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Bashkort Awyls of the late XVIII and early XIX centuries

The notion «awyl» arose in a high antiquity among native speakers of the Turkic and Mongolian languages. In an antiquity this term meant a community of nomads. Later it was fixed in the meaning of a settlement — «village» in languages of some Turkic peoples, including the Bashkorts.
The ethnographer R.G.Kuzeev considers the time of occurrence of the Bashkort settlements to be the XI century, connecting it with the beginning of the process of transition from nomadic cattle breeding to semi-nomadism «with more or less long duration of stay at one place in winter». Nevertheless Ibn Rusta pointed to the existence of constant winter settlements of the Bashkorts on riverbanks as far back as the Х century. Another medieval author Idrisi (the XII century) mentioned the traces of settlements and agriculture of the Bashkorts. So, in a cartographical part of his work he marked four towns in the country of the Bashkorts: Karakiya, Mindgnan, Mazira and Kazira. Other medieval authors also mentioned the existence of towns of the Bashkorts.
Resting on long-term researches, Bashkort archaeologists N.A.Mazhitov and A.N.Sultanova came to a conclusion that «traces of about 100 settlements with significant cultural values … are an expressive sign of way of life of the Bashkort tribes of the IX—XII centuries... The fact of their existence undoubtedly points to a relative settled way of life of the Bashkorts».
The fact that in the IX—XII centuries the Bashkort tribes were engaged in agriculture has been proved by archaeological finds. Archaeologists are sure that «the Bashkort ethnos was formed as a direct heir of cultures of the Bakhmut, Turbasly and early Karayakup tribes of Southern Ural of the VII—VIII centuries, who had had about 400 settlements».
With the beginning of the Tatar-Mongolian invasion many Bashkort tribes were compelled to leave their old territories and settlements. The significant part of them moved to mountainous-forest areas, where the process of settling and formation of awyls had begun. Another part, apparently, returned to nomadism. They changed their way of life only in some centuries.
The joining of Bashkortostan to the Russian state, colonisation of the territory, connected with it, and the growth of the arrived population (first of all in the western part) resulted in complete disappearance of opportunities of conducting semi-nomadic economy and general transition of the Bashkorts of this region to the settled way of life.
The administrative policy of the government played an important role in transition of the Bashkorts to the settled way of life, particularly in the south-eastern region of Bashkortostan.
Type of economy, mode of life, public relations of eastern and western Bashkorts were different. Therefore there were two types of awyls: aimaks — settlements of patrimonial divisions and awyls of neighbour territorial community.
At first (prior to the XVII century) awyls of the first group were small and represented winter settlements. According to the documents, at the end of the XVII century the eastern Bashkorts also had villages, where not related groups lived.
So, the village (awyl) was a prevailing type of settlements of the Bashkorts at the end of the XVIII and the first half of the XIX centuries. At this very time the process of formation of the Bashkort awyls was completed. There were two and more streets in awyls, in this respect they resembled Russian villages.
In Bashkort awyls a house, manor, courtyard were called «yort». This term is of Turkic origin. In the Old Turkic dictionary it corresponds to the term «jurt» in the meaning of a «house, possession, ground, country». In the narrow sense of the word «yort» means a house, manor, economic construction, i.e. a courtyard.
The authors of the ethnographic works (D.P.Nikolsky, L.Berkhols and others) tried to develop an idea of the backwardness of the Bashkort courtyard, and a small number of economic buildings. At the same time they enumerated various buildings, which were in a courtyard — a summer kitchen, bathhouse, shed, canopy, cellar, smoking shed, barn, etc.
Materials show the dependence of a state of courtyards on the social status of their owners in a community. At the same time it is found out that average Bashkorts were in different status. So, for example, someone had two houses with 2 or 4 windows and some furniture and others were satisfied with a house with one window.
Thus, the courtyards in awyls of the settled Bashkorts were organised, in woods there were basically log houses, but not in awyls of the southern and eastern Bashkorts. V.Zefirov, while describing Bashkort awyls of the Starletamak uyezd, wrote, that they were labyrinthine. The governor and the Bashkort-Mishar army commander gave the same characteristic to houses and awyls of the Bashkorts of the Chelyabinsk, Verkhneuralsk and Orenburg regions. According to them, there were miserable, wretched hovels mostly without roofs and even without floors, and without courtyards. Such an attitude of the southern and eastern Bashkorts is explained by their semi-nomadic way of life. They were not interested in improvement of their winter settlements, regarding them as temporary dwellings, and preferred to make better their yurts (tirmah-yort), which served for a cattle-breeder a traditional, economically justified, convenient and as a matter of fact — main dwelling.
The 40s of the XIX of century is a new stage in organisation of the Bashkort awyls, connected with signing a typical plan of awyls. According to the plan, an interval between courtyards was to make not less than 12 sazhen, and houses were to be situated in a distance from 10 up to 15 sazhen. Thus, it provided for direct and wide streets in Bashkir settlements. Bathhouses and forges, fire risk buildings were to be near riverbanks, lakes and ravines. Every owner received a sanction to store up 200 logs to build a new house. Large families were recommended to build not one, but two houses with an outer entrance hall. Owners of new houses undertook to put the Dutch furnaces instead of traditional sywals. Alongside with these measures there was held a policy of violent transition of semi-nomadic Bashkorts to the settled way of life, which considerably promoted the growth of the number of courtyards on Russian samples.
Results of measures were impressive: the housing fund of cantons was considerably updated, court yards increased in number. In 1795 there were 30,524, in 1826 — 46,795, and in 1853 — 74,414. According to P.Nebolsin, in the beginning of the 1850s the Bashkorts and Mishars had about 90,000 houses.
Thus, towards the middle of the XIX of century there were appreciable changes in the economic life of the Bashkorts, connected, first of all, with transition of semi-nomadic way of life to settlement. They were pulled together to large occupied items; this tendency was especially appreciable in north-western areas. The sizes of awyls in the south-east increased, they began to accept a kind of strong settlements.


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