Bashkirs’ origin and formation of present- day nation is one of the complicated matters of historical science. The striking features of Bashkirs’ ethnogenesis were caused by natural- climatic conditions and geopolitical position of the South Urals. They predetermined the manysidedness of ethnogenetic relations of its tribes and ethnic groups.
Most of the Stone Age monuments (40 — 35 thousand — 10 thousand years ago), which are in the Middle and the South Urals, are the cave sites: the second Smelovskaya Cave which is near Magnitogorsk city, Gornovskoye (near Ufa), cave sites down the Yuruzan river and others.
The cave Shulgantash (or Kapova), which is in Burzyanskii district, is the well-known palaeolith monument in Bashkortostan. It is underground palace, which consists of three stage with suite of halls connected by wide corridors. The underground river Shulgan runs through the cave and forms small lakes inside and right by the entry of the cave.
Bashkortostan, for a long time, represented the area of different cultural and economic types. One of its parts, mainly steppe area, was a part of nomadic cattle-breeding; another part, forest-steppe and forest, was included in cultural- historical area of settled tribes, who combined cattle-breeding with hunting, fishing and agriculture. These areas were differ in inhabitants’ ethnic and linguistic belonging: late cattle-breeders hypothetically were Iranic speaking, while North neighbours belonged to Finno- Ugric ethno-linguistic community. Interrelationships of those cultural-economic types leave its mark on the ensuing history of the land, conditioning originality and complication of ethnic, cultural and historical processes.
First written information about Bashkirs appeared at the end of the first millenium. In the 40s of the IXth century Salam Tardzheman made a journey from Arabian caliphat to Khazars and farther to the east. His contemporary Ibn-Khordadbekh wrote about his travel and sent word about visiting the Bashkir lands. There is another mentioning about them in Arabian scientist Masudy’s book «Kita bat-Tanbikh (the Xth century). He wrote about wars and engagements among Ghuzes, Karluks and Kimaks on the one side, and four Turkic ethnic groups: Badzhnak, Badzhna, Badzhgard and Nukerdes on the other side, situated near Aral Sea. But it is important to emphasize, that Bashkirs appeared in the given information under their present name. This text also tells about their active participation in military and political events of the IXth century in the Euroasian steppes.
The most reliable information about Bashkirs we can find in Akmed ibn-Fadlan’s book. In 921 — 922, he made a trip from Bagdad to Volga Bulgaria consisting of caliph al-Muktadir’s embassy to Bulgaria’s tzar Almush. Their trip was through Iran, Khorasan, Maverannakhr, Khoresm and Western Kazakhstan, where nomadic Turks and Ghuzes settled, and from there they went to the capital of Bulgaria. Then they «reached the land, where live people called Bashkirs». They were not there long, but ibn-Fadlan managed to know a lot about Bashkirs and he left a full, for that time, description of heathen customs and creeds of Bashkirs.
Evidently, by the Xth century Bashkirs represented large ethnic group settled in the South Urals and bordered steppes from the South and the West. They were occupied with cattle-breeding and they were famous around by their raids. Some authors (Biruni, Kazvini) called the Urals Mountains «Bashkyrt” or «Bashkhart”.
Where and when did ancient Bashkir nationalities appear? Is the South Urals Bashkir’s immemorial motherland or they came there with their developed ethnic and cultural features? Solution of this question is connected with ethnic belonging of those tribes, which became a gist (substance) of Bashkir nationality and predetermined its linguistic and cultural peculiarity.
There were two theories of Bashkir’s origin: Turkic and Ugric. Nowadays, most researchers consider that the Turkic tribes played determinant role in the formation of Bashkir’s ethnic character.
Now, there is no doubt that the ancient tribes, genetically connected with ancient inhabitants of the South Siberia, the Central and Middle Asia, formed the basis of Bashkir ethnic group. Evidently, those tribes, before their migration to the West, for a long time kept contact (perhaps, even kinship relations) with ancestors of contemporary Western Turkic (Altaians, Khakasses, Tuvinians), Mongolian (Buryats, Mongols and others) and Tungusic — Manchurian (Evenks) peoples. Bashkirs’ way of life and cultural features, phonetic peculiarities of the language and lexics’ elements tell about it. Appearance of ancient Bashkir tribes in the South Urals and their settling in the contemporary territory was not a simultaneous migration. Bashkirs’ ethnic structure, language and culture preserved appreciable vestiges of interrelationships with ethnic and political unions of the early Middle Ages. They were in close contacts with the Pechenegs (or Patzinaks) and Ghuzes in Kazakhstan and the Middle Asia’s steppes, with the Bulgar tribes from the middle of the first millenium, and at the beginning of the second millenium — with Kipchaks. Especially, a significant stamp was left by relations between Bashkirs and Kipchaks, which continued during Mongols and Tatars’ invasions and later till joining of Bashkortostan and Russia. The affinity between Bashkir language and Kipchak branch of language (Altaian, Kazakh, Karakalpak, Nogai, Tatar, andsome dialects of the Uzbek language), the resemblance in tribal ethnonyms and tamgas *, in culture and folklore are the result of those relations. Above-mentioned ethnic groups know the ethnonyms «Kipchak”, «Kangly», «Katai”, «Tabyn”, «Min”. Also the eposes «Alpamysha”, «Kuzyikurpyas and Mayankhylu”, the epic of the Golden Horde time «Idukai and Muradym” are common for these peoples. By the middle of the Xlllth century Bashkirs, presenting the imposing military and political power, were conquered by Mongolo-Tartars as Bulgars from Volgo-Kamiye. Rashid ad-Din gave the most definitive information about Turkic-Mongol ethnic groups and tribes of the XIII — XIV centuries and among them he mentioned about Bashkirs. Persevering resistance to Mongol invasion is reflected in Bashkir folklore. Political factions and internecine wars, which burst out after the Golden Horde’s disintegration hampered the ethnic and political consolidation. But the nation forming process continued. The people’s self-consciousnes became apparent when khan’s power was flagging. There came a determinative moment, when the Kazan khanate was defeated by Russian State (in 1552) and in the Nogai Horde there began internecine wars and conflicts. Bashkir tribes voluntarily joined the Russian Government nearly at the same time, in 1555 -1557.
