Brief Story of Volga Tatars

Volga Bulgaria is in brick-red bordering with Finns, Slavs, Turks and pastoral nomad of Siberia. Click on the image to watch incredible “History of the World” animation, courtesy of “mapping community” & Ollie Bye. Volga Bulgaria appears on the 13th minutes that aligns with 660 CE. 

The ancestors of the modern Tatars were the Bulgarians from the Black Sea area who had moved to the Volga and Kama rivers banks after the Khazar Conquest (650-700).  They formed a very prosperous semi-nomadic conglomerate named Volga Bulgaria / Great Bolgaria (660-1240) in early Middle Ages. It was a powerful and developed state, the active trading center connecting Silk Roads and Volga trade roads. with many countries in middle ages. Volga Bulgars had highly developed culture, trade and crafts. Bulgars (the ancestors of modern Volga Tatars) were the first in Europe to smelt high-quality cast iron. They were also well-known for their quality and beautiful metalwork, pottery, gold and silver work, jewelry and production of 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. Eventually, Volga Bulgars and several other Turkic, non-Slavic tribes became called the Tatars.  By 1430s, the territory of Volga Bulgaria became Khanate of Kazan. 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,  Kazan province in 1920 became TASSR or Tatariya (region of the Tatars) – a region with partial autonomy. 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.As of today, the Republic of Tatarstan is a constituent of the Russian Federation. Most of the Russian federal subjects are tied with the Russian federal government by the uniform Federal Treaty, but relations between the government of Tatarstan and the Russian federal government are more complex and are precisely defined in the Constitution of the Republic of Tatarstan. The following passage from the 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]