|c. 6.8–12.8 million|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Russia||5,319,877 (excl. Crimea)|
|Ukraine (Only includes Crimean Tatars)||319,377 (incl. Crimea)|
|Turkey (Only includes Crimean Tatars)||150,000–6,000,000|
(Includes those of mixed ancestry)
|Russian, Tatar, Siberian Tatar, Crimean Tatar, Ukrainian|
|Predominantly Sunni Islam|
with Eastern Orthodox minority
|Related ethnic groups|
|Other Turkic peoples|
Initially, the ethnonym Tatar possibly refers to the Tatar confederation. That confederation was eventually incorporated into the Empire of Genghis Khan when he unified the various steppe tribes. Historically, the term Tatars (or Tartars) was applied to anyone originating from the vast Northern and Central Asian landmass then known as Tartary, which was dominated by various mostly Turco-Mongol semi-nomadic empires and kingdoms. More recently, however, the term has come to refer more narrowly to related ethnic groups who refer to themselves as Tatars or who speak languages that are commonly referred to as Tatar, namely Tatar by Volga Tatars (Tatars proper), Crimean Tatar by Crimean Tatars and Siberian Tatar by Siberian Tatars.
The largest group amongst the Tatars by far are the Volga Tatars, native to the Volga-Ural region (Tatarstan and Bashkortostan), who for this reason are often also simply known as "Tatars" in Russian. They compose 53% of the population in Tatarstan. Their language is known as the Tatar language. As of 2002[update], there were an estimated 5 million ethnic Tatars in Russia.
It is known that many Russians descended from the Tatars, which is illustrated by the famous saying "scratch any Russian just a little and you will discover a Tatar underneath" and the fact that most noble families in the Tsardom of Russia had Tatar origins; however, genetics show that a majority of Russians form a cluster with Northern and Eastern Europeans (especially Belarusians and Ukrainians), and are relatively far from Tatar peoples.
The name "Tatar" likely originated amongst the nomadic Tatar confederation, whose ancestors inhabited in the north-eastern Gobi desert in the 5th century. The name "Tatar" was first transliterated, with Chinese characters in the Book of Song, as 大檀 Dàtán (MC: *daH-dan) and 檀檀 Tántán (MC: *dan-dan) as other names of the Rourans. The Rouran Khaganate collapsed due to internal Turk-led rebellion, and a remnant of the dispersed Rourans fled to the Greater Khingan mountain range, where they renamed themselves Tatars, after Yujiulü Datan, one of their former Khagans. The Donghu ancestors of Rourans and later Tatars were generally agreed to be Proto-Mongols , though several scholars (e.g. Xu, Sadur, etc.) suggested that Turkic elements also contributed to Tatars' ethnogenesis. The first precise phonetic transcriptions were on the Orkhon inscriptions: Kul Tigin (732 CE) and Bilge Khagan (735 CW) monuments as 𐰆𐱃𐰕𐱃𐱃𐰺, Otuztatar, 'Thirty Tatar' and 𐰸𐱃𐰕:𐱃𐱃𐰺, Tokuz Tatar, 'Nine Tatar' referring to the Tatar confederation.
Tatar became a name for populations of the former Golden Horde in Europe, such as those of the former Kazan, Crimean, Astrakhan, Qasim, and Siberian Khanates. The form Tartar has its origins in either Latin or French, coming to Western European languages from Turkish and the Persian language (tātār, "mounted messenger"). From the beginning, the extra r was present in the Western forms, and according to the Oxford English Dictionary this was most likely due to an association with Tartarus.
The Persian word is first recorded in the 13th century in reference to the hordes of Genghis Khan and is of unknown origin, according to OED "said to be" ultimately from tata, a name of the Mongols for themselves. The Arabic word for Tatars is تتار. Tatars themselves wrote their name as تاتار or طاطار. The Chinese term for Tatars was 韃靼; Dádá, especially after the end of the Yuan period (14th century), but also recorded as a term for Mongolian-speaking peoples of the northern steppes during the Tang period (8th century). The name Tatars was used as an alternative term for the Shiwei, a nomadic confederation to which these Tatar people belonged.
