From rebels to refugees
Memorialising the revolt of 1916 in oral poetry
in The Central Asian Revolt of 1916
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This chapter uses Russian archival sources and songs and poetry in Kyrgyz to examine the fate of the tens of thousands of Kyrgyz who fled to China to escape the repression of the 1916 revolt. An estimated 150,000 died of exposure and starvation, and their suffering and trauma was memorialised in poems by the survivors, which describe the difficulties and humiliations they experienced crossing the mountains and in Xinjiang. It argues that the common experience of the Ürkun (exodus) helped to consolidate a sense of Kyrgyz national identity in the twentieth century.

The Central Asian Revolt of 1916

A collapsing empire in the age of war and revolution

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