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The Tartar ethnic minority (2)

(People's Daily)

10:13, August 12, 2011

In the late 19th century, Tsarist Russia expanded into Xinjiang, and won trade privileges there. For a time, Russian merchants traveled to Xinjiang, and were followed by Tatar merchants from Kashan. Many stayed in Xinjiang to trade. During this period, many Tatar intellectuals and clerics moved to Xinjiang. Up to the early 20th century, a continuous stream of Tatars came to Xinjiang from Russia.

The Tatar language belongs to the Turkic language family of the Altaic language system. Because the Tatars mix freely in Xinjiang with the Uygurs and the Kazaks, the three languages have had strong effects on one another, and have produced various local dialects. The Tatars' written language is based on Arabic letters.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, some wealthy Tatar merchants netted great profits and forced smaller traders to the brink of bankruptcy. Of the few Tatars engaged in animal husbandry, most were poor herdsmen who had few animals and no pastures.

As a result of exploitation by Tatar and Kazak feudal masters, some poor Tatar herdsmen were forced to become hired hands, whose families suffered great hardship, and others were taken on by feudal masters as "adopted sons," who had to work as hired herdsmen but without pay.

In addition, there were also a smaller minority of Tatars engaged in handicrafts, chiefly in leather-making, tailoring and embroidery.

These trades were carried out as household sidelines.

Since 1949, the Tatar people have enjoyed equal political rights in Xinjiang, where many ethnic groups live in tightly-knit communities. They have representatives on the National People's Congress and various tiers of regional and local government. A series of social reforms has extricated the poor Tatar farmers from feudal exploitation and oppression. Some have now become industrial workers.

The Tatars' educational development began in the late 19th century when Tatar clerics opened schools in several areas. Besides the Koran, Islamic history and Islamic law, these schools taught arithmetic and Chinese language. The Ining Tatar School, set up in 1942, was one of the earliest modern schools for ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.

It played an active role in reforming the old religious education and teaching science and culture.

Many Tatar intellectuals earlier this century worked hard to set up and run schools. Some went deep into rural areas, and played a big part in establishing Xinjiang's educational cause. Their efforts benefited not only the Tatars, but also the Uygur, Huis, Kazaks, Xibes and Ozbeks.

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