Russians and Europeans used the name Tatar to denote Mongols as well as Turkic peoples under Mongol rule (especially in the Golden Horde). Later, it applied to any Turkic or Mongolic-speaking people encountered by Russians. Eventually, however, the name became associated with the Turkic Muslims of Ukraine and Russia, namely the descendants of Muslim Volga Bulgars, Kipchaks, Cumans, and Turkicized Mongols or Turko-Mongols (Nogais), as well as other Turkic-speaking peoples (Siberian Tatars, Qasim Tatars, and Mishar Tatars) in the territory of the former Russian Empire (and as such generally includes all Northwestern Turkic-speaking peoples).
There are two Tatar dialects – Central and Western. The Western dialect (Misher) is spoken mostly by Mishärs, the Central dialect is spoken by Kazan and Astrakhan Tatars. Both dialects have subdialects. Central Tatar furnishes the base of literary Tatar.
The Siberian Tatar language are independent of Volga–Ural Tatar. The dialects are quite remote from Standard Tatar and from each other, often preventing mutual comprehension. The claim that Siberian Tarar is part of the modern Tatar language is typically supported by linguists in Kazan and denounced by Siberian Tatars.
Crimean Tatar is the indigenous language of the Crimean Tatar people. Because of its common name, Crimean Tatar is sometimes mistakenly seen as a dialect of Kazan Tatar. Although these languages are related (as both are Turkic), the Kypchak languages closest to Crimean Tatar are (as mentioned above) Kumyk and Karachay-Balkar, not Kazan Tatar. Still, there exists an opinion (E. R. Tenishev), according to which the Kazan Tatar language is included in the same Kipchak-Cuman group as Crimean Tatar.
The largest Tatar populations are the Volga Tatars, native to the Volga region, and the Crimean Tatars of Crimea. Smaller groups of Lipka Tatars and Astrakhan Tatars live in Europe and the Siberian Tatars in Asia.
The Volga Bulgars, who settled on the Volga river in the 7th century AD and converted to Islam in 922 during the missionary work of Ahmad ibn Fadlan, inhabited the present-day territory of Tatarstan. After the Batu Khan invasions of 1223–1236, the Golden Horde annexed Volga Bulgaria. Most of the population survived, and there was a certain degree of mixing between it and the Kipchaks of the Horde during the ensuing period. The group as a whole accepted the exonym "Tatars" (finally in the end of the 19th century; although the name Bulgars persisted in some places; the majority identified themselves simply as the Muslims) and the language of the Kipchaks; on the other hand, the invaders eventually converted to Islam. As the Golden Horde disintegrated in the 15th century, the area became the territory of the Kazan khanate, which Russia ultimately conquered in the 16th century.
A minority of Christianized Volga Tatars are known as Keräşens.
The Volga Tatars used the Turkic Old Tatar language for their literature between the 15th and 19th centuries. It was written in the İske imlâ variant of the Arabic script, but actual spelling varied regionally. The older literary language included many Arabic and Persian loanwords. The modern literary language, however, often uses Russian and other European-derived words instead.
Outside of Tatarstan, urban Tatars usually speak Russian as their first language (in cities such as Moscow, Saint-Petersburg, Nizhniy Novgorod, Tashkent, Almaty, and cities of the Ural and western Siberia) and other languages in a worldwide diaspora.
In the 1910s the Volga Tatars numbered about half a million in the Kazan Governorate in Tatarstan, their historical homeland, about 400,000 in each of the governments of Ufa, 100,000 in Samara and Simbirsk, and about 30,000 in Vyatka, Saratov, Tambov, Penza, Nizhny Novgorod, Perm and Orenburg. An additional 15,000 had migrated to Ryazan or were settled as prisoners in the 16th and 17th centuries in Lithuania (Vilnius, Grodno and Podolia). An additional 2000 resided in St. Petersburg.
An ethnic nationalist movement among Kazan Tatars that stresses descent from the Bulgars is known as Bulgarism – there have been graffiti on the walls in the streets of Kazan with phrases such as "Bulgaria is alive" (Булгария жива)
A significant number of Volga Tatars emigrated during the Russian Civil War of 1917–1922, mostly to Turkey and to Harbin, China. According to the Chinese government, 5,100 Tatars still live in Xinjiang province.
Crimean Tatars are a separate people, they are not a sub-ethnic group of Volga Tatars.
Crimean Tatars are an indigenous people of the Crimea. Their formation occurred during the 13th–17th centuries, primarily from Cumans that appeared in the Crimea in the 10th century, with strong contributions from all the peoples who ever inhabited Crimea.
