Posts tagged Urumqi

How fluid are Kazakhstan’s borders with China?

While I lived in Harbin, Heilongjiang in the late 1980s, I had always heard about Urumqi in the western part of China.  Northeast China is a LOOOOnnnggg ways away. Just compare the distance of East Coast of the U.S. with the West Coast.  I lived closer to Urumqi while I lived in Kazakhstan’s capital of Astana.  Missed my chance to see what used to be considered Uyghurstan or whatever spelling you choose for an ethnic group that was Muslim and did not look Oriental.  I remember when I was visiting in Shanghai or Guangzhou, we would be bombarded outside of our hotel with “change money, change money…” by the Uyghurs.  I wonder if they still do that or if they have become more sophisticated in making money off of the clueless foreigners.

Anyway, I know friends of mine who did cross the Kazakhstan border into China and it was an arduous task.  Long waits and no service mentality to come to the aid of hapless travelers who didn’t know what they were in for except an adventure to China.  I’m including a map of Kazakhstan and China’s border from a Chinese perspective.  I would like to know more about this region of the world.  I’ve suggested many times to my husband that we could always go to Mongolia to teach, another place I’d like to visit.  We shall see.  For now, maybe I should just rent out the movie “Close to Eden.”  Besides wonderful cinematography, it shows a clash of Chinese and Mongolian and Russian cultures all in one mix.

I’m also wondering about human trafficking between the borders of China and Kazakhstan (or Kyrgyzstan for that matter), how easy is it to cross illegally over the Tien Shan mountains?  I need to find someone who knows the geography of this little known area in Central Asia.  Of course, the traffickers know where the leaky places are and perhaps they have also greased the palms of those who are in charge of law enforcement at the borders. So much corruption on both sides, too many victims will sadly fall prey to the traffickers deceitful lies.

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Fahriddin’s Grandfather was born in the former Uyghurstan

My grandfather’s name was Tursuntai Mukhammetov. He was born in China the ex Republic of Uyghurstan. He married my grandmother there and she gave birth to their first child, my uncle. In total they had 7 children who were born in Urumqi, Tashkent and Almaty. Unfortunately the eldest child died at birth so now I only have five aunts and uncles from my mother’s family. The reasons why I am writing this essay about my grandfather, is because he was a very inspiring person and also he was a successful man throughout his life.

      My grandfather was an inspiring person because he managed to raise and feed six children and his wife. When my grandfather was only 18 he got married to my grandmother who was only 16 years old. In about a year she gave birth to a girl which died in a couple of days. But that did not let my grandparents down so in a year my grandmother gave birth to my eldest uncle. My grandparents did not stop from there, they continued with five more children including my mother. It was very difficult raising six children during those times back in the 1950’s but he managed to feed his family, raise them and buy them all the things that were necessary.

     My grandfather was a very successful man throughout his life. In China he had a very good job at his father’s factory which produced leather. When he got married his father sold the factory and my grandfather’s family opened a supermarket. Later my grandfather decided to move to a new home so him his son and his wife decided to move to Tashkent where my grandmother gave birth to two more children. Afterwards they all moved to Almaty where my mother and two more of my uncles were born, this is where my grandfather got a job as the director of a big supermarket.

     In conclusion these are just two of the reasons why I chose to write my essay on my mother’s father. In my eyes he was a very successful man and even though he is not with us right now he still inspires me a lot.

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“Strong Belief” Nurganym’s narrative

Family ties are very important for many, especially for Kazakhs because according to our tradition we should know seven ancestors by names. I often heard my father in law telling stories to my children (sometimes, I think, he makes up some of his stories…) about old days. That great man gave me many interesting life lessons and taught very important things. In order to understand how this person became who he is today – a very well known and greatly respected person among 1.5 million Chinese Kazakhs – I would carefully listen to all his stories about his childhood, youth and early life.


He grew up in western Turkistan – today’s Xinjiang – on the border of North Eastern China and Western Kazakhstan. He doesn’t remember his parents, he became an orphan when he was a baby, and his aunt rose him up. They were cattle breeders and as all nomads used to move from pasture to pasture,  they stayed winters in China and summers in Kazakhstan – back then no borders remain between countries (Last time he saw his motherland in 1947 since then this is his dream to visit those places again). He rode on horses and grew up naughty and prankish but never was punished which was uncommon in Kazakh families and was against child rearing principles at that old days.


At the age 17 he fell in love with a young pretty girl who soon became his wife, it was usual to start family life at that early age back then. His adolescence coincides with Chinese revolution and soon he went to Beijing to learn Mao’s communism doctrines. He left his pregnant wife and young daughter. Soon after when the second child was born, his wife and my mother in law traveled from Urumqi to Beijing to reunite with his husband after two years living apart. The trip took almost two weeks by train, and a young woman, who did not speak a word of Chinese was have to travel with two little children with all these strangers who would help her all way along sharing food with her and taking care of her children. My father in law says that he still can see a picture in front of him of his skinny wife holding nine months old baby and a little girl dragging large heavy bag on the ground.


Soon after my mother in law was have to attend ideological courses in Beijing, and she left her little child with Chinese nanny who leaved away from them and reared her son until he reached five. They could see their children on weekends, and she very upset when heard son calling nanny “mommy”.


After five years of life in capital they returned to their homeland where they went thru hard years of starvation, poverty and building communism. My mother in law says that is her merit that her husband could build his career; she did everything to help him, gave him suggestions and raised four children alone. 


I think the main reason is that they could fight with all the difficulties together without fear and believed in a great future.









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