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For other uses, see Bashkir (disambiguation).
Total population
approx. 2 million[1]
Regions with significant populations
 Russia: 1,584,554[2]
 Kazakhstan 17,263[3]
Bashkir, Russian[4]
Sunni Islam[5][6]
Related ethnic groups
Volga Tatars, Kazakhs

The Bashkirs (Bashkir: башҡорттар, başqorttar باشقۇرتتار; Russian: башкиры, baškiry) are a Turkic people indigenous to Bashkortostan, extending on both sides of the Ural Mountains, in the area where Eastern Europe meets North Asia. Groups of Bashkirs also live in the Republic of Tatarstan, Perm Krai, Chelyabinsk, Orenburg, Tyumen, Sverdlovsk, Kurgan, Samara and Saratov Oblasts of Russia, as well as in Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and other countries.

Most Bashkirs speak the Bashkir language, which belongs to the Kypchak branch of the Turkic languages and share cultural affinities with the broader Turkic peoples. In religion the Bashkirs are mainly Sunni Muslims of the Hanafi madhhab.

Bashkirs, c. 1813
Bashkirs in Paris during the Napoleonic Wars, 1814


On the most popular and early hypothesis widespread in the Bashkir legends and according to the theory of 18th-century ethnographers V. N. Tatishchev, P. I. Richkov, and Johann Gottlieb Georgi, the word Bashqort means "main wolf, wolf leader" (bash — "main, leader",qort — "wolf").

Also there are several theories regarding the etymology of the name "Bashqort".

  • In 1847, historian V. S. Yumatov suggested the meaning as "beekeeper, beemaster".
  • In 1885, another Russian historian and ethnologist, A. E. Alektorov, suggested that Bashqort means "distinct nation".
  • Ethnologist N. V. Bikbulatov's theory states that the term originates from the name of legendary Khazar warlord Bashgird, who was dwelling with two thousand of his warriors in the area of the Jayıq river.
  • Ethnologist R. G. Kuzeev defines the ethnonym as "bash" — "main, head" and "qort" — " clan, tribe".
  • According to Douglas Morton Dunlop the ethnonym Bashqort comes from "beshgur, bashgur" which means "five tribes". Since "SH" in the modern language complies with "L" in Bulgar, the ethnonyms "Bashqort(bashgur)" and "Bulgar" are equivalent.
  • The anthropologist and the ethnologist R. M. Yusupov considered that the ethnonym Bashqort, interpreted in most cases as "the main wolf" on a Turkic basis, in earlier time had an Iranian basis in shape Bachagurg, where a bacha — "the descendant, the child", and gurg — "wolf". Other option of etymology of an ethnonym bashqort according to R. M. Yusupov is connected also with the Iranian phrase Bachagurd, and is translated as "the descendant, the child of heroes". In this case the bacha is translated just as "the child, the descendant", and gurd — "the hero". After an era of Huns the ethnonym could change to a current state as follows: BachagurdBachgurdBachgordBashqordBashqort.


Middle ages[edit]

Mausoleum of Turahan of the 14th century in Bashkortostan

The first information about Bashkirs found in the Chinese chronicles of the Sui dynasty. So, 45 tribes called by originators Tiele people are listed in The "Book of Sui" (636 AD) in "A Narration about a Tiele people" and among them is mentioned Bashkirs.

Back to the IX century the first written information about Bashkirs from Arab and Persian authors. Sallam al-Tardzhuman (IX c.), Ahmad ibn Fadlan (X cent.), Al-Masudi (X c.), Abu Zayd al-Balkhi (X c.), Said Al-Andalusi (XII century.), Muhammad al-Idrisi (XII c.), Ibn Sa'id al-Maghribi (XIII c.), Yaqut al-Hamawi(XIII c.), Qazvini (XIII c.), Al-Dimashqi (XIV c.), Abu'l-Fida (XIV c.) and others wrote about Bashkirs.

The first message of the Arab written sources on Bashkirs belongs to the traveler Sallam an at-Tardzhuman. About 840 he visited the country the Bashkir and specified its approximate borders. Abu Zayd al-Balkhi (10th century) described Bashkirs as a people divided into two groups, one inhabiting the Southern Urals, the second group living on the Danube plain near the boundaries of Byzantium. Ibn Rustah, a contemporary of Abu Zayd al-Balkhi, observed that Bashkirs were an independent people occupying territories on both sides of the Ural mountains ridge between Volga, Kama, and Tobol Rivers and upstream of the Yaik river.

