Russia -1

Asphalt or Mud

                       06 Dec 2007




 Located on the Western edge of the Ural Mountains, Bashkortostan provides magnificent scenery for those who drive along the highways that crisscross the Republic.  To the East is the Ural Mountain Range with its clean, fast flowing streams replenished by the frequent spring rains. Rail fences, … green fields, ... and small stacks of hay provide a postcard like landscape along the slopes of these majestic mountains.  Forests of birch and fir trees add to the picturesque beauty of the foothills of the mountains. Cattle browse along the roadside and provide an interesting diversion for tourists.  Fences are seldom used to confine these friendly milk cows and goats.   Occasionally, you will see a large herd of dairy cattle tended by skilled herdsmen as they guide the cattle from their home village to a fresh pasture. They will return the cattle to their owners in the village for the evening milking.

 Mountain towns and villages punctuate the landscape with their small wood-frame homes. The sagging and rusty sheet metal roofs provide evidence that these homes have withstood many harsh winters.

 Occasionally, a Russian Orthodox chapel or Muslim Mosque overlooks the nearby mountain town.

 Some 160 miles East of Ufa, … nestled in the Ural Mountains, … is Beloretsk. … This quaint city with its high elevation and cool crisp air is known throughout the Republic as part of little Switzerland.  Here you can shop for souvenirs, …stroll around the town square, …or relax in a nearby park.  Vendors display their wares on the sidewalkFor the more adventurous, Kumis … fermented mares milk …can be purchased.

Leaving the foothills of the Ural Mountains, oil wells are common along with fields planted in small grains. The mainstay of the economy of the Republic is petroleum and agriculture. Roadside stops are located on the more heavily traveled highways provideing an opportunity to purchase soft drinks, snacks, souvenirs, and converse with the friendly staff. And, … if it is lunchtime, … chicken or pork barbecued to perfection is waiting on a skewer. In the larger cities, small cafes are available serving local specialties such as shash-LEEK, sha-OOR-ma, chebu-RYEK-i, chak-chak, ooch-poochMAK, and  bel-YOSH.  (Leave out some of the dishes if not enough time.)

 Access to almost any place in Bashkortostan is less than a half days drive from Ufa, … the capital and largest city. This city, … with a population of over one million, … is the economic, industrial, and academic center of the Republic.  New construction sometimes masks the beauty of the city sitting on a bluff overlooking the Ufa River. While automobile travel is most common, many places can be reached by rail. Travel by boat is limited to the Ufa and White Rivers.

 Most of the cities of the Republic are miniatures of Ufa. Their streetcars, fast moving traffic, new construction and well-kept parks and city office buildings show vitality and a life that looks to the future. This is evident in Neftekamsk, Northwest of Ufa.  Another mark of similarity to Ufa … and much of Russia … is the box-like apartment complexes.

  To the South is Sterlitamak, … the Republic’s second largest city, … with its tall smoke stacks attesting to the importance of the petrochemical industry. 

 In the city of Ishimbai … like most other areas of Bashkortostan during mid-June … the Poplar trees are in full seed production.  These seeds …called Pookh  … cause little harm although they get into homes and cars …as well as ones nose and mouth as they drift through the air appearing as snow.

  The cities, … all connected by ribbons of asphalt, … appear as the future of Bashkortostan, but the past suddenly appears when one leaves the well-traveled highway. Driving becomes an art of dodging potholes and avoiding some of the muddy roads. Horse carts are the transportation of choice. … More cattle are seen on the roads than cars.  In these rural areas, the variety of single-family homes is in stark contrast to the rows of cookie cutter concrete apartment complexes of the cities.  The many repairs on the roofs attest to the struggle of the residents to provide a place for their family.


There are over 4,600 villages in Bashkortostan. A typical Bashkir village is the home of non-Russian minorities including, the Bashkirs, the Tatars, the Chuvash, the Mari, and others. They generally all live close together in the village where they care for livestock and maintain highly productive gardens of potatoes, onions, squash, cucumbers, cabbage, and even strawberries. The summer days here are long, but the growing season is relatively short, with harvest coming in late August or early September. In the villages, the summer months do not mean vacation or rest from one’s labor, but instead is a season of frenetic activity as village people try to prepare and store enough food for themselves and their cattle as well as firewood to get them through the ensuing long winter. Almost every home has a small barn housing their cow that supplies milk for the family. The path to the outside toilet may lead you into the barn lot with the family cattle.  Many villages are located near a river. The water table is high enough that little effort is required to hoist a water bucket with a small windlass… A small sink provides a place for washing up after a hard day in the fields.

  Usually, rural homes are heated with a wood-burning boiler located in the kitchen. Hot water is piped into other rooms in the house. The kitchen furnishings are generally spartan. The kitchen table and the refrigerator are small. The dishes are few and occasionally the cupboard is almost bare. Running water is a luxury for families here.

 There are a few more recently built homes in town that are of masonry construction with very thick walls. But, the older, wood frame homes serve most families well. There are few yards or lawns to speak of around a village home, as much of the land is taken up with gardens, barn lot, and storage buildings.  The flowers outside this home are a welcome sight.

 All in all, the people in the villages are self-sufficient. … Much as one would have encountered in the American countryside some 100 or more years ago.

 Before entering a village home, shoes are left outside or just inside the outer door. Once inside, the atmosphere is almost always warm and friendly. On this rare occasion, a group of four American missionaries accompany a Russian pastor and the senior pastor of the Baptist Association of Bashkortostan on a hastily arranged visit to the House of Prayer in the village. Soon after the arrival of the guests, the small Baptist congregation begins to assemble for worship. … But … there is a minor problem with protocol. The hosts have not yet fed the guests … unthinkable in village culture. And so, … even though it is already late and a worship service is to follow, … the congregation waits patiently while the guests enjoy large bowls of delicious chicken soup, fresh bread, a salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions, tea, fresh warm milk, and cookies. The worship service does not begin until after 11 p.m. and does not conclude until nearly 1 a.m. … Yet … no one seems to be bothered. The villagers are so overjoyed by the chance to share worship with outsiders, that they linger in conversation and fellowship.

 9:03—9:18 background music  Note:  P15 end and P16 begin can extend into background music

9:18  P16  (First sentence of P16 has been deleted.)

The next morning comes all too early for the six visitors. Finishing a worship service at 1 a.m.,  … at least for the Americans, … is a new experience. Little do they know that yet another new experience awaits them at breakfast!  The host decides to honor his guests by serving the homemade beverage known as Kumis, … fermented mare’s milk. Great care needs to be taken when sipping this sharp tasting traditional drink.  After a quick meal, the guests say their goodbyes and hurry on to yet another worship service in the nearby village.

 There are 20 believers in this community out of a population of over 5,000 souls. Seventeen of these are grandmothers known as “babushkas” over the age of 60. They call their meeting place “the House of Prayer”.  For the next two hours, there are multiple sermons, … scripture readings, … special music, … group singing, … and prayer. The love of Jesus shines through the smiles and glowing faces of the assembled worshippers.  A lovely young pastor’s wife ministers to her church family with kindness and tenderness.  And the four Americans worship with the Russians as one body, in a language and culture that is not their own, in a land so very far from home.

 Join with us as we celebrate Jesus together!

10:48--11:03 congregational music  Note:  It’s OK to extend into congregational music.)

 Summer, Winter, Spring, or Fall YOU are needed to help here in Bashkortostan. 

The door is now open to Bashkortostan. 

We must act quickly to meet the urgent need to share the Gospel with the peoples of Bashkortostan.

 Contact us today!



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