Treasury of Historical Mentality

In folklore of every people there are genres which perpetuate the historical memory of predecessors in a peculiar way – these are folk–tales, legends and myths. Their organizing aesthetic principle is authenticity, and imparting information, relevant for the people creating folklore. Being interrelated and interconnected, these genres are differentiated according to the type of information they convey about events and phenomena, the attitude to the reality. As to the degree of authenticity, priority is given to folk–tales – epic narratives of people and events of the long past, which are called riwayai in Bashkir and also marked by terms tarikh – history, rarely khikayat (tale, story). The past is being analysed and interpreted in riwayats–tales under the influence of the epoch of their emergence and subsequent traditional existence in the oral form as folk's memory, preserved by several generations. Aiming at truthful representation of the past, story–tellers use such traditional methods of narration as pointing out that the story happened in «time immemorial», «in the days of yore», «long–long ago» or indicating a particular time («In the times of Genghis Khan», «When Russians conquered the Kazan khanate», «About five hundred years ago»...), place («On picturesque banks of the Sarmasan river», «In the village of Salawat»...) and mentioning those historical personages whose names are well–known (Akai–batyr, Karahakal, Kinya, Kursai–batyr, Buranbai...). Along with it the particulars of the area and time of action are provided: «On the right bank of the Aghithel river, between Minaktash and Athantash there is a huge rock, resembling a coffer... («Handyktash» – «the Coffer–rock») or «approximately one sakrym» from Muinaktash, on the right bank of the Aghithel, one can see a rock. Its flat top is covered by yellow–red moss, that is why this rock is called yellow–headed («Harybashtash»), etc.

The majority of folk–tales have local character. The vernacular tales of the origin of various tribes and kins are mostly spread in places of their habitation, especially it concerns such kins as Aimaks, Ara, Tyuba. Folk–tales about the renowned hero, poet and warrior Salawat Yulayev are popular in different regions but mostly at his birthplace, the Salawat region of the Republic of Bashkortostan.

Structurally the riwayats–tales arc variegated. Some of them are short and perform only an informative function. Although prevalent among riwayats–tales are fabulates – the narrative tales with a developed plot.

Heroes of the folk–tales are people, who were taking part in important historical events (Salawat Yulayev, Kinya Arslanov, Yemelyan Pugachev, Karahakal, Akai), those who left traces in history as they were known in particular regions by their deeds (for instance, refugees, leaders) and people distinguished by their dramatic fates (captured girts or the ones married off against their will, humiliated daughters–in–law), notorious for their disreputable behaviour, infamous deeds.

The peculiarities of unfolding the image, its artistic pathos, – heroic, dramatic, sentimental, satirical, – are conditioned by the character of the hero or heroine, folklore tradition of their portrayal, personal attitude, talent and skill of the story–teller.

Close to a folk–tale as it belongs to the same genre is a legend – an oral tale of remote past, the motive power for which is a supernatural fantastic plot. Quite often mystifying motifs and images are present, for instance, in legends about the origin of heavenly bodies, the Earth, animals, plants, the emergence of tribes and kins, clans, legends about saints have ancient mythological roots. The personages of legends – people, animals are subject to various transformations: a girl turns into a cuckoo, a man – into a bear, or marries evil spirits. Also found in Bashkir legends are images of demiurges, spirits – owners of fauna, personages of Moslem mythology, angels, prophets, God Almighty.

Accordingly are construed spatial–temporal concepts: events and deeds of legend’s characters not infrequently take place in ancient times, in cosmic space, on vast expanses of water, in underwater worlds... There have been preserved plots, where the flashback device is introduced by phrases like: «It happened in time immemorial. There were neither stars nor Milky Way» («Milky Way»), «In the days of yore the Earth was the size of a spoon and the sky – the size of a cup» («Yetegan – the Great Bear»)...

Beginnings like «In time immemorial», introduced by story–tellers in order to draw the listener’s attention to the fact that the related events happened long ago are also found in folk–tales. However, according to genre peculiarities, whether the information conveyed is plausible, or the plausibility of the information is in question, though it might be based on real facts, the opening words of the story do not always prove to have archaic character. Used as a ready–made traditional formula, such an opening normally is not furnished with additional details, enhancing the motive of antiquity. On the contrary, the idea that the events related in a folk–tale happened in a comparatively old periods of time, which is typical of this genre, comes to the fore as the story unfolds.

