“Your lips are perfect for drinking honey”: a Russian expression used in reaction to compliments or good wishes. The Russians love honey. It’s their medicine, it’s their delicacy, it’s their metaphor. Today we’ll explore the Bashkir Honey Fair in Ufa, Bashkiria, and learn about this Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) honey, which is so special for the Bashkirian people.
From time immemorial the inhabitants of the South Urals have been beekeepers: There’s proof that this is a 1,500 years old craft, at least. From the earliest burial location found in Bashkiria, archaeologists discovered tools and utensils for collecting wildwood honey. Cave drawings which have lived to this day have a compelling story to tell: local historical folks were very found of this thick, sweet and healthy food, it was an emotional relationship.
Honey is also a common reference in the Russian Folklore. And who’s the honey-lover animal? You guessed it right, the bear! And the bear is among the most popular fairy-tale characters. It’s not a coincidence that Misha, the Bear, was the mascot of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games!
The Bashkirian Honey
The Republic of Bashkortostan, historically known as Bashkiria, is a federal subject of Russia located between the Volga River and the Ural Mountains, at the crossroads between Europe and Asia. It’s an ethnic area where various cultures and peoples mingle: Russians, Bashkirs, Tatars and Maris (also known as Cheremisis).
Bashkiria is superlative: Dense forests, thousands of rivers and lakes, rich fauna and flora, the massive Ural Mountains. About 40% of its territory is composed of intact forests, free of all human occupation, thanks to three huge natural reserves in this area: Bashkiria, Southern Ural State and Chulgan-Tach.
Bashkiria is not only miles of pristine wilderness, it is also an important economic center nationwide: its capital, Ufa, is one of Russia’s seven major industrial cities.
The Republic occupies the first place in the country in the oil industry, but it also occupies a leading position in the production of meat, milk, and honey.
Bashkiria is the only place in the world where honey is commercially hunted!
It is practiced in the Bourzyan region in the Choulgan-Tach Nature Reserve. The hunt for honey is explained by the harvest of honey, the natural gift of wild bees, whose colonies are established in natural hives in the hollow of trees.
This knowledge is passed on from generation to generation: families pass on their own production secrets, their tools, their love for the traditions.
As you walk through the woods, it’s not rare to see marks on the trees. Depending on the type of mark, one can distinguish which family of beekeeper belongs to these trees!
Honey is produced by the black bees of Bourzyan, known for their resistance to cold, their strong working capacity, but also their aggressiveness, which often makes the harvest challenging.
The result is an extremely rich honey in terms of vitamins and enzymes: usually, the honey contains the pollen from approximately 40 different plants, whereas the honey of Bourzyan bees contains the pollen from up to 140 different plants.
This ‘boosted” honey has won various awards, including the gold medals in Paris (1900), Erfurt (Germany, 1961) and Berlin (2002). It is famous all over the world and is exported throughout Europe, the United States and China.
The Bashkir Honey Fair
This popular fair will take place this year on August 15, 2018, in the picturesque region of Bourzyan, 340 kilometers from the capital Ufa. It can already be described as traditional because it takes place for the 4th consecutive year. For the 2017 edition, nearly 2,000 people participated in the festival.
Apart from tasting the famous Bashkir honey and traditional dishes based on this delicacy, such as the medovik, a honey cake, and the medovoukha, a fermented honey-based beverage similar to hydromel. You will have the opportunity to admire colorful traditional costumes and to take part in the creation of a hive directly in the heart of tree trunks, in the traditional way. This isn’t the easiest task in the work of the beekeepers, but it is certainly the most interesting!
During this fair you will know the secrets of honey harvesting: what instruments are used, how to harvest honey in a traditional way, and much more! Competitions are organized and the most beautiful hive and the best honestly are elected, and the spectators can even take part in sports, competitions and traditional games!
Last but not least…We cannot imagine a traditional fair without traditional music and dance! Thus, every year ethnic artists are invited to perform dances and songs to entertain the visitors. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about the folklore of this interesting region!
Check the Bashkir Honey Fair in the video below ;D
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