At the beginning of the 13th century, the Crimea, the majority of the population of which was already composed of a Turkic people — Cumans, became a part of the Golden Horde. The Crimean Tatars mostly adopted Islam in the 14th century and thereafter Crimea became one of the centers of Islamic civilization in Eastern Europe. In the same century, trends towards separatism appeared in the Crimean Ulus of the Golden Horde. De-facto independence of the Crimea from the Golden Horde may be counted since the beginning of princess (khanum) Canike's, the daughter of the powerful Khan of the Golden Horde Tokhtamysh and the wife of the founder of the Nogai Horde Edigey, reign in the peninsula. During her reign she strongly supported Hacı Giray in the struggle for the Crimean throne until her death in 1437. Following the death of Сanike, the situation of Hacı Giray in Crimea weakened and he was forced to leave Crimea for Lithuania.
In 1441, an embassy from the representatives of several strongest clans of the Crimea, including the Golden Horde clans Shırın and Barın and the Cumanic clan — Kıpçak, went to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to invite Hacı Giray to rule in the Crimea. He became the founder of the Giray dynasty, which ruled until the annexation of the Crimean Khanate by Russia in 1783. Hacı I Giray was a Jochid descendant of Genghis Khan and of his grandson Batu Khan of the Golden Horde. During the reign of Meñli I Giray, Hacı's son, the army of the Great Horde that still existed then invaded the Crimea from the north, Crimean Khan won the general battle, overtaking the army of the Horde Khan in Takht-Lia, where he was killed, the Horde ceased to exist, and the Crimean Khan became the Great Khan and the successor of this state. Since then, the Crimean Khanate was among the strongest powers in Eastern Europe until the beginning of the 18th century. The Khanate officially operated as a vassal state of the Ottoman Empire, with great autonomy after 1580, because of being a Muslim state, the Crimean Khanate just could not be separate from the Ottoman caliphate, and therefore the Crimean khans had to recognize the Ottoman caliph as the supreme ruler, in fact, the viceroy of Allah on earth. At the same time, the Nogai hordes, not having their own khan, were vassals of the Crimean one, Muskovy and Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth paid annual tribute to the khan (until 1700 and 1699 respectively). In 1711, when Peter I of Russia went on a campaign with all his troops (80,000) to gain access to the Black Sea, he was surrounded by the army of the Crimean Khan Devlet II Giray, finding himself in a hopeless situation. And only the betrayal of the Ottoman vizier Baltacı Mehmet Pasha allowed Peter to get out of the encirclement of the Crimean Tatars. When Devlet II Giray protested against the vizier’s decision, his response was: "You might know your Tatar affairs. The affairs of the Sublime Porte are entrusted to me. You do not have the right to interfere in them". Treaty of the Pruth was signed, and 10 years later, Russia declared itself an empire. In 1736, the Crimean Khan Qaplan I Giray was summoned by the Turkish Sultan Ahmed III to Persia. Understanding that Russia could take advantage of the lack of troops in Crimea, Qaplan Giray wrote to the Sultan to think twice, but the Sultan was persistent. As it was expected by Qaplan Giray, in 1736 the Russian army invaded the Crimea, led by Münnich, devastated the peninsula, killed civilians and destroyed all major cities, occupied the capital, Bakhchisaray, and burnt the Khan's palace with all the archives and documents, and then left the Crimea because of the epidemic that had begun in it. One year after the same was done by another Russian general — Peter Lacy. Since then, the Crimean Khanate had not been able to recover, and its slow decline began. The Russo-Turkish War of 1768 to 1774 resulted in the defeat of the Ottomans by the Russians, and according to the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca (1774) signed after the war, Crimea became independent and the Ottomans renounced their political right to protect the Crimean Khanate. After a period of political unrest in Crimea, Imperial Russia violated the treaty and annexed the Crimean Khanate in 1783.
Due to the oppression by the Russian administration, the Crimean Tatars were forced to immigrate to the Ottoman Empire. In total, from 1783 till the beginning of the 20th century, at least 800 thousand Tatars left Crimea. In 1917, the Crimean Tatars, in an effort to recreate their statehood, announced the Crimean People's Republic — the first democratic republic in the Muslim world, where all peoples were equal in rights. The head of the republic was the young politician Noman Çelebicihan. However, a few months later the Bolsheviks captured Crimea, and Çelebicihan was killed without trial and thrown into the Black Sea. Soon in the Crimea, Soviet power was established.
