Библиотека нематериального культурного наследия Республики Башкортостан
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«Akbuzat» epic: from the fight against evil to the unification
of Bashkir clans

«Akbuzat» is a classic example of the Bashkir folklore epic, which occupies a significant place in the oral and poetic creativity of the Bashkirs. «Akbuzat» kubair (kubair – genre of Bashkir folk poetry) is included in the cycle of heroic legends about the Ural-batyr («batyr» – hero, brave warrior) and his descendants, narrating about the grandson of the Ural-batyr Khauban, it is a logical continuation of the «Ural-batyr» epic.
Akbuzat is an unusual winged horse that first belonged to Ural-batyr himself, and then to his grandson Khauban. Fabulous, fantastic elements prevail in the description of Akbuzat. He was born and raised in heaven, his home was there. He could speak, communicate with people in their language. Akbuzat went unscathed through fire and water. He was faster than the wind. He crushed mountains and cut the sea with a strike of his hooves.

Akbuzat had been waiting for a worthy warrior for thousands of years. He descended from heaven to choose an equal in strength. And it turned out to be Ural-batyr, who was able to «throw a weight of seventy batmans (Asian unit of weight measurement) into the sky». Akbuzat bowed his head before him as a sign that henceforth he would belong to Ural-batyr.

After the death of Ural-batyr Akbuzat went to his son, Idel-batyr, but was kidnapped by Shulgen, the elder brother of Ural-batyr, who crossed over to the dark side. In that way the winged horse ended up in the underwater kingdom and remained there until he was taken over by Hauban along with the damask sword of Ural-batyr.
The origin of the «Akbuzat» epic
The «Akbuzat» epic was recorded by the Bashkir poet, playwright, folklorist, classic of Bashkir literature Mukhametsha Abdrakhmanovich Burangulov (1888–1966).

Working as a rural teacher, Mukhametsha Burangulov became interested in collecting folk tales. In 1910 he went on an expedition to the Itkul volost of the Orenburg province [governorate] (now it is the Baimaksky district of the Republic of Bashkortostan). He heard the legends of sesen-poets (singers-storytellers) from locals, filled with mysticism, the spirit of the past and the mysteries of the world creation.

It is a known fact that the sesens' legends impressed the researcher so much that he presented his horse to locals in gratitude for their help and went home on foot. However, it was a small price to pay, considering that he acquired a real treasure – unique ethnographic material, which took Burangulov more than ten years to process.

Already in the early 20s of the last century Mukhametsha Burangulov penned the first written version of the epic about Ural-batyr and Akbuzat.

By the way, there are historical facts that in 1910 Burangulov wrote down the first version of the «Akbuzat» epic from Gabit-sesen, and in 1917 in the village of Babalar of the Burzyansky volost of the Orenburg province [governorate] (now it is the territory of the Kuyurgazinsky district of the Republic of Bashkortostan) he met another folk sesen – Gatiatulla Bikkuzhin. Burangulov heard the second version of the «Akbuzat» epic from him. The legends of the two sesens served as material for Mukhametsha Burangulov to work on the «Akbuzat» epic.

Mukhametsha Burangulov worked at the Bashkir institute of history, language and literature since 1938. In 1940 he joined the Union of Soviet Writers, and in 1944 he was awarded the title of People's Sesen of the Bashkir Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic.

The typewritten text of the «Akbuzat» epic is kept in the Scientific archive of the Ufa scientific center of the Russian Academy of sciences.
What is the «Akbuzat» epic about
As mentioned above, the «Akbuzat» epic is a logical continuation of the «Ural-batyr» epic. The epic's main theme is the battle of the warrior for the happiness of people, his desire for justice.

Khauban, the main character of kubair, having become an orphan after the murder of his parents, continues the noble work of his father Sura-batyr, grandfather Idel and great-grandfather Ural-batyr. The daughter of the underwater king Nerkes helped him getting back Akbuzat and taking possession of the damask sword. This gave Khauban an overwhelming strength.

With the help of Akbuzat Khauban managed to defeat evil spirits and dragons, destroy the underwater kingdom of Shulgen, win Masim-khan, who killed his parents, and free Irandyk, Katai, Kypsak, Tabyn, Tamyan, Tuklyas and Yurmaty batyrs. The liberated warriors became the leaders of seven Bashkir clans.

Having defeated the enemies, Khauban married Nerkes, who at the beginning of the epic helped him to bring back Akbuzat.

