The Bashkir State Art Museum named after M.V.Nesterov is one of the oldest museums in Russia. The idea of its establishment belongs to the well-known Russian painter, a native of the city of Ufa, M.V.Nesterov (1862—1942). He presented a small collection of paintings of Russian artists, his contemporaries, including 30 of his works to his native city in 1913. The museum was housed in a beautiful merchant's mansion, which earlier belonged to the lumber merchant M.A.Laptev.
The autumn of 1919 is considered to be the official year of the foundation of the museum, and on January 5, 1920 the museum was open for the first visitors.
To date, there are more than 14000 exhibits collected for the century-old history of the museum. Prominent among the variety of collections is the collection of Bashkir folk arts and crafts, illustrating the folk art of the central and eastern districts of Bashkortostan.
Academic interest in folk art and artistic culture of the national suburbs of Soviet Russia increased significantly in the very first years after the Revolution of 1917, which were marked by spiritual uplift. The formation of interest in the scientific comprehension of local artistic traditions developed then in Bashkortostan as well. For the first time the ethnographic view on the objects of material culture of the ethnos was enriched by an artistic-aesthetic and scientifically-based approach to the analysis of their features. The attitude to the products of folk art as self-valuable, independent works of art, reflecting the soul, the nature and the talent of the people, began to develop.
The history of the folk collection in the art museum goes back to the 1920s, when the first museum expeditions to the central and eastern districts of Bashkortostan were initiated. The main objectives were research study of the Bashkirs’ life and purchase of unique works of folk art from the locals. Expeditions of different years were headed by the museum assistants; among them are such famous artists as Yu.Yu. Blumenthal, K.S.Devletkildeev, A.E.Tyulkin, V.S.Syromyatnikov, M.Elgashtina, A.V.Khramov, art experts V.M.Sorokina and A.G.Yanbukhtina.
Julius Blumenthal (1870—1944), holding the post of director of the Ufa Art Museum from December 1926 to May 1935, organized the department of Bashkir folk arts and crafts in the museum.
In 1928, at Blumenthal’s initiative and under his leadership, the first expedition was undertaken to collect pieces of Bashkir folk art in the mountain-forest Tamyan- Katay canton of Bashkortostan. The second expedition was sent to the Argayash canton (1929). The following expeditions were conducted in Burzyan district in 1933, 1934 and 1935. During these, the first exhibits were purchased for the museum, many of which are now unique treasures of the collection.
The work of Vasily Syromyatnikov, a research associate at the Ufa Art Museum in 1920—1946, one of the originators of the fine arts in Bashkortostan, was most active at the initial stage of the museum collection. Along with artistic creativity, throughout his life he maintained a great interest in Bashkir people’s decorative and applied arts. In the museum, Vasily Syromyatnikov carried out considerable work on collecting exhibits of Bashkir applied art in 1926—1937. As an artist and a museum assistant, he was one of the first who undertook expeditions to the regions of the republic to study and collect material on Bashkir applied art.
In the following years, the collection was filled up with exhibits from private individuals and expeditions headed by museum researchers, including Almira Yanbukhtina and Valentina Sorokina.
A.G.Yanbukhtina, working as a research associate at the Art Museum named after M.V.Nesterov, studied the collection of folk art in the museum and traveled to the remote districts of Bashkortostan. Her published works are useful for those interested in the history of artistic culture, not only of the Bashkirs, but also of other Turkic peoples of Russia.
In 1983, V.M.Sorokina, who was already the main curator of the museum at that time, traveled with the staff members following the 1928 expedition route. During this trip, objects of everyday life and clothes of the Bashkirs were collected, which replenished the museum fund.
So far, about 700 exhibits are stored in the “folk” collection of the museum and it is at the stage of study and classification. The first scientific catalog of the Bashkir folk decorative and applied art in the collection of the Bashkir State Art Museum named after M.V.Nesterov is now being prepared for publication.
Among all the works in the museum we can distinguish the following groups: weaving and embroidery (514 exhibits), wood carving (40), jewelry (26), weapons and horse equipment (2), musical instruments (2), modern products by “Agidel” Republican Enterprise of Art Crafts (about 100).
The section of weaving and embroidery makes the largest and unique part of the collection of the Bashkir folk decorative and applied art in the museum. A significant place is taken by “haraus”, which is a traditional women's headwear (119 exhibits, most of them antique). The Art Museum named after M.V.Nesterov comprises a collection of these items, the second largest, after the Russian Ethnographic Museum.
The word “haraus” can be translated from the Old Bashkir language as “a ritual object denoting becoming a woman”.
Haraus is a headdress of linen fabric (25—40 cm long, 8—16 cm wide), lined along the upper and lower edges with strips of cotton or linen cloth of red, less often brown colour. The front part of haraus was decorated with embroidery, made with coloured silk or woolen threads. They wore “tastar” or “kashmau” over the haraus. Haraus was a common present for weddings and births. It was widespread in the Trans-Ural region, in the eastern (mostly mountain-forest) and southeastern regions of Bashkortostan and was also present in the clothing of Mari, Tatars, Udmurts, Chuvashes and others.