It should be mentioned that the usage of a traditional formula at the beginning of the narration is not an indispensable component of the structure of folk–tales and legends. The greater part of plots begin right away with an account of events or characters actions. In this case, spatial–temporal parameters, expressed differently in various genres (In folk–tales in a concrete way, in legends – abstract), enable listeners to determine the historical period the «stories» told by a story–teller belong to.

What concerns the character of narration in a legend, one should note its fabulativity which presupposes continuity or the sequence of events and traditional plots; tendency to present the fantastic element in a realistic way (key). The latter is stipulated by the inherent genre orientation towards imparting plausible information.

Similarity of functions and the absence of rigidly canonized genre forms serve as conditions for emergence of mixed types of epic narration – folk–tales–legends (riwayat–legendalar). In the process of long–time oral existence folk–tales, composed on the basis of real facts, were losing some of their original authentic features and were supplied by imaginary legendary motifs, thus conditioning the emergence of a mixed genre form. To this type belong several tales of historical–heroic plane with a fantastic element. For instance, a folk–tale–legend about Salawat Yulayev's fight with «the Tsar» Kyrmahakal («Salawat–batyr»).

However, the emergence of mixed forms is not always the consequence of evolutionary processes. There are plots where a legendary motif «Wolf» is inherently introduced into the narration as an artistic device, which plays an important part in disclosing the main idea («Yoracktau» – «The Heart mountain»). Along with the informative function the aesthetic principle is prominent in stories, combining elements of folk–tales and legends.

Folk–tales and legends are of not only informative but also aesthetic value. Their realistic significance is in their historicism and world outlook reflected in them.

The world outlook as reflected in Bashkir legends is represented by mythological plots where the traces of totemic, animistic and demonological beliefs of ancient people found their expression.

The elements of totemic beliefs, the cult of animals and birds are most dearly revealed in ethnogenctic, ethnonymic legends of mythological character.

The wonderful ancestors (forefathers) of Bashkir tribes, kins are: Wolf («The Wolve’s Descendants»), Bear («From the Bear»), Horse («Human Tarpan»), Swan («The Yurmaty Tribe») and demonological creatures – the devil («The Shaitan's Kin»), Shurale – a wood–goblin («Shurale's Breed»). Especially popular among South–eastern Bashkirs are plots about a mythical wolf–totem. This motif, which can be traced back to Turkic and Mongol mythologies, is so definitely expressed in Bashkir genealogical legends that it served as the basis of the people's ethnonym («The Wolves Descendants»,» About the Origin of the Bashkirs»). Noteworthy are certain plots of fairy–tales which have much in common with legends about a wolf – a wonderful ancestor: «The Wolf's Son Syntimer–bakhlewan», Bashkir and Tatar variants of the fairy–tale «White Wolf». The latter plot is of interest because the beast – a werewolf, the fairy–tale protagonist's aide performs the role of the owner of the land and forest

Legends reflecting the evolution of views in people's mentality merit attention. The weakening of beliefs in the «possibility» of marital relations between man and beast, in the ability of reincarnations caused the emergence of «rationalization» motifs (wolves accept a man who lost his way into their pack, some time later they find a woman for him. Eventually the kin «Bashkir» descends of their marital union).

In close connection with legends of the wolf–ancestor are narratives of the wolf–leader, a wonderful protector. It is related in them of the advent of the Bashkir’s ancestors led by their mythical leader to the Urals «from someplace in the South», «from Turkey», «from the area of the Turkish town of Karbale (at present a town on Iraq's territory)», «from the Altai», «from Arabia», the sanctity of the beast–protector, the ancestor–benefactor, with whose help people found their tribal territory, a holy, beneficial place to live (kotlo uryn), is emphasized. The majority of such–like plots are centred round the attempts at explanation the ethnonym «Bashkort».

Though these tales are fantastic, ancient ethnohistorical links of the Bashkirs with the peoples of the Altai, Central Asia and Kazakhstan found their reflection in them, although they are of somewhat vague character. The presence of certain Bashkir tribes in the Altai, Central Asian regions is proved by historical sources. According to historians, Central Asia, the Aral Sea area, were the places of the Bashkir tribe’s temporary habitation on their big way of migration.

