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U I G H U R   L i t e r a t u r e



Literature of the Uighurs in Kazakhstan, having common roots with Uighur literature of Eastern Turkestan (Xinjiang-Uighur Autonomous Region of China), has evolved by its own historical way. It has been influenced by all social and political perturbations in Soviet society from the first five-year plans up to perestroika. The mass repressions of the late 1930s adversely affected it. The best sons of the people like writers A. Mukhammadi, N. Israyilov, N.Niyazy, A.Mushrapilov, M.Iminov, M.Adilov and others were killed that time. 


Based on rich oral material, democratic and aesthetic traditions of Uighur classical literature as well as on literary traditions of other Turkic peoples, Uighur literature appeared as an important aspect of cultural development of the Uighurs. Fundamentals of Uighur classical literature were laid by Makhmut Qashqari (“Divan lugat at-turk” – “Dictionary of the Turkic peoples”) and by Yusup Khas-Khajip Balasaghuni (“Qutatqu bilik” – “Beneficial lore”).


Makhmut Qashqari in his “Divan lugat at-turk” – (“Dictionary of the Turkic peoples”) shows many examples of Uighur folklore of the 11th century.

Didactic poem “Qutadgu bilik” – (“Beneficial knowledge”) by Yusup Khas-Khajip Balasaghuni appeared as one of the earliest manuscripts of Uighur literature. In his work, poet, thinker, scholar Yusup Balasaguni discusses meaning and significance of human life; he determines responsibilities and behavioral norms within a society. Along with that, “Qutadgu bilik” gives plentiful of information on social, economic and political relations in the Qarakhanid state.


Doubtless, the works by Makhmut Qashqari and Yusup Khas-Khajip Balasaghuni had a great impact on evolution of all Turkic peoples.


Poem “Khibat-ul Khaqayiq” by Akhmet Yugnaki written in the 12th century also has great importance for development of Uighur literature. It is devoted to moral problems: issues on the struggle between the Goodness and the Evil; generosity and stinginess; modesty and conceit. This poem was widely spread and popular across Central Asia and Kazakhstan.


Literary monument “Qisass-ul-anbiya” (“Story about the Saints”) by Nasreddin Rabguzi emerges as an important source for studying Uighur poetry of the 13th century.


Approximately in the late 13th – the beginning of the 14th centuries in Turpan, an epic work “Oguz-nama” by unknown author came into the world and played an important role in development of Uighur literature.


According to Dr. Murat Khamrayev, evolution of Uighur literature could be divided into two large periods: the 10-15th centuries and the16-19th centuries. Direct descendant from Yusup Balasaguni, Makhut Qashqari and Akhmet Yugnaki, Uighur literature developed further along with literatures of Central Asia and Kazakhstan.


Development of Uighur literature was significantly influenced by a prominent Central Asian poet Alisher Navoi who, according to Mirza Duglat, “was a descendant from Uighur bakhshas, i.e. Uighur secretaries-clerks who wrote some official papers”11. Influence of this poet could be traced in works of Zaleli, Novbati, Khirkati, A.Nazari, B.Nazyma, M.Sairami and others.


A Qashqar poet Khirkati (1634-1724) and his works left a considerable trace in history of Uighur literature. In his poem “Love and labor” (1670) which expresses his outlook and attitude towards people, the author develops a theory that a man has all his/her virtues owing to labor.


Zaleli, a remarkable Uighur poet who lived in the 1st half of the 18th century, created a number of works, which are distinguished by high-level artistry and musicality and are imbued with righteous ideas of humanism and love to Motherland.

Novbati, a well-known poet and a contemporary of Zaleli, is a part of Uighur literature who glorified humanism and justice.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s Uighur literature was enriched by works of talented poets such as Shakrakhun, Arip, Khislat Qashqari. In the 1st half of the 19th century, development of the literature was influenced by works of such poets as Abduraim Nizari, Garibi, Ziyai, and Saburi.

In the second half of the 19th century important political events took place and liberation movement of the Uighur people against the Chinese occupation affected evolution of Uighur literature at that time.

Poets such as Sadyr Palvan, Bilal Nazym, Seit-Mukhammet Kashi, Molla Shakir emerged in the literature of that period. Their works are imbued with profound sympathy with people. They exposed vices of their reality, and called to struggle for liberation from colonial and feudal oppression.12 The awakening of ethnic self-consciousness of the Uighur people was reflected in their works.

