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Ancient festival of Sabantuy arouses interest in history

One of the largest and most famous national holidays of the Bashkir people is Sabantuy, whose history goes back more than a thousand years. The origins of the holiday lie in ancient times and are closely connected with the agrarian cult.

Sabantuy is a word of Turkic origin, consisting of two parts: "saban" - " plow" and "tuy" - "wedding", in a wider sense - "holiday, celebration", "a noisy festival". In other words, "the wedding of the plow," "the celebration of the plow," or, in modern parlance, "the farmer's day".

Originally, this event had a sacred meaning: during the rites, the spirits of fertility were asked to favor a good harvest. The ceremony was held before the beginning of sowing at the end of April. The local elders were responsible for the proper performance of rituals and sacrifices. The first historical mention of Sabantuy historians find in the notes of the Arab traveler Ibn Fadlan, who arrived in the ancient Bulgar as an ambassador from Baghdad. On the territory of former Volga Bulgaria (the state in the Middle Volga region in X-XIII centuries) an epitaph was found, dated 1292 and containing the inscription "Sabantuy day". All this testifies in favor of the "Bulgar" theory of the holiday's origin, but there is also a version that its tradition came from the Mongols.

After the Tatars and Bashkirs adopted Islam, and the Chuvash adopted Christianity, the pagan component of the holiday gradually disappeared, and Sabantuy finally became just a fun folk festival. The timing of the holiday has also changed: they began to celebrate not the beginning, but the end of the sowing season, when all the spring works are done, and there is a break until the fall harvest. The holiday is seasonal, so there is no fixed date. But for Muslims it is also important that the festivities do not fall on the first days of the holy month of Ramadan. Therefore, as a rule, Sabantuy is celebrated in June and early July.

Although most often Sabantuy is called a Tatar holiday, its traditions are not alien to the Bashkirs, Chuvashs, Udmurts, and other peoples. Sabantuy traditionally takes place in the open air and is accompanied by colorful actions: songs, dances, recitation of poems and fun games. Tatars and Bashkirs prepare dishes and drinks, which are then treated to guests.

The celebration usually begins in the countryside. Young people and teenagers go around the village yards on horseback, collecting gifts. Homeowners give them their handicrafts, dishes, pastries, towels, or something else. There is even a competition among the riders to see who can collect the most gifts. But all gifts go into a common pot and become the prize money for the upcoming competition, which is held the next day in the main square of the village.

Small prizes are won in various fun contests, such as running with beams or fighting with bags of straw on a log. Or here is another folk fun: you have to be blindfolded and break a clay pot standing on the ground with a stick. The one who broke it the first time is the winner.

And for the real dzhigits are arranged races on horses. But the most popular is the national wrestling kuresh. You have to throw the opponent on his back with the help of a towel or a wide sash thrown behind his belt. The winner is declared the best batyr and awarded with the traditional prize - a live ram laid on the bogatyr's shoulders. Kuresh has long become a real sport, world championships are held on it and not only men but also women take part in competitions.

An interesting fact. It is believed that the wedding, played on Sabantuy, guarantees a long and happy life to the newlyweds. And also, the holiday has its own emblem: a homespun towel with a red ornament against a blue sky.

Tatar communities celebrate Sabantuy all over the world: in Washington, Montreal, Prague, Leipzig, Paris, Sofia and Istanbul. In Russia, however, Sabantuy is considered a Tatar and Bashkir national holiday, which has the status of a federal holiday and is protected by UNESCO as a masterpiece of the oral heritage of humanity. According to Danis Shakirov, the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the World Congress of Tatars, 388 Sabantuys are scheduled for 2023 in 37 countries and 59 regions of Russia! And on July 1, 2023, Sabantuy will be held in Moscow. According to tradition, it will be held in the park of the Kolomenskoye Museum-Reserve.

The Sabantuy tradition was brought to Sofia by the association of Volga Bulgarians and their guests from Kazan who come to visit with their countrymen in Bulgaria every year.


Global Diplomatic Group extend a huge gratitude to K. M. Alekseeva, Future Leader/Volunteer, the Foundation for Global Community Health!


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