On the majority of harauses in the collection, there are inscriptions of religious content (embroidered or made with a chemical pencil). Though, some of them have not yet been deciphered.
In the collection of Bashkir women’s clothes, there are pieces of everyday wear and festive ones, characterized by an exclusive luxury of trimming. As we know, Bashkir women's costume has featured prominently in the culture of the people and embodies its centuries-old history and traditions. Multilayered, it comprised all the variety of materials (felt, leather, fur, cloth, metal, gems, etc.) and a variety of techniques for their artistic processing.
As a well-known proverb says, a Bashkir woman could first be heard, and only then seen, because there were many “noisy” metal ornaments on her costume: individual parts and silver coins were attached movably in order to enhance the sound effect.
We can establish the beauty and diversity of the Bashkir women's costume through the authentic and ethnographically accurate works of the artists created during the expeditions of 1928—1935.
“...During the expedition of 1928, Devletkildeyev created his best works, which became classics of the Bashkir fine arts ...”, so states V.M.Sorokina in her album on K.S.Devletkildeyev’s creativity . “The Bashkir Girl in Blue”, the most famous work by K.S.Devletkildeev, was masterfully drawn from life in Usman-Ghali village in 1928.
A young Bashkir girl poses sitting on a wooden bench in her house, wearing a beautiful blue dress of Bashkir cut, decorated with a red braid on the belt and ruffles of the skirt.
Yu.Yu.Blumenthal’s painting “The Young Bashkir Woman”, also created during the 1928 expedition, portrays a young woman in traditional everyday national clothes on the background of the modern Bashkir house interior.
V.S. Syromyatnikov’s painting “The Guests in the Women's Part of the House», purchased by the museum in 1936, is generally a visual aid for studying the details of Bashkir women's clothing. The artist very truthfully and documentarily depicted not only the whole atmosphere and interior of the Bashkir house, but also the women's festive costumes. The mistress of the house, being, as it were, a symbol of prosperity and well-being, is wearing a festive headwear “kashmau” and breastplate “sakal”, which are the most beautiful parts of the Bashkir women's festive costume.
Bashkir “kashmau” has no analogues in the costume of other peoples: it consists of a cap made of red cloth, and a back band designed for covering woman's hair. At the top, the cap has a moon-shaped hole, rounded in rows of coral and silver coins, decorated from the top of the head to the front edge with coral slices. The head and fore parts are framed with coins, with long curly pendants “sulpa” with jasper hanging down from the cheeks to the chest. Kashmau is fastened with a delicate buckle under the chin. The back band is a wide long strip running down from the back of the neck of kashmau along the back, richly decorated with colored beads, arranged in the form of certain geometric figures (squares, rhombuses, triangles) with shells between or inside them. Kashmau was worn on top of the hair; the forehead was covered with embroidered silk headband “haraus”. Only married women from well-to-do families could wear kashmau. In the 19th century, kashmau was relatively common, especially in the southern and southwestern districts of Bashkortostan and Orenburg region.
The kashmau for the collection of the Bashkir State Art Museum named after M.V.Nesterov was purchased from a local woman in Staro-Khusainovo village, Davlekanovsky district of Bashkortostan in 1940.
“Selter” (translated from Bashkir as “lace” or “net”) is a breastplate covering the cut of the dress on the chest. Its main feature is a massive form stretched vertically, consisting of two parts, while other varieties of breastplates, depending on the area, could be triangular or round, short or long. In the upper part of selter, corals sewn on the fabric basis are placed, forming a mosaic pattern. In the lower part there is a coral net, which ends with a thick coral fringe with silver coins. Between the upper and lower part there are several rows of silver coins separating the top and bottom of selter. Over the corals, silver coins of different denominations and origin were sown in the form of vertical columns: Russian rubles, coins from Germany, Poland, Hungary, China and other countries. Selter was buttoned behind the neck and supported by an attached belt at the waist. In the southeastern regions of Bashkortostan, selter was worn with kashmau and festive outer clothing “yelian”. Coral kashmau and an elongated selter with a fringe made the festive image of the Bashkir woman grand and monumental.
Selter for the collection of the Nesterov Museum was acquired from Sh.Sh. Akhmedyanova, a local of Enikeevo village in Abzelilovsky district in 1969.
In conclusion, it is necessary to state that even a short account of several unique exhibits of the Art Museum named after M.V.Nesterov, some of them one and only, provides insight into the level of value of the entire collection of Bashkir folk arts and crafts. We should be infinitely grateful to the enthusiasts of the museum, scientists and simple amateurs who managed not only to preserve it for the future generations, but also to systematize and scientifically comprehend the fund. Thus, all of these activities have helped to conceive the nature and spirit of our Bashkir people.
Translated by Farida Yunusova.