The Persian cosmopolis refers to the vast territory between the Balkans and Bengal in which, for 1000 years, an integrated sense of moral, social, political, and aesthetic order was informed by the circulation of normative Persian texts. Several centuries after the Arab conquest of the Iranian plateau, a spoken form of a hybridized Middle Persian and Arabic emerged in written form, using a modified Arabic script. What had begun as a regional vernacular swiftly became a transregional, literary medium as regional courts in Khurasan and Central Asia patronized Persian literature and used that language in their bureaucracies, building on a tradition of professional writers that had served Persian empires for centuries. The technology of paper-making, recently introduced from China, facilitated the rapid movement of Persian texts across space, while Firdausi’s epic poem the Shah-nama (1010) celebrated Iranian mythology and pre-Islamic history in ways that connected widely scattered peoples of different ethnicities. Territorial conquests by Persianized Turks, followed by Mongol invasions that drove peoples of Central Asia and Khurasan into new lands, also served to expand the geographical extent of the Persian cosmopolis. By the 14th and 15th centuries, the political, aesthetic, and moral order elaborated in a growing Persian canon—for example, the principle of justice—had become associated with a prestigious, cosmopolitan style that was emulated and absorbed by widely scattered peoples of diverse ethnicities and religions. Persianate architecture, attire, urban design, music, cuisine, and numismatic traditions were also assimilated by such peoples. With the translation of a rich store of romance literature into vernacular tongues, the Persian cosmopolis became as much a subjective phenomenon, inhabiting people’s collective imagination, as it was an objective, mappable zone in which popular, discursive, and normative texts circulated along networks that connected royal courts, provincial notables, Sufi lodges, merchant communities, and schools.
The history of Uyghurs, the Turkic Muslim people indigenous to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China, also known as East Turkestan, is represented differently in historiographies of many countries. Chinese historiography depicts Uyghurs as migrants in their homeland, referring to the migration of nomadic Uyghurs from the present territory of Mongolia in 840 ce, in contrast to the Han Chinese who started settling down in this region much earlier. The history of Uyghurs is interpreted in Chinese works based on the concept of a “Chinese nation,” according to which all peoples populating the country have comprised one nation since ancient times. Uyghurs are therefore depicted as people who never set up their own independent states. The Uyghur ethnocentric vision of the past, on the contrary, substantiates the indigenousness of Uyghurs to their homeland. It highlights the Central Asian origin of Uyghurs, who belong to the family of Turkic nationalities and have a history much longer than that of the Han Chinese. As an oppressed ethnic minority in China, Uyghurs were excluded from writing their own history; therefore, a Uyghur national narrative was developed mainly outside China. Soviet historians made significant contributions to the formulation of the main principles of Uyghur national history. The process of writing Uyghur history is influenced by dominating narratives in PRC and other countries that have sizable Uyghur communities (Turkey and post-Soviet Central Asian nations). Despite the domination of narratives on the history of Uyghurs in many countries, academic research on Uyghur history has gained significant achievements, although as a field of research Uyghur and Xinjiang studies occupy peripheral positions in Central Eurasian studies.