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"Level mountains to the ground and get rich quick": Sterlitamak Shikhans are threatened with destruction
28 July 2020, 17:18
"Level mountains to the ground and get rich quick": Sterlitamak Shikhans are threatened with destruction
Photo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMiCNelLqjU&feature=youtu.be
"It is a crime. But there is a lot of money on the line”, - says Eric Korolyov, a video blogger from Ufa, about the destruction of a chain of isolated mountains in Bashkiria.

In his half-hour documentary, he, in general, but very lucidly, explained what is happening today with a unique natural monument - shikhans located in the vicinity of the city of Sterlitamak.

Christina Zabirova

“This topic is very painful, it has been quarreling among many people for many years and is a“ toxicosis ”in relations between Moscow and Bashkiria. Because there is a lot of money at stake and, most importantly, an easy way to get this money. It is still unclear how all this will end, the situation is heating up more and more every year”, - said the blogger.

It's about a chain of unique reef mountains, which in Bashkiria are called shikhans. “What is happening with the shihans now can be called the“ taxi driver syndrome ”who always strives for quick earnings. For some reason, business in Russia is about arriving, digging up something, digging up something, selling it quickly and getting cash quickly", - commented Eric Korolyov.

“I live in Ufa and did not know that I live next to a natural monument of a planetary scale! Once upon a time there was a seabed here. Shihans are reefs, they are formed by the remains of animals. Their skeletons have been layered on top of each other for millions of years. If you look closely, the layers are like cake - it seems as if a knife had cut it... Now limestone is being mined here. On shihans you can see shells, shellfish fossils, corralls...

These are all mountains that have risen due to the shift of tectonic plates. Just imagine: it rained for 300 million years, and winds blew these mountains for 300 million years. There is no other place in the world to have reefs on the surface. Now you can walk here. Many scientific delegations come here to conduct research. It is difficult even to imagine how important these mountains are for world science!”, - said Eric Korolyov.

Note that it is possible to find a mention of the fact that such "reef mountains" also exist in the immediate vicinity of the Appalachians, in North America, however, it is difficult to judge how much they really resemble the Bashkir mountains.

And "Novaya Gazeta" published a material in which it was told that "there are other mountains on our planet, composed of Permian reef massifs, but nowhere they are presented in the form of solitary outliers." Be that as it may, all this does not detract from the merits of the Bashkir Shikhans.


There were four shikhans near Sterlitamak: Toratau, Yuraktau, Kushtau, Shakhtau. But to this day, only three have survived - Yuraktau, Kushtau and Toratau, and the fourth shikhan Shakhtau, as reported in open sources, was "reworked" by the Soda enterprise, (now - "Bashkir Soda Company" - approx. "NI") his industrial development began in the 1950s.

Eric Korolyov noted that now on the site of Shikhan Shakhtau - the name is translated as "Tsarskaya Gora" - only a quarry remained.

“Mountain Shakhtau was cut down almost to zero in 70 years. There is a quarry left, there is nothing else here, a plain. But the power of modern development methods exceeds the previous 15 times. If any of these mountains are cut down now, it will be cut down in 15 years. All other shihans are under threat of destruction for the sake of extracting raw materials. But shikhans are good because they are a chain of mountains, they are inseparable from each other, they are like brothers, they are a single whole ... ", Eric Korolyov said.

“The easy-to-mine limestone in the Shakhtau quarry is coming to an end, the above-ground reserves are depleted, further development will lead to the flooding of the adjacent territories by the lake formed in the excavation of the destroyed mountain ,” Novaya Gazeta said last year .


According to Eric Korolyov, a cable car was built for the extraction of raw materials from the Shikhan Shakhtau, “such are the“ sleds ”.

“And in this way, slowly but surely, over the years, limestone has been collected, the mountain has been gradually grinded. And the power that people saw disappears ... As they say, the ants eat the elephant, ”said the blogger.

Only two mountains have been declared natural monuments of regional significance: Tratau in 1965, and Yuraktau in 1985. “But shikhans must have the status of a world natural monument, must be protected by UNESCO. The government of Bashkiria has submitted an application to the organization about this. It is strange that for some reason the topic is being discussed at the regional level. Only quite recently did they start discussing the situation in Moscow. But this is not a question that is not of regional or even all-Russian importance, it is such a unique natural phenomenon that, I repeat, it is of global importance”, - Eric Korolyov emphasized.


The blogger explained that the tallest of the shihan is Tratau. It is a cone-shaped mountain, a "fortress mountain", a symbol of the city of Ishimbay. A favorite place for paragliders.

“In 1999, an unofficial Russian record was set here: Viktor Fedorov flew on a paraglider to an open range of 143 km. Shihans are on the plain. There are no power lines, no swamps. Convenient and safe for paragliding. That is, here it is possible, from this point of view, to successfully develop the tourist format, ”the blogger said.

According to Eric Korolyov, if you invest wisely in shihans, people from all over the world will come here.

“If such an environmental investment business is organized, the shihans will bring profit from generation to generation, an infinite number of times, as the whole of Europe lives. But here, in Russia, for some reason it is customary only in this way: to dig, to unearth, to earn ... And that makes it sad", - said Eric Korolyov.

In connection with what was happening, the blogger remembered the cartoon about Scrooge McDuck, who had dollars in his eyes "lit up", he lost his mind and "did anything, was ready for any action to earn money."