Historians interpret Bashkirs’ accession as their amalgamation consisting of common State, which signified the consummation of Bashkir nationality formation. But the main features of the ethnic and cultural character of Bashkirs, one of the original Turkic peoples, were obvious already in the XVIth century. Bashkortostan became part of Kazan uyezd (district) after joining Russia. Ufa was founded in 1574 and then there was formed Ufa uyezd. It was ruled by governor, obeyed an order of Kazan Palace. Bashkortostan’s territory devided into four oblasts, which were called «dorogas» (from a mongol word «daruga” which means «oblast, district”). They are Nogai doroga (to the south from Ufa), Siberian (to the North-East), Kazan (to the West) and Osin (to the north). Every doroga consisted of some volosts, into which were included territories of tribes’ distribution.
In 1708, the Ufa uyezd was changed into Ufa province. In 1737, there was formed Iset province. The North-East and North parts of Bashkortostan were included in it. In 1744, both provinces became parts of new formed Orenburg gubernia. At the same time Bashkortostan remained devided into four dorogas. In 1781, there was established the Ufa region ruled by governor- general, consisting of two oblasts — Ufa and Orenburg. In 1796 the Ufa region was changed into Orenburg gubernia. In 1798, in Bashkortostan there was accepted the canton system of ruling. There was formed 23 cantons, 11 of them were Bashkir cantons. Till 1865 there 28 cantons. The main part of cantons referred to Orenburg gubernia, another part — to the Perm, Samara and Vyatskaya gubernias territory.
In 1865, the Orenburg gubernia was divided into two gubernias. They are Orenburgskaya and Ufimskaya.
Bashkirs not once mounted armed uprisings against oppressions and tyrany of colonial administration, occupation of their lands. In the second half of the XVIIth century and during of XVIIIth century, there were a lot of uprisings in the history of Bashkirs. Those event were connected with colonial policy of the government activating and plunder of Bashkir lands.
After the Peasant war (1773 — 1775 years), despite of uprisings’ outbreaks time by time, there were no any armed revolts of national size.
The military service and participation in country defense played a very important role in interrelations between Bashkirs and Russians. The military service was one of the main duties in the Russian government.
The foundation of mining industry and resettlement movement influenced on the cultural and economical co-operation development. And all of these had a great influence upon Bashkirs’ life and traditional culture.
Bashkirs are Turkic-speaking inhabitants of the South Urals, fixed in the written sources of IX-Xth centuries under the names Bashgird, Bashkerd, Bashdjert, Bashdjart and the nation’s name itself «Bashkort”. The republic’s name Bashkortostan derives from «Bashkort”.
The main territory of Bashkirs’ settling covers the South Urals, Priuraliye and Zauraliye regions and bordering steppes from the South. According to archaeological, ethnographic materials and written sources the ethnic history of Bashkir people developed during last millenium. Bashkirs reside in the Chelyabinskii, Orenburgskii, Permskii, Sverdlovskii, Tyumenskii, Kurganskii, Samarskii, Saratovskii and other regions, in the Republic of Tatarstan, also in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Bashkirs also live in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tadjikistan, Turkmenistan and in Ukraine.
In the Republic of Bashkortostan the largest in number nations, besides Bashkirs, are Russians, Tatars, Chuvashs, Ukrainians, Mordvinians, Udmurts, Belorussians, Germans, Kazakhs, Jewry and others. The nations’ multiplicity is caused by the republic’s position (location). Bashkortostan is situated among different ethnic areas. There are more than 4.1 million people and more than 100 ethnic groups in the republic.
The Bashkir language, by its lexical structure and phonetics, is included into the Kipchak subgroup of the Turkic languages’ group. Bashkirs, occupying periphery areas, were isolated from other Turkic ethnic groups. In the Bashkir language there are quite a lot of adoptions from the Russian and Arabian languages.
There are different legends about the origin of a word «bashkort». According to the one of them, one day «missionaries from Buchara went to spread the Moslem religion. They didn’t know where to go, because there were kafyrs everywhere (i.e. irreligious). Suddenly there appeared a wolf and led them to the Urals mountains, where the Bashkir’s ancestors lived…in the heathenism. Therefore they were called Bashkurt i.e. a wolf’s head. According to another legend which appeared later, the meaning of a word was «the head wolf”, «a leader wolf”. The second legend is very popular.
But there is more popular version, in accordance with which the last part of the word «bashkort”- «kort» is interpreted as «a bee”, and the word meant «the head bee”, «a queen” or «the main beekeeper». The beekeeping was one of the Bashkir’s traditional employments.
It is well- known the compound anthropological and ethnic composition of Bashkirs, there are marked cultural-domestic and dialectal differences between territorial-ethnic groups, which is remained until nowadays. No doubt that such differences must take place in the past, in elementary stages of the nation’s forming, but at the same time the integrity and fundamental unity are typical for the Bashkirs’ culture and language. It is obvious that the cultural- domestic and linguistic integration (consolidation) level of ancient Bashkirs was high and it became a basis of the single ethnos forming.