Compositions of Bilal Nazym occupy a special place in Uighur literature. After completing his education at a medrese, Bilal Nazym collected and studied folklore of the Uighurs. Multi-talented poet composed music to his own verses and, playing musical instruments, sang them himself. Bilal Nazym together with his brother Jalaliddin participated in uprising in 1864-1867. Being a participant of the events, Bilal Nazym wrote a book “Kitab-gazat-dar Chin” (“War against Chinese oppression”) in which, using religious terminology, he gives an account of history of Uighur national liberation movement against Qin occupants. In his work “Chanmoza Yusupkhan” Bilal Nazym boldly unmasks greed and treachery of Muslim clergy, and his “Nazugum khaqqida kissa” (“Legend about Nazugum”), a deep innovatory composition, appears as one of the first prosa works of Uighur classical literature.


Bilal Nazym, a subtle lyric poet, glorifies pure love, which is based on deep feeling. According to Nazym, this noble feeling is given not to everyone, and one who has got it has to be faithful and true to it. In his work “Gazaliyat” he writes about this and about the meaning of life and being.

In the second half of the 19th century, side by side with Bilal Nazym, Mussa-bin Isa Sayrami, an author of “Tarikh – i Aminiya” (“History of Qashqar rulers”) appeared as a scholar and writer. In his work he describes history of struggle of the Uighur people against Jungar and Qin occupants, and history of independent Uighur states.


Poem “Sharq shikeste” (“The sad’s interpretation”) by Seid-Mukhammed Qashi, a contemporary of Bilal Nazym is devoted to a theme of resettlement of part of the Uighurs into Ili district in Semirechye (Seven River Land). Thanks to the resettlement part of the Uighurs was relieved of the Qin colonizers’ oppression and found new motherland. This theme runs all through the poem.


The best traditions of classical literature were followed by Uighur literature of the Soviet period, fundamentals of which were laid in 1920s-1930s. Theme of liberation of the people and theme of labor became dominant themes in literature. Writers revealed aspirations of the Uighurs to education and to overcoming of outdated views and ignorance. These issues were displayed most strikingly in works of Nazarkhoja Adbusemyatov.

Those years great attention was concentrated on laying foundations of literary language. Scholars-Uighurologists such as M.Malov, public activists such as A.Rozybakiyev, I.Tayirov, writers and literary critics – A.Mukhammadi, L.Ansari, K.Ashurov and others took part in the process. As a result of long and laborious work with direct participation of public, scientific organizations and media, the basis of the Uighur literary language was formed and its writing was systemized.13 By late 1920s the printing in the Uighur language was streamlined and central publishing houses in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan were printing books in Uighur.


New authors who glorified new life emerged in literature. Umar Mukhammadi, Izim Iskanderov, Nur Israyilov, Turdi Khasan, Adbulkhamit Kojamberdiyev were at the origins of new literature. Although poetry was a main genre in their works of that period, prose gradually was taking place in compositions of Umar Mukhammadi and Nur Israyilov. Publishing of M.Kharayev’s novel “Dolqunlar arisida” (“Among waves”) in 1934 was a great achievement for Uighur literature.



Those years Uighur drama was developing and the first plays by N.Abdusemyatov and A.Sadyrov “Anarkhan”, by I.Sattarov”Gherip and Sanam” came into the world.


Printing of newspapers and magazines in Uighur, establishing of various societies and clubs favored development of literature after the October revolution. Three months after the revolution “The Uighur club” was founded by initiative of A.Rozybakiyev in Alma-Ata (Kazakhstan). It unified newborn Uighur creative intelligentsia under its roof. Newspaper “Qambagal avazi” (“The Voice of the poor”), founded in 1921, printed the first literary works of young poets and prose writers.


First edition of literary, social and political brochure “Birinçi qädäm” (“The first step”) published in 1924 was of particular importance for Uighur literature. It was to perpetuate the memory of Lenin and began with an article by A.Rozyakiyev about Lenin. The first part of the brochure included poems by A.Mukhammadi and Kh.Zakiri as well as critical essay by A.Rozybakiyev. The brochure also included materials on Uighur history, samples of folk-lore poetic works, and articles on education and culture. In 1930 Latip Ansiri published the first brochure of Uighur poets. In 1931 the second brochure came out and it included works by N.Israyilov, A.Mukhammadi, U.Mukhammadi, T.Khasanov, I.Iskanderov and others.


Along with the above-named, literary men such as M.Adilov, N.Mavayev, N.Niyazi, A.Khudaikulov, T.Shamiyev, S.Abdullin, M.Turdiyev and others influenced to a great extent development of Uighur literature in the first years after the revolution.


In 1936 in Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan a small brochure “Tan sazliri” (“Dawn tunes”) was published. All the poems included in it were devoted to urgent problems of those days, and most of them have not forfeited their importance by now. Poems by T.Shamiyev bear similarities to poems by S.Seifullin and N.Niyazi.

