Skip to main content

Fail Alsynov: Defender of Bashkir Land, Language, and Rights

On the southern slopes of the Urals, located within the territory of today’s Russian Federation, lies the land of Bashkortostan, a country historically renowned for its national heroes, defenders of the land. From this beautiful and hospitable land hails Fail Alsynov (Bashkir), a land defender and cultural activist of the Bashkir Peoples. Alsynov is currently the most prominent activist in the field of environmental protection and human rights from the Republic of Bashkortostan, and has been actively engaged in defending the land, language, and cultural sovereignty of the Bashkir people for several years. His unwavering and active stance has earned him both wide recognition and fierce resistance from the Russian authorities.

Born in 1986 in the village of Yuldybayevo, Zilairsky District of the Republic of Bashkortostan, Alsynov is the second eldest son in his family, with two brothers and a sister. He studied at Bashkir State University, majoring in history. In early 2011, he began working as a specialist at the World Kurultai of Bashkirs, where he worked until the beginning of 2014 when he was dismissed due to unwillingness to work with the new management. Alsynov began his public activities in 2008, advocating for national liberalism by joining the Bashkir nationalist organization Kuk-Bure. In late 2010, he was elected as the first deputy chairman of this organization and remained so until 2014 when he left the organization. In 2014, along with other members of Kuk-Bure, he founded a new public organization called Bashkort.

As the leader of Bashkort, Alsynov became an organizer and initiated a series of high-profile events to protect the natural and cultural heritage of the Indigenous people of Bashkortostan. In 2014, when discussions began about the development of the Toratau Ridge, Alsynov, as the de facto leader of Bashkort, became one of the organizers and participants in protests against the destruction of this natural monument. Thanks to the efforts of activists, the development of Toratau was halted.


Fail Alsynov before he was imprisoned for his work defending Bashkir identity, language, land rights, and the environment.

Alsynov was at the forefront of protests aimed at preventing the exploitation of environmentally significant objects sacred to the Bashkir people, including the Kushatau mountain range, around which a large-scale conflict erupted in 2019-2020 among residents, authorities, and the Bashkir soda company, which planned to develop limestone deposits in this area. Residents were convinced that the development of deposits in the vicinity of Kushatau would “kill the nature” of this region. In May 2020, the Supreme Court of Bashkortostan declared Bashkort an extremist organization and banned it. Representatives of the organization unsuccessfully appealed the court’s decision, and in September 2021 they filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights.

“I am stepping out to protect our rights,” Alsynov said at the time. “Our events are organized with thoughts of the republic, of our future, because we care. But because of the policy that is being conducted towards us, we have to stand against the authorities. If the internal policy were led by people who understand us, we would not be in this situation. If the authorities could find common ground with all our public figures in solving various problems, and these problems are urgent, [if] we would sit at one negotiation table [to] discuss and find a direction for everyone to work towards, then the people of the republic would be much better off.”

In 2020, Alsynov and members of the now-banned Bashkort also participated in protests against the development of Mount Kushatau. As a result of these protests, the development company abandoned its plans. Work on Kushatau was halted and the mountain was designated as a protected area. In 2023, Alsynov spoke out against the development of gold deposits in the region by the Eurasian Mining Company. He took part in protests against plans for geological exploration in the Irindyk mountain range in the villages of Temyasovo and Ishmurzino, arguing that such activities were a threat to the region’s natural heritage and expressing concerns about the unfavorable living conditions in the region. While other Peoples have a homeland they can return to in case of an ecological catastrophe in Bashkortostan, the Bashkirs are on their historical homeland, and would have nowhere to go. “Armenians will go back to their homeland . . . Russians will go to their Ryazan, Tatars to their Tatarstan, [but] we cannot resettle; we have no other home,” he said.

Alsynov argued that coal, copper, zinc, and gold are natural resources of the region, and that mining companies should invest a significant portion of their profits in the development of local economic and social infrastructure. His position was that resources extracted from the region should benefit the local population and contribute to improving their living conditions, and his proposals aimed at ensuring balanced and sustainable development of the region by considering the interests of the local population. Alsynov also supported the idea of implementing social programs to improve the quality of life for the local population, including the construction of roads, schools, hospitals, and other social infrastructure.

Alsynov also advocates for the revitalization and development of language as an important part of national identity. He participated in protests against federal education reforms that made classes in national languages optional, seeing it as a direct attack on the Bashkir language and an intention to gradually eradicate it. He has also organized various actions and rallies to protect the Bashkir language, such as the “Ring of Life” Campaign that included a flash mob near the Toratau Ridge and the Days of Bashkir Culture. These events aimed to draw attention to the need to revitalize the Bashkir language and culture and support the language and cultural rights of the Bashkir people. He actively advocated for the official recognition of the Bashkir language and its widespread use in public life.


Alsynov has been openly critical of the disproportionate impact of the war in Ukraine on young Bashkir men, calling it a “genocide against the Bashkir people.” He also condemned the treatment of ethnic minorities by the Russian government, accusing it of prioritizing the interests of ethnic Russians over the interests of groups such as the Bashkirs. He advocates for the autonomy and self-determination of the Republic of Bashkortostan, seeing it as critically important for the preservation and development of the Bashkir people.

In 2023, Alsynov was charged with inciting interethnic strife for a speech criticizing the impact of gold mining on the Bashkir population. The case against him was initiated at the request of the head of Bashkortostan, Radiy Khabirov, who accused him of using extremist and separatist rhetoric. He was charged with “inciting hatred and humiliating the dignity of a group of persons based on race, nationality, language, and origin.”

Alsynov was pronounced guilty on January 17, 2024, in the Baimak District Court and sentenced to four years in prison. Immediately after his sentencing, he declared, “I do not admit my guilt. I have always fought for justice, for my people, for my republic.” Thousands of people took to the streets in support of him and called the charges politically motivated. The protests were some of the largest in Russia since the country’s invasion of Ukraine, underscoring the deeply rooted tension between the Russian government’s attempts to maintain control over ethnic republics and the aspirations of minority groups, such as the Bashkirs, to protect their land, language, and rights.

Alsynov’s dedication and persistence to these goals have made him a hero to many in Bashkortostan, and the actions of the authorities against him have only strengthened support for the activists and the struggle of the Bashkir people for self-determination.


On January 17, 2024, Fail Alsynov (Bashkir) was sentenced to a four-year prison term in Russia for his political activism.

Our website houses close to five decades of content and publishing. Any content older than 10 years is archival and Cultural Survival does not necessarily agree with the content and word choice today.