Through the fault of the Soviet government, which exported bread from Crimea to other regions of the country, in 1921-1922, at least 76,000 Crimean Tatars died of starvation, which became a disaster for such a small nation. In 1928, the first wave of repression against the Crimean Tatar intelligentsia was launched, in particular, the head of the Crimean ASSR Veli Ibraimov was executed in a fabricated case. In 1938, the second wave of repression against the Crimean Tatar intelligentsia was started, during which many Crimean Tatar writers, scientists, poets, politicians, teachers were killed (Asan Sabri Ayvazov, Usein Bodaninsky, Seitdzhelil Hattatov, Ilyas Tarhan and many others). In May 1944, the USSR State Defense Committee ordered the total deportation of all the Crimean Tatars from Crimea. The deportees were transported in cattle trains to Central Asia, primarily to Uzbekistan. During the deportation and in the first years of being in exile, 46% of Crimean Tatars died. In 1956, Khrushchev exposed Stalin's cult of personality and allowed deported peoples to return to their homeland. The exception was the Crimean Tatars. Since then, a powerful national movement of the Crimean Tatars, supported abroad and by Soviet dissidents, began, and in 1989 the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union was made to condemn the deportation of Crimean Tatars from their motherland as inhumane and lawless. Crimean Tatars began to return to their homeland. Today, Crimean Tatars constitute approximately 12% of the population of Crimea. There is a large diaspora in Turkey and Uzbekistan, but most of them do not consider themselves Crimean Tatars. Still, there remains a diaspora in Dobrogea, where most of the Tatars keep identifying themselves as Crimean Tatars.
Nowadays, the Crimean Tatars comprise three sub-ethnic groups:
Some Crimean Tatars have lived in the territory of today's Romania and Bulgaria since the 13th century. In Romania, according to the 2002 census, 24,000 people declared their ethnicity as Tatar, most of them being Crimean Tatars living in Constanța County in the region of Dobrogea. Most of the Crimean Tatars, living in Romania and Bulgaria nowadays, left the Crimean peninsula for Dobrogea after the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Empire.
Dobrujan Tatars have been present in Romania since the 13th century. The Tatars first reached the mouths of the Danube in the mid-13th century at the height of the power of the Golden Horde. In the 14th and 15th centuries the Ottoman Empire colonized Dobruja with Nogais from Bucak. Between 1593 and 1595 Tatars from Nogai and Bucak were also settled to Dobruja. (Frederick de Jong) Toward the end of the 16th century, about 30,000 Nogai Tatars from the Budjak were brought to Dobruja. After the Russian annexation of Crimea in 1783 Crimean Tatars began emigrating to the Ottoman coastal provinces of Dobruja (today divided between Romania and Bulgaria). Once in Dobruja most settled in the areas surrounding Mecidiye, Babadag, Köstence, Tulça, Silistre, Beştepe, or Varna and went on to create villages named in honor of their abandoned homeland such as Şirin, Yayla, Akmecit, Yalta, Kefe or Beybucak. Tatars together with Albanians served as gendarmes, who were held in high esteem by the Ottomans and received special tax privileges. The Ottoman's additionally accorded a certain degree of autonomy for the Tatars who were allowed governance by their own kaymakam, Khan Mirza. The Giray dynasty (1427 - 1878) multiplied in Dobruja and maintained their respected position. A Dobrujan Tatar, Kara Hussein, was responsible for the destruction of the Janissary corps on orders from Sultan Mahmut II.
The Lipka Tatars are a group of Turkic-speaking Tatars who originally settled in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania at the beginning of the 14th century. The first settlers tried to preserve their shamanistic religion and sought asylum amongst the non-Christian Lithuanians. Towards the end of the 14th century Grand Duke Vytautas the Great of Lithuania (ruled 1392–1430) invited another wave of Tatars —Muslims, this time— into the Grand Duchy. These Tatars first settled in Lithuania proper around Vilnius, Trakai, Hrodna and Kaunas and spread to other parts of the Grand Duchy that later became part of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1569. These areas comprise parts of present-day Lithuania, Belarus and Poland. From the very beginning of their settlement in Lithuania they were known as the Lipka Tatars.
