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Soviet Invasion of Xinjiang

Soviet Invasion of Xinjiang

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The Soviet invasion of Xinjiang was a military campaign in the Chinese northwestern region of Xinjiang
Xinjiang
Xinjiang is an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China. It is the largest Chinese administrative division and spans over 1.6 million km2...

 in 1934. White Russian
White Russian
White Russian may refer to:* White Russian , an alcoholic beverage* White movement members during the Russian Civil War from 1918 to 1923* A White émigré from the Russian Civil War...

 forces assisted the Soviet Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

.

Background


In 1934, Ma Zhongying
Ma Zhongying
Ma Zhongying, also Ma Chung-ying was a Tungan Chinese Muslim warlord during the Warlord era of China. Ma Zhongying's birth name was Ma Buying . Zhongying was a warlord of Gansu province in China during the 1930s. He allied himself with the Kuomintang, which gave his soldiers an official...

's Chinese Muslim troops, supported by the Kuomintang
Kuomintang
The Kuomintang of China , sometimes romanized as Guomindang via the Pinyin transcription system or GMD for short, and translated as the Chinese Nationalist Party is a founding and ruling political party of the Republic of China . Its guiding ideology is the Three Principles of the People, espoused...

 government of the Republic of China
Republic of China
The Republic of China , commonly known as Taiwan , is a unitary sovereign state located in East Asia. Originally based in mainland China, the Republic of China currently governs the island of Taiwan , which forms over 99% of its current territory, as well as Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and other minor...

 were on the verge of defeating the Soviet puppet Sheng Shicai during the Battle of Urumqi (1933–34) in the Kumul Rebellion
Kumul Rebellion
The Kumul Rebellion was a rebellion of Kumulik Uyghurs who conspired with the Chinese Muslim General Ma Zhongying to overthrow Jin Shuren, governor of Xinjiang. The Kuomintang wanted Jin removed because of his ties to the Soviet Union, so it approved of the operation while pretending to acknowledge...

.

Ma Zhongying's birth name was Ma Buying.

General Ma Zhongying, a Hui
Hui people
The Hui people are an ethnic group in China, defined as Chinese speaking people descended from foreign Muslims. They are typically distinguished by their practice of Islam, however some also practice other religions, and many are direct descendants of Silk Road travelers.In modern People's...

 (Chinese Muslim
Islam in China
Throughout the history of Islam in China, Chinese Muslims have influenced the course of Chinese history. Chinese Muslims have been in China for the last 1,400 years of continuous interaction with Chinese society...

), had earlier attended the Whampoa Military Academy
Whampoa Military Academy
The Nationalist Party of China Army Officer Academy , commonly known as the Whampoa Military Academy , was a military academy in the Republic of China that produced many prestigious commanders who fought in many of China's conflicts in the 20th century, notably the Northern Expedition, the Second...

 in Nanjing
Nanjing
' is the capital of Jiangsu province in China and has a prominent place in Chinese history and culture, having been the capital of China on several occasions...

 in 1929, when it was run by Chiang Kai-shek
Chiang Kai-shek
Chiang Kai-shek was a political and military leader of 20th century China. He is known as Jiǎng Jièshí or Jiǎng Zhōngzhèng in Mandarin....

, who was also the head of the Kuomintang and leader of China.

In late 1929, Chiang delivered a fervently anti-Soviet speech at the military academy, calling on the cadets to be prepared to fight against Russian aggression:
We are not yet dead! We still have a chance to prepare to fight and sacrifice ourselves for the nation. . . . The Soviet peoples believe that we Chinese are Utopians, meaning that we have no sense of order and discipline. That is why they browbeat us. . . . Hundreds of years of degenerate culture have made the Chinese an effete race. Intellectually and spiritually Utopian and physically weak—that is what the world at large considers us. ... Fortunately Russia is in no position to con-duct extensive armed aggression against us. . . . We must wait and be prepared!


Ma Zhongying then was sent back to Gansu province after graduating from the academy.

