- Ethnic group. Russia’s fifth largest nationality, Bashkirs are a Turkic people who form the titular minority in Bashkortostan. Sizable communities also live in the Chelyabinsk, Orenburg, Perm, Sverdlovsk, Kurgan, and Tyumen oblasts of the Russian Federation. In total, there are more than 1.6 million Bashkirs in the Russian Federation.The Bashkir language is closely related to Tatar and is part of the Kypchak subgroup of Turkic languages. Only two-thirds of Bashkirs claim knowledge of their mother tongue, while Russian language fluency is near universal. During the first half of the 20th century, many Bashkirs adopted the Tatar language, especially in northwestern Bashkortostan. However, there has been a relative decline in the numbers of Bashkirs who speak Tatar as their first language over the past 50 years, especially since 1989, when language reforms increased the use of Bashkir in the public sphere.Bashkirs are predominantly Sunni Muslims of the moderate Hanafi school of jurisprudence, though a small percentage practice Russian Orthodoxy. Culturally speaking, the Bashkirs are closely linked to the Tatars and intermarriage rates run high, though resentment exists, especially regarding what is seen as Tatar “cultural imperialism” in Bashkortostan. This was most evident in the early 1990s when the radical Bashkir National Party declared that only ethnic Bashkirs should have the right to determine the form of the republic. More radical Bashkir nationalists advocate the creation of a “Greater Bashkortostan,” which would include all or part of Orenburg and thus create an international border with Kazakhstan. Such a territorial change is seen as the first step in establishing conditions for a completely independent nation-state or federation of Volga peoples similar to the short-lived Idel-Ural Republic, which existed from 1917 until 1921.
Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. Robert A. Saunders and Vlad Strukov. 2010.
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