“It is interesting that the richest people in Russia, who already have a lot of money, just like the dollars in their eyes. This is mania: more, more ... Scrooge had a huge safe with money in which he loved to dive and swim there. It’s just such a desire to accumulate, he didn’t even buy anything.

This is a caricature of a modern businessman who is ready to commit any crimes in order to earn even more. He is ready to destroy natural monuments, to cut down everything that is visible, just to quickly and quickly enrich himself more. This is a terrible, tragic and pointless thing. And it is completely incomprehensible to me”, - concluded Eric Korolyov.


Representatives of the Bashkir Soda Company a few years ago insisted on starting the development of the next shihan, claiming that no other limestone would suit them. It was emphasized that only Toratau is suitable for the extraction of limestone, only here it is allegedly quite "clean". The start of exploration has exacerbated a long-term conflict.

In its statements to the media, the company argued that if a new shihan is not given to it for development, production may go bankrupt, Bashkiria will lose its largest taxpayer, and the city of Sterlitamak will be on the verge of extinction, as thousands of people will be left without work.

Meanwhile, according to Novaya Gazeta , BSK is by no means the town-forming enterprise of Sterlitamak. "Only four thousand employees out of three hundred thousand residents are involved in the production of soda, and Rosneft and Gazprom are the largest taxpayer in Bashkiria among enterprises and companies."

The myth of the exceptional necessity for the production of limestone from Toratau, writes Novaya Gazeta, is easily dispelled by geologists and scientists of the region. For example, Iskhak Farkhutdinov, head of the Department of Geology and Mineral Resources of the Bashkir State University, explained: “We have a lot of limestone in our republic, which can be suitable for the production of soda. The very first option is the Khudolaz field in Sibay, because production is already underway there: there is a quarry and a railway. But BSK established a requirement that limestone with a maximum sand content of 0.5% is supposedly suitable for their furnaces.

Although this technology of Solvay dates back to the 19th century, and when using it, limestone is needed only in order to burn it. The Indians who use the same technology use limestone with 2.5% silica. We have a lot of limestone with a silica content of up to 1%. Not a single soda producer in the world sits on shihan. Therefore, it is necessary to change the requirements to 2.5%, and geologists will find enough deposits in Bashkortostan. If the annual net profit of BSC is 10 billion rubles, and next year (we are talking about 2020 - noted by NI) due to modernization they will receive, for example, 9 billion 500 million, then they will not suffer much".

And although Mount Toratau was a priority for the BSK, according to the website ufa1.ru , the public still managed to defend it. “In the fall of last year (2018 - approx.“ NI ”), the then acting head of Bashkiria said that Toratau was not touched, the extraction of soda will be carried out on another mountain, larger in area - Kushtau. “In mid-June (2019), residents of nearby villages recorded a video message to President Vladimir Putin with a request not to give shihan for development. Since then there has been no news about the fate of the shihan”, - reports ufa1.ru.

According to this site, the Department for Subsoil Use in the Volga Federal District gave permission for the development of Shikhan Kushtau in the Ishimbay region of the republic to JSC “Raw Materials Company” (BSK). The license was issued on August 8, 2019. “The goal of the company in this area, according to information from the register, will be“ exploration and production of minerals ”. The license will be valid until August 10, 2039 ".

The correspondent of Novye Izvestia studied the information on the website of the Bashkir Soda Company.

No data available on request from Kushtau. But it says here that back in 2014, the production workers of the Bashkir Soda Company met with scientists from Ufa, Moscow, London, Calgary and discussed the possibility of creating an open-air museum on the site of the Shakhtau quarry. The text from the BSK website says: "The Shakhtau quarry is quite interesting for science," said Vera Konovalova, senior researcher at the PIN RAS, "if there is a developed infrastructure, not only scientists, but also tourists, schoolchildren, students will be able to visit it." At the time, there is not a single Geopark in Russia, so the creation of a similar museum on the site of the Shakhtau quarry for the Bashkir Soda Company is prestigious, and for the residents of the city and the country it is useful in terms of enlightenment. "Such a Geopark will want to see the whole world," Richards Barry said , Chairman of the International Carbon Subcommittee of the Geological Survey of Canada. "I will certainly recommend conducting a field excursion in the Shakhtau quarry at the International Geological Congress next year." The Geopark Shakhtau project has every chance of becoming the main site of new paleontological and geological discoveries, and Sterlitamak - the center of tourism. "

On the website http://save-shihan.ru/ the correspondent of Novye Izvestia found a sample of a petition by the defenders of the shihan, which is accompanied by the following message: “In connection with the fact that at the moment there has been an information blockade around the topic of intelligence by Shihan Kush-tau and the topic of the continuing threat to the rest of the Shikhans and the adjacent territory, an appeal was drawn up to various state supervisory and regulatory bodies, as well as to the State Duma of the Russian Federation, the Public Chamber of Russia and others".


Meanwhile, on July 12, a flash mob took place in defense of Kushtau.

In the vKontakte group, which is called “Let's save the Shikhans of Toratau, Yuraktau and Kushtau!”, A post with a video and text was posted, which says: “The human chain stretched out over a long distance. Moreover, it was very hot, the defenders of Kushtau stood in chains and held the banner for an hour! Thanks everyone, friends! Thank you for the bright faces and glowing eyes. For sincerity and love for the native land!"

You can watch the video of the flash mob here.