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The Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, formerly called Chinese or Eastern Turkestan, lies in the northwest of China, in Central Asia. The area was inhabited by Turkic speaking peoples from the 6th century onwards, and from the 10th century onwards, Islam became the dominant religion. During its history, control of this region shifted between the local population and the Chinese empire. From the late 19th century onwards until 1949, Chinese control of the area was contested by the Russian (later Soviet), and British powers, while the local, mostly Turkic and muslim population struggled for independence.


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