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Tatars

Tatars

PRONUNCIATION: TAH-tars

ALTERNATE NAMES: Tartars

LOCATION: Russian Federation

POPULATION: 6.6 million

LANGUAGE: Tatar

RELIGIONS: Islam (Sunni Muslims, majority); Orthodox Christianity; Sufism; Old Believers; Protestantism; Judaism

1 INTRODUCTION

There are many Turkic-speaking ethnic groups living throughout the Russian Federation. These diverse groups lie scattered from the Caucasus and Ural mountains to eastern Siberia, and include the Tatars, Chuvash, Bashkirs, Sakha, Tuvans, Karachai, Khakass, Altays, and others. This article focuses on the largest Turkic group in the Russian Federation, the Tatars.

Historically, the Tatars lived farther west than any other Turkic nationality. As Mongolian control over the Volga River region weakened during the 1430s and 1440s, several successor states emerged. During the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, the Kazan khanate became the most prominent of these states, and its people became known as the Tatars. The Kazan Tatars were conquered by imperial Russian forces during the reign of Tsar Ivan IV in 1552, becoming the first Muslim subjects of the Russian Empire.

When the Russian Empire collapsed in 1917, the Tatars took advantage of the chaos and immediately formed their own home-land, the Idil-Ural State. The Soviet government, however, did not tolerate the independence movement and instead formed the Bashkir Autonomous Republic (Bashkortostan) and the Tatar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (Tatarstan) on the same soil. When the Soviet government took over these regions, it redrew the boundaries and gave neighboring Russian provinces the best lands. By changing the boundaries, about 75 percent of the Tatar population found itself living outside the borders of Tatarstan.

In the 1920s, most Tatar leaders and intellectuals who wanted independence were eliminated through execution or exile. This policy against the Tatars continued to some extent until the early 1950s. Tatar culture was also affected until the 1970s through the policy of Russification, where the Russian language and culture were legally forced on the Tatars and other ethnic groups. During the Soviet era, economic hardship and job preference given to Russians in industrial areas caused many Tatars to leave their homeland.

In August 1990, the Tatar parliament declared Tatarstan's independent authority and in April 1991 declared that Tatar law had dominance over Russian law whenever the two were in conflict.

2 LOCATION

The Tatars are a very diverse group, both ethnically and geographically. The Tatars formed the second largest non-Slavic group (after the Uzbeks) in the former Soviet Union. There are more than 6.6 million Tatars, of whom about 26 percent live in Tatarstan, an ethnic homeland that is located within the Russian Federation. Tatarstan, with about 4 million inhabitants, is about the size of Ireland or Portugal. It is considered the most northern frontier between Muslim and Orthodox Christian cultures. The capital of Tatarstan is Kazan, a city of more than 1 million people and the largest port on the Volga River.

After Russians and Ukrainians, the Tatars are the most populous ethnic group in the Russian Federation. About 15 percent of all Tatars live in Bashkortostan, another ethnic homeland in the Russian Federation that lies just east of Tatarstan. There are also smaller Tatar populations in Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and in the regions to the north and west of Tatarstan. Small Tatar communities are also scattered across Russia. A unique group of Tatars are the Krym (also called the Crimean Tatars), with a population of around 550,000. The Krym are from the Crimean peninsula of present-day Ukraine. The Tatars were one of the most urbanized or city-dwelling ethnic groups of the former Soviet Union, especially those who lived outside of Tatarstan.

3 LANGUAGE

In 922, the Tatars' predecessors, the Bulgars, converted to Islam, and the old Turkic script was replaced by the Arabic alphabet. A famous old Tatar saying is Kilächägem nurlï bulsïn öchen, utkännärdän härchak ut alam, which means "To make my future bright, I reach for the fire of the past." Another well-known Tatar proverb is Tuzga yazmagannï soiläme, which means, roughly, "If it's not written on salt, it's wrong to even mention it." The proverb refers to the ancient method of keeping records on plaques made of wood and salt, and commends the practicality of keeping written records.

