in the Russian Civil War
The Bashkirs numbered
about 2 million at
the start of the Russian Civil
War, centred on the Ural Mountains, so were an important group in the
Orenburg Host area. Not particularly strict Muslims, they were
culturally quite close to the Volga Tartars.
By the time of the Civil War their traditional dress was a mixture of
Turkic and European styles.
They had never been serfs and were relatively prosperous, although they
so as their lands were taken by Russian colonists and industry.
They were used to serving
in their own military units and were good soldiers.
in the RCW
The Bashkirs differed from their co-religionists in the middle of
Russia (Volga Tartars, Kalmyks, Kirghiz) by being motivated largely by
a desire for territorial, rather than just religious and
autonomy. This was because their historical lands were more fertile and
long been under much
more pressure from ethnic Russians. Right from the start of the
revolution they pressed for full independence, either as a separate
Bashkiria, or inside a Muslim Volga-Urals state (the so-called
In the flux of the revolution and counter-revolution a kurultai
of Bashkirs was called. A council was elected, with the young Ahmed Zeke
(Validov, in the Russian) as their leader, and their political demands
laid out. As 1917 drew to a close, the emboldened Bashkirs tried
to reassert territorial control over their area, clashing frequently
with Russians in the process.
Flag of the Bashkir National
Dutov of the Orenburg Cossacks was prepared to accept a separate
inside Russia, since that was consistent with Cossack separatism, and
maintained good relations. With the Bolshevik takeover, Lenin had
agreed in principle to a
separate Bashkiria. However the Soviets did not consider the
Bashkir Council sufficiently politically orthodox and a Red Bashkir
subordinate to the Orenburg Soviet, was established as soon as they
occupied the Orenburg area in early 1918. However even the Red Bashkirs
too separatist for the Bolsheviks and Stalin, who was in charge of
nationalities in the new regime, tried to set up a great Urals-Volga
Soviet merging Bashkirs with Tartars and Chuvash. This was vehemently
rejected by the Bashkirs, who demanded autonomy.
As a result,
when Dutov's Orenburg Cossacks retook much of Bashkiria Validi set
recruiting men to fight alongside them. While the White Cossack cause
aligned reasonably well, unfortunately, the main White cause was
resolutely anti-separatist, and the rise of reaction under Kolchak
doomed the alliance. The admiral demanded the separate Bashkir Corps be
disbanded, and the units placed into the main White armies.
was largely unimportant to the Bashkirs, so when the Red Army took
control of most of their lands at the end of 1918, they entered
negotiations to see if they could get a better deal than Kolchak would
offer – which wasn't hard. In late February 1919 the bulk of
the 9th Bashkir Rifle Division moved over to the Reds. In return for
such a sizable force Lenin had
promised a separate BashRevKom (Bashkir Revolutionary Committee) to be
in control of all their lands.
Kolchak took the Bashkir homelands with his Spring
offensive soon afterwards, so it wasn't until about September 1919 that
the BashRevKom could assert its control over Bashkir lands.
Unsurprisingly they were thwarted at every step by Russian chauvinism
and the Bolsheviks' desire for centralisation, especially of industry.
May 1920 the Soviets issued a new decree on Bashkir autonomy, which
effectively removed any real control from the BashRevKom. The Bashkir
opposed this, and inevitably the local Soviets reacted with seizures,
punitive raids and terror – supported by the local Russian
hoped to gain more land. Equally inevitably it grew into a full-scale
the Soviets had posted all their Bashkir units a long way from Siberia,
so they could play no part in the uprising. Hunger, winter and superior
numbers meant the Soviets quickly suppressed the revolt, with a few
hard-core Bashkirs fleeing abroad or to the Basmachis.
It seems odd that a semi-nomadic people should provide infantry, but
the White Bashkir Corps was largely that. Started in March 1918, it
with the Orenburg Cossacks until the end of that year. Political
difference meant that it then largely withdrew from combat until
it defected to the Red Army in February 1919.