The first ethnographic description the Bashkir is provided at Ahmad ibn Fadlan — the ambassador of the Baghdad Caliph Al-Muqtadir to the governor of Volga Bulgaria. He visited among the Bashkirs in 922. The Bashkirs, according to Ibn Fadlan, were a warlike and powerful, which he and his companions (a total of five thousand people, including military protection) "beware... with the greatest threat". They were engaged in cattle breeding. Bashkirs worshipped twelve gods: winter, summer, rain, wind, trees, people, horses, water, night, day, death, heaven and earth, the major among which was the God of heaven, all together and was with the others in harmony and each one of them approves of what makes him a companion". Apparently, among the Bashkirs begins to spread Islam. As part of the Embassy was one of the Bashkirs of the Muslim religion. According to the testimony of Ibn Fadlan, the Bashkirs are a Turkic, live on the southern slopes of the Urals and occupy a vast territory to the Volga, their neighbours in the South-East were the Pechenegs, in the West — Bulgars, in the South — Oghuz Turks.

The first European sources to mention the Bashkirs are the works of Joannes de Plano Carpini and William of Rubruquis (13th century).

By 1236, lands of Bashkortostan were incorporated into the empire of Genghis Khan. During the 13th and 14th centuries, all of Bashkortostan was part of the Golden Horde. The brother of Batu-Khan, Sheibani, received the Bashkir lands to the east of the Ural Mountains.

Bashkir people

After the breakup of the Mongol Empire, the Bashkirs were separated between Nogai Horde, Khanate of Kazan and Khanate of Sibir, founded in the 15th century.

Early modern period[edit]

In the middle of the 16th century, Bashkirs joined to the Tsardom of Russia. Previously they formed parts of the Nogayskaya, Kazan, Sibir, and partly, Astrakhan khanates. Charters of Ivan the Terrible to Bashkir tribes became the basis of their contractual relationship with the tsar’s government. Primary documents pertaining to the Bashkirs during this period have been lost, some are mentioned in the shezhere (family trees) of the Bashkir.

In the late 16th and early 19th centuries Bashkirs occupied the territory from the left bank of the Volga on the south-west to the riverheads of Tobol in the east, from the river Sylva in the north, to the middle stream of the Yaik in the south, in the Middle and Southern Urals, in Cis-Urals, including Volga territory and Trans-Urals.

Bashkir rebellions[edit]

The Bashkirs, wearing a medallion that identifies him as the village chief. Photo by G. Fisher, Orenburg, 1892

The Bashkirs rebelled in 1662–64 and 1675–83 and 1705–11. In 1676, the Bashkirs rebelled under a leader named Seyid Sadir or 'Seit Sadurov', and the Russian army had great difficulties in ending the rebellion. The Bashkirs rose again in 1707, under Aldar and Kûsyom, on account of ill-treatment by the Russian officials.

The third insurrection occurred in 1735, at the time of the foundation of Orenburg, and it lasted for six years. From at least the time of Peter the Great there had been talk of pushing southeast toward Persia and India. Ivan Kirillov drew up a plan to build a fort to be called Orenburg at Orsk at the confluence of the Or River and the Ural River southeast of the Urals where the Bashkir, Kalmyk and Kazakh lands join. Work was started at Orsk in 1735, but by 1743 'Orenburg' was moved about 250 km west to its present location. The next planned step was to build a fort on the Aral Sea. This would involve crossing the Bashkir country and then the lands of the Kazakh Lesser Horde, some of whom had recently offered a nominal submission.

Kirillov's plan was approved on May 1, 1734 and he was placed in command. He was warned that this would provoke a Bashkir rebellion, but the warnings were ignored. He left Ufa with 2,500 men in 1735 and fighting started on the first of July. The war consisted of many small raids and complex troop movements, so it cannot be easily summarized. For example: In the spring of 1736 Kirillov burned 200 villages, killed 700 in battle and executed 158. An expedition of 773 men left Orenburg in November and lost 500 from cold and hunger. During, at Seiantusa the Bashkir planned to massacre sleeping Russian. The ambush failed. One thousand villagers, including women and children, were put to the sword and another 500 driven into a storehouse and burned to death. Raiding parties then went out and burned about 50 villages and killed another 2,000. Eight thousand Bashkirs attacked a Russian camp and killed 158, losing 40 killed and three prisoners who were promptly hanged. Rebellious Bashkirs raided loyal Bashkirs. Leaders who submitted were sometimes fined one horse per household and sometimes hanged.

Bashkirs fought on both sides (40% of 'Russian' troops in 1740). Numerous leaders rose and fell. The oddest was Karasakal or Blackbeard who pretended to have 82,000 men on the Aral Sea and had his followers proclaim him 'Khan of Bashkiria'. His nose had been partly cut off and he had only one ear. Such mutilations are standard Imperial punishments. The Kazakhs of the Little Horde intervened on the Russian side, then switched to the Bashkirs and then withdrew. Kirillov died of disease during the war and there were several changes of commander. All this was at the time of Empress Anna of Russia and the Russo-Turkish War (1735–1739).