Soviet Union invades Republic of China


In 1934, 2 brigades of Soviet Russian GPU
State Political Directorate
The State Political Directorate was the secret police of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic and the Soviet Union from 1922 until 1934...

 troops of about 7,000 backed by tanks, planes, and artillery with mustard gas, crossed the border to assist Sheng Shicai
Sheng Shicai
Sheng Shicai was a Chinese warlord who "ruled" Xinjiang province from April 12, 1933 to August 29, 1944....

 in gaining control of Xinjiang. The brigades were named "Altayiiskii" and "tarbakhataiskii". Sheng's Manchu army was being severely beaten by an alliance of the Han Chinese
Han Chinese
Han Chinese are an ethnic group native to China and are the largest single ethnic group in the world.Han Chinese constitute about 92% of the population of the People's Republic of China , 98% of the population of the Republic of China , 78% of the population of Singapore, and about 20% of the...

 Ili army led by the Han general Zhang Peiyuan
Zhang Peiyuan
Zhang Peiyuan was a Han chinese general, commander of the Ili garrison. He fought against Uighur and Tungans during the Kumul revolt, but then secretly negotiated with the Tungan general, Ma Zhongying to form an alliance against Sheng Shicai and the Soviet Union. Zhang's army had about 3,000...

, and the Chinese Muslim
Hui people
The Hui people are an ethnic group in China, defined as Chinese speaking people descended from foreign Muslims. They are typically distinguished by their practice of Islam, however some also practice other religions, and many are direct descendants of Silk Road travelers.In modern People's...

 36th Division
36th Division (National Revolutionary Army)
The 36th Division was a cavalry division in the National Revolutionary Army. It was created in 1932 by the Kuomintang for General Ma Zhongying, who was also its first commander. It was made almost entirely out of Hui Muslim troops, all of its officers were Hui, with a few thousand Uighurs forced...

 led by the Chinese Muslims general Ma Zhongying
Ma Zhongying
Ma Zhongying, also Ma Chung-ying was a Tungan Chinese Muslim warlord during the Warlord era of China. Ma Zhongying's birth name was Ma Buying . Zhongying was a warlord of Gansu province in China during the 1930s. He allied himself with the Kuomintang, which gave his soldiers an official...

. Ma fought under the banner of the Kuomintang
Kuomintang
The Kuomintang of China , sometimes romanized as Guomindang via the Pinyin transcription system or GMD for short, and translated as the Chinese Nationalist Party is a founding and ruling political party of the Republic of China . Its guiding ideology is the Three Principles of the People, espoused...

 Republic of China
Republic of China
The Republic of China , commonly known as Taiwan , is a unitary sovereign state located in East Asia. Originally based in mainland China, the Republic of China currently governs the island of Taiwan , which forms over 99% of its current territory, as well as Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and other minor...

 government. The joint Soviet-White Russian force was called "The Altai Volunteers". Soviet soldiers disguised themselves in blank uniforms, and interspersed with the White Russians.

Despite his early successes Zhang's forces were overrun at Kulja and Chuguchak, and he committed suicide after the battle at Muzart Pass to avoid capture.

Even though the Soviet Russians exceeded the 36th Division in both manpower and technology, they were held off for weeks, and took severe casualties. The 36th Division managed to halt the Soviet forces from supplying Sheng with military equipment. Chinese Muslim
Hui people
The Hui people are an ethnic group in China, defined as Chinese speaking people descended from foreign Muslims. They are typically distinguished by their practice of Islam, however some also practice other religions, and many are direct descendants of Silk Road travelers.In modern People's...

 troops led by Ma Shih-ming managed to hold off the superior Russian forces armed with machine guns, tanks, and planes for about 30 days.

When reports that the Chinese forces defeated and killed the Soviets reached Chinese prisoners in Urumqi
Ürümqi
Ürümqi , formerly Tihwa , is the capital of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China, in the northwest of the country....

, they were reportedly so jubilant that they were jumping around in their cells.

Ma Hushan
Ma Hushan
Ma Hu-shan was the half-brother and follower of Ma Chung-ying, a Ma Clique warlord. He ruled over an area of southern Xinjiang, nicknamed Tunganistan by westerners from 1934 to 1937.-Tunganistan:...

, Deputy Divisional Commander of the 36th division, became well known for victories over Russian forces during the invasion.

