Trapped between Borders: Notes on Identity of Osh Dungans
Trapped between Borders: Notes on Identity of Osh Dungans In Kyrgyzstan where Dungan diaspora could preserve their identity without mixing with Kyrgyz majority through intermarriages has an ethnic enclave in Osh, Southern Kyrgyzstan whose members engaged in agriculture and neither speak Dungan, Russian, nor Kyrgyz languages. They only know Uzbek. Because of this, children of more than 1000 Dungans cannot get higher education since the language of instruction at universities in Kyrgyzstan are either Kyrgyz or Russian. At the same time, they cannot get access to the higher education in Uzbekistan since they are Kyrgyz citizens. Their identity is also problematic for the local people: for Uzbek people, they are Dungan, for Kyrgyz people they are Uzbeks. So the question that this paper would like to address is how this linguistic affiliation came about and why after 25 years of independence kids were unable to learn neither Kyrgyz nor Russian. In order to do so, this paper will rely on historical method and interviews with community leaders. After outlining the scale of the problem, it will proceed to sets of policy recommendations. Existing literature points to two primary hypotheses: 1. Unlike the other Dungan communities in Central Asia, Uzbek was chosen because at the period of Dungan migration in the end of XIX century Osh Dungans were unable to form their own community because of the lack of free land since Fergana valley which was densely populated while other groups of Dungans who migrated to Kazakhstan and other parts of Kyrgyzstan got land for agriculture and formed their own area of the compact residence. 2. Alternative hypothesis states that high percent of intermarriages among Dungans mainly with Uzbek people resulted in their loss of ethnic language and assimilation. Intermarriage was a survival strategy since Dungans intentionally mixed with the local population in the first years of the migration due to the fear of persecution from the side of Chinese authorities. The paper will proceed with historical outline of Dungan enclave in Osh. It will then trace reasons for linguistic affiliation and finish with sets of recommendations.
Politics and Identity in Kyrgyzstan