Bashkir officers in the Imperial Russian Army, 1838–1845

Although the history of the 1735 Bashkir War cannot be easily summarized, its results can be.

  • The Russian Imperial goal of expansion into Central Asia was delayed to deal with the Bashkir problem.
  • Bashkiria was pacified in 1735–1740.
  • Orenburg was established.
  • The southern side of Bashkiria was fenced off by the Orenburg Line of forts. It ran from Samara on the Volga east up the Samara River to its headwaters, crossed to the middle Ural River and followed it east and then north on the east side of the Urals and went east down the Uy River to Ust-Uisk on the Tobol River where it connected to the ill-defined 'Siberian Line' along the forest-steppe boundary.
  • In 1740 a report was made of Bashkir losses which gave: Killed: 16,893, Sent to Baltic regiments and fleet: 3,236, Women and children distributed (presumably as serfs): 8,382, Grand Total: 28,511. Fines: Horses: 12,283, Cattle and Sheep: 6,076, Money: 9,828 rubles. Villages destroyed: 696. As this was compiled from army reports it excludes losses from irregular raiding, hunger, disease and cold. All this was from an estimated Bashkir population of 100,000.

Later, in 1774, the Bashkirs, under the leadership of Salavat Yulayev, supported Pugachev's Rebellion. In 1786, the Bashkirs achieved tax-free status; and in 1798 Russia formed an irregular Bashkir army from among them. Residual land ownership disputes continued.

Bashkir national movement of the early XX century[edit]

The Members Of The Bashkir Government, 1920

After the 1917 revolution are All-Bashkir Qoroltays (conventions) on which a decision on the need to create a national federal republic within Russia. As a result, 15 November 1917 Bashkir Regional (central) Shuro (Council) proclaims the establishment in areas with predominantly Bashkir population of Orenburg, Perm, Samara, Ufa provinces territorial and national autonomy Bashkurdistan.

In December 1917, delegates to the All-Bashkir (constituent) Congress, representing the interests of the population edge of all nationalities, voted unanimously for the resolution (Farman #2) of the Bashkir regional Shuro the proclamation of national-territorial autonomy (of the republic) Bashkurdistan. The congress was formed the government of Bashkurdistan, the Pre-parliament - Kese-Qoroltay and other bodies of power and administration, and decisions were made on how to proceed.

In March 1919, based on the agreements of the Russian Government with the Bashkir Government was formed Bashkir Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic.

The establishment of the Republic of Bashkortostan[edit]

Bashkirs in traditional clothing, Ufa, 2016
Monuments to Bashkir soldiers in Leipzig

October 11, 1990 the Supreme Council of the Republic was proclaimed the Declaration of State Sovereignty. March 31, 1992 Bashkortostan signed a federal agreement on the delimitation of powers and areas of jurisdiction between the authorities of the Russian Federation and the authorities of the sovereign republics in its composition and its Annex of the Republic of Bashkortostan, which determined the nature of the contractual relations between the Republic of Bashkortostan and the Russian Federation.


There are three basic hypotheses about the origin of the Bashkir people: Turkic, Finno-Ugric and Iranian. The most comprehensive and generally accepted is Turkic theory of the origin of the Bashkirs. The Finno-Ugric theory is considered obsolete. Iranian theory was not sufficiently developed.


Anthropological structure of the Bashkir heterogeneous, is a mixture of Caucasoid and Mongoloid features. Bashkirs are four basic anthropological type: Suburalian, Pontic, light Caucasoid, South Siberian.


Regarding Y-DNA haplogroups, genetic studies have revealed that most Bashkir males belong to haplogroup R1b (R-M269 and R-M73) which is, on average, found at the frequency of 47,6 %. This is a haplogroup heavily associated with Western Europe. Following are the haplogroup R1a at the average frequency of 26.5%, and haplogroup N1c at 17%. In lower frequencies were also found haplogroups J2, C, O, E1b, G2a, L, N1b, I, T.[7]

Most mtDNA haplogroups found in Bashkirs (65%) consist of the haplogroups G, D, С, Z and F; which are lineages characteristic of East Eurasian populations. On the other hand, mtDNA haplogroups characteristic of European and Middle Eastern populations were also found in significant amounts (35%).[8][9]


The area settled by the Bashkirs in the Volga-Urals region according to the national census of 2010.
Further information: Bashkir language and Bashkortostan

The ethnic Bashkir population is estimated at roughly 2 million people (2009 SIL Ethnologue), of which about 1.4 million speak the Bashkir language, a Turkic language of the Kypchak group. The Russian census of 2002 recorded 1.38 million Bashkir speakers in the Russian Federation. Most Bashkirs are bilingual in Bashkir and Russian.

The 2010 Russian census recorded 1,172,287 ethnic Bashkirs in Bashkortostan (29.5% of total population).


