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Russia-Ukraine War

Violence in Bashkortostan grows as Russian security forces clash with protesters

Civil unrest continues to grow after the arrest of local environmental activist Fail Alsynov.



[WBHG News 24] – Despite -20°C weather and multiple arrests of activists on Tuesday, up to 10,000 protesters turned out to support activist Fail Alsynov in the Russian city of Baymak in the Republic of Bashkortostan.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs, Rosgvardia OMON, and the FSB struggled to control the crowd, which threw snowballs and ice and pushed back on shield-wielding police. Russian security forces responded with riot batons and tear gas in an attempt to disrupt the crowd. The protest turned increasingly violent, and Russian security forces were forced to retreat.

Environmental activist Alsynov was convicted to four years in prison on Wednesday for inciting hatred or enmity for using the phrase “kara halyk,” which roughly translates to black people in Russian. In Turkic-Bashkir, spoken in the Bashkortostan region of Russia, the phrase translates to poor people. Bashkir and Russian are the official languages of Bashkortostan, and Bashkir is taught in schools.

Alsynov was charged after making a speech opposed to a gold mine planned for the region, stating that the site would cause environmental damage and attract more “poor people” to the area. His supporters say the arrest has nothing to do with the gold mine or the speech and is revenge for previously blocking the construction of a soda ash mine. In that incident, the mine was to be built on a site considered sacred by ethnic Bashkirs.

The situation has deteriorated to the point that Russia is blocking channels on Telegram providing information about the protests. As protesters clashed with police, thousands chanted, “We are the poor people.”

Pictures and videos showed injured protesters and people suffering from tear gas exposure. One local activist released a video appealing for Russian soldiers from Bashkortostan fighting in Ukraine to return to “defend their land and people.”

The Republic has a population of about 3 million. Despite having only 2.1% of Russia’s population, it has experienced the fourth-highest military losses in the Russia-Ukraine War. Outside observers have accused the Kremlin of using the war to ethnically cleanse minority groups. Almost 70% of the population is Bashkirs or Tatars, and a majority practices Sunni Islam.

Despite being one of the most mineral and resource-rich regions in Russia, the average household income is just $409 a month, with figures inflated due to the significant number of residents who have joined the Russian Federation Armed Forces to escape poverty.

It is a rare display of significant unrest in Russia and support for an environmental activist.

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