The traces of medieval ethnocultural links of Bashkirs with Oguz–Kypsak ethnic masses arc retained in the folk–tale «Where the Bashkirs Came from», recorded in south¬eastern Bashkortostan. This plot joins the group of legends about the ancestor–leader and protector. The difference is that the leader of the Bashkirs here is not a mythical animal but the legendary Korkud–Ata. Here are meant variants recorded by I. Djembysbayev, V. Velyaminov–Zernov.

The motif of a holy wolf is widely known not only in the Turkic–Mongol world but in the folklore of non–Turkic peoples (legends of Remus and Romulus, who were nursed by a she–wolf; about the origin of Girpinsky kins who were led by a wolf in their migrations, etc. Academician V. A. Gordievsky was apt to think that the tales of a holy wolf traditional for Turkic–Mongol peoples were brought to Europe by nomadic Turkic tribes3.

Of great interest and profundity are the plots connected with the images of revered animals: deer, horse and bear.

The legends of deer, the leader, mentioned in the works of ancient authors (Priske, Jordan...), and also the ones known by a Turkic tribe Hun, are similar in their plots to Bashkir legends about wolf, the leader (the unexpected appearance of a wonderful animal before the people who lost their way and its sudden disappearance after finding a land of plenty for their dwelling). In the Bashkir legends recorded in modern time («Aina and Gaina», «The Gainins», «The Tolbuys») the traditional motif of finding the place for the kin's dwelling with a deer's help is revealed in a somewhat peculiar way within another collision of the plot: the future founder of the Gaina kin and bis brother Aina are arriving at the banks of the Tol river near modern Perm on a white deer. The permanent dwelling area of the Gainins (Gaina and his descendants) becomes the territory where the doer trod on the scorching ground, and by the kick of its hooves it let the sun, which had been stolen and hidden by a demoniac creature (a witch, a dragon), from under the ground.

A thorough textological analysis shows that the legends about the origin of the Gainins, in which ethnogenctic and cosmogonic motifs are interwoven, bear traces of very ancient notions, so ancient that it is impossible to determine the ethnic environment of their origin. Along with widely known in the Turkic–Mongol world plots about an animal–leader in the above–mentioned Bashkir legends also have been discovered motifs similar to the legends of Marind–anims, Gilyak myths about mother Universe – half a deer, half a woman with suns on its horns. There is a certain resemblance to motifs about a blue deer (elk) and the sun from Slavonic, Finno–Ugrian, Samodian mythologies.

The motif of a witch stealing the sun brings to mind the epic songs, short tales of southern Slavs (Serbs, Bulgarians) about stealing of heavenly bodies. The Bashkir legends about a wonderful horse–forefather arc new versions of the legends about a wolf («The Kin of Bash»– «Tai – the Head Yearling»), in part they represent a further development of the traditional motif («Villages Yamash and Yomash»). Noteworthy are plots, where a horse represents a bearer of a peculiar horse's breed which have allegedly emerged from the underwater world («Yilkysykkan kul» – «The Lake where from Horses Came Out»); or a creator of natural objects («Karithel»...). Of considerable informative value are legends about mythical winged horses–tolpars («The Mountain Slope of Turat – the Bridegroom's Stone») and also of renowned runners, who won prizes at horse–races («Alasabyr»). The investigation of historical sources, motifs, material objects, reflected in all kinds of plots, testifies to antiquity of the tradition of worshipping a horse (it is explained by a great role of the horse in man's life).

The Bashkir legends representing the cult notions related to the bear image are basically (the first bear is a man miraculously turned into a bear; the master of the underground world) similar to legends of many peoples of the world, and some of them have even textual affinity.

Similar phenomena are observed not only in folklore but also in objects of material culture, ancient arts (the pictures of a bear in the caves of France, a bear's bones laid out in a definite order in the caves of Germany, petrogliphs in Scandinavia, the Urals, Eastern Siberia)} in beliefs, customs and rites («Holidays in Bear's Honour») with ritual dances; taboos on the word «bear», its substitution by other names: taiyshtaban (bow–legged), babai (grandfather) by Bashkirs, ehe (grandfather), tyataagy (of taiga) by Yakuts, abaai (wife's or husband's elder brother, a relative) by Altai–Telengits, an old man, a grandfather, father (N. A. Alexeyev). The traces of totemism are more clearly expressed in beliefs of Eastern Altais and Tuvinians. They consider a bear to be a totem animal (L. P. Potapov).

