Brief Story of Tatars

Click on the image to watch the incredible “History of the World” animation by Ollie Bye. Volga Bulgaria appears on the 13th minute that aligns with 660 CE. 

The ancestors of the modern Tatars were the semi-nomadic cattle-breeders who migrated north from the steppes surrounding Black Sea to the banks of Volga and Kama rivers in 650 CE (common era) where they merged with local nomadic tribes. In the historical texts the nomadic and semi-nomadic of people of Eurasian steppe are referred as Scythians or Saka who thought to be of  Iranian/Mesopotamian/Turkic/Altaic origin.

In 660 CE, Volga Bulgaria / Great Bolgaria (660-1240) were established that roughly covers the territory of modern Tatarstan Republic. Volga Bulgaria was a powerful and developed state, the active trading center connecting Silk Roads and Volga trade roads with many countries in the Middle Ages. The Volga Bulgars were agrarians with highly developed culture, trade and crafts. In 922, the people of Bulgar State joined the Islamic umma (community of believers) that established Bulgar as the centre for Islamic education, religion and culture. The Bulgars became well-known for their handiwork: quality and beautiful metalwork, pottery, gold and silver work, jewelry and leather goods. Bulgar leather goods and furs became famous all around the continent. Since those times the soft leather got referred to as bulgari in Central Asia and then-Persia.

Volga Bulgaria was invaded by Tatar-Mongols in the late 1230s, making it a part of Golden Horde ( since then ancestors of Volga Bulgars and other Turkic, non-Slavic, indigenous people got referred as Tatars).  By 1430s, the territory of Volga Bulgaria became Khanate of Kazan that inherited wits, skills and crafts of Bulgars. After brutal siege of Kazan in 1552, Kazan Khanate was turned into Kazan province of Tsardom of Russia:  the Tatar intelligentsia was destroyed and majority of islamic population was forced to change their faith to christianity. It took much time for the Tatar people to recover from the tragic loss and devastation.

Boundaries of modern Tatarstan Republic (highlighted with red)

With establishment of the Soviet Union,  in 1920 Kazan province became TASSR or Tatariya (region of the Tatars) – a region with partial autonomy in Soviet system of governing. In 1990s, after the collapse of Soviet Union, the Tatarstan Republic declared sovereignty, which served to heighten consciousness of its culture and heritage. It became an independent state while remaining part of the Russian Federation.

In 1994, the Mutual Treaty between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Tatarstan was signed. The Republic of Tatarstan became a constituent of the Russian Federation , a federal subject that is tied with the Russian federal government by the uniform Federal Treaty. Relations between the government of Tatarstan and the Russian federal government are complex The following passage from the Tatarstan Constitution defines the republic’s status without contradicting the Constitution of the Russian Federation:”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.”[53]

The recent (2018-21) developments in position of Russian Federation government towards eliminating presidencies of 13 ethnic republics of Russian Federation and challenging the legitimacy of minority languages instructions in public educational, leave Tatarstan with inability to keep statehood and weakens the opportunities for Tatar and other ethnic minorities to prosper.