Although works by novice poets S.Abdullin, A.Mirzayeva, M.Mushrapilov and some others did not feature highly artistic content and polished strophes, they were the first works in literature of new era for development of which their authors made every effort. Thanks to them, the first artistic translations, critical essays, prefaces to various editions came to the world. Collecting and publishing of folk-lore materials were emphasized in those years. S.Shakirzhanov, Z.Bashirov, L.Ansari, A.Khudaikulov, M.Mavayev, I.Iskanderov and others made a significant contribution in collecting, classifying of folk-lore genres and publishing their findings.

Period of formation of Uighur Soviet literature should be viewed indissoluble from historical and social development of society as well as development of literatures of peoples of Central Asia and Kazakhstan. New mode of life derived from social transformations set writers important tasks. Literature of that and following periods was ideologized to the highest degree. Majority of literary works of that time developed a subject of glorifying the revolution, appeals, marches as well as praising advances in building of socialism.


One of characteristic feature of that time was a writer’s vision of new reality which led to transformation of edification traditions, to formation of realistic principles for depicting protagonist, and to development of various literature genres.


Umar Mukhammadi (1906-1931), one of the founders of Uighur Soviet literature, lived short but vivid and interesting life. Accepting the revolution with all his heart, he, like V.Mayakovsky, became its “messenger, herald”. His works “Gan nakhşiliri”, “Armanlirim” (“My dreams”), “Oylima” (“Don’t think”), his stories “Batur zhilliri” (“Heroic years”), “Eğir künlärdä” (“In hard days”), “ Ömär öldi” (“Omar died”), “Yana yanarmän” (“I’ll return again”) are remarkable for their problem-facing orientation, high artistic content and profundity of thought. Works by U.Mukhammadi touch and agitate hearts of thousands of readers these days too, for creative works of great talent are immortal.


Poet Izim Iskanderov was at the origin of new literature. Author of over a dozen of poetic brochures, in his works Izim Iskanderov glorified heroism of Soviet people building new life, wrote with indignation and sorrow about heavy past of his people.

Nur Israyilov (1909-1937) takes a foreground among founders of Uighur Soviet literature. He wrote many verses, stories and a novel “Qizil Tuğ nişani” ("Order of Red Flag").


Ismayil Sattarov (1916-1937) is well-known as an author of dozens of verses, poems such as “Khur bağ qizi”, “Qorğan”, and a play “Ğerip vä Sänäm”. He was a master of love lyrics. He praised love of new people, socialism builders who gripped whole wealth and grandeur of ideas which accompanied socialistic newness. Creative maturity of the poet occurred during the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945) against fascist Germany and his best verses were devoted to heroic Soviet Army, Communist Party and people.

Revived ancient literature in its content varied from classical one. Keeping its best traditions, at the same time, it diverged from glorifying the rose and the nightingale, depicting unrequited love sufferings, lamenting over fate and others. Realistic principles along with new genre and stylistic forms strengthened in literature of that time-period.


Due to repressions of the late 1930s, during war time in Uighur Soviet literature no any significant work was created. Only verses and publicistic articles by I.Khasanov, A.Akbarov, Kh.Turdi, M.Matbakiyev dedicated to homeland, heroism of Soviet people in front line and home front were published in regional newspapers. Same period writers I.Sattarov and K.Khasanov created a number of works which played an important role in further development of literature. These are verses by I.Sattarov “Kazakhstan”, “Field”, “Mountain”, “My army”, “From the battlefield”, “The day is coming”, “We will win”, a poem by K.Khasanov “Kenzheh”.


In the 1950s, literature is in the limelight of reviving Uighur culture in Kazakhstan. “It is being reborn”. Sluggishness set after the mass repressions and war was interrupted by changes in state policy as well as by a surge of fresh creative power from Xinjiang-Uighur Autonomous Region of China. From the mid 1950s, literary criticism, which in the 1930s played more “censorial” rather than literary role, became significant in development of literature.


Talented poet Iliya Bakhtaya, prose writers Khizmat Abdullin, Masimjan Zulpikarov, Khelil Khamrayev who was a master of verse techniques, Izim Bakhniyazov who was a subtle lyric poet, writers for children  Patigul Sabitova, Ziyadin Kakharov came into the after-war period literature.


That period, Uighur writers turned to complex genres such as novel and full-scale story.  Authors achieved significant results in development of poetry and dramatic art and their works testify for improved techniques in artistic reality depiction.


