Salavat


There is a stone pillar on the Uruzan river bank. It is a petrified trunk of a pine-tree. If you go out into the steppe, you will see it right away. There are several nails hammered into it. During the Salavat rebellion, his men used to hang their rifles on those nails and they tied their horses onto the trunk. Although it's unlikely that you have heard of Salavat. I would like to tell you a story. It is a very old story. Even my late grandfather did not remember it quite well1. Here, on our lands, there were dense woods. There were as many bears walking around as hares. Everywhere were impenetrable pine forests. AH those forests, those lands belonged to the Horde2. They lived happily, had a lot of cattle, herds of horses were uncountable. People lived in peace, nobody disturbed them. But time flew, Russian officials began to plunder and rob those people. They considered native people to be prosperous but ignorant, who did not know any laws and regulations, so that it was possible to oppress them. First, they deprived them of their lands and sold lands to boyars*, then they took cattle, valuables away from Bashkorts. Kirghizes3 often robbed their cattle. So the people had to take swords in their hands. If somebody came to collect taxes or for some other reason, he was done away with. The Russian government sent soldiers to suppress them. But it made people much more infuriated. It became more difficult to resist them. Among the Horde was a young batyr*. I think he was from Ethem4. His name was Salavat. He was very strong. He could lift 320 kilograms with one hand easily. His chain armour weighed about 48 kilograms.

When he was a small boy he used to tend grazing horses. Once he was tired of this. He left horses to play with other boys. They started their game but they had no leader. What kind of game can it be without the khan*-leader? Salavat said: "Let's place sticks – landmarks along this path. The one who will be able to knock down the landmarks at full tilt, will become the khan". Every boy had his own landmark. Each of them had to knock it down. The race began, but no one could knock down a stick. Salavat knocked down his own one with his hat.

– Salavat, you failed to fulfil our conditions,– said the children.

– Oh, you are silly things,– answered Salavat.–Is it possible to knock down a landmark at such a distance? I am smarter than you, that is why I must be your leader5.

First they were playing children's games. Later Salavat became their real leader.

Time went by, and Salavat became an adult mature man. The Horde people were subject to ruthless oppression again. By merchants – on the one part, by the Ural and Orenburg Cossacks – on the other.

When things went from bad to worse, the Horde appealed to Salavat: 'You are our batyr. You have our respect. Try to liberate our land from those Russian and Kirghiz officials.”

And Salavat began the war against the boyars. He conquered a town or a village day by day, hour by hour. The boyars had a bad time.

This was exactly the time when Pugachev made his appearance6, Salavat made friends with him. They performed many good deeds together. They brought freedom to people of many lands.

Pugachev was captured and executed. Some people say that he was drowned in the Yoruthan. But Salavat hid himself. Then he was also captured.

 


1) After the Peasant war of 1773-1775, the Russian Tsar forbade people to sing songs and recite poems about Salavat There were some informants working In the region, who made people hold their tongues.


2) That's how the story-teller called the Bashkorts Horde were people who recited legends, poems.


3) Here the Kazakhs are implied.


4) Ethem is a village situated on a bank of the river Sim.


5) The episode of boys' game when tm are choosing their leader (?«khan?») to the text published here bears strong resemblance to Kazakh tale of Tamerlan.


6) E. Pugachev, the leader of Peasant War of 1773-1775, was executed on the 10th of January in 1776.