A member of the Volga-Kama group of the Kipchak or NW Turkic languages, its closest relative being the Tatar language of Kazan. Bashkir is spoken mainly in the Bashkir Republic (capital, Ufa)(Russian Federation), on the western bank of the Ural river where it changes direction to the west. Some 32% of the Bashkirs live in adjacent districts outside the Republic. Of the 1.5 million speakers in 1989, some 72% gave Bashkir as their mother-tongue or first language. No dialectical survey of Bashkir has yet been undertaken but, especially in its eastern dialects, it has undergone strong phonetic influences from Kazakh.
Only since 1920 has Bashkir been a written language. Earlier poets and novelists used the Tatar language or, before that, Chaghatay, an Islamic literary language used by the Turkic peoples of European Russia from the 15th to the 19th c. It has been suggested that national differences between Bashkirs and Tatars were created artificially for political reasons in order to undermine a Volga Muslim unity, since the Bashkir language, except for minor phonetic differences, is virtually indistinguishable from Tatar. For the emerging Bashkir literary language, the Latin alphabet was used from 1929 until 1939, when it was replaced by an adaptation of the Cyrillic alphabet. Among Bashkir writers are M. Osmani, Sa'id Myras and T. Yabani. In their novels, dramas and poems, Bashkir writers deal with heroic and nostalgic themes from the Bashkir past.
Battal-Taymas, A. 1963. Die Literatur der Baschkiren. In Handbuch der Orientalistik, vol 5, Turkologie, Leiden-Cologne, 439-41.
Benzing, J. 1959. Das Baschkirische. In Deny, J. et al. (eds), Philologiae Turcicae Fundamenta, Wiesbaden, 421-34.