Struggle by the Pen

The Uyghur Discourse of Nation and National Interest, c.1900-1949


Author: Ondřej Klimeš
In Struggle by the Pen, Ondřej Klimeš explores the emergence of national consciousness and nationalist ideology of Uyghurs in Xinjiang from c. 1900-1949. Drawing from texts written by modern Uyghur intellectuals, politicians and propagandists throughout this period, he identifies diverse types of Uyghur discourse on the nation and national interest, and traces the emergence and construction of modern Uyghur national identity.

The author also demonstrates that the modern Uyghur intelligentsia regarded political emancipation and social modernization as the two most important interests of their nation, and that they envisaged Uyghurs as citizens of a modern republican state founded on the principles of representative government. This book thus presents a new perspective on Uyghur intellectual history and on Republican Xinjiang.

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Ondřej Klimeš, Ph.D. (2012) is a research fellow at the Oriental Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences.
"This book breaks new ground in its emphasis on the writing of history... The historiographical approach is innovative and very interesting. Not only does it explicate and give function to the main Uyghur historians of the period, but it also adds new perspectives on the whole area of national consciousness and its rise under the circumstances of emerging modernization."
Colin Mackerras, Griffith University, Australia, China Information, Vol. 30, No. 1., 2016

"It is important to look at research offering a lucid, nuanced and historical appraisal of contestation in Xinjiang, especially in regard to the expression of national interests among the Turkic Muslims living in the region. Ondřej Klimeš has provided such a book. The author’s work describes the course of a debate on nation among early 20th century thinkers in Xinjiang contemporary observers would be prudent to read. Furthermore, Klimeš has offered a rare kind of book in the field, in that it studies the ideas of individuals and not just the policies of institutions. At its core this is a humanistic work. […] [This] book produced by Klimeš will not only be important in tracing the historical roots of the nation debate in Xinjiang, but also critical in voicing an indigenous tradition of intellectual thought over national interest."
Henryk Szadziewski, University of Hawaii at Manoa, New Books Asia, 2016

"This is a useful contribution to nationality studies. Klimeš’ command of Uyghur has allowed him to probe the changing character of Uyghur identity through close reading of a number of publications inaccessible to most scholars; moreover, Klimeš has made a “special effort … to refer to sources which have not been previously examined” (p.19)."
Malcolm McKinnon, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies, June 2017
List of Acronyms

List of Tables

List of Illustrations

Chronology of Major Political Events

Preface and Acknowledgements


Chapter 1: Protonational Identity and Interest (1900s)

Chapter 2: Emergence of National Idea and National Agitation (1910s–1920s)

Chapter 3: Politicization of National Interest (1930s)
3.1. Turkic Insurgency (1930–34)
3.2. Administration of Sheng Shicai (1934–44)

Chapter 4: The Significance of a National Boundary in Flux (1940s)
4.1. Republican Turkic Nationalism (1930s–49)
4.2. The Three Districts’ Revolution (1944–49)

Chapter 5: Conclusion



Researchers in Uyghur ethnic identity, late-imperial Xinjiang history, Xinjiang modern history and politics, Republican era Xinjiang ethnic policy, ethnic identity formation and political mobilization process, People’s Republic of China historiography.