Bashkir Rifle Division at 28 December 1918 (from White Guard Almanac
37th Bashkir Rifle
Regiment – 1 battalion, 600 bayonets, 12 MGs
38th Bashkir Rifle Regiment – 1 battalion, 530 bayonets, 8 MGs
39th Bashkir Rifle Regiment – 2 battalions, 210 bayonets, 12 MGs
40th Bashkir Rifle Regiment – 1 battalion, 758 bayonets, 180 sabres, 11
4th Bashkir battery – 2 guns (3")
The uniform of the Bashkir Division is given at kolchakiya.narod.ru
The style is clearly that of the KOMUCH
People's Army and Czechs formed around the same time and place. A cloth
strip sufficed for cockade and arm badge gave the unit and rank.
Shoulderboards were plain with just a number. It seems some effort was
given to dressing as well as possible, although not easy at that time,
but a KOMUCH
specifying the details assumes traditional furry hats will be worn
in winter until replacements can be found.
It seems that the cavalry portion (which may have been a separate
regiment, despite the order of battle above) was armed with sabres
only, unlike the usual Cossack front rank lancers.
loss of the Bashkir Division was a huge blow for the Orenburg Cossacks,
but the unit had clearly been unreliable for several months, so the
military damage was minimised.
It seems the Orenburg Host reformed the
Bashkirs after their defection, using new recruits but with a
core of those members
who had remained. However it does does not appear again on any orders
battle and information is sparse. Volkov mentions briefly a Bashkir
Cavalry Brigade in May 1919, fighting
with the Orenburg Host. One source mentions two Bashkir divizions
Ataman Dutov to Semirechensk with the Orenburg Host, but this is
contradicted by others.
The magazine Vatandash
mentions the 2nd Bashkir Regiment fighting at Yekaterinburg, and being
presented a flag with a crescent and star in the middle and a 2 in each
Large numbers of Bashkirs were recruited into other White formations in
both infantry and cavalry. Indeed, many were largely Bashkir and/or
Tartar in composition. They tended to hold together well in the retreat
1919, so the Far Eastern Army had large numbers, albeit not in separate
Ungern-Sternberg fielded a "Bashkir" unit for a while in his AKD.
These were likely men recruited from the Bashkirs, and other Turkic
peoples, who had fled ahead of the Red Army.
With the arrival of the defecting Bashkir Division in February 1919, an
order was issued
regarding their new formation in the Red Army. There was to be a 3
brigade, a 4 regiment cavalry division and 2 artillery divizions
(one light (12 guns) and the other of a horse (4 guns) and howitzer
battery (2 guns). A reserve rifle and cavalry regiment were also
Initially they fought on the Kolchak Front. In
June the 1st and 2nd Bashkir Rifle Regiments and 1st and 2nd Bashkir
Cavalry Regiments were sent to the 14th Army on the South
Large losses led to their reorganisation back into one regiment and
transfer back to the east.
In September 1919 all Bashkir units
were transferred to the Petrograd Front's 7th Army as a rifle brigade
and cavalry division to face Iudenich. At the end of October
were 128 commanders, 4,761 rifles and sabres, 12 machine-guns
4 guns plus 892 non-combatants. They again suffered major losses and in
May 1920 the cavalry division was combined into a brigade and sent to
face the Poles. The Bashkir Rifle Brigade remained in the
Petrograd area until disbanded in February 1921.
badge was a red star inside crescent on a green diamond, which
was the use of fairly standard Bashkir iconography. This was worn as a
sleeve emblem, with or without a border.
Otherwise uniforms were regulation Red Army. Both the Osprey and
Deryabin books on the Red Army depict a Bashkir.
We know the 2nd Bashkir Regiment flew a red flag with the crescent and
star in gold surrounded by "Пролетарии всех стран, соединяйтесь!";
"2-ой полк отдельной Башкирской Стрелковой Бригады"; "Башкирская
Советская Социалистическая Республика"; and "Российская Федерация".
("Workers of all countries, unite!", "2nd Regiment Separate Bashkir
Rifle Brigade", "Bashkir Soviet Socialist Republic," "Russian
First Experiment in Soviet National Policy: The Bashkir Republic,
1917-1920", Richard E. Pipes, Russian
, Vol. 9, No. 4. (Oct., 1950), pp. 303-319.
"The historical-military reconstruction of uniforms and symbols of the
Bashkir Forces 1917-1919",
, August 2007, available at vatandash.ru
Deryabin "Red Army"