At this point, Chiang Kai-shek
Chiang Kai-shek
Chiang Kai-shek was a political and military leader of 20th century China. He is known as Jiǎng Jièshí or Jiǎng Zhōngzhèng in Mandarin....

 was ready to send Huang Shaohong and his expeditionary force which he assembled to assist Ma Zhongying against Sheng, but when Chiang heard about the Soviet Invasion, he decided to withdraw to avoid an international incident if his troops directly engaged the Soviets.

Battle of Tutung



In 1934, 2 brigades of Soviet Russian GPU
State Political Directorate
The State Political Directorate was the secret police of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic and the Soviet Union from 1922 until 1934...

 troops of about 7,000 backed by tanks, planes, and artillery with mustard gas, attacked the 36th division near Tutung. The battle raged for several weeks on the Tutung frozen river. 36th division troops dressed up in sheepskins in the snow, and stormed Soviet machine gun posts at short range with swords to defeat a Soviet pincer attack. Soviet planes bombed the 36th division with mustard gas. Heavy casualties mounted on both sides before Ma Zhongying ordered the 36th division to withdraw. Both Chinese Muslims and Russian forces suffered serious losses.

Battle of Dawan Cheng



Ma Zhongying was chased by a mixture of White Russian, Mongol, and collaborationist Chinese forces. As he pulled back his forces Ma Zhongying encountered a Soviet armored car column of a few hundred soldiers near Dawan Cheng. The 36th division wiped out nearly the entire column, after engaging the Soviets in fierce melee
Mêlée
Melee , generally refers to disorganized close combat involving a group of fighters. A melee ensues when groups become locked together in combat with no regard to group tactics or fighting as an organized unit; each participant fights as an individual....

 combat, and toppled the wrecked Russian armored cars down the mountain. When a White Russian
White Russian
White Russian may refer to:* White Russian , an alcoholic beverage* White movement members during the Russian Civil War from 1918 to 1923* A White émigré from the Russian Civil War...

 force showed up, Ma Zhongying withdrew.

During the battle of Dawan Cheng, Ma Zhongying the last time tried to retake initiative from invading Soviet troops. He dug full-profile trenches in a narrow mountain pass and blocked advancement of Soviet troops for weeks. However, mustard gas air bombings of his positions, affecting about 20% of his troops, forced him to withdraw his forces on the end of February 1934 from Dawan Cheng to Turpan.

Conclusion of operations


During Ma Zhongying's retreat from the Russian invaders, he and 40 of his Chinese Muslim troops, fully armed, hijacked lorries at gunpoint from Sven Hedin
Sven Hedin
Sven Anders Hedin KNO1kl RVO was a Swedish geographer, topographer, explorer, photographer, and travel writer, as well as an illustrator of his own works...

, who was on an expedition from the Nanjing
Nanjing
' is the capital of Jiangsu province in China and has a prominent place in Chinese history and culture, having been the capital of China on several occasions...

 KMT government. When Sven showed him his passports from Nanjing, Ma Zhongying's men, who were technically under Nanjing's command, responded by saying: "This has nothing to do with Nanking. There's a war on here, and no passports are valid in wartime."

The Chinese Muslim forces also reminded Sven that since they were serving Nanjing too, that the lorries should be passed under their command. Chang, who was in the service of General Ma Chung-ping, one of Ma Zhongying's subordinate Generals, explained: "Military matters come before everything else! Nothing can be allowed to interfere with them. Nanking counts for nothing in a war in Sinkiang. For that matter, we are under Nanking too, and it ought to be in both your interest and Nanking's to help us."

Sven Hedin
Sven Hedin
Sven Anders Hedin KNO1kl RVO was a Swedish geographer, topographer, explorer, photographer, and travel writer, as well as an illustrator of his own works...

 and his party were detained in Korla
Korla
-Economy:Korla has long been the biggest centre in the region after Karashahr itself, having abundant water and extensive farmlands, as well as controlling the main routes to the south and west of Karashahr. Due to the discovery of oil in the Taklamakan Desert, Korla is now both more populous and...

 by Soviet and White Russian forces. Sven personally met a General Volgin. Torgut Mongols and White Russians served under the Soviet forces and joined them in occupying numerous cities.

