01 Jan 2008
Bashkortostan is beautiful in many ways, but life all across this Republic is changing. The tree lined hills and valleys, rustic rail fences and green pastures make picturesque scenes for the traveler and the resident alike. Small villages next to fast flowing mountain streams or nestled among the trees are homes to many but, in reality, they are relics of the past; … slowly decaying into history as the younger generation move to the cities to find employment.
Change is nowhere more evident than in the cities beginning with Ufa the capital of Bashkortostan. This is a modern city with a population of over one million. It is also the economic, industrial and academic hub of the Republic. New construction is all around … apartment buildings, exhibition centers, shopping malls and new roads. Manufacturing centers, petrochemical processing plants and universities all contribute to a sense of prosperity fueled by the free market economy set up since the fall of the Soviet Union.
New innovative styles for the apartment buildings are rapidly appearing as they replace the drab monotonous structures of the past. So too, private automobiles are now the transportation for some as they compete for space on the crowded streets. Nevertheless … trams, trolleys and buses are still the dominant mode of transportation for the working class citizens.
Most of the cities of the Republic are miniatures of Ufa. The style of the old apartment buildings is the same in all of the cities. Likewise, the tall smokestacks emanating from the petrochemical processing plants are the beacons that attract those from the farms as they seek employment. Beloretsk, … located in the Ural Mountains, … is an exception. It was once a major metallurgical processing center but now this industry is decaying much like the small villages in the rural areas.
The Republic is rich in oil and natural gas as well as minerals. The oil, mining and manufacturing industries were quickly developed in the early 1940’s to supply fuel and material for the war effort. Today, petrochemical industries are the engines that drive the economy of Bashkortostan.
Large-scale farming enterprises also represent a major economic input for the Republic. Wheat and other small grains along with sugar beets, sunflowers and a variety of vegetables provide excellent yields from the deep, black soil. These farms are no longer the labor-intensive collectives of the Soviet era. The buildings and much of the farm machinery from this earlier time remain idle as they waste away.
The rural lifestyle at one time represented the personification of Bashkir culture. Much of this past is still in the present such as horse drawn wagons, which continue to be used but now on paved roads. Cattle are driven to and from their daytime pasture down the village main street. The family cow is milked by hand and chickens, ducks and geese forage for food in yards and along the roadside. Gardens are essential for sustaining the residents throughout the year. Often, the villagers earn extra income by taking some of their produce to the city to sell to passersby. To accomplish this, they rely on the bus for transportation. Covered bus stops along with frequent schedules are available for most small villages.
The people of this land have a long religious heritage stretching back a thousand years for the Orthodox as well as for the Muslim faith. Churches and mosques continue to be a significant part of the skyline of many cities, towns and villages throughout Bashkortostan; however, attendance is often sparse. For many, … regular attendance is considered to be one or two times a year. These religious traditions are a strong connection to the past; a legacy clung to ever so tightly.
There are a few evangelical Christian churches in the Republic although they are considered to be a cult by the government and the dominant religions. The few thousand evangelical believers appear to make only a small ripple in a large ocean of 4 million people.
True change in the lives of those living in Bashkortostan is a God-sized task. God alone can change their hearts, … their attitudes toward believers, … their long entrenched allegiance to a lifeless faith. Will you help show them the light? Will you walk with them past the obstacles along the way?
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come. … 2 Corinthians 5:17
and enter into a new life with Jesus.
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