BASHKIRS, a people inhabiting the Russian governments of Ufa, Orenburg, Perm and Samara, and parts of Vyatka, especially on the slopes and confines of the Ural, and in the neighbouring plains. They speak a Tatar language, but some authorities think that they are ethnically a Finnish tribe transformed by Tatar influence. The name Bashkir or Bash-kûrt appears for the first time in the beginning of the 10th century in the writings of Ibn-Foslan, who, describing his travels among the Volga-Bulgarians, mentions the Bashkirs as a warlike and idolatrous race. The name was not used by the people themselves in the 10th century, but is a mere nickname.
Of European writers, the first to mention the Bashkirs are Joannes de Plano Carpini (c.1200-1260) and William of Rubruquis (1220-1293). These travellers, who fell in with them in the upper parts of the river Ural, call them Pascatir, and assert that they spoke at that time the same language as the Hungarians. Till the arrival of the Mongolians, about the middle of the 13th century, the Bashkirs were a strong and independent people and troublesome to their neighbours, the Bulgarians and Petchenegs. At the time of the downfall of the Kazan kingdom they were in a weak state. In 1556 they voluntarily recognized the supremacy of Russia, and, in consequence, the city of Ufa was founded to defend them from the Kirghiz, and they were subjected to a fur-tax. In 1676 they rebelled under a leader named Seit, and were with difficulty reduced; and again in 1707, under Aldar and Kûsyom, on account of ill-treatment by the Russian officials. Their third and last insurrection was in 1735, at the time of the foundation of Orenburg, and it lasted for six years. In 1786 they were freed from taxes; and in 1798 an irregular army was formed from among them. They are now divided into cantons and give little trouble, though some differences have arisen between them and the government about land questions. By mode of life the Bashkirs are divided into settled and nomadic. The former are engaged in agriculture, cattle-rearing and bee-keeping, and live without want. The nomadic portion is subdivided, according to the districts in which they wander, into those of the mountains and those of the steppes. Almost their sole occupation is the rearing of cattle; and they attend to that in a very negligent manner, not collecting a sufficient store of winter fodder for all their herds, but allowing part of them to perish. The Bashkirs are usually very poor, and in winter live partly on a kind of gruel called yûryu, and badly prepared cheese named skûrt. They are hospitable but suspicious, apt to plunder and to the last degree lazy. They have large heads, black hair, eyes narrow and flat, small foreheads, ears always sticking out and a swarthy skin. In general, they are strong and muscular, and able to endure all kinds of labour and privation. They profess Mahommedanism, but know little of its doctrines. Their intellectual development is low.
See J. P. Carpini, Liber Tartarorum, edited under the title Relations des Mongols ou Tartares, by d'Avezac (Paris, 1838); Gulielmus de Rubruquis, The Journey of William of Rubruck to the Eastern Parts of the World, translated by W. W. Rockhill (London, 1900); Semenoff, Slovar Ross. Imp., s.v.; Frahn, "De Baskiris," in Mém. de l'Acad. de St-Pétersbourg (1822); Florinsky, in Westnik Evropi (1874); and Katarinskij, Dictionnaire Bashkir-Russe (1900).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)