Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Mark B Tauger


This dissertation examines the transformation of the Bashkir society from a nomadic and semi-nomadic society to a sedentary society under the Russian empire's control from the sixteenth to the early nineteenth centuries. In particular, it analyzes inter-ethnic relations and the consequences of these relations for both Bashkirs and other peoples in Bashkiria.;The historical Bashkir lands formed Russia's southeastern frontier for more than two hundred years and the penetration of non-Bashkir groups into the region was a slow and arduous process. On the one hand, the region was an extremely dangerous place: the nomadic groups were quite hostile to the arrival of the agricultural groups who carved out farms from the pasturelands, thereby harming Bashkir nomadic economy. On the other hand, the Muscovite Russian governments were fairly averse to the migrations from the European parts of Russia where a labor force was most needed.;The Muscovite governments followed inconsistent policies in Bashkiria. They attempted to preserve Bashkir Votchina rights granted by Ivan IV, but on the other hand they were compelled to protect and improve their interests in the region. This was possible only by erecting fortifications and seizing territory within Bashkir lands. In the process, the Russians undermined Bashkir pastoral economy and provoked Bashkir rebellions against Russian policies in the region. The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries witnessed six major Bashkir rebellions against the Russian state. These rebellions and Russian responses transformed Bashkir society.;The Russian presence and policies had mixed results for both Russians and Bashkirs. Beginning with the enlightened policies of Peter the Great, the Russian authorities began to consider the natives as 'others' and increasingly took a condescending and often hostile attitude toward the indigenous people. The Russian government attempted to assimilate Bashkirs and other non-Russian peoples of the region, including measures to sedentarize nomadic Bashkirs and attempts to proselytize Orthodox Christianity among then through the Office of the New Converts after 1731.;In the long term, such efforts had mixed results. On the one hand, by the early nineteenth century most Bashkirs had shifted from pastoralism to agriculture, and became loyal Russian subjects, fighting in the Russian army against Napoleon. On the other hand, they became increasingly Islamicized. Earlier, as a pastoral people, the Bashkirs were not suited to the practice of Islam and their adoption of this monotheistic religion remained largely superficial. The Russian policies of repression and sedentarization of Bashkirs inspired and enabled their full embrace of Islam (because Islam is largely a religion for sedentary societies) as an ideological means to preserve their distinct Bashkir identity.;By the 1820s Bashkir society was economically and ideologically a more coherent body. Their pastoral economy had been shattered through the migrations to the region and the Russian policy of fortified lines and their superficial Islam had given way to orthodox Islam. Their rebelliousness had been broken but their resistance to Russian assimilation gained another dimension as a national group. Consequently the imperial policies of the Russian authorities had modernized a native group and connected them to the wider world.