Libmonster ID: BY-390
Author(s) of the publication: SERGEI BAZANOV

by Sergei BAZANOV, Dr. Sc. (History), Institute of Russian History, RAS

Last summer (2007) the Exhibition Hall of the Federal Archives (Bolshaya Pirogovskaya str., Moscow) featured a historical-documentary exhibition on the 450th anniversary of Bashkiria's (Bashkortostan's) free association with Russia ("Forever with Russia"). This exposition was sponsored by the Russian State Archives of Ancient Acts with the participation of other federal and republican archives, the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts and the State Historical Museum (both in Moscow) as well as Bashkir national museums, and the Manuscript Department of the Institute of History, Language and Literature of the Ufa Scientific Center (Russian Academy of Sciences).

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The first written records about the Bashkirs date back to the 9th and 10th centuries A. D. (in particular, by Ahmed ibn Fadlan, an Arab traveler and writer). This people took body and form within a territory that included the Southern and part of the Middle Urals, and the districts of the Kama, Volga, Tobol and Yaik (the old name of the river Ural). Involved in the Bashkirian ethnogenesis were both aboriginal peoples (Finno-Ugric and Iranian-Sarmatian tribes) and the immigrants who moved thither in the course of the first millennium A. D. - the Turkis, Pechenegs and the Volga-Kama Bulgars. These were followed by Polovtsians (11th and 12th cent.), and Tartar-Mongolians (13th and 14th cent.).

In 1236, in spite of the stubborn resistance offered by the local population, this land was conquered by Batu Khan and incorporated within the Golden Horde. Its breakup in the latter half of the 15th century gave rise to several khanates: one part of Bashkiria found itself within the Kazan khanate, another - in the Siberian khanate, and a third one - within the Nogai Horde. The indigenous people fought tooth and nail against their enslavers, and in their struggle they sought to enlist support from the Russian state (Muscovy) and associate with it. Meanwhile the Moscow Czar Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible), in pursuit of his active policies east of Moscow, crushed the Kazan khanate in 1552, a victory that impressed the Bashkirs as a token of Muscovy's might. The Russian czar dispatched writs to all uluses (tribal associations) in which he urged the local people "to have no fear and come to their sovereign..." Next, he sent ambassadors who promised the local people peace and quiet, to honor their faith and customs, and to exact low yasaks (taxes in kind).

It was the people's free, voluntary association with Russia. This fact is confirmed by the Nikonian chronicle of the 16th century: "The Bashkirs came humbly and paid the yasak." Its manuscript copy of the 17th century opened the Moscow exposition on the road traversed by the Bashkir people in these past four centuries and a half. Bashkir spokesmen pledged loyalty time and again: that their "grandfathers and fathers bowed their heads without strife and war, of their free will", as said the popular petition to Czar Peter the Great (reigned in 1682 to 1725) and in other appeals to Russian czars. These documents were also on display.

However, the territorial and political disunity of local tribes prevented them from joining Russia at once. From 1554 on their envoys trekked to the czar's governor in Kazan and handed pleas for association, which were satisfied only years later. Finally local tribes received letters from the Moscow government granting them Russian citizenship on certain conditions. However, the tribes east of the Urals could become Russian subjects only in the 1580s and 1590s, after the czar's troops defeated the Siberian khanate. Moscow provided guarantees to Bashkirs: protection against foreign enemies, patrimonial land-owning rights, noninterference in tribal affairs and prohibition of coercive conversion to Christianity. The transural Bashkir

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tribes, in their turn, pledged to serve in the Russian army and pay the yasak - this provision is recorded in the shezhere (treaties) concluded with the Burzian, Kypsak, Usergan and other tribes, and exhibited at the exposition. This put an end to the domination of Kazan and Siberian khans, and Nogai murzas (tribal chiefs), to bloody internecine strife, and stimulated the growth of population numbers and the ethnic consolidation of the authochons. The Bashkirian nationality's formative process that had been on for many centuries was complete by the end of the 16th century. In the meantime Russian peasants and craftsmen moved to Bashkiria from other parts of the country, a process that speeded up the transition of the indigenous people, seminomadic herdsmen for the most part, to a settled mode of life. The intensive economic development of this land began at the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries under Peter I. That time saw a mass influx of Russian settlers from central provinces and the Mid-Volga area. This trend received another incentive with the abolition of serfdom in 1861, particularly, due to the policies pursued by the central government and wholesale immigration. The newcomers brought in advanced land cultivation techniques and experience in commodity-money relations. There was a rapid growth in cultivated acreage so that by the end of the 19th century Bashkiria had become one of Russia's major granaries.

In 1798 a canton system of government was inaugurated in the land whereby native Bashkirs, Mishari (or Meshcheriaki, a group of ethnic Tatars) as well as Orenburg and Ural Cossacks were subject to military service. They took an active part in many campaigns of the Russian army - in the militia captained by Kozma Minin and Prince Dmitry Pozharsky against the Polish invaders in 1612*; in the Azov campaigns of Peter the Great (1695 - 1696); in the Seven-Year War against Prussia (1756 - 1763); and in hostilities against Sweden (1788 - 1790). The Patriotic War of 1812 against Napoleon rallied all peoples of Russia in the struggle for independence of their Motherland. The natives of Bashkiria likewise joined the patriotic war effort and raised 28 regiments that fought their way to Paris, the French capital. The Moscow exhibition featured memorabilia on the gallant record of the Bashkir-Meshcheriak host, including the banner of one of the regiments and a medal "On the Taking of Paris".

