06 Dec 2007
The friendship alliance established some 450 years ago between the Bashkirs and the Russians signaled hope for a peaceful and prosperous future for the peoples of this land. The monument, erected in 1957, is a continuing reminder of the value of friendship between the two powerful ethnic groups.
In Ufa, a flurry of repair and beautification activity preceded this huge commemoration of the political and social cooperation between Bashkortostan and Russia. Streets along the route used by the delegates are wider now. New sidewalks and cleaned and repaired buildings also marked the route. Throughout the city, major improvements were made. Fortunately, this work will have a lasting effect for Bashkortostan offering hope for the future.
(on camera interview)
“My name is Ruslan Mirsayapov. I am Head of the Foreign Economic Relations Department for the City of Ufa.
The main goal of this anniversary is not just to spend money on fireworks or shows. The main goal set up by our local president and the mayor is to improve the living conditions of the citizens – to improve the infrastructure.
The main thing is that what we like about these festivities is that when the guests are gone we still have lots of things staying here like new construction sites and these new roads and all other improvements so that is the main reason for people to be happy.”
Rich in natural resources, the Republic of Bashkortostan has reason to celebrate and to hope for a good economic future. Oil wells dot the landscape. Petrochemical refineries and processing plants are located in all of the larger cities. Ufa is a center for a variety of industrial manufacturing. Most of the Republic is blessed with good farmland endowed with deep black soil and ample rainfall for bountiful crops such as wheat, sugar beets, and sunflowers.
Large cities, such as Ufa, have a small … but very affluent upper class. … They are the ones who live in the luxury apartments and drive new imported cars. The driver and passengers can rapidly move from place to place but often are impeded by traffic jams of their own making. Most of these “new Russians” … as they are often referred to … live in large, recently constructed homes located at the edge of the city.
The vast majority of the populace does not own a car because it is too expensive. In addition to the cost of the car, a garage or guarded parking lot must be rented at a cost of $50 to $100 per month. If a car can possibly be purchased, it may only be used on the weekends and not at all in the winter. Thus, most commute to work via the bus, a van called a marshrutka, a trolley, or a tram. The fares are low but the vehicles are often crowded. The line of busses approaching the more popular stops sometimes stretches for several blocks.
The riders of these busses, vans, trolleys, and trams can only hope for a regular job that pays a good wage. They must make due instead with an income of only a few dollars per hour. Many times the work is sporadic and this low wage offers few luxuries. Home for most is a small apartment … perhaps shared with others … located in the Soviet style apartment complexes. Maybe it is in a small house … one of the old decaying wood frame structures scattered throughout the city of Ufa. These homes, … some dating back over 100 years, … will soon disappear. The construction of new roads and large apartment complexes is making room for the ever-increasing influx of people to the city.
In the small towns and villages, … muddy roads, the predominantly wood frame homes with rusting sheet metal roofs and large vegetable gardens is illustrative of a much different lifestyle; … a lifestyle that has changed little over the years. The major traffic jam is caused by geese waddling their way up the road or by the occasional out of town visitor stopping to watch as a grandma works in her garden in preparation for the long, cold winter. Occasionally, an old tractor sits idle while the horse and wagon provide the most dependable service.
The villages offer little hope for the younger generation and most move to the larger cities to attend college as well as to obtain meaningful employment. However, their hope is dimmed by the large crowds and relentless traffic.
The farm collectives … once centerpieces of the Communist era … are no more. The buildings remain but few are used. These buildings … along with rusting farm machinery … have long since lost their glitter and their usefulness.
Today, combines harvest the wheat as they roar across the fields and huge tractors plough large swaths of wheat stubble in preparation for next season’s planting. Occasionally, the horse-drawn wagon makes its way down the highway giving little notice to cars speeding by.
Hope for the rural lifestyle is hard to find but perhaps it is embodied in this lady as she milks the family cow.
Segment of milking cow …
Religious beliefs match that of the ethnic background of the people. For the most part, the Russians claim the Orthodox Church and the Bashkirs and Tatars are Sunni Hanafi Muslim. Still because of Lenin’s insistence that there is no God, an ambivalent attitude toward religious beliefs remains throughout Bashkortostan. Attendance and corresponding allegiance to their traditional beliefs is very low. Few put their trust in God and …fewer still … possess the true hope provided only in Jesus Christ. Instead they seek comfort in ritualistic prayers.
The pathways to belief in Jesus are available but are often difficult to find. These opportunities are most often observed in the younger people as they seek something better for themselves. Nowhere is this more evident than at any one of the three McDonald’s restaurants located in Ufa … all of which offer service and food consistent with the standards of this restaurant chain. People … mostly young adults … spend a lot of time and money here. They are seeking something different … something in which to place their hope.
These small groups … along with the traditional established evangelical churches throughout the Republic … are spreading the Gospel. They are telling others of the HOPE found only in Jesus Christ.
Spreading God’s Word throughout Bashkortostan often appears to be a slow process … one that is beset by much difficulty and frustration including those caused by government bureaucracy and the high cost of facilities. The believers here in this Republic are considered as a cult by the traditional religions. Thus, they have little influence in the government.
The Russian – Bashkir friendship alliance made in the distant past was indeed a momentous event. Yet, it is nothing when compared with the cross of Calvary and the salvation offered by Jesus Christ. He alone is the source of true hope.
(Scroll while “How Great Thou Art” is being sung by congregation of Andrei’s church.
PRAY … PRAY … PRAY
Prayer Next Menu
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. … Ephesians 2:8-9
Murtaza Rachimov Moor-tah-ZAH
Ruslan Mirsayapov Roos-LAWN meer-say-AH-pahv
Sunni Hanafi Soon-ee Hahn-AH-fee
Vladimir Putin VLAH-deh-meer POOH-tin
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