The cult of birds is reflected in legends which have ancient sources of their origin. According to Bashkir legends the birds possessing wonderful qualities were a duck, a crane, a swan, a rook, a golden eagle, a cuckoo. Besides the above–mentioned motifs of ethnogenetic character when wonderful ancestors including a swan were mentioned, birds in legends play roles of 1) demiurges (a duck and a drake – creators of an island, a land; a crane – a creator of Milky Way – Kosh yuly); 2) zoomorphic masters – spirits of the locality (a duck and a drake. The motif of a zoomorphic spirit is a further evolution of ancient beliefs in a duck – demiurge); 3) wonderful protectors of people (a crane, a rook); 4) soothsayers (a crane, a cuckoo. «The extraordinary» character of the latter reveals itself in etiologic narratives, in which the first cuckoo is a woman separated from her beloved and converted into a bird by a word of magic).

The investigation of the semantics of holidays «The Rook’s Feast», «The Rook’s Porridge», «The Cuckoo's Tea», accompanied by a ritual feast, songs, dances, games, and ritual dances «A Cuckoo», imitating sacrifices, testifies to heathen roots of motifs retained in legends.

In syncretic unity with totemic views animistic beliefs were evolving, the origin and development of which were stipulated by living conditions of ancient people, their mentality, historical, cultural and religious factors.

The traces of animistic beliefs come to the fore in cosmogonic legends. The plots about heavenly bodies and natural phenomena make the basis of such legends. They retained the features of very ancient mythological beliefs of their links with animals and earthly people. Thus, according to legends, spots on the moon are roes and a wolf constantly chasing them (according to other versions – a girl with a yoke); the constellation of the Great Bear are seven beautiful girls, who got scared on seeing the king of davs, jumped to the top of the mountain and found themselves in heaven.; or seven wolves («Two Wolves in Heaven», «The Moon and Zekhra», «Seven Stars – Seven Girls»); the North Star is an iron rod, and two neighbouring to the Great Bear stars are two horses tied to the iron rod. But the wolves cannot catch the horses because at dawn the horses as well as the wolves must disappear Similar beliefs are typical of many Turkic–Mongol peoples. G. N. Potanin noted that the basis for emergence of such myths in part are observations of the visible trajectories of planets and stars in the sky, as if trying to reach each other like a hunter. Along with it one can observe in this motifs peculiar reflections of views of cattle–breeding peoples including Bashkirs.

Typical of cosmogonic legends is anthropomorphic treatment of images of heavenly bodies. In some legends the Moon personifies a male gender, in other ones – a female one. Twofold character has the Sun.

Of archaic character is a mythological legend about two Suns in the sky and a marksman Ural–batyr, who brings cosmic space to order («How the Moon and the Urals Came into Being»). Though there are later additions, the mythologem and some details of the plot bear resemblance to ancient Asian myths (legends of marksmen E, Khado, Oadzymy) and myths of North Indians (the talc of Coyote).

The mentality of ancient man finds reflection in legends, explaining the origin of natural objects, the shapes of landscape.

During folklore expeditions there were recorded fragments of Bashkir cosmogonic legends that the Earth stands on a huge bull or a big pike (or just a fish) and movements of this bull cause earthquakes.

Other Turkic peoples have similar legends (Kazakhs, Kirghizes). Mongols identified the Earth with a bull. The Udmurt legend «A Bull in the Ground» where earthquakes are explained by movements of a mythical animal has much in common with the Bashkir legend5. The traces of worshipping a pike (legends of Kokshag king – a pike with a crown) are recorded among the Man people. The appearance of such legends was conditioned by ancient imaginative thinking connected with labour activities of people of the epoch of tribal order.

The origin of mountains (hills, rocks) in Bashkir legends are often connected with mythological plots about giants – alps («Musektau», «A Two–topped Alpa–kom»).

The area of spreading the motif «Mountains arise from sand (clay), that poured out of shoes of a giant» is broad: from the Baltic sea to the Caucasus and further on to the East. This motif is also known to folklore of peoples of the countries of Western Europe.

