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Salawat Yulayev was born in the village of Tekeyevo, in Shaytan-Kudeevsky volost of Ufa province of Orenburg Governorate (now Salavatsky District) of Bashkortostan. Tekeyevo no longer exists, as it was burned in 1775.
Salawat Yulayev was at the head of all revolted Bashkortostan from the very beginning of the country war of 1773-1775. He was seized by imperial authorities on November, 24th, 1774, and his father, Yulay Aznalin, was captured even earlier. Put into irons, they were sent to Moscow. Yulay Aznalin was a votchinnik (holder of patrimonial estate), a rich, intelligent and influential man. He was held in general respect among Bashkirs and was a Bauermeister (district foreman). The local authorities gave credence to him; his fidelity to Russian government could not be doubted.
In 1768 the Orenburg governor prince Putyatin himself appointed Yulay as the foreman of the Bashkir command. But soon the merchant Tverdyshev, granted collegiate asessory rank, deprived Yulay Aznalin of his land to build Simsky plant and villages. The Bashkir land was falling to ruin, and so Yulay Aznalin and his nineteen-year-old son Salawat stood up under Yemelyan Pugachev’s banners.
Ten months after Salawat's capture, in September, 1775, he and his father were publicly lashed in those places where the largest battles with the governmental armies took place. In that month they were both dragged by their nostrils, and their foreheads and faces were branded. On October 2, 1775, their hands and legs chained, Salawat and Yulay were sent on two carts under protection to the Baltic fortress Rogervik (nowadays the city of Paldiski in Estonia) for life. The transport with convicts passed Menzelinsk, Kazan, Nizhni Novgorod, Moscow, reaching Tver on November 14 and then continuing on through Novgorod, Pskov, and Revel and arriving finally in Rogervik on November 29.
The Baltic port Rogervik had been founded by Peter the Great. However, when participants of the Bashkir revolt arrived in Rogervik, the fortress was practically deserted. There was only a small garrison and small number of prisoners. Here Salawat and Yulay met their brothers-in-arms in struggle: Pugachev Colonel I.S. Aristov, Colonel Kanzafar Usaev, and others. Salawat Yulayev and his father lived the rest of their lives in Rogervik.
When Paul I ascended the throne, the commandant of the fortress Langel submitted an inquiry about moving the remaining participants of the Pugachev Revolt to Taganrog or to Irkutsk to a cloth factory. The resolution came from the Senate: "The aforementioned convicts are subject to be moved… For their villainies they are banished by imperial command, and it is ordered to keep them in this port with possible caution that they could not make runaway." There was a special manifest on March 17, 1775 which was published by the late empress Catherine II. By her order all participants of the Pugachev revolt were to be imprisoned forever, and their names should "be condemned to eternal oblivion and deep silence." Under this manifest local authorities pursued everyone who pronounced the names of rebels.
The last documented mention of Salawat Yulayev is dated 1800. Till this time he stayed in bondage for twenty five years: "To Estland provincial board from Major Ditmar being at the Baltic invalid command. Being under my responsibility, convicted slaves 12 men which are in a safe state. Against the previous submitted register decreased: This month of 26-th date, convicted slave Salawat Yulayev died about which I have the honor of reporting." Salawat died in penal servitude on September 26, 1800.
"You are so far, my fatherland!
I would return home, but alas,
I am in chains, my Bashkirs!
The road home may be obscured by snow,
But come spring it shall melt -
I'm not dead yet, my Bashkirs!"
These words, attributed to Salawat Yulayev, are perceived today as a confession of the strong batyr, who, exhausted by torture and interrogations, did not resign himself to his destiny. Regretfully, only a small number of documents remain about his life and fate, and the poetic works of Salawat, who personified heroism and poetic talent of the Bashkir people.