A landscape remembered and remembering: Protecting the Bashkir sacred land through pilgrimages in Russia’s Muslim Urals

Lili Di Puppo, University of Helsinki

November 24 (Thursday) 12.30-14.00 (Helsinki), live

Place: University of Helsinki,  Porthania 224, HELSUS Lounge, Yliopistonkatu 3

Drawing on fieldwork in a circle of Sufi Muslims and local volunteers in Bashkortostan in Russia’s Urals, I explore how practices of remembering connect my interlocutors to the Bashkir sacred landscape in a mutual relationship. During three summers in 2018-2021, I have spent time with disciples (murids) of a Naqshbandi Sufi tariqa (order) in Bashkortostan and local volunteers close to this circle.

In my research, I explore how my interlocutors experience the Bashkir natural landscape as alive and not as a blank space onto which they imprint the memory of human actions. Hence, they cultivate a mutual relationship with the Bashkir land, protecting it and being in turn protected by it. Being alive and sacred, the landscape participates in the practice of remembering as it reminds humans of the divine and of their place in creation. Moreover, this landscape connects them with the Islamic revelation and the Bashkir epos Ural Batyr.

My research connects with the themes of spiritual ecology and the spiritual dimension of the human connection with nature. In the narrations of my Bashkir interlocutors, the land is alive, neither a white canvas nor a resource that can be exchanged and sold. While we were driving back to Ufa from a pilgrimage, Ildar, a murid, thus told me that Bashkirs used to view the land through a spiritual prism. It is only with the move to a capitalist economy in the 20th century that land came to be perceived as a saleable entity, a resource that could change hands.

Balance and harmony in nature and in the relationship with the sacred land demand of humans that they remain constantly aware of the divine origin of everything in creation. The nature surrounding the Bashkirs, the land on which they live are gifts of God, signs (ayat) reminding them of the divine.

2 Replies to “A landscape remembered and remembering: Protecting the Bashkir sacred land through pilgrimages in Russia’s Muslim Urals”

  1. Dear Lili
    I learned about this talk a day late so could not attend online yesterday. Is there a recording or transcript? My own research involves landscape and memory in a former communist country so this abstract really caught my attention
    Best wishes

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