Most current day Tatars live all over Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Moldova, Lithuania, Belarus, Bulgaria, China, Kazakhstan, Romania, Turkey, and Uzbekistan. They collectively numbered more than 10 million in the late 20th century.
The original Ta-ta inhabited the north-eastern Gobi in the 5th century and, after subjugation in the 9th century by the Khitans, migrated southward. In the 12th century, they were subjugated by the Mongol Empire under Genghis Khan. Under the leadership of his grandson Batu Khan, they moved westwards, driving with them many stems of the Turkic Ural-Altayans towards the plains of Russia.
In Europe, they were assimilated by the local Turkic populations or their name spread to the conquered peoples: Kipchaks, Volga Bulgars, Alans, Kimaks and others; and elsewhere with Finno-Ugric speaking peoples, as well as with remnants of the ancient Greek colonies in the Crimea and Caucasians in the Caucasus.
Tatars of Siberia are survivors of the Turkic population of the Ural-Altaic region, mixed to some extent with the speakers of Uralic languages, as well as with Mongols. Later, each group adopted Turkic languages and many adopted Islam. At the beginning of 20th century, most of those groups, except the Volga Tatars and Crimean Tatars adopted their own ethnic names and now are not referred to as Tatars, being Tatars or Tartars only in historical context. Now the name Tatars is generally applied to two ethnic groups: Volga Tatars (or simply Tatars) and Crimean Tatars. However, some indigenous peoples of Siberia are also traditionally named Tatars, such as Chulym Tatars.
The present Tatar inhabitants of Eurasia form three large groups:
Due to the vast movements and intermingling of peoples along with the very loose utilization of the name Tatar, current day Tatars comprise a spectrum of physical appearance. As to the original Tatars from Mongolia, they most likely shared characteristics with the Turkic invaders from Central Asia.
The name Tatar initially appeared amongst the nomadic Turkic peoples of northeastern Mongolia in the region around Lake Baikal in the beginning of the 5th century. These people may have been related to the Cumans or the Kipchaks. The Chinese term is Dada and is a comparatively specific term for nomads to the north, emerging in the late Tang. Other names include Dadan and Tatan.
As various of these nomadic groups became part of Genghis Khan's army in the early 13th century, a fusion of Mongol and Turkic elements took place, and the invaders of Rus and Hungary became known to Europeans as Tatars (or Tartars). After the break up of the Mongol Empire, the Tatars became especially identified with the western part of the empire, which included most of European Russia and was known as the Golden Horde.
The form Tartar has its origins in either Latin or French, coming to Western European languages from the Turkish and Persian Tātār. 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 (Hell in Greek mythology), though some claimed that the name Tartar was in fact used amongst the Tatars themselves. Nowadays Tatar is usually used to refer to the people, but Tartar is still almost always used for derived terms such as tartar sauce or steak tartare.
Historically, the term Tatar or Tartar has been ambiguously used by Europeans to refer to many different peoples of Inner Asia and Northern Asia. For example, the Russians referred to various peoples they came into contact with on the Eurasian steppes as Tatars yet the British and Americans generally referred to the Manchu and related peoples as Tatars when they first arrived in China. The old English language designation is now regarded as archaic, although the meaning is preserved in the name of the Strait of Tartary that separates the island of Sakhalin from mainland Asia. Today, the word is generally confined to meaning one of the following:
Tatars - Tatarlar or Татарлар. In modern English only Tatar is used to refer to Eurasian Tatars; Tartar has offensive connotations as a confusion with the Tartarus of Greek mythology, due in part to the popular association of the ferocity of the Mongol tribes with the Greek sub-underworld. In Europe the term Tartar is generally only used in the historical context for Mongolian people who appeared in the 13th century (the Mongol invasions) and assimilated into the local population later.
During the 11-16th centuries, most Turkic tribes lived in what is now Russia and Kazakhstan. The present territory of Tatarstan was inhabited by the Volga Bulgars who settled on the Volga in the 8th century and converted to Islam in 922 during the missionary work of Ahmad ibn Fadlan. On the Volga, the Bulgars mingled with Scythian and Finno-Ugric speaking peoples. After the Mongol invasion, Bulgaria was defeated, ruined and incorporated in the Golden Horde. Much of the population survived, and there was a certain degree of mixing between it and the Kipchak Tatars of the Horde during the ensuing period. The group as a whole accepted the ethnonym "Tatars" (finally in the end of 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 Horde disintegrated in the 15th century, the area became the territory of the Kazan khanate, which was ultimately conquered by Russia in the 16th century.
