Turko-Tatars make up around 50% of the population, and most live in rural areas. Russians, generally urban, constitute some 40%, and there are Chuvash, Udmurt, Mari, and Mordovian minorities. Sunni Islam is the chief religion.
Bulgars dominated the region from the 8th to 13th cent., when it was conquered by the Mongols of the Golden Horde; their Tatar descendants, in turn, gradually replaced or absorbed the Bulgar population. Russian colonization followed the capture (1552) by Czar Ivan IV of the khanate of Kazan, the most powerful of the Tatar states emerging from the empire of the Golden Horde. The Tatar ASSR was organized in 1920 as one of the first autonomous areas established by the Soviet government. In 1990 a declaration of sovereignty was adopted, and in 1991 the republic declared itself independent. This declaration was recognized by no other state. The republic was not a signatory to the Mar. 31, 1992, treaty that established the Russian Federation (see Russia), but it signed a power-sharing treaty with Russian government in 1994. Russian legislation (2003) forced a renegotiation of the treaty; a new treaty was finally ratified in 2007.
The earliest known organized state within the boundaries of Tatarstan was Volga Bulgaria (c. 700–1238 CE). The Volga Bulgars had an advanced mercantile state with trade contacts throughout Inner Eurasia, the Middle East and the Baltic, which maintained its independence despite pressure by such nations as the Khazars, the Kievan Rus and the Kipchaks. Islam was introduced by missionaries from Baghdad around the time of ibn Fadlan's journey in 922.
Volga Bulgaria finally fell to the armies of the Mongol prince Batu Khan in the late 1230s (see Mongol invasion of Volga Bulgaria.) The inhabitants, mixing with the Golden Horde's Turco-Mongolian, Kipchak-speaking troops and settlers, became known as the "Volga Tatars." Another theory postulates that there were no ethnic changes in that period, and Bulgars simply switched to the Kipchak-based Tatar language. In the 1430s, the region again became independent as the base of the Khanate of Kazan, a capital having been established in Kazan, 170 km up the Volga from the ruined capital of the Bulgars.
Tatarstan was conquered by the troops of Tsar Ivan IV the Terrible in the 1550s, with Kazan being taken in 1552. Some Tatars were forcibly converted to Christianity and cathedrals were built in Kazan; by 1593 all mosques in the area were destroyed. The Russian government forbade the construction of mosques, a prohibition that was not lifted until the 18th century by Catherine II. The first mosque to be rebuilt under Catherine's auspices was constructed in 1766-1770.
During the Civil War of 1918-1920 Tatar nationalists attempted to establish an independent republic (the Idel-Ural State). They were, however, put down by the Bolsheviks and the Tatar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was established on May 27, 1920. The boundaries of the republic did not include majority of the Volga Tatars. The Tatar Union of the Godless were liquidated in the 1928 purges.
The Republic is located in the center of the East European Plain, approximately east of Moscow. It lies between the Volga River and the Kama River (a tributary of the Volga), and extends east to the Ural mountains.
