Who are the Tatars?

Indigenous people territories in modern Russian Federation as of 2018

The Tatars find themselves among 100+ indigenous ethnicities who populate the territories of modern Russian Federation. Based on 2010 census Tatars form the largest non-Slavic ethnic group comprising of 3.9% of total population of Russian Federation.

Learn more about minorities in World Directory of Indigenous People )

Although the Tatars are scattered across the large areas within Russia, majority of them (~ 7 million) reside in the Republic of Tatarstan (the indigenous land of the modern Tatars). 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 Volga Bulgars (Tatars used to be called Bulgars), who had settled in their indigenous territories 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, Tatars are a stateless nation: their indigenous territories are part of the state of Russian Federation.

Over the years the early Tatars (Bulgars) spread out through the EurAsian continent and got identified by the geographical location. The largest Tatar population live on Volga and Kama rivers banks (Tatarstan Republic): 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. These days, Tatar diasporas (comprising of roughly 3 million Tatars) are thriving in Finland, Australia, China, Belgium, USA, Canada, Ukraine, Afghanistan (Find more detailed information on Tatar population worldwide on JoshuaProject).

The Tatars speak the Tatar tongue (Altaic, Turkic language family) and have a culture, customs and traditions that are partially influenced by pan-Turkic and Islamic norms and mindsets. The Tatars share language similarities and cultural origins with many Turkic-speaking ethnic groups. Based on lexicostatistical matrix of Turkic languages and according to the to recent article in Journal of Language Evolution, the Tatar language exhibits more than 50% of basic vocabulary similarities with at least 12 Turkic languages (Azeri, Bashkir, Crimean Tatars, Kazakh, Karachi, Khakas, Kyrgyz, Turkish, Turkmen, Tuvan, Uyghur, Uzbek). The modern written Tatar language is based on the Cyrillic script since 1938, prior to that it was in Latin and Arabic scripts, Uyghur writing and ancient Turkic runes.  

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.

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 girls in ethnic costumes by Davai Kaja.

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

One comment on “Who are the Tatars?

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