fly the flag depicted on the right as well as the Kalmyk Republic's flag.

(Han) Chinese

Flag of the Han Chinese minority of Turkestan

The Han (InterTurkic: Qıtaylıqlar) are one of the smaller minorities of Turkestan, though post-Snorist Turkestan maintains much better relations with its Chinese neighbour states than the Government of National Unity did. Relations with Beihanguo, the closest, are particularly close.

Han settlement in Turkestan dates mostly from the Qurultaı period, when Chinese influence was strongest in the country, and their prominence has tended to wax and wane in exact inverse to that of the Russian minority.

The Han and other Chinese groups are normally lumped together as "Chinese" by most Turkestanis, except for one other group. They are widely joked about for their apparent willingness to cook and serve anything slow enough to be caught.

Dungans

Dungans (InterTurkic: Duņğanlar) are the only non-Han Chinese minority generally recognised as a separate group. As Muslims, they are readily distinguishable from the mostly Buddhist, Confucian and Religion of Light Han.

They have largely assimilated to local culture, retaining only a widespread network of restaurants known for their tasty food and semi-Chinese décor.

Tibetans

Flag of the Tibetan government-in-exile

Turkestan's Tibetan minority falls mostly into two groups. The larger of these are the political refugees - followers and loyalists of the Dalai Lama-in-exile. They are vociferous and active in the Turkestani political scene, frequently campaigning against all appearances of Turkestani support for Tibet's ruling military junta.

The second group are the religious immigrants. These are mostly Assyrian Christians fleeing religious persecution at the hands of the militantly Buddhist Tibetan government. They tend to be less active in anti-Tibetan campaigning, perhaps because their lot was not much better under the previous government than under the current regime.

Despite the campaigning of these Tibetan groups, official relations between Turkestan and Tibet are still reasonably good. However, there is some inevitable tension, and protesters are a fairly common sight around the Tibetan diplomatic missions in Turkestan.

Azeris

Flag of the Turkestani Azeris

Azeris are mostly found in the Mazandaran Sea ports, and make up a percentage of the Turkestani Merchant Marine's personnel out of all proportion to the size of their population.

Their language is very similar to Osman Turkish, and is in the same subfamily as the Turcoman language of Turkestan. Azeris are quite culturally different to Turcomans, however, which helps to preserve their culture as a separate one within Turkestan.

During the Snorist era, the Azeris were not persecuted or discriminated against as much as some of the other minority groups.

Osman Turks

Flag of the Turkish-Turkestani Friendship Association

The "Osman Turks" or Osmanlılar are Turkish immigrants in Turkestan. They are not particularly concentrated in any one area, but are instead scattered throughout the country. Their presence in Turkestan originates mostly in the time of the Basmaçı Revolt and Qurultaı government, when several pan-Turkists from the defunct Ottoman Empire came to Turkestan to aid in the founding of the new Turkic state.

The Turkish-Turkestani Friendship Association is an organisation that exists in both countries, and is dedicated to promoting the interests of Turkestanis in Turkey and Osman Turks in Turkestan, and to fostering cooperation and friendship between the two peoples. Its flag is white, symbolising the desire for peaceful cooperation, with three crescents (based on the old Ottoman flag) - one in Turkestani blue and two in Ottoman red and green.

Tocharians

Flag of Tocharstan

The Tocharian minority are concentrated in eastern Turkestan, in the Qazaqstan border area around Usharal. Tocharians have noticeably European-looking features - reddish hair and a tendency towards green eyes - in their generally Asiatic looks, and they speak a language distantly related to the Celtic tongues. They are Buddhists.

Persians

Mongolians

Assyrians

Flag of the Assyrian people

The Assyrian race are the descendents of the people of the ancient Assyrian empire, whose homeland is split between Iraaq, Persia and Kurdistan. They were converted to Christianity in the early centuries AD, and took a leading role in the development of what is now called the Assyrian Church. There is a clear distinction between being an Assyrian Christian and being an ethnic Assyrian, though the latter assumes the former: The Holy Catholic Assyrian Church of the East is much broader in scope and depth than just the Assyrian people.

As such, the Assyrian people spread out into large areas of the Asian continent, and though they have mostly been assimilated into the local populations by intermarriage and cultural adaptation, there are still pockets of them here and there, particularly in Central Asia and the Middle East. In Turkestan, they are concentrated into the ancient Metropolitan Sees of Merv and Samarqand, as well as the Bishopric of Şahrısabz.

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