In 2006 the Ural Mining and Metallurgical Company (UMMC) has carried out expedition «On the roads of Russia», devoted to 450-year anniversary of voluntary annexation of Bashkortostan to Russia.
The main aim of the book you are holding is to reveal the natural beauty and sights of Bashkortostan, a republic that covers a large area in the Urals known to most as Russia’s industrial base.
The Exploring Bashkiria Expedition clocked up a record even before it really got going. It was given a wonderfully warm send-off in Uchala, a nice little town on the eastern slopes of the Urals not far from the River Ural. There were presents, singing, dancing, some delicious chakchak washed down by the traditional kumiss, and plenty; of opportunity to get to know the local tourist representatives, as well as a long press conference.
The Exploring Bashkiria expedition consisted of four main stages.
Stage one. THE MOUNTAINS OF BASHKIRIA. 16 – 25 May 2006. Hiking. Start: Uchala, 16 May. The route went through Bashkiria’s highest mountains, including the Great Iremel, a sacred peak wreathed in legends. It crossed the line between Europe and Asia passing through the Uraltau and the beautiful Avalyak and Bakty ranges.
We visited the upper reaches of two great rivers, the Ural and the Belaya. The Belaya is called the Agidel in Bashkiri, meaning «holy river». At this time of year you can enjoy exquisite views of the valleys in full bloom set against austere mountains peaks with lingering patches of snow.
Stage two. THE RIVER UFA. 3 – 12 June 2006. Rafting. The Ufa is the major tributary of the Agidel and gave its name to the capital of the republic. The links between Russia and Bashkortostan date back to this period, the middle of the sixteenth century.
This stage began in Sverdlovsk Region at the Oleny Ruchy nature park. Twenty kilometres down- stream the River Serga joins the Ufa, which flows through Sverdlovsk Region, crossing the Bashkortostan border by the mouth of the River Ai. Our route continued through territory with a predominantly Bashkiri population, ending on 12 June in the town of Ufa by the Friendship monument near the republic’s Government House.
Stage three. MOUNTAINS AND STEPPE FOOTHILLS. 27 June – 7 July 2006. Cycling. Starting point: the border of Uchala and Beloretsk districts. This stage included a visit to the towns of Beloretsk, Sibai and Baimak and ended in
Buribai settlement. The route passed through several towns with factories belonging to UMMC. We also visited the ski resort of Abzakovo, Lake Bannoye with its many legends, and some mountain passes on the former narrow-gauge railway.
Stage four. SOUTH-WESTERN BASHKIRIA. 22 July – 2 August 2006. By car. Itinerary: Sibai – Meleus – Sterlitamak – Neftekamsk. This stage included Bashkortostan’s places of greatest historical interest, the multi-national towns in the centre and north-west of the republic, and was a valuable introduction to the ethnography of the region.