Who are the Tatars?

Indigenous people territories in modern Russian Federation (2018)

The Tatars find themselves among 100+ indigenous ethnicities who populate the territories of modern Russian Federation. Based on 2010 census, the Tatars form the largest non-Slavic ethnic group comprising of 3.9% of total population of Russian Federation. Although the Tatars are scattered across the large areas within Russia as well as worldwide, most of them (~ 5 million) reside in Tatarstan. With its capital in Kazan, Tatarstan is a home of the Tatar culture, arts and lifestyle.

The modern Tatars trace their roots to the early nomads (Saka / Scythians), who had roamed vast territories of the EurAsian steppes, and the Volga Bulgars (Tatars used to be called Bulgars or Muslims), who had settled in their indigenous territories (modern Tatarstan) in the 8-9th centuries CE (after splitting from the short-lived Old Great Bulgaria established by the semi-nomadic Onogur Bulgars in 630 CE in the area of northern shores of Black Sea). These days, the Tatars are a stateless nation: their indigenous territories are the part of the state of Russian Federation.

Over the years, the early Tatars (Bulgars) spread out throughout the EurAsian continent. The largest Tatar population live on Volga and Kama rivers banks (Tatarstan): they became referred as Volga Tatars. Lipka Tatars reside in Belarus, Lithuania and Poland. Astrakhan Tatars live by the Caspian Sea. Siberian Tatars populate vast areas between Ural Mountains and Yenisei River. Crimean Tatars are indigenous people of Crimean Peninsula.  

After World War I, a vast group of the Tatars migrated to the other parts of the world. Nowadays, Tatar diasporas (comprising of roughly 3 million Tatars) are thriving in Finland, Australia, China, Belgium, USA, Canada, Ukraine, Afghanistan. 

The Tatars speak the Tatar tongue (Turkic language family) and have a culture, customs and traditions that are influenced by pan-Turkic and Islamic norms and mindsets. The Tatars share language similarities and cultural origins with many Turkic-speaking ethnic groups. The Tatar language is mutually intelligible with Turkic languages such as Azerbajani, Bashkir, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Turkish, Uzbek, etc.

Below are some images of Tatar girls of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries who are pictured wearing Tatar traditional outwear. You can view more modern Tatar types in this video or enjoy Tatar folk tunes and colorful Tatar ethnic costumes while watching this traditional Tatar folk dance. The Tatar boots / Shchitekler have always been essential in forming identity and the image of the Tatar people.

Tatar girl of mid-19th century (J.Frost)
of early 20th century
(D. Zalyaletdinov)
of Soviet 1970ies. Mosaic mural by S.Bubenov
of early 21st century

Find beautiful drawings of the girls in ethnic costumes by Davai Kaja.

Map of ethnic groups populating USSR as of 1976 (downloaded from the library of Univ of Texas)

One comment on “Who are the Tatars?

  1. Pingback: Unique Leather Mosaic

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