Horse breeder Farid Nabiullin: ‘We don’t need the Olympic Games, we have our own national games’

Tatarstan unites Turkic peoples with a horse competition

Horse breeder Farid Nabiullin: ‘We don’t need the Olympic Games, we have our own national games’
Photo: предоставлено Фаридом Набиуллиным

Traditions of a spectacular competition on horses when the rider has to either take the rival down the horse or force the rival to jump down has being restored in Tatarstan in the last years. Competitions in this sport are held, it is included to Sabantuy festivals, it became part of the international World Nomad Games.

Wrestling and horse riding

The Tatars call it “audarysh,” the Bashkirs — “auzarysh,” the Kyrgyz people — “oodarysh” (or “er enish”), the Kazakh — “audarys,” the Kara-kalpak people — “audarys,” the Uzbek — “ogdarysgh,” the Turkmen — “agdarmak.” The old Turkic verb “atar” — take down to earth — is in its foundation. Vasily Radlov explains the essence of this game in “Experience of the Dictionary of Turkic Names.”

In fact, it is a union of two traditions of nomads — wrestling and horse riding. The area is limited, a circle with a diameter of 40 metres, so there is no horse racing. The competitors can pull the rival’s belt only (not the body of the rival or the horse). One can even ride the other horse and take the rival down to earth. However, was this game spread, for instance, during the Khanate of Kazan?

“It is an ancient competition of horse riders of Turkic peoples,” says expert in folkloric studies Fanzilya Zavgarova. “It is considered to be one of the games in the training system for guards, militaries of the tribe. Now it is quite popular among the Kyrgyz, Kazakh people. I think this game was lost a long time ago, during the era of Ivan the Terrible. Khans used to participate in this game as well, at least, historian Damir Sharafutdinov said that this game was a popular entertainment among them. They don’t need racing horses but other horses for this. I saw this game in a tournament dedicated to the preservation of traditional sports Turan in Hungary.

“Information hasn’t survived,” says historian Iskander Izmaylov. “But this is seen almost everywhere in the Turkic world, particularly among Uzbek people, while they come from the Golden Horde.”

Turan is one of local stage of preparation for the World Nomad Games, an international ethnic sport competition among nomad peoples that’s been held since 2014. In 2021, President of the Ethnic Sport Confederation Bilal Erdogan — son of Turkiye President Recep Tayip Erdogan — invited Tatarstan participants, winners of this competition.

All Turkic, nomadic peoples understand audarysh. Photo courtesy of Farid Nabiullin. предоставлено Фаридом Набиуллиным

Celestial horses on the rink

The first modern-time audarysh competition in Tatarstan was held on Horse Day in 2019. Tens of participants gathered then in the first horse wrestling championship in Leninogorsk District. Referees came from Altai region.

By the way, Tatar Horses book about an enduring breed of golden yellow and hay breed that finds food on their own in winter and can cover long distances was released in 2019. The Chinese called them “Celestial horses.”

But as, perhaps, the main person making this breed popular, Director of Almakay horse farm Farid Nabiullin recalls, for him, the story began earlier.

“New things are forgotten old things,” says the horse breeder. “I read this in books. In the history of my Karabash horse, I learnt that we used to have both this game and lifting a copper coin while riding a horse (it is present in the Nomad Games as well). We are also reviving, by the way, horse archery and kuk bure when horse riders fight for a goat. All these traditions were forgotten. Firstly, it was because of the revolution. Secondly, gatherings, rural meetings disappeared after collectivisation. Horses were taken away by collective farms. Old men say that they had been competing with horses before this…”

The main person making the breed more popular Farid Nabiullin. Photo courtesy of Farid Nabiullin. предоставлено Фаридом Набиуллиным

Understandable for all nomads

The Nogay people have a tradition. Musician and director Islam Satyrov is now finishing Avdarys film that was shot in assistance with the Fund for Regional Cinematography. The main character of the film Kemal who comes from a small Nogay village decides to revive horse wrestling at home.

“A horse wrestling tournament was the most remembered event during the shooting,” says Satyrov. “A contest of two horse riders trying to take each other down from the horse is a breath-taking scene. However, since I was busy with the shooting process and controlled many things, I couldn’t enjoy the tournament fully as a spectator. Also, there were different unexpected circumstances that, in fact, changed and significantly enriched our ideas.”

Satyrov indicates that precisely Nabiullin motivated the main character of the film to revive the competition. By the way, the Nogay people have a saying: “Learn your people while your father is alive. Learn your lands while you have a horse.”

“We borrowed the rules from our experience,” says Nabiullin. “We examined everything, made conclusions. It is a friendly competition. We don’t have absolute winners like in kuresh. How can a 60-kg buy be an absolute winner? We have a team competition. Let’s say, a team has six people. Our system was assessed by, for instance, Kazakh people, they like it, they come to us. Because all Turkic people have audarysh, it is spread among all nomadic people.”

So Mongols, Buryats, Yakuts, Sakha and Altai people, Karachay, Crimea residents come to Nabiullin. Even Cossacks from Volgograd come. The republican tournament has been held for the fourth time this year, interregional competitions have been hosted, around 70 referees have been trained.

“A dream?” grins Nabiullin. “We are already part of the Nomad Games. We don’t need the Olympic Games, we have our own national games. 17 districts of the republic already have audarysh teams!”

Radif Kashapov

Подписывайтесь на телеграм-канал, группу «ВКонтакте» и страницу в «Одноклассниках» «Реального времени». Ежедневные видео на Rutube, «Дзене» и Youtube.

Sports Tatarstan