Bashkirs - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs and Practices. The Bashkirs are Sunni Muslims of the Hanafi school. Ufa, the capital of Bashkiria, became the center of the Muslim Spiritual Assembly in the late eighteenth century. The assembly established a number of elementary and secondary schools that enrolled over 100,000 pupils by 1914. Another 15,000 were enrolled in Orenburg Oblast. Although these schools helped the Bashkirs retain their Muslim identity, educated Bashkir leaders were relatively more secular and frequently gravitated to the Tatar intelligentsia. There is a tiny minority of Christians, the Nagaibaks, who trace their ancestry to Bashkirs baptized in the eighteenth century; they numbered 26,000 in 1926 but have since been mostly assimilated.

Arts. The Bashkirs still engage in the traditional folk arts of wood carving, embroidery, folk songs, and dances. These exhibit both Finno-Ugric and Turkic characteristics, the latter predominating. Since the Revolution, especially since the early 1930s, the Bashkirs have been subjected to Sovietization. Schools, the press, movie theaters, radio, and television all exert incalculable influences. Although the villages are less affected, the towns and cities have theaters for producing Russian-style opera, ballet, and plays. The degree to which Bashkirs take part is difficult to determine, but there are known participants. A Bashkir Academy of Sciences exists in affiliation with the National Academy of Sciences and encourages scholarship in all realms of learning.

Medicine. Folk remedies are still common, but Soviet-style clinics and medicine are the rule today virtually everywhere in Bashkiria. Services are free and funded from general tax revenues. Patients pay for drug prescriptions. Public-health measures have led to improved health as reflected in the average age at death and in infancy-death rates. The crude birth rate is about 30 per 1,000.

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