There is some debate among scholars about the extent of that mixing and the "share" of each group as progenitors of the modern Kazan Tatars. It is relatively accepted that demographically, most of the population was directly descended from the Bulgars. Nevertheless, some emphasize the contribution of the Kipchaks on the basis of the ethnonym and the language, and consider that the modern Tatar ethnogenesis was only completed upon their arrival. Others prefer to stress the Bulgar heritage, sometimes to degree of equating modern Kazan Tatars with Bulgars. They argue that although the Volga Bulgars had not kept their language and their name, their old culture and religion - Islam - have been preserved. According to scholars who espouse this view, there was very little mixing with Mongol and Turkic aliens after the conquest of Volga Bulgaria, especially in the northern regions that ultimately became Tatarstan. Some voices even advocate the change of the ethnonym from "Tatars" to "Bulgars" - a movement known as Bulgarism.
In the 1910s they numbered about half a million in the Kazan Governorate (Tatarstan, the Kazan Tatars' historical motherland), 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. Some 15,000 belonging to the same stem had migrated to Ryazan, or had been settled as prisoners in the 16th and 17th centuries in Lithuania (Vilnius, Grodno and Podolia). Some 2000 resided in St. Petersburg, where they were mostly employed as coachmen and waiters in restaurants. In Poland they constituted 1% of the population of the district of Płock. Later they wer never counted as separate group of the Tatars.
The Kazan Tatars speak a Turkic language (with a big complement of Russian and Arabic words; see Tatar language). They have been described as generally middle-sized, broad-shouldered, and the majority have brown and green eyes, a straight nose and salient cheek bones Because their ancestors number not only Turkic peoples, but Finno-Ugric and Eastern Iranian peoples as well, many Kazan Tatars tend to have Caucasoid faces. Around 33.5% belong to Southern Caucasoid, 27.5% to Northern Caucasoid, 24.5% to Lapponoid and 14.5% to Mongoloid Most Kazan Tatars practice Sunni Islam.
Before 1917 in Russia, polygamy was practised only by the wealthier classes and was a waning institution. The Bashkirs who live between the Kama and Ural speak the Bashkir language, which is similar to Tatar, and have converted to Sunni Islam.
Because it is understandable to all groups of Russian Tatars, as well as to the Chuvash and Bashkirs, the language of the Volga Tatars became a literary one in the 15th century (İske Tatar tele). (However, being written in Arabic alphabet, it was spelled variously in the different regions). The old literary language included a lot of Arabic and Persian words. Nowadays the literary language includes European and Russian words instead of Arabic.
Volga Tatars number nearly 8 millions, mostly in Russia and the republics of the former Soviet Union. While the bulk of the population is to be found in Tatarstan (nearly 2 million) and neighbouring regions, significant numbers of Kazan Tatars live in Central Asia, Siberia and the Caucasus. 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.
A significant number of Tatars emigrated during the Russian Civil War, mostly to Turkey and Harbin, China, but resettled to European countries later. Some of them speak Turkish at home. According to the Chinese government, there are still 51,000 Tatars living in Xinjiang province (see Chinese Tatars).
See also: Tatar language
Some scientists suppose that Suars were ancestors of the Keräşen Tatars, and they had been converted to Christianity by Armenians in the 6th century, while they lived in the Caucasus. Suars, like other tribes (which later converted to Islam) became Volga Bulgars and later the modern Chuvash (mostly Christians) and Tatars (mostly Muslims).
Keräşen Tatars live all over Tatarstan. Now they tend to be assimilated among Russians, Chuvash and Tatars with Sunni Muslim self-identification. Eighty years of atheistic Soviet rule made Tatars of both confessions not as religious as they were. As such, differences between Tatars and Keräşen Tatars now is only that Keräşens have Russian names.
