Russia -1

The Peoples of Bashkortostan:
European or Asian?

                       06 Dec 2007


Located between two continents, the Peoples of Bashkortstan are caught between a European and an Asian identity. …

 Some 700 miles East of Moscow and a mere ninety miles to the west of the Ural Mountains lies Ufa, the capitol and administrative center of the Republic of Bashkortostan … a city between two rivers in a land between two continents. The city rests upon a bluff that extends northward from the confluence of the White and Ufa rivers, which roughly form the eastern and western boundaries of the city.  The culture of the Republic, … like that of Ufa, … is a rapidly developing mix of ideas and people groups lurching forward without knowing where they are going.  They are a people who are struggling to discover who they are, a people who, for the first time in decades have a confusing, and to them, often frustrating myriad of choices to make. They are a people in between a frightening past and an uncertain and, therefore, frightening future.

They are a people caught between two monuments in Ufa that stand less than two miles from each other. One appears to be no more than a man on a horse, yet it reminds the city’s million plus inhabitants and the Republic’s 4 million citizens of a bloody history between the Republic’s ethnic groups.  The Bashkirs look to the statue with pride. Once a nomadic people ruled over by the Mongol Hordes of Genghis Khan and his descendants, they comprise 22% of Bashkortostan’s populace.

 Following the collapse of the Khan Dynasty in 1574, the Bashkir leadership traveled to Moscow to obtain help from the Russian State in the form of a fortress to protect the land should the hordes decide to return. Thus began an uneasy relationship between the dominating Russians and the independent minded Bashkirs resulting in many wars and rebellions between the two powers.  The last of these wars began in 1773 over the policy of allowing Russians and other nobles to buy up Bashkir land. The Bashkirs, … led by Salavat Yulaev … the man on the horse … saw this as the embezzlement of their native land.  The rebellion was crushed.  However, the Bashkirs were allowed to live with a measure of independence unknown in the rest of the Russian Empire.

Ultimately, Bashkir nationalistic pride was placated when the Soviets declared Bashkortostan an Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, leaving control of the area in the hands of the Bashkir Communist Party. In 1957, the Party decided to dedicate a friendship monument … Monument Druzhbii … proclaiming Russian and Bashkir friendship.   But, the gesture rang hollow with many Bashkirs, because a wave of Russian immigration had left them a minority in what was said to be their land. Today, the Russians dominate the population but the declaration of a new independent Republic in 1990 gave the Muslim Bashkirs full control of the reigns of power.  The Constitution of the Republic even requires the president to be fully fluent in the Bashkir language.  Yet, Bashkir society, particularly in Ufa, is still psychologically caught somewhere in between Salavat Yulaev and Monument Druzhbii.

Legacies of the past continue to dominate the mind-set of the Russian populace. A large statue of Karl Marx … near Red Square in Moscow … is inscribed with the words “Workers of the world unite!” bearing testimony to the father of communism.  Greatly influenced by this German philosopher, Vladimir Lenin saw the free market of Europe as an ideological enemy. Violently seizing power in 1917, Lenin and his fellow Bolsheviks transformed Russia into a repressive society where Western ideas were banned.

 Although Lenin died in 1924, his well-preserved body is on display in a mausoleum in the center of Red Square. … This is the most sacred shrine of Soviet communism. …  Sadly his legacy has imprisoned the hearts and minds of the people for 70 years.

 In Ufa … the long shadow of his image … continues to remind the peoples of Bashkortstan of his teachings.  Lenin taught the people that there is no God.  Instead they were taught his philosophy emphasizing the “Party” as ultimate guide.   160 miles east of Ufa in the Ural Mountains is the city of Beloretsk.  This philosophy … “The Party – the Mind, the Honor, and the Conscience of Our Era” … is inscribed for all to see high on the wall of a recently constructed apartment building.  Yet close-by, hope is readily available.  Across the street … and easily seen from these apartments …  is another building. This small wooden structure is different than others.  On its wall is a plaque proclaiming, … “God is Love”.  The believers who meet here worship Jesus and are eager to share His love with all … European or Asian, Eastern or Western.  Still … the hearts, minds, and eyes…  of most of the peoples of Bashkortostan remain locked in the emptiness of Lenin’s legacy. They are not only caught in between two continents, but also in the debris of a failed political system.

PRAY that the peoples of Bashkortostan will no longer see Christianity as a foreign Western religion but instead will find the hope that comes through faith in Jesus.

 PRAY that they will clearly understand the message of Revelation Chapter 7, verses 9-11, that salvation is for every nation, tribe, people, and language.



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