The «Akbuzat» epic includes the heroes of the «Ural-batyr» epic: Huma bird, Shulgen, the evil demon Kakhkakha. Both Akbuzat himself and the damask sword migrated to the epic. Khauban manages to complete what Ural-batyr left unfinished, and peace and tranquility desired by people returned to the earth.

The «Akbuzat» epic can be conditionally divided into two parts. One part depicts Khauban's life before becoming a defender of people. An orphan has to overcome difficulties and trials, literally, to survive. After leaving his native village he meets a shepherd who gives him his bow and arrows so that the boy does not starve to death. Now we meet a completely different Khauban – a brave hunter and a deadly shot. Then, having caught the golden duck, which turns out to be Shulgen's daughter, he rescues Akbuzat with her help. So, the conditional first part of the epic is devoted to the heroical deeds of Khauban.
In another part of the epic Khauban performs socially significant deeds, fights against evil personified by Shulgen in the mythical world and by the insidious and cruel Masim-khan in the real world. Here Khauban learns the terrible truth about the death of his parents. It turns out that his father, who protected the common people from extortion, was caught asleep by Masim-khan and killed, and Khauban's mother was thrown in the lake by Masim-khan's servants.

Khauban with the help of Akbuzat and his damask sword manages to defeat Shulgen and get back all the people kidnapped by Shulgen's servants to the earth. Among them there was his aged mother. He also manages to win Masim-khan and free the people from his oppression.

People are grateful to Khauban that having destroyed the underwater kingdom, he freed them not only from the earthly evil of a cruel ruler but also from the mythical one. Khauban continue to act as a liberator and fight against the evil outside his territory. He liberates batyrs sold into slavery to neighboring rulers by Masim-khan. All seven warriors return to their homeland with Khauban's help.

Coming back to his native lands, Khauban gathers people living in the Urals and arranges a great holiday for them. He appoints the released batyrs as heads of seven clans; they become the founders of the Bashkir ethnos. Moreover, he himself marries Nerkes, who distributes all the wealth gained by her father to people. This is the happy ending of the epic.
The meaning of the epic
The «Akbuzat» epic officially belongs to the intangible cultural heritage of the peoples of the Republic of Bashkortostan. It is a monument of Bashkir literature.

The word «akbuzat» has become a common noun in the Bashkir language. It reflects the beliefs of the Bashkirs that real horses have wings, but it is impossible for a person to see them, otherwise the magic power of a horse will dry out and he will die.

Folklorist, writer, holder of an Advanced Doctorate in Philological Sciences Salavat Akhmadievich Galin (1934−2010) in the book «Bashkir folk epic», published in Ufa in 2004, explains the origin of Akbuzat in this way: «Akbuzat comes to the earth from the bottom of lake Shulgen, and this theme, that is, the best breeds of horses coming out of the lake, is quite typical for Bashkir folklore. Of course, the image of Akbuzat is of a very ancient origin. It can be assumed that it is genetically related to the cult of "heavenly horses", widespread in the folklore of the Turkic-Mongol peoples, − the scientist believes. – At the same time the image of a winged horse-patron is very common in the Bashkir epic and heroic tales, and this, apparently, is associated with the image of the ancestor-patron, which has a clear totemic origin».
The «Akbuzat» epic contains real historical facts. For example, in the final it is said about the unification of seven clans, which formed the core of the Bashkir ethnos. This is a proven historical fact. Its reflection in folklore suggests that this epic was created by more than one generation, passed from mouth to mouth, and each new storyteller added something from himself to it. However, the main idea of the epic – about the unity of the people – remained unchanged. Khauban here acts as a real folk hero. He never thinks about himself, about his feats, glory and the gratitude that he could enjoy doing good to people. He thought first of all about his people and found satisfaction just in serving them. It was the thing that gave him strength.

The idea of uniting the people is key in the epic «Akbuzat». It is most clearly expressed in the final part of the work. People realize that their strength and power is only in their unity; they can resist the enemy encroaching upon their lands and freedom only through consolidation. The idea of a homeland, their own land, without which no people can exist and develop, is also strong. The Ural Mountains are a real place of power here. They are an organic part of the Bashkir ethnos life. This is not just a geographical place of the people's residence, but also a part of their spiritual world expressed in the sacred connection of modern generations of the ethnos with their ancestors.
Theatrical performances
The first performance based on the epic «Akbuzat» was staged in 1931 at the Samara opera house. Composer Anton Alexandrovich Eichenwald wrote the opera «Steppe».