Khizmat Abdullin came into the world as a writer in the mid 1950s. His full-scale stories “Gulistan”, “Minarets keep silence”, novels “Under Turpan skies”, “Fate” and later on his historical novel “Fiery hoop” put him on a par with well-known writers of Kazakhstan who actively popularized idea of friendship between the Kazakhs and the Uighurs.


Jammaldin Bosakov, who worked fruitfully in prosa genre, wrote novels “Whirlpool”, “Teacher”, full-scale story “People’s singer” and many stories.


Poets I.Bakhtaya, I.Izimov, Kh.Khamrayev, I.Bakhniyazov, Uchkun and others made great contribution in Uighur literature by their multifaceted works. The first works by Ilya Bakhtiya (Ilya Molotov) appeared in the mid 1950s. The first book of poems of the poet “Dostlarğa soğa” (“Gift to my friends”) was published in 1956. In 1958 a book “Dream”, in 1961 – “Spring”, in 1963 – “Tyan-Shan dzhigit”, in 1966 – “Tyan Shan poems”, in 1969 – “Flower and Prickle”, in 1978 – “Ili valley”, and in 1981 – “Life goes by” were published. Most of the works of the poet were translated into Kazakh and Russian. Ilya Bakhtiya is also an author of a number of poetic books for children which are remarkable for their profound feeling of children’s psychological peculiarities.


Khelil Khamrayev is one of the talented poets of Uighur literature. His poetry is distinguished by high patriotism, optimistic attitude, and melodiousness. That is why his works were set to music. His poems “Gulyamkhan”, “Daughter of the sun”, “Peasant”, “Feat” represent different historical periods of the Uighurs, prompt readers to moral self-perfection, and give aesthetical delight.


Ziya Samadi, a people’s writer, takes an important place among Uighur writers who found their second homeland in Kazakhstan. Talent of the great master of word who now is well-known far beyond boundaries of the republic developed and strengthened in Kazakhstan. Works of the writer were translated into Russian, Kazakh and Uzbek.


In his novels “Mayimkhan”, “Akhmet Afendi”, dilogy “Mystery of years”, in his full-scale stories “One cigarette”, “Wail of martyr”, “When apricot bloomed”, “Geni Batur”, in his plays “Lashman”, “Iparkhan”, in his drama “Blood stain”, in his screen story “On Ili river bank” and many other works Ziya Samadi gives large-scale pictures of historical past of the Uighur people. The main theme of the writer’s works is the national liberation struggle of the Uighurs against Qin (Chinese) invaders. It is important to the writer to represent historical truth which he achieves through knowledge and historical intuition. Works of Ziya Samadi contribute in augmenting the people’s moral, and cultural wealth as well as strengthening civil consciousness.


Artistic talent of the author allowed him to rise in analysis of moral, patriotic motive of his protagonists to common humanistic ideals what cultivates in reader not only feeling of personal connection but also a sense of social and civil responsibility for everything what happens in life. That is why, works of Ziya Samadi are so beloved by people. That is why Asanali Ashimov, a well-known Kazakh actor and producer, People’s Artist of the USSR, made a screen version of the author’s novel “Mayimkhan”. His movie “Year of the Dragon” based on Ziya Samadi’s novel has been played in movie theaters for 15 years.


Today Uighur literature of Kazakhstan is represented by dozens of prosa writers and poets, many of whom are members of the Kazakhstan Writers’ Union. They are: M.Zulpikarov, E.Ilyas, P.Sabitova, T.Takhtamov, K.Asamdinov, Sh.Shavayev, A.Ashirov, D.Yasenov (Uchkun), S.Mamatkulov, R.Roziyev, I.Jalilov, A.Dulyatov, I.Ushurov, Zh.Rozakhunov, A.Izimov, A.Ganiyev, M.Khamrayev, A.Kutlukov, A.Mutalip, M.Merimov, A.Sadyrov, G.Autova, N.Akhmetov, T.Nurakhunov, A.Israpilov and many others.


Keeping centuries-old traditions of Uighur literature, writers focus their attention on showing patriotic feat of the people as a whole as well as individuals in the liberation struggle. They  reveal and affirm political, moral ideals of the Uighur people. Along with this, writers familiarize themselves with today’s reality. Changes in society gave birth to a number of works filled with profound philosophical thought about cultural and moral values. Among them there are works of D.Yasenov, S.Mamatkulov, A.Dulyatov, R.Roziyev and I.Ushurov.


Uighur literature, one of the most ancient Turkic literatures, had an opportunity for further qualitative development in the USSR. Various poetic schools and currents, multifaceted and diverse creative styles appeared in Uighur literature what leads to general evolution and bloom of national culture of the Uighurs. 




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