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History of Independence and Occupation
Sergius L. Kuzmin
Edited by Andrey Terentyev
Translated from Russian by Dmitry Bennett
Originally published as: Hidden Tibet. History of Independence
and Occupation. Sergius L. Kuzmin. 2010. St. Petersburg:
Copyright (c) 2011: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a
retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic,
mechanical, photo-copying, recording or otherwise, without the prior per-
mission of the publisher.
Published by the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, Dharamsala, H.P.
176215, and printed at Indraprastha Press (CBT), Nehru House, New Del-
Chapter 1. Geography and Origin of the Tibetans
Chapter 2. Antiquity and the Middle Ages
Chapter 3. Epoch of the Qing Empire
Chapter 4. Last Years of Independence
Chapter 5. Religion and Culture
Chapter 6. State, Society and Economy
Chapter 7. "Peaceful Liberation" and Its Consequences
Chapter 8. From the People's Uprising to the Cultural Revolution
Chapter 9. The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Results of the Mao Period
Chapter 10. Reconstruction and Modernization
The Tibetan People's Struggle, the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Refugees
Autonomy and Demography
Language, Education and Culture
Condition of the Natural Environment
Living Standards and Health Care
Chapter 11. Tibet, an Inseparable Part of China?
Statehood in International Law and in the Chinese Tradition
On China and the "Chinese Dynasties"
Solution to the "Ethnic Problem" in China
The Status of Tibet: a Historical Retrospective
Chapter 12. Decline of the Tibetan-Mongolian Civilization?
Tibet is one of the most esoteric places on our planet. People from different
civilizations have a hard time understanding its history, religions and customs.
Some aspects of the history of Tibet are unknown to many - partly because of the
country's isolation that lasted for many centuries, and partly due to specifics of
its political system and international relations. Propaganda became another such
obstacle during the more recent decades. If Tibet was always an inherent part of
China, then why is it not the same as China? What should we make of Tibetans'
regular declarations: is it separatism or a national liberation movement?
Following the October Revolution, the Soviet Union and Russia has gone
through several stages in ways of covering the last half century of events in Tibet.
The initial response was unconditional praise mounted on everything done there
by the Communist Party of China (CPC) and explanation of all actions of its
opponents as the machinations of imperialists.1 Then, following the decline of
Soviet-Chinese relations during the Khrushchev era, criticism came into vogue.
Attention was directed at Maoists "perverting Marxism". However, some works
became a source of valuable historical information.2
Once the relationships between the USSR and PRC normalised again, a
pluralism of views was established. Different perspectives started to coexist in Russia,
ranging from worshiping Mao Zedong and/or the Chinese reforms to rejecting the
latter altogether from the human rights perspective. Even during the most recent
times, these trends continue to gather momentum with more impartial takes on the
situation becoming progressively rarer. Publications from the "stagnation" period
also became scarce. This coincided with PRC's decision to step up the propaganda
regarding Tibet, especially abroad.3 Specifically selected Tibetans and Tibetologists
from PRC were sent out on organised tours, foreign journalists were invited into
1 E.g. Gurevich, 1958.
2 E.g. Bogoslovsky et al., 1975; Bogoslovsky, 1978.
3 Modern Politics of China in Tibet, 2000.
vi Hidden Tibet: History of Independence & Occupation
Tibet, exhibitions and publications were organised, internet sites were created, etc.
Documents that were meant to support the position of the Chinese authorities
started to be published. At the same time documents that have the opposite effect
continued to be suppressed. The activity of foreign leftist propagandists has also
Chinese authorities as well as Tibetan emigrants have been producing a lot of
materials in foreign languages (e.g. in English and Russian) for the past 50 years. It
is clear that this way they voice those arguments that they themselves consider to be
the strongest. It should be noted that information that comes from both sides may
be verified in a very few cases. Accurate verification would only be possible with the
help of independent expertise commissions, which at present are not allowed by the
As far as the history of Tibet is concerned, it has been portrayed on many
occasions, and there are a number of good overviews which analyze publications,
documents and research on the topic in great detail. The key writings are listed at the
end of this book. There is no sense in repeating these works. It is more interesting
to synthesise and juxtapose that information to answer the questions that seem
banal: What is Tibet? Was it independent or part of other countries? Where are the
foundations of the modern Chinese stance on the Tibetan issue? To what extent
is the inclusion of Tibet into the PRC beyond controversy, and what did Chinese
reforms bring to Tibetan people? What do Tibetans themselves think on this issue?
This book strives to answer these questions by comparing different and sometimes
opposing points of view. Historical facts are given in chapters 1-10, and their
analysis in context of international relations at different periods in Chapter 11.
The aim of this book is not to conduct a detailed analysis of sources that used
Chinese and Tibetan languages, but rather to provide a synthesis of research in
different fields at this current point in time. Therefore, for the most part, overview
publications were utilised in the creation of this book. These publications contain
links to a multitude of sources that were listed and analysed in great detail. At the
same time, this book contains little known and previously unpublished information.
