Uighur Literature

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Uighur Literature


the literature of the Uighurs. Soviet Uighur literature (in Middle Asia) and the literature of the Uighurs living outside the USSR (in eastern Turkestan, now the Sinkiang-Uighur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China) began developing in 1917. The Uighur people have created an extremely rich folklore embracing all genres: songs and folk poetry, folktales, lyric and epic folk legends (dastans), historical and historical-heroic songs, legends, traditional accounts, oral narratives and stories, proverbs and sayings, and riddles.

Over the centuries, Uighur tribes, and later the Uighur people, found themselves at the crossroads of three civilizations: Indian, Chinese, and, most important, Middle Asiatic; this mingling left its mark on Uighur culture and literature. The origins of the Uighur writing system and literary culture date from Turkic runic epigraphs of the seventh and eighth centuries; of special importance is the Moyun-Churu text, which reflects the early phase of Uighur statehood. Texts from the Buddhist period are Turkic translations of the sutras—didactic religious works. Notable among them is the text Sutras of the Golden Luster, a tenth-century translation from the Sanskrit, published between 1913 and 1917 by V. V. Radlov and S. E. Malov.

Much of classical Uighur literature represents the common heritage of several Turkic-speaking peoples of Middle Asia and eastern Turkestan. This heritage embraces such works as Y. Ba-lasaghuni’s didactic poem Knowledge Which Gives Happiness (11th century), Mahmud Ka$gari’s Dictionary of Turkic Dialects (11th century), and Akhmad Iugnaki’s ethical poem The Gift of Reasons (late 12th-early 13th centuries). Rabghuzi’s Tales of the Prophets, a Muslim religious work, dates from the 14th century; the Oghuzname (Legend of Oghuz Kagan) has survived from the 15th century.

The work of Muhammad Imin Hirkati (1634–1724), author of the humanistic poem Love and Labor (1670), marks the beginning of a new period in the development of late feudal Uighur literature. The highest traditions of Hirkati’s poetry were taken up and developed in the lyric poetry of Zaleli (c. 1674–1723) and Novbati (dates unknown). In the 17th and 18th centuries Uighur poetry attained a high artistic level. Several new poetic genres were established, including ethical-didactic poetry, the poetry of love and romance, and heroic poetry. Such lyric genres as the qasida, ghazal, and rubai were developed, and poetic style and expressive techniques reached new heights.

Famous poets of the late 18th century and first half of the 19th century include Shair Akhun, Arshi, Khislat Kashgari, Noruza-khun Ziyai, and Turdy Garibi, but the work of Abduraim Nizari (1770-?), who founded his own school of poetry, is of particular importance. The poets Sadyr Palvan, Sayd Muhammed Kashi, Mulla Shakir, and others flourished in the second half of the 19th century, during the Uighurs’ struggle for liberation from Chinese Manchu domination. These poets sympathized with the working people and called upon them to struggle against colonial and feudal oppression. The central figure of 19th-century Uighur literature was Bilal Nazym (1824–99), who produced several important works imbued with the spirit of freedom and social protest.

In the first few years after the Great October Revolution of 1917 in Russia, radical economic and cultural changes took place among the Uighurs living in the USSR. Newspapers, journals, magazines, and literary miscellanies appeared, and collections by Uighur authors were published. Morning Rays, the first group collection, was published in 1930. Collections of the short stories of Umar Mukhammadi (1906–31) and the poetry of Turdy Kha-sanov (1909–37), Izim Iskanderov (1906–70), and Nur Israilov (1910–53) were also published. Uighur writers created a new literature of socialist realism inseparably connected with the life of the masses.

The young Soviet Uighur literature developed under the influence of Russian and other Soviet literatures; at the same time, it was rooted in the highest traditions of classical Uighur literature and folklore. Soviet Uighur literature attained its greatest creative activity, strength, and artistic and ideological growth in the second half of the 1940’s.

More recently, Soviet Uighur literature has turned to the depiction of a new reality, the interpretation of the past of the Uighur people, and the portrayal of the lives of modern non-Soviet Uighurs—three themes that emerged in the 1920’s. These themes were explored in the novels Maimkhan (1965), Secrets of the Years (books 1–2, 1967–72), and One Cigarette (1970) by Ziia Samedi (born 1914); in the two-part novel Whirlpool (books 1–2, 1964–66) and the novel The Teacher (1973) by Dzhamalleddin Busakov (born 1918); in the novels Under the Turfan Sky (1962) and Fellow Villagers (1966) by Khizmet Abdullin (born 1925); in the novel Lutfulla Mutallip (1969) by Masimzhan Zul’pikarov (born 1925); in the novellas Tradition of the Victors (1965) by Dzhalal Musaev (born 1927), The Course of Life (1965) by Akhmedzhan Ashirov (born 1938), and Endless Songs (1967) by Iusup Il’ias (born 1927); and in the short stories, essays, narrative poems, and verse of Izim Bakhniiazov (born 1929), Rozi Kadyri (born 1925), Patigul’ Sabitova (born 1936), Abdukarim Ganiev (born 1936), and Dokun Iasenov (pen name, Uchkun; born 1938).

The literature of the non-Soviet Uighurs developed after the victorious rebellion of 1931–33, when democratic freedoms were won. Beginning in 1932, the works of Mukhammadi—the father of Soviet Uighur literature—and other Soviet Uighur writers became popular in eastern Turkestan. The founders of non-Soviet Uighur literature include Lutfulla Mutallip (1925–45), Nim Sha-khid (born 1906), Zunnun Kadyri (born 1915), and Nur Busakov (1920–1952). The first newspapers, periodicals, and books printed in Uighur were published after the victory of the “three districts” revolution (1944–46) and in the first years after the People’s Republic of China was proclaimed. A planning committee for the Association of Literature and Art was organized in 1950, and the association was officially established in 1953. The periodical Tarim, a journal of society and the arts, began publication, and in 1961 the journal Shinzhan adäbiyät sän’iti (Sinkiang Literature) was founded. The first congress of the Uighur writers of Sinkiang was held in May 1957.


Khamraev, M. K. Vekov neumiraiushchee slovo. Alma-Ata, 1969.
Uyghur sovet àdàbiyàti tarikhining ocherkliri. Alma-Ata, 1967.
Uyghur àdâbiyàtidiki traditsiyà va novaturluq màsililirigà dair. Alma-Ata, 1970.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.