History of the Bashkirs

The origins of the Bashkir people remain shrouded in lost history, but the modern Bashkir people show the marks of a very active history.

Knowing about history and cultures helps with my high quality translation work, of course, so it’s got a real benefit. Although I don’t work in the Bashkir language, I’ve taken an interest in the Bashkir people. And they are quite a mystery.

Unknown Origins

Who, exactly, the Bashkir are remains in doubt. Although the easy answer would be Turks, with whom they were originally associated and whose language is a clear forebear of Bashkir. However, the Bashkir people exhibit the features of both Europeans and Mongols. Their exact genetic descent is clouded in mystery.

Part of the problem is that our first clear mention of the Bashkir people doesn’t come until the famous Ibn-Fadlan arrived as part of the Baghdad Caliphate’s embassy in 922 C.E. For many obscure people we have a much earlier timeline when the Romans or other ancient empire encountered them, so this late mention muddies the waters.

Many Influences

From that time, the Bashkir have been influenced by a wide range of other cultures. Beginning in the 10th century, Islam swept the Bashkir people. Although it took several centuries for all the Bashkirs to leave their pagan religions behind (largely based on worshipping weather and other natural phenomenon as the manifestation of gods), the Islamic religion has had an undeniable effect on the culture of the Bashkirs.

In the 13th century the Bashkir people were brought under the rule of The Kipchak Khanate, and later the Mongolian Golden Horde. This was an ideal fit as the Bashkir, like their new rulers, were a nomadic, horse-riding people. However, in the 16th century rule over what is today Bashkortostan transferred to the newly powerful Russian Empire, and a centuries-long effort to crowd out the Bashkir with Russian colonists and make the Bashkir settle down permanently was finally successful in the 19th century when the Bashkir traded in their horses and huts for farms.

In the more modern era, the Bashkir people were under the domination of the Soviets for much of the 20th century. This was a mixed bag for the Bashkirs. On the one hand, many new buildings and services were constructed and introduced by the Communists. On the other hand, the Bashkir culture was deprecated and suppressed, their language and alphabet tinkered with, and they remain dominated by Russians even after attaining nominal independence in 1991.

Still, the Bashkir people remain, and they are the sum total of centuries of different influences – from their own nomadic origins to their Muslim religion to their Russian oppression. And if we never know exactly where they began, we can clearly see where they are.

Image courtesy deviantart.com