History of International Relations Textbook

Research blog

Swedish mission in Xinjiang

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In 1893, the Mission Covenant Church of Sweden — one of the “free” churches, not affiliated with the Swedish state church — started a mission project in Xinjiang, or what at the time was known as “East Turkestan.” The aim was to convert the Uygurs to Christianity by providing them with hospitals and schools and by printing pamphlets in the Uygur language. It was an uphill struggle for the Swedes and they made few converts. The political strife of the 1930s put insurmountable obstacles in their way and in 1938 the mission was abandoned.  What does remain, however — and this is remarkable — is a large archive of movies that the missionaries shot in Xinjiang.

At the Internet Archive there is also a large collection of audio interviews with the missionaries themselves, recorded in the 1960s. Someone Swedish-speaking should go through this material and write it up in an internationally accessible language. It would make a great MA thesis. (I’d do it myself if I wasn’t so busy writing these pages …)

One of the interviewees is Gunnar Jarring, one of Sweden’s foremost diplomats in the post-WW2 era and an expert on Turkish languages. He too visited East Turkmenistan in the 1930s.

Btw, Jarring donated his material on East Turkmenistan to Lund University! “It’s an extremely rich collection, possibly the biggest in the world,” says their web page. All that good stuff is just down the road from where I live! (and yet not as easily available as online …)


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