Some Turkic (Kuman) tribes in Golden Horde were converted to Christianity in the 13th and 14th centuries (Catholicism and Nestorianism). Some prayers, written in that time in the Codex Cumanicus, sound like modern Keräşen prayers, but there is no information about the connection between Christian Kumans and modern Keräşens.
The Western dialect (Misher) is spoken mostly by Mishärs, the Middle dialect is spoken by Kazan and Astrakhan Tatars, and the Eastern (Siberian) dialect is spoken by some groups of Tatars in western Siberia.
Middle Tatar is the base of literary Tatar Language. The Middle dialect also has subdivisions.
The Astrakhan Tatars are further divided into the Kundrov Tatars and the Karagash Tatars. The latter are also at times called the Karashi Tatars.
Text from Britannica 1911:
While Astrakhan (Ästerxan) Tatar is a mixed dialect, around 43,000 have assimilated to the Middle (i.e., Kazan) dialect. Their ancestors are Khazars, Kipchaks and some Volga Bulgars. (Volga Bulgars had trade colonies in modern Astrakhan and Volgograd oblasts of Russia.)
The Astrakhan Tatars also assimilated the Agrzhan.
Those of the south coast, mixed with Scyth, Greeks and Italians, were well known for their skill in gardening, their honesty, and their work habits, as well as for their fine features. The mountain Tatars closely resemble those of Caucasus, while those of the steppes - the Nogais - are decidedly of a mixed origin with Turks and Mongols.
During World War II, the entire Tatar population in Crimea fell victims to Stalin's oppressive policies. In 1944 they were accused of being Nazi collaborators and deported en masse to Central Asia and other lands of the Soviet Union. Many died of disease and malnutrition. Since the 1980s late, about 250,000 Crimean Tatars have returned to their homeland in the Crimea
After Tokhtamysh was defeated by Tamerlane, some of his clan sought refuge in Grand Duchy of Lithuania. They were given land and nobility in return for military service and were known as Lipka Tatars. They are known to have taken part in the Battle of Grunwald.
Islam spread in Belarus from the 14th to the 16th century. The process was encouraged by the Lithuanian princes, who invited Tatar Muslims from the Crimea and the Golden Horde as guards of state borders. Already in the 14th century the Tatars had been offered a settled way of life, state posts and service positions. By the end of the 16th century over 100,000 Tatars settled in Belarus and Lithuania, including those hired to government service, those who moved there voluntarily, prisoners of war, etc.
Tatars in Belarus generally follow Sunni Hanafi Islam. Some groups have accepted Christianity and been assimilated, but most adhere to Muslim religious traditions, which ensures their definite endogamy and preservation of ethnic features. Interethnic marriages with representatives of Belarusian, Polish, Lithuanian, Russian nationalities are not rare, but do not result in total assimilation.
Originating from different ethnic associations, Belarusian (and also Polish and Lithuanian) Tatars back in ancient days lost their native language and adopted Belarusian, Polish and Russian. However, the liturgy is conducted in the Arabic language, which is known by the clergymen. There are an estimated 20,000 Tatars in Belarus.
From the 13th to 17th centuries various groups of Tatars settled and/or found refuge within the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth. This was promoted especially by the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, because of their deserved reputation as skilled warriors. The Tatar settlers were all granted with szlachta (~ nobility) status, a tradition that was preserved until the end of the Commonwealth in the 18th century. They included the Lipka Tatars (13-14 centuries) as well as Crimean and Nogay Tatars (15th-16th centuries), all of which were noticeable in Polish military history, as well as Volga Tatars (16th-17th centuries). They all mostly settled in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, lands that are now in Lithuania and Belarus.
Various estimates of the number of Tatars in the Commonwealth in the 17th century range from 15,000 persons to 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 thing uncommon in Europe at the time. The May Constitution of 1791 gave the Tatars representation in the Polish Sejm.
Although by the 18th century the Tatars 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) were preserved. This led to formation of a distinctive Muslim culture, in which the elements of Muslim orthodoxy mixed with religious tolerance and 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 a Tatar archives, and a museum in Wilno (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 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, Jakubowicz.
