While the Uyghurs share many language and cultural similarities with other Central Asian peoples, one of the main differences is that the majority of them are still under the control of communism, with no sign of this changing in the near future.
At least 10 million Uyghurs (pronounced Wee-gers) live in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, the largest and most north-western province of the People’s Republic of China. Smaller numbers also live in surrounding Central Asian nations and immigrant populations exist in some European and Western countries. Although once nomadic herdsmen from the Mongolian grasslands, the Uyghurs in Xinjiang are now settled in numerous oasis villages and towns as well as in a few major cities.
The Uyghurs are a proud and independent people with a rich and colourful heritage of poetry, music and dance. They are also very hospitable with strong ties to family, community and land. Their intrigue can be ascribed in part to a unique blend of cultural complexity, due to centuries of crossroads contact with other cultures on the Silk Road, and partly from their rural simplicity, caused by their geographical isolation.
Archaeological evidence and historic records show a high level of civilization attained by the Uyghurs that spans from the Arts to the Sciences and dates back to the 8th century.
Today they are still skilled craftsmen, artisans, traders, farmers and horticulturists. Their major crops include cotton, corn, wheat and sunflowers, and they also grow a large range of fruits. The Uyghurs speak a Turkic language and use an Arabic based script in China and a Cyrillic script in the former Soviet Union.