Staunton, August 25 – Many environmental movements arise because of a threat to the well-being of the people who live in an area. That is the case at Shiyes. Others appear because they affect places that have a religious or ethnic significance that people want to preserve or revive, as in many parts of the Russian North and the North Caucasus.
But the case of the movement around Kushtau, a mountain in Bashkortostan, the situation is different and more complicated; and the reasons that the protesters, although powered by ethnic concerns, are likely to win out is because they are using federal environmental protection laws to protect their republic against its own rulers.
Bashkir activists have been very clear that those seeking to defend Kushtau are not doing so for religious reasons as some Russian commentators have suggested. Muslims have no tradition of defending such a geographic landmark, they point out (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/08/status-of-bashkir-language-also.html).
At the same time, these activists generally concede that the development of the mountain by a soda company would not have a direct negative impact on the population around it. There would be some damage to rivers and to the range of plant and animal life but not necessarily a disaster to the Bashkir population.
Given that thousands of protesters have come out to oppose the development of Kushtau and more than 10,000 have signed a petition against that move, the question inevitably arises: “why is this Bashkir mountain so important” for Bashkirs? The answer, Vasilia Yagodina of Knife Media says, is instructive (knife.media/kushtau-ecology/