Expedition Overviews

Uyghur people from Eastern Turkestan, Pencil on Paper, 1859.
Kashgari Woman, Pencil, 1859.

Second Expedition, 1858-1859

Following the completion of his expedition to Issyk-kul and Kulja and his return to Omsk, Valkihanov was ordered to report directly to St. Petersburg. He arrived there in 1857 and submitted formal reports to the Tsarist government. Realizing the potential of an officer with innate insight into the geography, customs and languages of the region, the famous explorer P. P. Semonov recommended Valikhanov receive full membership to the Imperial Russian Geographical Society. At the same time, the Governor-General of Western Siberia, G. Kh. Gasfort, suggested to the Ministry of War and Foreign Affairs that Valikhanov immediately lead another expedition to the remote and fabled Silk Road oasis of Kashgar in Chinese Central Asia, where the Uyghurs had recently begun a series of violent revolts against their Manchu yoke.

On June 28, 1858, Valikhanov began the expedition that would lead him to instant fame throughout Europe and into the pages of history. Serving as a decoy to the geo-political intentions of the mission, Valikhanov embarked with a caravan of 43 men, 101 camels and 65 horses. Following his successful passage through the Chinese border without suspicion, the caravan arrived in Kashgar in early October of 1858. Over the course of a half-year, Valikhanov took meticulous notes regarding major towns, including maps, the goods in the bazaars, the languages spoken and the customs practiced.

Forced to leave under increased rumors of espionage, Valikhanov and his caravan left Kashgar and arrived unharmed at Fort Vornoe (present-day Almaty) on April 12, 1859. In 1861, Valikhanov formally published “Sketches of Dzhungaria” and “The Condition of Altyshar, or The Six Eastern Cities of the Chinese Province of Nan-lu (Little Bukhara)” in 1858-1859. These were translated into English by the time of this great explorer’s untimely death less than four years later.