Bashkirs. Picture by Mikhail Bukar, 1872

The Bashkirs traditionally practiced agriculture, cattle-rearing and bee-keeping. The half-nomadic Bashkirs wandered either the mountains or the steppes, herding cattle.

Wild-hive beekeeping can be named as a separate component of the most ancient culture which is practiced in the same Burzyansky District near to the Shulgan-Tash cave.

Traditional Bashkir dish bishbarmaq is prepared from boiled meat and halma (the kind of noodles), sprinkled with herbs flavored with onions and some qorot (the kind of cheese). This is another notable feature of the Bashkir cuisine: dishes often served dairy products — rare party without qorot or qaymaq (sour cream). Most of the dishes Bashkir cuisine is nutritious and easy to prepare.

A series of epic works Bashkirs called "Ural-Batyr", "Akbuzat" kept the layers of ancient mythology ingorance and the ancient Turks, and has Parallels with the Epic of Gilgamesh, Rigveda, Avesta.

«Ural-batyr» and «Akbuzat» are Bashkir national epics. Their plot concerns struggle of heroes against demonic forces. The peculiarity of them is that events and ceremonies described there can be addressed to a specific geographical and historical object – the Shulgan-Tash cave and its vicinities.


The mosque in the Bashkir village of Yahya. Photo by S. M. Prokudin-Gorskii, 1910

In the pre-Islamic period the Bashkirs were followers of Tengrianism.[10][11]

Bashkirs began to convert to Islam from in the 9th century.[12] Arab traveler Ibn Fadlan in 921 met some of the Bashkirs, who were Muslims.[13] The final assertion of Islam among the Bashkirs occurred in the 1320s and 1330s (Golden Horde times). On the territory of Bashkortostan preserved the burial place of the first Imam of Historical Bashkortostan — The mausoleum of Hussein-Bek (ru), 14th-century building. In 1788 Catherine the Great established the "Orenburg Mohammedan Spiritual Assembly (ru)" in Ufa, which was the first Muslim administrative center in Russia.

In yearly 1990s began the religious revival among the Bashkirs.[14] According to Talgat Tadzhuddin there are more than 1,000 mosques in Bashkortostan in 2010.[15]

The Bashkirs are predominantly Sunni Muslims of the Hanafi madhhab.[5]

According to a survey about 50% of Bashkirs are Muslim, 25% are unaffiliated, 11% are atheist, and 2% are pagan. There are also about less than 1% Protestant and Catholic Bashkirs.[16][17]

Notable Bashkirs[edit]

Murtaza Rakhimov (right), first President of Bashkortostan


  1. ^ Lewis, M. Paul (ed.) (2009). "Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Sixteenth edition.". Dallas, Tex.: SIL International. 
  2. ^ "ВПН-2010". Retrieved 2015-03-16. 
  3. ^ [1] Archived September 14, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ "8. НАСЕЛЕНИЕ НАИБОЛЕЕ МНОГОЧИСЛЕННЫХ" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-03-16. 
  5. ^ a b "Bashkortostan and Bashkirs",
  6. ^ "Bashkirs", Great Russian Encyclopedia
  7. ^ Лобов А. С. Структура генофонда субпопуляций башкир. Диссертация кандидата биологических наук. — Уфа, 2009.- 131 с.
  8. ^ С. А. Лимборская, Э. К. Хуснутдинова, Е. В. Балановская. Этногеномика и геногеография народов Восточной Европы. Институт молекулярной генетики РАН. Уфимский научный центр. Медико-генетический научный центр РАМН. М. Наука. 2002. С.179-180
  9. ^ Антропология башкир/Бермишева М. А., Иванов В. А., Киньябаева Г. А. и др. СПб., Алетейя, 2011, 496 с., С.339.
  10. ^ Shireen Hunter, Jeffrey L. Thomas, Alexander Melikishvili, "Islam in Russia: The Politics of Identity and Security", M.E. Sharpe Inc.
  11. ^ К вопросу о тенгрианстве башкир // Compatriot, Popular Science Magazine (Russian)
  12. ^ Shirin Akiner, "Islamic Peoples Of The Soviet Un", Second edition, 1986
  13. ^ Allen J. Frank, "Islamic Historiography and "Bulghar" Identity Among the Tatars and Bashkirs", Brill, 1998
  14. ^ Jeffrey E. Cole, "Ethnic Groups of Europe: An Encyclopedia", Greenwood publishing group
  15. ^ Интерфакс. Говорить о притеснении ислама в России кощунственно, считает Талгат Таджуддин // Interfax, 17.12.2010
  16. ^ "Главная страница проекта "Арена" : Некоммерческая Исследовательская Служба "Среда"". Retrieved 16 March 2015. 
  17. ^ "Numerical analysis" (JPG). Retrieved 2015-03-16. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]