Staunton, August 16 – Eight months ago, Bashkir activists warned that if their republic government allows a corporation to develop a mountain they consider to be part of their national heritage, the long-running protests at Shiyes “will be child’s play” in comparison to what the Bashkirs will do (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/01/shiyes-will-be-childs-play-if-ufa-tries.html).
Yesterday, capping two weeks of protests in which more than 70 activists were detained (graniru.org/Politics/Russia/Regions/m.279731.html, thousands of Bashkirs assembled at the foot of the mountain to demand that the development of land around and on the Kushtau mountain be stopped (recyclemag.ru/article/zhiteli-bashkortostana-zaschischayut-shihan-kushtau-unichtozheniya, newizv.ru/news/society/16-08-2020/v-bashkirii-tysyachi-aktivistov-vystupili-protiv-vyrubki-lesa-na-gore-kushtau and https://krizis-kopilka.ru/archives/79074).
Republic head Radiy Khabirov hurried to the scene and promised that no work would take place until a compromise satisfying both sides is reached, the same kind of promise that officials made at Shiyes. Needless to say, the protesters are skeptical and will continue to keep watch at the site (rosbalt.ru/russia/2020/08/16/1858847.html and znak.com/2020-08-16/glava_bashkirii_radiy_habirov_priehal_na_peregovory_k_zachitnikam_gory_kushtau).
Because Moscow is not as directly involved in the potential development of Kushtau, Khabirov’s promise may mean more; but if he doesn’t make good on it – and pressure from business interests on him to cave will be intense – Kushtau may prove more explosive than Shiyes (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/08/another-and-potentially-more-serious.html).
That is because the mountain is truly part of Bashkir national identity and an attack on it is an attack on who they are. At the very least, any backtracking by Khabirov will send his support among the population plummeting and could lead to protests demanding his ouster from office, thereby creating yet another regional problem for the Kremlin.