Staunton, August 20 – In yet another indication that the environmental protests around the Kushtau mountain are becoming an ethno-national movement, Kushtau protest leader Ural Baybulatov tells Ekho Moskvy that he and the others are also protesting because of their concern about the future status of the Bashkir language.
(For this interview, see nazaccent.ru/content/33881-lider-zashitnikov-kushtau-nazval-yazykovoj-vopros.html; for background on the way in which environmental protests like the one in Kushtau frequently take on an ethnic dimension, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/08/ufa-has-transformed-environmental.html.)
The Kushtau protests, Baybulatov says, did not begin as narrowly ethnic. Initially, the Bashkirs were joined in their demonstrations against the development of the mountain by Chechens, Tatars, Chuvash, and Mordvins. But among the Bashkirs involved are many who protested Putin’s attacks on non-Russian language instruction two years ago.
The activist argues that this is not a primary motivator but an important one and he specifically challenges efforts by the authorities to blame the protest on Islam or even Islamist radicalism. “I am a Muslim,” he says; “for me, there is no holy mountain in my religion.” What we are defending is a natural wonder with more than 40 species of rare insects and plants.
Baybulatov’s remarks make it clear that many concerns are behind the protests, ranging from the purely environmental to the more broadly ethno-nationalist. The longer the standoff continues, the more likely it is that these other concerns will play an increasing role in causing Bashkirs to go into the streets.