Introduction: The Land, the People, and the Politics in a Historical Context
The Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region—or Eastern Turkistan, as the Uyghurs call it—is one of the ancient cradles of civilization. Remnants of this ancient civilization can be seen in archaeological findings and popular mummies. This introductory chapter provides a detailed geographical account and an analysis of the region within a geo-economic concept. The historic Silk Road had a great impact on the region, and vice versa. The historical context begins with the initial evidence of humans in the region, which date to more than four thousand years ago. The political struggle between Han and Xiongnu began in the second century BCE in the region. This struggle continued with different powers until modern times. The most famous struggle was “The Great Game” of the nineteenth century. This chapter describes these power struggles briefly and concludes with a glance to the developments of the region under the rule of the People’s Republic of China.