In brief

Rare mass protest in Bashkortostan

Russian police arrest dozens who denounced prison sentence of Bashkir rights activist

A moment of the Bainak protest.
A moment of the Bainak protest. Author: RusNews @YouTube screenshot
Russian police have arrested dozens in Bashkortostan during a popular protest that brought together hundreds or thousands of people, according to different sources. The protest was in defence of Bashkir activist Fail Alsynov, who has been sentenced to 4 years in prison for allegedly inciting ethnic hatred, according to the Russian Federation’s judiciary.

The protests, which began last week, have gained momentum in the Bashkir town of Bainak. Police violently dispersed demonstrators on Wednesday 17 January. Protesters chanted slogans in favour of Alsynov and freedom and against the Baixkortostan government.

Mass protests are unusual in the Russian Federation. Since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine, protesters have encountered even more restrictions on expressing their discontent.

Russian courts have convicted Alsynov for remarks he made in April 2023 at a rally against a plan to open a gold mine. The Russian courts say the activist uttered discriminatory words against potential migrants who might work in the mine. Alsynov argues that it is a translation error and his words were taken out of context.

Bashkortostan is one of the main stateless nations of the Russian Federation. Located in the Ural region near the Kazakh border, it covers 143,000 square kilometres and has a population of 4 million, 31% of whom are Bashkir, 24% Tatar, and 37% Russian. Bashkirs and Tatars are Turkic and Muslim peoples and speak languages related to Turkish.

Alsynov was the leader of Bashkort, a nationalist Bashkir organization that defended the country’s language, culture, and natural environment from 2014 to 2020. It also supported Bashkortostan’s self-rule. Russia declared it “extremist” and shut it down in 2020.