According to legends and beliefs rivers, lakes, mountains and stones are endowed with supernatural strength and also qualities typical of man: rivers «argue», «are jealous», «take offence», «get angry» («The Argument of the Two Inyers», «The Aghithel and the Yayik», «The Aghithel and the Karithel», «The Urals Bride–money»); lakes change their colour after unfair deeds of man («Butharhan»), «disproving' bloody fights», «disdaining blood» they abandon their habitual place and locate in another one («Kanlykul» – «A Blood–stained Lake»); stones roll down tops of mountains «to meet people» (plots related to one of versions of the legend «Kilentash» – «The Bride's Stone»). Bashkir legends about arguments between neighbouring rivers have parallels in Russian, Ukrainian, Byelorussian and Kazakh legends about arguments and rivalry between rivers («The Vazuza and the Volga», «The Volga and the Kama». «The Dnieper and the Desna», «The Dnieper and the Sozh», «The Volga and the Western Dvina», «The Don and the Shat», «The Ili and the Karatal»). In all probability such legends represent poetic perception of peculiarities of a river–bed, current surrounding mountainous or steppe landscape, the origin of local rivers, they have not only typological affinity but also complex genetic links which are of a comparatively later period. In some Bashkir legends of rivers, for instance in «The Ural's Bride–money» their ancient plot is complicated by social–domestic motifs of later periods.

Legends, where dent analogical notions found their reflection, merit attention. Ancient folk beliefs in existence of zoomorphic and anthropomorphic spirits of mountain and lake hosts formed the basis of the legend about spirits–masters in the guise of a drake and a duck which inhabited a mountain lake of «Yogomash–hill» and the legend about the mistress of a lake in the guise of a girl («The Lake of a Water–sprite»). It is related in them that the disappearance (death) of mythical hosts of a mountain or a lake entailed leveling of a mountain, drying up of a lake.

In some plots a water–sprite is presented as a male creature, the owner of a herd of numerous underwater horses («The Lake Out of Which Horses Emerged»). Modern story¬tellers and listeners do not draw a hard demarcation line between notions of «the owner of waters», «mother of waters», «a river beauty, a mermaid».

Believing in existence of spirits–hosts of nature, Bashkirs tried not to cause their anger but, contrary to it, secure their support and sympathy (sacrifices, decorating trees by multi¬coloured straps of cloth during festivities, performing rituals in the open, throwing beautiful stones, coins into water, etc.). In Bashkir folklore one can find rather rare plots with motifs of human sacrifices to spirits of the Earth in different periods of time (the legend set to the melody «Azamat», containing the archaic motif in its «pure» form, and the Bashkir, Tatar legends about building of Kazan where not a man but an animal is given as an offering).

On the whole, the Bashkir's mentality, which embraced realistic notions along with mythological ones, was characterized by personification of objects and phenomena of nature, and if one takes a wider view on the material involved, including epos, – one can conclude that nature was revered.

The investigation of various aspects of mythological beliefs reflected in folk–tales and legends shows their close interrelation. A systematic research of legends based on mythology reveals the fact that they descend from that archaic period of time when monistic views on life were predominant.

Legends based on ancient beliefs disclose various kinds of similarity with myths and legends of other peoples. A number of motifs have a universal character. National identity is revealed in plots, objects of material culture. The universal archaic motifs and images testify to the fact that spiritual culture of the Bashkir's ancestors originated in remote past and was developing in line with universal culture.

Historical folk–tales and legends constitute a considerable layer of folklore. According to the types of plots they are subdivided into historical–genealogical (early historical folk¬tales and legends) and historical proper.

Among historical–genealogical folk–tales about beginnings of settling on the ancestral lands there are plots construed on the pattern of ethnogenetic legends with the mythological basis, but unlike them in such–like types of folk–tales lands of plenty were found not by a wonderful animal but by the cattle belonging to the inhabitants of a certain locality («The Origin of the Bashkirs», a version recorded by A. G. Bessonov).

Traditional motifs come to the fore in the plots where the tribe's area is determined by people («Mambat»).

Rather interesting historical information present folk–tales relating of ethnical links of the Bashkirs with other peoples. Quite typical are plots referring to affinity of certain Bashkir tribal subdivisions with the Kazakhs («Hyntash», «Mambat»).

Historical proper folk–tales of the Bashkirs reflect real events of social character in people's interpretation: semantics, historical roots of these folk–tales are revealed in two basic thematic groups – folk–tales about fights with external enemy and tales about the struggle for social freedom.