The Tatars were relatively very noticeable in the Commonwealth military as well as in Polish and Lithuanian political and intellectual life for such a small community. In modern-day Poland, their presence is also widely known, due in part to their noticeable role in the historical novels of Henryk Sienkiewicz, which are universally recognized in Poland. A number of Polish intellectual figures have also been Tatars, e.g. the prominent historian Jerzy Łojek.
A small community of Polish speaking Tatars settled in Brooklyn, New York City in the early 1900s. They established a mosque that is still in use today.
Now this term is used to describe Tatars, settled in Caucasus. Other explanations, like followers, can be found only in historical context.
Today Nogais is an independent ethnos, living in the North of Dagestan, where they lived after Nogai Horde's defeating in was against Russia and settling Kalmyks in their lands in 17th century. Nogais was replaced to Black Lands in the North of Daghestan. Another part merged with Kazakhs.
In 16th century Nogais supported Crimean Khanate and Ottoman Empire, but sometimes robbed Crimean, Tatar and Bashkir lands, although their rulers supported them. In 16th-17th century some defensive walls was constructed in modern Tatarstan and Samara Oblast.
One of the Tatar national heroes, Söyembikä, was Nogai.
The Siberian Tatars were estimated (1895) at 80,000 of Turkic stock, and about 40,000 had Uralic or Ugric ancestry. They occupy three distinct regions—a strip running west to east from Tobolsk to Tomsk—the Altay and its spurs—and South Yeniseisk. They originated in the agglomerations of Turkic stems that, in the region north of the Altay, reached some degree of culture between the 4th and the 5th centuries, but were subdued and enslaved by the Mongols.
The Baraba Tatars take their name from one of their stems (Barama). After a strenuous resistance to Russian conquest, and much suffering at a later period from Kyrgyz and Kalmyk raids, they now live by agriculture—either in separate villages or along with Russians.
After colonisation of Siberia by Russian and Volga Tatars, Baraba Tatars used to call themselves people of Tomsk, later Moslems, and came to call themselves Tatars only in 20th century.
They numbered at least 150,000 in 1990.
The Chulym, or Cholym Tatars live on the Chulym, and both of the rivers Yus. They speak a Turkic language with many Mongol and Yakut words and are more like Mongols than Turks. In the 19th century they paid a tribute for 2550 arbaletes, but they now are rapidly becoming fused with Russians.
See: Chulym language
The Abakan (or Minusinsk) Tatars occupied the steppes on the Abakan and Yus in the 17th century, after the withdrawal of the Kyrgyz, and represent a mixture with Kaibals (whom Castrén considers as partly of Ostiak and partly Samoyedic origin) and Beltirs—also of Finnic origin. Their language is also mixed. They are known under the name of Sagais, who numbered 11,720 in 1864, and are the purer Turkic stem of the Minusinsk Tatars, Kaibals, and Kizil (or Red) Tatars. Formerly shamanists, they now are, nominally at least, adherents of the Russian Orthodox Church and support themselves mostly by cattle-breeding. Agriculture is spreading, but slowly, among them. They still prefer to plunder the stores of bulbs of Lilium martagon, Paeonia, and Erythronium dens-canis laid up by the steppe mouse (Mus socialis). The Soyotes (or Soyons), of the Sayan mountains (estimated at 8000), who are Finns mixed with Turks; the Uryankhes of north-west Mongolia, who are of Turkic origin but follow Buddhism; and the Karagasses, also of Turkic origin and much like the Kyrgyz, but reduced now to a few hundreds, are akin to the above.
Today Abakan Tatars of Kirghiz terms are extinct, used own names only.
Term Tatars is extinct for this peoples.
Although Turkestan and Central Asia were formerly known as Independent Tartary, it is not now usual to call the Sarts, Kyrgyz and other inhabitants of those countries Tatars, nor is the name usually given to the Yakuts of Northeastern Siberia.
Various scattered articles on Tatars will be found in the Revue orientale pour les Etudes Oural-Altaïques, and in the publications of the university of Kazan. See also E. H. Parker, A Thousand Years of the Tartars, 1895 (chiefly a summary of Chinese accounts of the early Turkic and Tatar tribes), and Skrine and Ross, Heart of Asia (1899). (P. A. K.; C. EL.)