The Russians first advanced from Davan-ch'eng and then to Korla via Toqsun and Qara-shahr. The Torgut and Russian army marched into Korla on Friday March 16. Russian Cossacks were seen serving the Soviet forces. Ma Zhongying had warned Sven Hedin to avoid Dawan Cheng due to the battle going on between Chinese Muslim and Russian forces.

General Volgin then met with Sven, and started verbally attacking Ma Zhongying by saying: "General Ma is hated and abused everywhere, and he has turned Sinkiang into a desert. But he is brave and energetic and sticks at nothing. He isn't afraid of anything, whether aeroplanes or superior numbers. But now a new era has begun for Sinkiang. Now there is to be order, peace and security in this province. General Sheng Shih-ts'ai is going to organize the administration and put everything on its legs again."

General Ma Zhongying's retreating army often hijacked Lorries to assist in their retreat, which was how Sven Hedin originally encountered Ma, after he seized several lorries and drivers. Volgin noted that Ma Zhongying often destroyed Russian lorries during battle. A White Russian informed Sven that "We have been coming here from Qara-shahr all day, troop after troop. Two thousand Russians arrived to-day, half White, half Red. There are a thousand Torguts here; and two thousand troops of all arms have gone straight on to Kucha to attack Ma Chung-ying without touching Korla. Most of the two thousand who are in Korla now will continue westward to-morrow. We were five thousand strong when we started from Urumchi."

When the White Russian started to brag about what their army had done, Sven Hedin concluded that the Russian was pulling his leg and lying about the accomplishments of his army, Sven gave one example of these lies as the White Russian exaggerated the number of lorries they used.

The Mongol soldiers were reported to have ill treated the people of Korla.

Sven met another two White Russian officers serving under the Soviets, Colonel Proshkukarov and General Bekteev (aka General Bektieieff), who demanded an explanation into why Sven's lorries were in the service of Ma Zhongying's forces.

Before Ma Zhongying himself retreated from the front line, he sent an advance guard of 800 troops under General Ma Fu-yuan to defeat the pro Soviet Uyghur forces Hoja-Niyaz
Hoja-Niyaz
Hoja Niyaz Haji also Khoja or Xoja Niyaz Haji was a Uyghur independence movement leader who led several rebellions in Xinjiang against the Kumul Khanate, the Chinese governor Jin Shuren, and later the Hui warlord Ma Chung-ying...

, who were armed with Soviet weapons supplied from the USSR, and to assist Ma Zhancang
Ma Zhancang
Ma Zhancang was a Chinese muslim general of the 36th Division , who served under Generals Ma Zhongying and Ma Hushan. At the Battle of Kashgar , he repulsed an attack of Uighurs led by the Syrian Arab Tawfiq Bay, wounding Tawfiq...

 in the Battle of Kashgar (1934)
Battle of Kashgar (1934)
The Battle of Kashgar was a military confrontation that took place in 1934 during the Xinjiang Wars. Turkic Muslim Uighur and Kirghiz fighters under Emir Abdullah Bughra and the other Turkic separatists began four separate attacks over a six-day period on Hui and Han Chinese soldiers led by General...

 to destroy the First East Turkestan Republic
First East Turkestan Republic
The First Eastern Turkestan Republic , or Turkish Islamic Republic of East Turkestan , or, Republic of Uyghurstan, was a short-lived breakaway would-be Islamic republic founded in 1933...

. Thomson-Glover stated that the Soviets gave Hoya Niyaz "nearly 2,000 rifles with ammunition, a few hundred bombs and three machine guns."

Hoja Niyaz's Soviet-equipped Uighur armies were defeated by the 800 Chinese Muslim troops of the advance guard at Aksu, and he fled to Kashgar
Kashgar
Kashgar or Kashi is an oasis city with approximately 350,000 residents in the western part of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China. Kashgar is the administrative centre of Kashgar Prefecture which has an area of 162,000 km² and a population of approximately...

 with 1,500 troops on January 13, 1934. He and the Turkic forces during the Battle of Kashgar] failed in all of their attacks to defeated the Chinese Muslim forces trapped in the city, suffering severe casualties. Ma Fuyuan's 800 Chinese Muslim troops, along with 1,200 conscripts routed and bulldozed the East Turkestani army of 10,000.