Deep historical roots have folk–tales about fights of the Bashkirs with the Huns. Obviously because of remoteness of events, tales of the Huns* invasion the Urals are mostly devoid of plot, they impart information of toponymical character («The Mountain Where a Misfortune Happened», «The Mountain Where Salt Was Spilt»). The only exception is «The Stone of Athan», which is perceived as a completed sample of folklore. It's really hard to believe in authenticity of the event described in this folk–tale (moreover, the folk–tale has other variants), however it is unlikely that the Huns were mentioned by chance. There are historical facts mentioned in scientific literature that nomadic Hun tribes penetrated to the Urals in II–IV centuries A. D.

Historical memory of people preserved till our day the tales of tragic fate of many peoples including the Bashkirs in the epoch of the Mongol invasion. Folk–tales describe the Mongol invasion as «a black wrathful array», the force that obliterates everything on its way, all that is held sacred. The folk–tales immortalized the names of the batyrs, who went to defend their native lands, their compatriots, who perished in battle: Bicksura, Akman, Tokman, Boshman–Kypsak...

However there is another type of plots (though they are not numerous) about representatives of the Bashkir nobility, who having got tides and charters from Genghis Khan, which certified their rights to own lands with the right to inheritance, supported the policy of the Golden Horde khans («Muytan»).

The plots describing events of the time of Tamerlan's reign merit special attention. Noteworthy is the tale–reminiscence – «The Last of the Thartay Kin», in which one of the tragic events m the fate of Bashkir people during the severe fights of Tamerlan (Akhak–Timer) with the Golden Horde Khan Tokhtamysh, is related on the example of the Thartay kin. This is a story of selfless heroism of the Thartays who were killed but never surrendered to the invaders. The informative value of this folk–tale is exceptional. It has its distinctive flavour as an artistic merit. As the tale came to us in a written form, the features characteristic of literary works prevail in its style. Along with it, in this tale salient peculiarities of non–fairy–like prose are revealed: aiming at plausibility (emphasis on concrete facts, place, time), making use of traditional motifs in delineation of characters.

After the disintegration of the Golden Horde the territory of Bashkortostan was divided between the Nogai, Kazan and Siberian khanates. It was the hardest period for the majority of Bashkir people, because severe oppression on the part of the conquerors, endless feuds and forays, which were part and parcel of khanate’s policy, tyranny of local feudals devastated national economy, undermined weak production forces. This tragic epoch in the life of Bashkir people found its reflection in folklore, folk–tales, legends, including a folk¬tale recorded in the middle of the XlX th century by V. S. Yumatov who came of the Bashkirs of the Min tribe. The time of Nogai myrtha's rule in all its complexity and diversity is described in it: not only various aspects of Nogai–Bashkort relations but also the relations between the Nogai myrthas themselves, strife, blood–shedding battles. The folk¬tale preserved and brought to us the spirit of bygone times: *A blood–shedding battle started between the Kilembets (Nogai myrthas–brothers – F. N.); a great number of people perished. At last an earthquake broke out, the land was yelling, as the Bashkirs say...

In XVI–XVIII centuries Bashkir–Kazakh relations were complicated. On the one hand, spiritual affinity between two kindred nations, strengthening of friendly ties revealed themselves and were reflected in similar motifs of Bashkir and Kazakh folklore. On the other hand, constant feudal raids (barymta) of Kazakhs and Bashkirs resulted in unfriendly relations between them. It also found reflection in their folklore. In folklore of South¬western Bashkirs there are many folk–tales about raids of Kazakhs and Bashkirs on each other, of calamities they brought about, in these tales blood–shedding intertribal strife is condemned. In the folk–tale «Bayas–batyr» the hero, having overpowered the Kazakh batyr Alathtaima in a fight, says: «Hey, Alathtaima! It is one thing to tend cattle and to tend the country is a thousand times greater thing. Don't come here anymore.»

A tale of Yeryansya–sasan and his wise wife Bandabika («Bandabika and Yeransa–sasan») is marked by humanistic pathos. Folk–tales about raids of Kalmyks and Kazan khan’s oppression («Takaghashka–batyr», «Umbat–batyr», etc.) have historical facts as their basis.

People's wisdom is reflected in folk–tales about Bashkortostan joining Russia. It is viewed as a positive decision after which feudal raids stopped («Takaghashka–batyr»).

To traditional historical folk–tales about the struggle with foreign enemy belong oral tales about the Patriotic War of 1812. A patriotic emotion, which Bashkir people were seized by, found its expression in folk–tales of this kind folk–tales relate of battles with Napoleon, of victorious entry of the Russian army and Bashkir soldiers in Paris and their returning to their Motherland in 1815 («The Second Army», «Kahym–Tura», «Bashkirs at War with the French»).