The text also contains footnotes to sources that are listed at the end of the book.
For internet sites, references state the dates of their last checking. If a paragraph
contains several phrases belonging to the same source, the footnote is given after
the first but not last phrase. Quotations are included in commas, omissions within
paragraphs by omission points, omissions of one or several phrases or paragraphs by
one sign <...> irrespective of how many phrases or paragraphs were omitted.
All work has been done without outside financial support and under the personal
initiative of the author. The author would like to sincerely thank everybody who
4 E.g. Parenti, M. Firendly feudalism; Ely, M. The true story...
has helped him in this project by submitting photographs, messages that came to
be included in the book, giving consultations, participating in discussions for this
book: Archives of the Russian Geographical Society, Jose Ignacio Cabezon, Alex
Catanese, Deutsche Bundesarchiv, DIIR Archive of Central Tibetan Administration,
L. Chandra, Don Croner, Sonam N. Dagpo, Sergey V. Dmitriev, Irina R. Garri,
A.J. Goryainov, Palden Gyatso, Institute of Oriental Studies of Russian Academy
of Sciences, Tsering Dolma Khangsertsang, Ray Kreisel, Losell Doll Museum at
Norbulingka, Norbulingka Institute Archive, Norzin Dolma, Ngawang Riglam,
Nawang Rabgyal Norpa, Tenpa Soepa, Ngawang Tukje, A.I. Roshchin, Charlotte &
Jerome Ryan, Savetibet Foundation, Tatiana L. Shaumian, Tashi, Tsering Norzom,
Urgen Tenzin (TCHRD), Thuptan Samphel, TibetInfoNet, Tempa Tsering, Kelsang
Takla, Andrey Terentyev, Sonam Topgyal, Ngawang Woebar, Tsering Woeser, Alison
Wright, Julia Zhironkina.
I would like to acknowledge and thank Dr. Chok Tenzin Monlam, Head of
Research and Translation Department at the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives,
for his meticulous checking of facts, proofreading the English manuscript several
times, and for reading it again for publication; I also thank Ms Fiona Halar for the
many hours she spent initially editing the English version, and Ms Kerry Wright for
the final editing and proofreading. I would like to thank Tsering Namgyal for his
important work with the book layout.
This English translation is based on first Russian edition published in 2010. It
is almost identical to that, but contains some minor changes. First, some passages,
which seem to be interesting almost exclusively for a Russian audience, have been
shortened: discussions on propaganda in the Russian media and widespread views
in Russia in regards to the current situation in Tibet; content of some popular
books with some errors regarding Buddhism and Tibet; analysis of current relations
between Russia and China. Second, some misprints and errors occurring in the
Russian edition were corrected. And third, some English-language sources were
quoted instead of their Russian translations used in the edition of 2010.
Geography and Origin of the Tibetans
The Tibetan Plateau, located in the centre of Asia, is one of the largest and
highest areas in the world. Its area is 2,200,000 square kilometres. Significant
parts of Tibet are at altitudes of 3,000-4,000 meters above sea level while the
height of the mountains reach 5,000-7,000 meters. The peaks of high mountains
are covered with ice and snow. Therefore, Tibet is often called the Land of Snowy
Mountains (Land of Snow). The highest mountain in the world, Jomo Langma
(Everest), the height of which is 8,848 meters, sits on the border of Tibet and
Nepal. Another high mountain, Kanchenjunga (8,598 meters) is situated on the
border of Tibet, Nepal and the Indian state of Sikkim. Many other high mountains
fringe Tibet like a precious necklace: Mount Kailash, Zari, Yarlha Shambo, Chomo
Kenreg, Gangkar Shama, Nyenchen Thangla, Machen (Amnye Machen). A huge
area is covered by glaciers, 105 thousand square kilometres.
The greatest rivers of Asia originate from Tibet, these include: Indus,
Brahmaputra, Mekong, Sutlej, Salween, Yangtze, Huang He. The total area of these
rivers' basins reaches 5,477,700 square kilometres, and 30% of China's fresh water
comes from rivers originating from here.1 Tibet is surrounded by several mountain
ridges: Karakoram from the west, Kunlun and Nanshan from the north, the
Himalayas to the south, the ridges of the Bayan-Khara-ula and the so-called Sichuan
Alps. The plateau is crossed in the latitudinal direction by mountains of Kailash and
Nyenchen Thangla. Approximately two thirds of the Tibetan Plateau is made up
by the highlands of Jangthang, most of which are situated at an altitude of five
thousand meters. This is mainly a rocky desert with a harsh climate. The north-east
of Jangthang is adjacent to the Qinghai highland. Together they form the Qinghai-
Tibet Plateau. Northern Tibet is covered with mountain meadows. It is a place of
good grazing lands, many rivers and lakes. The climate of the region is continental
and harsh. In the south the climate is temperate with greater precipitation. One can
find dense wild forests, cultivated fertile fields and fruit trees there.
Tibetan Plateau, 2009, p.7.