Ma Zhongying, and his entire army of 10,000 troops retreated all the way to Kashgar
Kashgar
Kashgar or Kashi is an oasis city with approximately 350,000 residents in the western part of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China. Kashgar is the administrative centre of Kashgar Prefecture which has an area of 162,000 km² and a population of approximately...

, arriving on April 6, 1934. GPU Soviet troops did not invade beyond Turfan, Ma was chased by provincial forces of White Russians, Mongols, and Sheng Shicai's Chinese troops from Manchuria, all the way to Aksu
Aksu
Aksu , is a city in the Chinese autonomous region of Xinjiang and the capital of Aksu Prefecture...

, but the pursuit gradually abated. Ma had arrived in Sven Hedin's hijacked lorry, with the final part of his army, the rear guard, behind the advance guard. His forces were reported to be superior in hand to hand combat, but the Soviets continued to bomb his positions.

General Ma told the British consulate in Kashgar that he immediately required assistance against the Russians, pointing out that he owed allegiance to the Chinese government, and he intended to save Xinjiang
Xinjiang
Xinjiang is an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China. It is the largest Chinese administrative division and spans over 1.6 million km2...

 from the grip of the Russians. Ma Zhongying militarily consolidated his position, at Maral Bashi and Fayzabad, combat lines were created to defend against the Soviet/provincial attack, Ma Hushan
Ma Hushan
Ma Hu-shan was the half-brother and follower of Ma Chung-ying, a Ma Clique warlord. He ruled over an area of southern Xinjiang, nicknamed Tunganistan by westerners from 1934 to 1937.-Tunganistan:...

 directed the defense against the Provincial forces. Bombing runs continued at Maralbashi in June, Ma Zhongying ordered his forces to shift from Kashgar to Khotan. However, for unknown reasons, Ma Zhongying himself crossed the border into the Soviet Union and was never to be found again.

Captured Russian equipment


The 36th division was severely lacking in arms. Rifles and other equipment dated around 1930 were seized from the Russians as booty which replenished their supply of arms.

Soviet Russian Casualties


In Novosibirsk
Novosibirsk
Novosibirsk is the third-largest city in Russia, after Moscow and Saint Petersburg, and the largest city of Siberia, with a population of 1,473,737 . It is the administrative center of Novosibirsk Oblast as well as of the Siberian Federal District...

 a hospital for Soviet wounded for their invasion of Xinjiang was disguised as a "hospital for the injured from the Manchurian War", it was "discovered" by the Evening Standard reporter Bosworth Goldman.

Goldman's account of the hospital stated that:

"Men were sitting about in a gloomy hall, many of them with some part of their body hidden in bandages; they ranged in nationality from Laplanders to pure Mongols... I asked some of them where they had been, and they replied that they had been fighting in the southern Altai, in co-operation with some Chinese, against 'anti-social elements' disturbing the advance of the class warfare banner into Sinkiang... Later, other men with whom I spoke about this struggle often told me that they had never heard of a hospital at Novosibirsk. On the other hand, an occupant of the one I visited told me it was 'the best of the three'.

Civilian casualties


Uyghur
Uyghur people
The Uyghur are a Turkic ethnic group living in Eastern and Central Asia. Today, Uyghurs live primarily in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in the People's Republic of China...

, Chinese Muslims, and other civilians fled from Soviet poison gas bombs, which were taking a heavy toll among the civilian population. One Turki (Uyghur) complained about Tungan soldiers (Chinese Muslims), saying: "I am under Allah's protection, No man can harm me. But these Tungans are no men. They are wild beasts roaming about the streets. It is hopeless to talk to wild beasts. They always have their rifles and pistols ready. They do not understand any other language." The Soviets bombed at will in civilian centers. All day, the doctors heard tragic stories. A Chinese Muslim boy had a septic wound from a splinter from a Soviet airplane bomb. His parents and brother were killed by the bomb.