Especially popular are the stories of the fearless war–leader Kahym–Tura – Kasim Myrthashev, who was bom in the village of Aiyusy of Starletamak region. Most of tales about him exist in the form of songs –folk–tales, the prosaic part of which is more subject to variability than the poetic one. Integral for the major part of versions is the motif of glorifying the heroic leader, his exceptional valour, deep sorrow in the hearts of soldiers after his tragic death. The motif of death is not present only in the legendary version recorded in the village of Ishki of Uchaly region.

Folk–tales about other batyrs, including a woman–warrior, whose names were kept in people's memory («Yanhary–batyr», «Abdrakhman Akyegetov», «Bashkort Djantyra's Tale») though not devoid of fictional element, are basically realistic. Literary sources testify to this.

Folk–tales about the Patriotic war of 1812 are permeated with heroic pathos, which is justified by a considerable role the Bashkirs played in the war of 1812, when 28 Bashkir cavalry–Cossack regiments were formed. Besides, two Tiptar and two Mishar regiments were formed in Bashkortostan and sent to the front. Twelve thousand Bashkir horsemen were in military service on Eastern frontiers; by August 15,1812 in Bashkortostan 500,000 roubles were collected for the army. Bashkir horsemen were fighting under Danzig, Weimar, Ganau, Shatobrian and Paris. The French called Bashkirs «Northern amours» for their marksmanshift.

A considerable layer of historical folk–tales constitute plots about the struggle for national and social liberation. The majority of such plots concern events of XVIII–XIX centuries, they reflect a long, hard way of the struggle of the Bashkir people for national and social liberation. Plundering of Bashkir lands, endless lawsuits of local people with factory–owners are the main issues of folk–tales. Plot–making motif of the majority of folk¬tales is a world–known motif of «selling land the size of a bull's hide». Notwithstanding ingenuity of factory–owners, the folk–tales reconstitute a veritable picture of ruthless plunder of Bashkir lands, they disclose its character and scale. Swindling, fraud, bribery, violence were typical of land–dealer’s activities, and the motif of «selling land the size of a bull’s hide» is based on historical facts («How a Boyar Bought Land», «Utagan», etc.). In such kind of folk–tales a complicated psychological situation is portrayed – a disastrous state of the cheated Bashkirs, their embarrassment and helplessness.

Among traditional plots about plundering the Bashkir lands of special interest is. a folk–tale about the death of a greedy merchant who made an attempt to run around a great area of land from dawn till sunset in order to take possession of it («Selling of Land»). As is known, this plot got a brilliant interpretation in L. N. Tolstoy's short story «How Much Land Does Man Need», which was written under the impression of his visit to Bashkir the 70–ies of the XIX century.

There are many folk–tales relating of the Bashkirs struggle against plundering their lands by factory–owners and landlords, against the colonial policy of tsarism. Of great value among such tales are folk–tales of Bashkir uprisings of XVII and XVIII centuries. Because of remoteness of events many plots lost their authenticity and were filled by legendary motifs (for instance, the folk–tale – legend about one of the leaders of the Bashkir uprising of 1735–1740 Akai–batyr), some of them are of contradictory character (folk–tales of Karahakal). Notwithstanding all this, they are quite an obvious manifestation of people's attitude to major historical events, a peculiar understanding of these events.

Noteworthy is the cycle of folk–tales of the Bashkir uprising of 1755 against Bragin, who came to South–eastern Bashkiria (modem Baimak region) from Petersburg as chief of a geological party. In artistic form folk–tales portrayed to us Bragin's atrocities on Bashkirian land («Surash», «Bragin's Stone»). Disclosing the historical background of folk¬tales about Bragin, L. G. Barag noted: «The historical background of these folk–tales–legends, combining real facts with artistic imagination, influenced by traditional Bashkirian folklore, lies above all in the fact that they give an artistic portrayal of typical events in the life of Bashkirian mining and metallurgical factory life of the XVIII century».

The combination of fact and fiction is observed in folk–tales about attempts at forceful christianization of Moslems («Christening», «How Bashkirs Refused to Be Converted into Christianity»).

