Russia -2
  Ufa: Then and Now
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                       06 Dec 2007


A long time ago in the land of the Bashkirs several families sought protection from tribal conflict as they built their homes next to a small fort established by the Russian military. This garrison, … with its watchtowers, … provided security for those living along the banks of the White River. The settlement grew and … in a few years … the village known as “Ufa” was founded. This was in the year 1574.

Logs cut from the surrounding forest were used to construct homes for the ever-increasing population. Eventually, some of the muddy roads were paved with cobblestone to make it easier to travel from place to place. Houses of worship were also built … some for the Russian Orthodox believers and others for the Tatars and Bashkirs who were Muslim. By 1802, the protection of the fort was no longer needed. Ufa was designated the capital of the region that later became known as Bashkortostan … the land of the Bashkirs.

Good quality timber was plentiful …oak, pine, maple, lipa and birch trees were cut from the forest and brought to sawmills to make lumber in support the housing boom. The rich, deep soil produced bountiful crops of fruit, vegetables and grain. Entire families were involved in harvesting, threshing and cleaning the wheat. Cattle enjoyed lush green pastures. In the nearby hills, gold and other minerals were mined. The red iron ore was scooped up by the shovelful and loaded on horse drawn carts. The oar was then hauled to Ufa where it was stacked in piles awaiting processing in the blast furnace.

The Trans Siberian Railway across Russia was completed by the early 1900’s. Ufa was an important terminal along this 6,000-mile route. Huge amounts of wood products along with minerals and grain were shipped to markets in Moscow and St. Petersburg. The steel bridge across the White River extended the railway eastward to the Pacific Ocean. The small bridge at the river’s edge was used for horse and wagon cargo crossing the river to and from the city.

Ufa was now a major industrial center and, … in 1910, … the home of over 50,000 people. Throughout the city new structures were built. There were hotels, schools, apartments, houses and factories. Here too, … dominating the skyline, …were mosques for the Bashkirs and Tatars and Orthodox Churches for the Russians. The city continued a steady growth for the next 30 years … until the onset of World War II.

When Hitler began the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, manufacturing industries were moved out of harms way. Ufa, 700 miles east of Moscow, was quickly transformed into an important industrial center. In addition to manufacturing, oil resources were developed. Petroleum processing plants were built along the White River … some in places where small wooden houses once stood.

New housing was required for the large increase in the population of Ufa. Large apartment buildings were constructed for the industrial workers and their families. These were all about the same … a drab gray, with small rooms, a balcony and a tiny playground outside for the children. There were few parking places since most did not own a car. The people rode the tram to get where they needed to go. This system is still in use today even though the major mode of public transportation is now by bus and van.

Huge central plants with tall smokestacks were constructed to provide heat for the apartments. Large pipes were buried underground to supply both heating water and household water to each building. Above ground pipes provided natural gas for cooking. Painted red or yellow, they were easy to install and, … in case of leaks, … to repair.

The City of Ufa remained much the same until the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1990. Bashkortostan gained a new level of independence and set up a free market economy. New apartment buildings were built. Some looked similar… but bigger and more colorful … than the old. What's more, there were many new and diverse designs. These are the homes of the newly empowered business people. “New Russians”, … as they are sometimes called, … are the ones who own a car, … shop at the malls or the new Metro, … eat at a restaurant or enjoy a frequent stop at one of the three McDonald’s in Ufa. At present there are over one million people in this city.

October 11, 2007 marked the 450th anniversary of the friendship agreement between the Russian government and the Bashkir tribal leaders. Preparation for this celebration provided money and incentive to widen and resurface the highways, construct new sidewalks, refurbish old buildings and build new facilities for the people of Ufa.

Join us for a quick tour of the city, its people, their schools, their places of work and their transportation system.

Long segment of city with music and captions.

Ufa, … spurred on by the freedom that came with the breakup of the Soviet Union, … is much different now but the old is still just around the corner. A young mother walks her children to school as three babushkas …grandmas… sit on a bench outside their apartment talking about the way it once was. Many still live in log houses while nearby apartments offer housing for the masses. Drivers of fast moving imported cars compete for a place on the crowded highways while others shop for fresh fruit and vegetables at a sidewalk market.

This is Ufa; … a place where the old and the new exist side by side as do the ethnic Russians, Tatars, Bashkirs and over 100 other people groups with diverse beliefs and traditions. It is also a place where religious convictions are shallow at best and often nonexistent. A place where there are only a few evangelical churches, … some in sturdy brick buildings, … others in rented office space or in homes. It is these followers of Jesus Christ who have struggled through the years to share God’s Word with the people living in Ufa and throughout Bashkortostan.

It is the gospel message that will bring change … transforming … this part of the world as the Russians, the Tatars, the Bashkirs and others come to know and to live God’s Word.


Babushkas BAH-boosh-kas

Bashkir bash-KEER

Bashkortostan bash-KOR-toh-stahn

Tatars TAW-tars

Ufa Oo-FAH

Prayer Page:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! ... 2 Corinthians 5:17

PRAY that the people of Ufa will be open to change.


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