Bashkir People of Bashkortostan

  • September 01, 2020      Friendly Borders Staff

Moscow – The Bashkir people live in Bashkortostan, a Central Asian constituent republic of Russia. They are known to be Turkic people who settled in the eastern part of Russia, where their territories lie from the Middle Volga to the Ural Mountains and beyond.

There has been a long-standing debate about the Bashkir ethnic group’s origin. Understanding those different perspectives is an excellent start to learning more about their people. We may know more about the Bashkir people’s languages and connect them to various civilizations and even ethnographic relations.

Bashkir Language

The majority of the Bashkirs speak a language that originated from the Kipchak language, a northwestern Turkic branch of the Altaic family. With this knowledge, studies of the language may help us get a glimpse of Central Asian and Eastern European culture. This similarity also helps in ending the long-standing debate about the Bashkir people’s origin.

The Bashkir language of the communities has two major dialects: Yurmatin, spoken in the southern territories, and Kuvakan, used in the northern regions. The alphabet is made up of Cyrillic letters. Continuous study of the language has revealed that Bashkir is a close relative of the Tatar language.

In addition, the speakers of the Bashkir language are not only limited to those people who settled in Bashkortostan. Many people who live in Orenburg, Udmurtia, Perm Krai, and other close regions also use this language to communicate. However, many members of the Bashkir ethnic group also speak Russian as their second language and even as their first language. It seems that the traditional Bashkir language is somehow considered as the medium of the older generations instead.

Origin Debate

The term Bashkir is recorded in the early Arab writings of Ibn Fadlan during the 10th century, while in European accounts, the Bashkirs were first mentioned in the works of Joannes de Plano Carpini and William of Rubruquis. Scholars of the past and those trying to continue studying the Bashkir ethnic heritage have different ideas about how the group came to be. Debates continue to arise in discussions among ethnographers and demographers.

In earlier studies, many believed (and still do) that the Bashkirs are of Finno–Ugric origin. Others argue that the Bashkir descended from Turkic Bulgars. From a linguistics point of view, however, the similarities of the Bashkir language to that of Tatars support the origin theory connecting the Bashkirs to the Turkic tribes.

Notwithstanding the debate regarding possible ethnographic relationships and origins, historical records show that the Bashkir people settled in their present land between the 13th and 15th centuries under the Mongol khanate of Kipchak. During this period, the group members were nomadic pastoralists who live with a stock of sheep, cattle, goats, and horses. However, in the 19th century, the Bashkirs truly settled under Russian rule and let go of their nomadic lifestyle. At this time, the Russian government established its power by forming a governorate with Ufa as the capital. This state paved the way for the eventual formation of the present Republic of Bashkortostan.

Modern Culture

As people settled in their lands, the communities played a significant role in the Bashkir people’s lives. Here, they established their identity and passed on generations of knowledge and practices to their communities’ new members. One such tradition is their culinary delicacies, which include various dishes made from the things that they produce, such as grain, milk, and meat.

Even as various political and social changes happened throughout the centuries, the Bashkir people have practiced their traditions and have created ways to continue building a community grounded in their ethnic history. The people used to have patrilineal clans and tribes. Those may still be remembered today but have no great significance in people’s relationships. At present, it may be a hopeful practice for researchers, ethnographers, and linguists to continue learning more about the ethnic group. It may also lead to a deeper understanding by the younger Bashkirs of their ethnic culture and history.

Image from turn_turkmen,

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