Major rivers include (Tatar names are given in parentheses):
According to the 2002 Census the ‘national composition’ was • Ethnic Tatar 52.92% • Ethnic Russian 39.49% • Chuvash 3.35% • Udmurt 0.64% • Ukrainian 0.64% • Mordvin 0.63% • Mari 0.50% • Keräşen Tatarlar 0.50% • Bashkir 0.39% • Azeri 0.26% • Belarusians 0.16% • Armenian 0.16% • Uzbek 0.13% • Tajik 0.10% • Jewish 0.09% • Ethnic German 0.08% • Kazakh 0.05% • Georgian 0.05% • Moldovan 0.03% • Roma 0.02% • Lezgin 0.02% • and various other groups of less than eight hundred persons each. • An additional 0.02% of residents declined to state their nationality or ethnocultural identity on the census questionnaire. Historical figures are shown below:
|census 1926||census 1939||census 1959||census 1970||census 1979||census 1989||census 2002|
|Tatars||1,263,383 (48.7%)||1,421,514 (48.8%)||1,345,195 (47.2%)||1,536,430 (49.1%)||1,641,603 (47.6%)||1,765,404 (48.5%)||2,000,116 (52.9%)|
|Russians||1,118,834 (43.1%)||1,250,667 (42.9%)||1,252,413 (43.9%)||1,382,738 (42.4%)||1,516,023 (44.0%)||1,575,361 (43.3%)||1,492,602 (39.5%)|
|Chuvash||127,330 (4.9%)||138,935 (4.8%)||143,552 (5.0%)||153,496 (4.9%)||147,088 (4.3%)||134,221 (3.7%)||126,532 (3.3%)|
|Others||84,485 (3.3%)||104,161 (3.6%)||109,257 (3.8%)||112,574 (3.6%)||140,698 (4.1%)||166,756 (4.6%)||160,015 (4.2%)|
The official languages are Tatar and Russian. According to the 2002 Russian Federal Law (On Languages of Peoples of the Russian Federation), the official script is Cyrillic. Tatarstan's government as well as human rights groups and some Russian intellectuals are strongly opposed to this law.
According to the Tatarstan Constitution, the President can be elected only by the people of Tatarstan, but due to Russian federal law this law was suspended for an indefinite term. The Russian law about election of governors says they should be elected by local parliaments and that the candidate can be presented only by the president.
The Republic of Tatarstan is a democratic constitutional State associated with the Russian Federation by the Constitution of the Russian Federation, the Constitution of the Republic of Tatarstan and the Treaty between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Tatarstan On Delimitation of Jurisdictional Subjects and Mutual Delegation of Powers between the State Bodies of the Russian Federation and the State Bodies of the Republic of Tatarstan, and a subject of the Russian Federation. The sovereignty of the Republic of Tatarstan shall consist in full possession of the State authority (legislative, executive and judicial) beyond the competence of the Russian Federation and powers of the Russian Federation in the sphere of shared competence of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Tatarstan and shall be an inalienable qualitative status of the Republic of Tatarstan.
Tatarstan is one of the richest regions of Russia, primary because of its oil industry (it was a leading oil-supplier in USSR in 1960s). Industrial production constitutes 45% of the Republic's gross regional domestic product. The most developed manufacturing industries are petrochemical industry and heavy truck production (KamAZ).
The Republic has a highly developed transport network. It mainly comprises highways, railway lines, four navigable rivers — Volga (İdel), Kama (Çulman), Vyatka (Noqrat) and Belaya (Ağidel), and oil pipelines and airlines. The territory of Tatarstan is crossed by the main gas pipelines carrying natural gas from Urengoy and Yamburg to the west and the major oil pipelines supplying oil to various cities in the European part of Russia.
Major libraries include the Science Library of Kazan State University and the National Library of the Republic of Tatarstan. There are two museums of republican significance, as well as 90 museums of local importance. In the past several years new museums appeared throughout the Republic.
There are 12 theatrical institutions in Tatarstan.
As of January 1, 2008, as many as 1398 religious organizations were registered in Tatarstan, comprising the following: 1055 - Muslim, 255 - Orthodox Christian under the Moscow Patriarchate, Real-Orthodox Church - 5, Old Believers’ Church -2, Catholics - 2, Jews - 4, Protestant communities of different doctrines – 71 (Evangelic Christians-Baptists - 4, Evangelic Christians – 30, Christians of Evangelic faith – 16, Adventists of the 7th day – 10, Lutherans – 5, New Apostle Church – 1, Jehovah’s Witnesses -5), Bahai – 1, Krishnaists – 2, Church of the Last Testament (Vissarionov’s) – 1.
The name Tatarstan derives from the Tatar and Persian -stan (an ending common to many West Asian countries). Other variants of the republic's name are Russian Tataria (former official Russian name) and Turkish Tataristan.