Then, in 1942, the «Akbuzat» opera («the Magic horse») was staged for the first time at the Bashkir state opera and ballet theatre. The composers Khalik Shakirovich Zaimov and Antonio Emmanuilovich Spadavecchia became the authors of the opera based on the epic legend. The opera had three acts with a prologue. Of the numerous storylines of the epic one main theme was highlighted in the opera – the struggle of Khauban-batyr against the cruel ruler Masim-khan. The opera premiered on November 7, 1942.

The second version of the «Akbuzat» opera («the Magic horse») was released on December 31, 1957 on the stage of the Bashkir state opera and ballet theatre. A concert performance of the opera took place at the jubilee evening dedicated to the 80th anniversary of the composer Khalik Zaimov on November 25, 1994.

In 2016 the «Akbuzat» rock opera was staged at the State academic Russian drama theatre. Members of the Russian band «Neschastny sluchai» Sergei Chekryzhov and Alexei Kortnev wrote a libretto, music and lyrics. The production designer was Vyacheslav Vidanov, the costume designer was Sergei Illarionov, and the director was the Merited Worker of Arts of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Bashkortostan, the art director of the Russian drama theatre Mikhail Rabinovich.

The first shows of the rock opera took place during the 155th anniversary season of the Russian drama theatre. The production was funded by a grant from the Head of Bashkortostan. The task was to popularize the «Akbuzat» epic. The most impressive example of Bashkir folk art was supposed to be comprehensible and accessible to the modern generation of viewers.
The music and choreography of rock opera include a variety of genres and styles, with bold scenery and costumes. Also, 3D projection is used on the stage, which describes the plot and conveys the narrative's atmosphere. Many of the sets were built using computer graphics. The artists realistically showed the underwater world through a transparent fabric, lowered over the entire action. The Akbuzat horse appears on the stage in the form of large white canvases.

The rock opera remains in the Russian drama theatre's repertoire to this day and is popular with the audience.

«Akbuzat» hippodrome
The Ufa hippodrome proudly bears the name of the famous winged horse Akbuzat. According to the legend, all horses living on the Bashkir land are descendants of that very Akbuzat. They remember the order of the Ural-batyr's faithful horse – to serve people with faith and truth at all times. Therefore, the symbolic name was chosen for the Ufa hippodrome.

The Ufa hippodrome got its name in 1982, in the year of the 425th anniversary of Bashkiria's voluntary joining Russia. That year the opening of the new building of the hippodrome took place. It stood until 2005, when the reconstruction of the hippodrome began.

In 2007, the year of the 450th anniversary of Bashkiria's voluntary joining Russia, a modern hippodrome building was opened after a major reconstruction by the Japanese company RAUM Architects.
Akbuzat monument
A monument to the mythical horse Akbuzat was erected in the Burzyansky district of Bashkiria on lake Yylkysykkan, which is described in Bashkir epics and legends. The place was chosen not by chance, because, among other things, the name of the lake is translated from the Bashkir language as «the lake from which the horses came out».

The monument's sketch, made by the famous Bashkir sculptor Ulfat Kubagushev, was recognized as the best among other works submitted for a competition. At the beginning of June 2019 a plaster model of the Akbuzat monument was sent to the Chelyabinsk region to the Kasli iron works for production from cast iron.

The height of the entire monument is five meters; the horse's height is 3,5 meters; the distance between its wings is three meters. The weight of the monument is about three tons. On November 6, 2019 the monument was delivered to the Burzyansky district on a truck. At present the monument has already been erected in the Shulgan-Tash Nature Reserve on the site between the access road leading to the famous cave and lake Yylkysykkan.
A computer game based on Bashkir epics
IT specialists from the Sterlitamak branch of Bashkir state university are developing a computer game based on the «Ural-batyr», «Akbuzat», «Idukai and Muradym» epics, as well as folk legends and tales. The «Zerkum» game with the heroes of the Bashkir epics will be similar to Minecraft. The major game character – a young batyr – will go on a journey through the mythical world, fight against evil and bring peace to the Bashkir people.

The game locations will be the Shulgan-Tash Cave, the water kingdom of Aslykul and the kingdom of Samrau – the higher world.
Author (compiler): E. V. Kolokolova, 2019