The Tatar people find themselves among 150+ indigenous nations that populate Russian Federation and form the largest non-Slavic group. Although the Tatars are scattered across the large area within Russia, majority of them – about 7 million – reside in the Republic of Tatarstan (the historic land of the modern Tatars) with its capital in Kazan, is a home and central focus of Tatar (Volga Tatars) culture, crafts and lifestyle.
About 1 million of the Tatars left the homeland to make other parts of world their homes. There are big Tatar diasporas in Finland, Australia, China, Belgium, USA, Canada.
The Tatars speak the Tatar tongue (Altaic, Turkic language family) and have the culture, customs and traditions that are largely influenced by Islamic norms and mindsets.
History of the Volga Tatars
The ancestors of the Volga (also called Kazan) Tatars were the Bulgarians from the Black Sea area who had come to Europe after the Khazar Conquest (650-700). Numerous historical sources indicate that the Volga Bulgarians had highly developed culture, trade and crafts. Volga Bulgars formed a very prosperous state named Volga Bulgaria (700-1240) in the early Middle Ages. Volga Bulgaria (also known as Great Bolgaria) later became the Kazan Khanate and, eventually, contemporary Tatarstan. Volga Bulgaria was a powerful and developed state, trading with all the known world: Bulgar leather goods and furs reached not only the countries of the East, but those in the West as well. The ancestors of the Kazan Tatars were the first in Europe to smelt high-quality cast iron. They were well-known for their quality and beautiful metalwork, pottery, gold and silver work, jewelry and production of leather goods. In Central Asia and Iran since that time, the best leather and leather footwear is called bulgari.
Volga Bulgaria was invaded by Tatar-Mongols in the late 1230s, and it became a part of Golden Horde. The people that populated the area eventually got the name of Tatars or Volga Tatars. By the 1430s, the Khanate of Kazan was established. In the middle of the 16th century, the Kazan Khanate was conquered by the Russian Empire and became part of the Russian state.
After World War I — with the establishment of the Soviet Union — Tatariya (region of the Tatars) was established as an autonomous region, meaning that it supposedly had partial autonomy and was not a fully fledged republic of the USSR.
In 1990, 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 considered a federal subject of the Russian Federation.