From the 13th to 17th centuries various groups of Tatars settled and/or found refuge within the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. The Grand Dukes of Lithuania especially promoted the migrations because of the Tatars' reputation as skilled warriors. The Tatar settlers were all granted szlachta (nobility) status, a tradition that survived until the end of the Commonwealth in the late-18th century. Such migrants included the Lipka Tatars (13th–14th centuries) as well as Crimean and Nogay Tatars (15th–16th centuries), all of which were notable in Polish military history, as well as Volga Tatars (16th–17th centuries). They all mostly settled in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
Various estimates of the Tatars in the Commonwealth in the 17th century place their numbers at about 15,000 persons and 60 villages with mosques. Numerous royal privileges, as well as internal autonomy granted by the monarchs, allowed the Tatars to preserve their religion, traditions, and culture over the centuries. The Tatars were allowed to intermarry with Christians,a practice uncommon in Europe at the time. The May Constitution of 1791 gave the Tatars representation in the Polish Sejm (parliament).
Although by the 18th century the Tatars had adopted the local language, the Islamic religion and many Tatar traditions (e.g. the sacrifice of bulls in their mosques during the main religious festivals) survived. This led to the formation of a distinctive Muslim culture, in which the elements of Muslim orthodoxy mixed with religious tolerance formed a relatively liberal society. For instance, the women in Lipka Tatar society traditionally had the same rights and status as men, and could attend non-segregated schools.
About 5,500 Tatars lived within the inter-war boundaries of Poland (1920–1939), and a Tatar cavalry unit had fought for the country's independence. The Tatars had preserved their cultural identity and sustained a number of Tatar organisations, including Tatar archives and a museum in Vilnius.
The Tatars suffered serious losses during World War II and furthermore, after the border change in 1945, a large part of them found themselves in the Soviet Union. It is estimated[by whom?] that about 3000 Tatars live in present-day Poland, of which about 500 declared Tatar (rather than Polish) nationality in the 2002 census. There are two Tatar villages (Bohoniki and Kruszyniany) in the north-east of present-day Poland, as well as urban Tatar communities in Warsaw, Gdańsk, Białystok, and Gorzów Wielkopolski. Tatars in Poland sometimes have a Muslim surname with a Polish ending: Ryzwanowicz; another surname sometimes adopted by more assimilated Tatars is Tatara or Tataranowicz or Taterczyński, which literally mean "son of a Tatar".
The Tatars played a relatively prominent role for such a small community in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth military as well as in Polish and Lithuanian political and intellectual life. In modern-day Poland, their presence is also widely known, due in part to their noticeable role in the historical novels of Henryk Sienkiewicz (1846–1916), which are universally recognized in Poland. A number of Polish intellectual figures have also been Tatars, e.g. the prominent historian Jerzy Łojek.
The Astrakhan Tatars (around 80,000) are a group of Tatars, descendants of the Astrakhan Khanate's population, who live mostly in Astrakhan Oblast. In the Russian census in 2010, most Astrakhan Tatars declared themselves simply as Tatars and few declared themselves as Astrakhan Tatars. Many Volga Tatars live in Astrakhan Oblast and differences between them have been disappearing.
The Siberian Tatars occupy three distinct regions:
They originated in the agglomerations of various indigenous North Asian groups which, in the region north of the Altay, reached some degree of culture between the 4th and 5th centuries, but were subdued and enslaved by the Mongols. The 2010 census recorded 6,779 Siberian Tatars in Russia. According to the 2002 census there are 500,000 Tatars in Siberia, but 400,000 of them are Volga Tatars who settled in Siberia during periods of colonization.
Comparison of the proportions of Caucasoid and Mongoloid characteristics in the gene pools of ethnic groups in the Volga-Ural region revealed a heterogenous pattern. Data on the proportions of major racial components in the nuclear genome indicated that the Mongoloid characters were most prevalent in Bashkirs, Maris, Volga Tatars, and Chuvashes, while the Caucasoid component was maximum in Mordovians, Komis, and Udmurts. Data on restriction-deletion polymorphism of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) also indicated an increased Caucasoid contribution to Mordovian, Udmurt, and Komi gene pools and an increased Mongoloid component in Chuvashes and Volga Tatars. In general, the results obtained agree with ethnic anthropological data indicating the greatest Caucasoid contribution to the Mordovian and Komi gene pools and an increased Mongoloid component in Turkic populations of the Volga-Ural region (Volga Tatars, Bashkirs and Chuvashes).
According to Mylyarchuk and colleagues,
It was found that mtDNA of the Volga Tatars consists of two parts, but western Eurasian component prevails considerably (84% on average) over eastern Asian one (16%).
The study of Suslova et al. found indications of two non-Kipchak sources of admixture, Finno-Ugric and Bulgar.
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