* See a related article "All of Us Should Be in Chime and Union .. carried in the present issue of our magazine. - Ed.

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A separate stand is dedicated to Salavat Yulayev, Bashkiria's national hero and close associate of Yemelyan Pugachev, who captained the Peasant War of 1773 - 1775; put on display were Salavat's saber and a letter urging rebel detachments to make common cause with Pugachev. Side by side with that guests could see investigative evidence on the case of Pugachev and his comrades-in-arms.

The first metal-smelting plants appeared in Bashkiria in the early 18th century, as seen in the documents and drawings of copper and iron mines, copper-smelting mills and specimens of decorative cast iron, all that supplemented with engravings. As of the 1860s private capital started flowing in, and by the close of the 19th century a large complex often metallurgical enterprises was at work with thousands of hands. The eastern, transural part of Bashkiria evolved as a major gold-mining region. Lumber and timber industries, too, were playing an important role. Local industries made particularly good headway in the 1930s with the construction of new metallurgical and other enterprises, and reconstruction of older ones. Simultaneously, the Ishimbai and Tuimazin oil-fields were tapped. Documents on the economy of the Bashkir republic were provided by the Russian State Archives of Economics.

Owing to the influx of people from other parts of this country Bashkiria (Bashkortostan) turned into a multiethnic state, with each nationality preserving its ways and customs. This could be seen in the exhibition of household articles like leathern wine- and waterskins for koumiss (fermented mare's milk, a beverage readily consumed by the natives), male and female costumes, copies of 19th-century pictures and prints, and photographs of the early 20th century with sights of the Bashkirian countryside.

The Bashkir republic made a great contribution to the war effort against the nazi invaders during the Great Patriotic War of 1941 -1945 by sending 700,000 servicemen to the battlefronts, including two mounted cavalry divisions (the banner of one of them was displayed at the Moscow exhibition). The Bashkirian industries were geared to the all-out war effort, too, and produced air-bombs, shells, communications outfit and high-octane grades of gasoline. Many enterprises moved from the enemy-threatened western regions of this country resumed their regular work in Bashkiria shortly. With war's end the

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engineering and metal-working industries were developing apace. The oil-processing and chemical industries, the key branches of the local economy, have turned into high-tech complexes, and hold pride of place in Bashkiria, one of the most dynamic members of the Russian Federation.

A separate section of the exposition deals with public education. The first Russian-language schools were set up in Bashkortostan at the end of the 18th century. In 1828 a male grammer school (classical gymnasium) was set up in Ufa, the capital city (founded in 1574 as a fort); three decades later, in 1860, a similar school was opened for young girls. There were also a seminary for Orthodox Christians, Moslem madrasahs, and mectebs and a military academy. An interesting document was sent by the Central State Historical Archives of Bashkortostan - a letter written by Nikolai Lobachevsky (1792 - 1856), an outstanding mathematician and author of non-Euclidian (Lobachevsky) geometry, rector of Kazan University, on the enrollment in the university of children of Bashkir and Meshcherian army officers by virtue of their good academic record in the grammar school.

The land's cultural life has many big names to its credit. Ufa is the home town of Sergei Aksakov, a brilliant Russian writer and scholar elected to the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences as corresponding member. In his novels A Family Chronicle (1856) and Childhood Years of Bagrov the Grandson (1858) he drew superb, vivid pictures of Bashkiria's nature. Bashkortostan's National Museum and Central Historical Archives prepared a collection of documents and items about this magician of the word and his family.

The world-famous painter Mikhail Nesterov (1862 - 1942), whose canvases are among the gems of the Tretyakov Art Gallery in Moscow and the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg, drew inspiration from the scenic beauty of the land, and he pictured its rich palette in his paintings. Another eminent name, the composer and stage producer Alexei Verstovsky grew up in Ufa, too. He is the author of popular Russian romances and the opera Askold's Grave (1835), where the Russian basso Fyodor Chalyapin had his debut at the Ufa theater in 1890 - 1891 in the Unknown Person's part.

The archives of the Ufa Scientific Center (RAS) sent in manuscripted works on history, language, literature and folklore by Mukhamedsalim Umitbayev (1841 - 1907), a talented poet and enlightener, Bashkiria's first local history student. He translated into his native tongue several works of Leo Tolstoy and Alexander Pushkin, including Pushkin's poem The Bakhchisarai Fountain. In its turn, the State Book Chamber brought in present-day editions of works by Bashkir poets and prose writers.

To conclude, we must say that Bashkiria (Bashkortostan) became the first autonomy within the Russian Federation. This status was sealed on March 20, 1919, in two-way agreements signed by the Russian and Bashkir governments, which laid a groundwork for the federative structure of this country. Today Bashkiria has a population of more than four million, a close-knit family of 110 nationalities and ethnic groups. It offers a good example of interethnic and interconfessional relationships.


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