The Bashkirs are an ancient people of Eurasia, formed in the Southern Urals as an independent ethnos in the first half of the I millennium AD. The first written mention of individual tribes that became part of the Bashkir people are found in the writings of Herodotus (V century BC). The territory of the historical lands of the Bashkir people, the so-called “Historical Bashkortostan” includes the lands of today’s Chelyabinsk, Orenburg region, parts of Sverdlovsk, Kurgan, Perm regions and the Republic of Tatarstan.
The number of Bashkirs in the world is 1 million 700 thousand people. 1 million 172 thousand Bashkirs live in the Republic of Bashkortostan. The religion is Sunni Islam (Hanafi Maskhab).
Some of the Bashkir tribes in the middle of the XVI century concluded an agreement with the Moscow state, and became part of it with their lands. Most of the remaining tribes were eventually conquered and forcibly annexed. According to the Agreement, the Bashkirs had to pay a small yasak, protect the southern territories and participate in all the wars of the Moscow state. In response, Bashkirs were assigned their lands, where they were sovereign owners (patrimonial right) and were granted full internal self-government.
However, after only a short time, Moscow violated the Treaty, seizing Bashkir lands and conducting attempts at forced Christianization. The Bashkirs responded with uprisings. Bashkir uprisings shook Russia for more than two hundred years, many of which ended with the victory of the Bashkirs. Bashkirs took an active part in the peasant war of 1773-1775 and fought against the tsarist government.
After the February revolution of 1917, when national consciousness began to awaken among all peoples, the Bashkirs chose their own government, formed their own national army and founded the First Bashkir Republic – Bashkurdistan. For the recognition of the republic, they had to fight both with the reds and with the whites. After the signing of the Agreement between the Bashkir and Soviet governments on the recognition of the Bashkir Republic on March 20, 1919, a year later Lenin violated this Agreement and annulled many of its clauses that were under the jurisdiction of the Bashkir government.
The 90s of the XX century saw a new chapter of a Bashkir national movement for the sovereignty of the republic. The Bashkir intelligentsia and the Bashkir public created the Bashkir People’s Center “Ural”, the Bashkir youth organization “Union of Bashkir Youth”, which became the driving forces in the struggle for the sovereign Bashkortostan. In 1993, a Constitution of the Republic was adopted, which reflected many aspirations of the Bashkir people. In 1994, an Federation Agreement was signed between the Republic of Bashkortostan and the Russian Federation on the delimitation of powers and jurisdiction, according to which Bashkortostan was endowed with many rights as a republic within the RF.
However, with the arrival of Vladimir Putin many of the republic’s rights were taken away by the Kremlin, the Constitution of Bashkortostan was rewritten under pressure from Moscow with many articles and paragraphs stricken.
In response the Bashkirs formed national organizations “Cook Bure” and “Bashkort” which have raised issues of protecting the rights and interests of the Bashkir people, the return of the sovereignty of the Republic and the Constitution of Bashkortostan from 1993. The Russian authorities began repressions against the Bashkir national activists, criminal cases were opened against the leaders of the “Cook Bure” and “Bashkort” and activists were imprisoned. In 2020, the “Bashkort” was banned. One of the founders Ruslan Gabbasov fled from Russia and found political asylum in Lithuania. He then formed the Bashkir National Political Center which coordinates political activities aimed at gaining independence of the Republic of Bashkortostan. The Bashkir National Political Center has joined the League of Free Nations, where representatives of national and regional movements within the RF are striving for their nations’ independence from Russia.
In Bashkortostan there is a massive reduction in the use of the Bashkir language among the population itself as a language of communication. Communication in Bashkir is not accepted in any institution, almost all websites of state, municipal, educational institutions do not allow registration in the Bashkir language. Language has been weaponized and Russification is rampant. In the 2021-2022 academic year, 99.4% of students (504,977 people) studied their native languages, of which 345,509 (68.02%) chose Russian as their native language; Bashkir — 105,035 (20.63%); Tatar — 46,541 (9.2%). Native languages of the national republics of the RF except Russian, ceased to be part of the compulsory school curriculum. In January 2019, the Advisory Committee of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities of the Council of Europe criticized Russia for its national policy. Experts expressed concern about the “growing dominance of the Russian language” while at the same time “the lack of effective support for the languages of national minorities.”
As part Russia’s “divide and impera” pattern, in Bashkortostan, nominal volunteer battalions were formed in the summer by the authorities, demonstrating, in their view, the active complicity of the region in the war between Russia and Ukraine. “Volunteers” were promised large “combat” payments, equipped and escorted to the front. The real losses among the personnel were hidden or underestimated, and cases of refusal of volunteers to participate in battles were hushed up. The combat capability of the battalions were and continue to be very low. The head of the Bashkir National Political Center Ruslan Gabbasov and his associates addressed an open letter to Vladimir Zelensky, in which the Center called on the President of Ukraine to initiate consideration by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine of the draft resolution “On recognition of the Republic of Bashkortostan as an occupied territory.”
“With this step, Ukraine will not only morally support the Bashkir national movement, whose main goal is to gain independence for our Motherland, but will also give us strong trump cards in the fight against the Kremlin and its puppets in Bashkortostan,” Gabbasov explains. “It is important that Ukraine begins to establish contacts with the national liberation movements, which already today demonstrate their desire for liberation and the creation of independent states,” the letter concludes.
It seems to be a morally correct and strategically prudent proposal. The dismantling of the Russian Federation is a political necessity for global peace and security.
December 15, 2022 Askold S. Lozynskyj