Historically authentic as to their basic motifs are folk–tales about the Peasant War of 1773–1775. They tell of unbearable feudal and national oppression; indomitable craving of people, for freedom, their determination to protect their Motherland from plunder are expressed in them. Rather illustrative in this respect is the legend «Salawat–batyr» – The traditional motif of selling a plot of land the size of a bull's hide makes the basis of the plot of this legend. Of great semantic and emotive significance is the following fragment of the legend where Salawat's meeting with akhakals is described:

«It»s unbearable»,–– akhakals said, «we must protect our land... You are our hope, Salawat!»

«A yeget’s fate is in his Motherland's hands, Motherland's fate is in a yeget's hands. My fate is my people's fate, having uttered these words Salawat mounted his horse and raised his threatening sword... That was a magic sword, which the akhakals had given him»...

Contrary to the attempts of the tsarist government to present the Peasant War of

1773–1775 as «an uprising of villains», and its participants as «villains», «criminals», «robbers», folklore emphasizes liberating character of this war, and its participants and leaders are treated as noble fighters for justice, protectors of people and the oppresed.

Folk–tales of the Peasant War are not devoid of creative fantasy. It it revealed to a great extent in portrayal of heroic deeds of Salawat who was endowed by traits of an epic hero.

Perpetuation of Salawat's name is a consequence of bis exceptional role in liberation movement. Even adversaries of Peasant movement general–major P. S. Potyomkin, general–in–chief P. I. Panin in their reports to Yekaterina II were obliged to admit that Salawat Yulayev was «the chief leader of the past uprising» calling him «glorious Salawat».

Folk–tales and legends of the Peasant War are an important source of understanding the history of the Bashkir people.

Runaway robbers are portrayed as noble social avengers. The common motif for the majority of folk–tales about fugitives is robbing of the rich and supporting the poor As the theme of a noble fugitive is widely represented in songs–folk–tales, the most popular plots are offered in the book, devoted to songs–folk–tales (see footnote on p. 5). In the present selection there is only one text about the fugitive Kamal, who was pursued by the authorities for his participation in the Peasant War of 1773–1775.

Folk–tales relating of events connected with old time way of life and customs of the Bashkirs are informative. Characters of people in such folk–tales are revealed in dramatic circumstances conditioned by feudal–patriarchal relations. The starting–point for the plot is the situation when a girl is married off against her will to a man (an old rich one in most cases) whom she does not love. Though the dramatic conflict in such folk–tales is limited by the sphere of family life, their social character and the protest against social injustice are quite evident.

Legends–folk–tales «Kyunhylyu», «Yurack–Tau»– «Heart–Mountain», which glorify eternal love and are also directed against social ills and injustice, are permeated with humanistic and dramatic pathos.

In the legend «Kyunhylyu» the bai–father marries his only daughter off to an old rich mullah and makes her part from her beloved Treachery and ruthlessness of the mullah cause a chain of tragic events. Nature is not indifferent to them: the mountain moves from the place where the gruesome atrocity was committed. However, the dramatic plot does not cause the feeling of hopelessness. Several months after the death of the heroine and her beloved man the mountain split, and two swans flew out of it, they made nests on a bank of the Ai river and bred their chicks. This end asserts the eternity of love in a poetic way.

Folk–tales «Awathbika», «Makhuba» relate of courageous women, who fight for their happiness with zeal and inspiration. Actions and deeds of the heroine of the–folk–tale «Uthaman–apai» to some extent are akin to characters of bogatyr maids, portrayed in folklore of many people, including Bashkirs.

Thus, folk–tales, legends and other elements of folklore are akin to people's life, their history, beliefs, mentality. Various stages of historical evolution of people and their social self–consciousness are reflected in them in a peculiar way.

Emerged in remote past as explanatory narratives, folk–tales and legends have undergone a long way of evolution, in the process of which archaic motifs were replenished by later layers, that is why it is very important to reveal in every piece of folklore art the ratio of invariable and variable elements in order to determine the historical basis of the motif and then highlight the lay–out of typical elements whether they make a single line pattern or a mosaic, thus disclosing the underlying system.

Historical, social and genre folk–tales–legends not devoid of creative fancy reflect in an artistic way the typical phenomena of real life and as a consequence the degree of authenticity in them is specific, typified. The research data testify to great informative value of such kind of folk–tales. The information of ethnohistorical, ethnocultural links of the Bashkirs preserved in folklore is really invaluable.