4 FOLKLORE

A Tatar legend about the city of Kazan tells of a rich man who was a beekeeper and would often take along his daughter to visit his hives in the woods near Jilan-Tau ("snake hill"). When his daughter got married, she lived in an older part of Kazan, where it was a long walk to get water. She complained about the poor planning of the town to the khan (ruler), and suggested that Jilan-Tau would be a better place for the city, because it was close to a river. The khan ordered two nobles to take one hundered warriors to the site and to then open his sealed orders. According to the orders, they were to cast lots (draw straws) and bury the loser alive in the ground on the spot where the new city was to be built. However, when the khan's son lost, they buried a dog in his place. When the khan heard the news, he was happy for his son but said that it was a sign that the new city would one day be overtaken by the "unholy dogs"a term referring to those of a different religion.

5 RELIGION

Most Tatars are Sunni Muslims, with the exception of the Kryashan Tatars, who are Christian. In Tatarstan, along with Islam and Russian Orthodox Christianity, there are some other religious communities such as Old Believers, Protestants, Seventh-Day Adventists, Lutherans, and Jews. Islam has played an important role in strengthening the Tatar culture, because the imperial Russian government repeatedly tried to limit the spread of Islam from the Tatars to other peoples. This approach, however, usually pushed Tatar Muslims closer to their faith, and there is generally a devout observance of rituals and ceremonies among Muslim Tatars.

6 MAJOR HOLIDAYS

Tatars typically observe some of the Sovietera holidays and also Muslim holidays which, to a large degree, are the same as those elsewhere in the Muslim world. The Soviet celebrations include New Year's Day (January 1), International Women's Day (March 8), Labor Day (May 1), and Victory Day (May 9commemorates the end of World War II). Since the Tatars are widely scattered across Russia and Central Asia, different communities have regional holidays as well.

The Islamic holidays include Milad al-Nabi (the birth of the Prophet Muhammad), Eid al-Adha (celebrating the story of Abraham offering his son for sacrifice), and Eid al-Fitr (celebrating of the end of the Ramadan month-long fast). The dates of these holidays vary due to the rotating nature of the lunar calendar. The Kryashan Tatars celebrate Christian holidays such as Easter and Christmas.

7 RITES OF PASSAGE

Circumcision and other rituals associated with birth, as well as those associated with death and marriage, and even certain Muslim dietary restrictions, are practiced by many Tatars today.

8 RELATIONSHIPS

For centuries, there was tension between ethnic Russians and Tatars. As a result, the Tatars suffered from discrimination, which affected how they came to interact with Russian society. The Tatars of today typically live in small communities and often rely on a network of friends and business contacts from within the Tatar community.

9 LIVING CONDITIONS

Living conditions are similar to those of neighboring populations (Russians, Bashkirs, and Ukrainians). Tatar houses are often surrounded by low fences to keep in their animals.

10 FAMILY LIFE

Tatars often encourage endogamy (marriage to other Tatars) out of the belief that it will help keep the Tatar identity from being lost. Family size is usually larger than that of neighboring populations and is often an extended family of three or more generations.

11 CLOTHING

Tatars, as one of the most urbanized minorities, wear Western-style clothing, and occasionally, mostly in rural areas, include fragments of traditional clothing such as the headscarf for women and skullcaps for men.

Recipe

Peremech (Meat Pie)

Dough ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 6 Tablespoons of light cream or half-and-half
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2½ cups flour
  • Filling ingredients
  • 1 pound groundbeef chuck
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt vegetable oil for frying

Directions

Make dough:

  1. Beat eggs. Add sour cream, light cream, sugar, salt, and flour. Knead until smooth and pliable.
  2. Wrap the dough in wax paper and chill overnight before making into pies.

Make pies:

  1. Combine salt, garlic, chopped onion, and ground meat.
  2. Remove about a quarter of the dough from the refrigerator at a time, keeping the rest of the dough chilled.
  3. Roll each quarter of dough into a 12-inch cord.
  4. Slice each cord into six pieces, rolling these smaller pieces between the palms of the hands to form balls. Flatten the balls slightly.
  5. On a surface dusted with flour, roll each into a circle about 3½ to 4 inches in diameter.
  6. Spread 1 tablespoon of the meat mixture on each circle of dough, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge. Gather the dough upward all the way around, forming a round, flat pastry. Leave a hole about 1-inch across on top.
  7. Cover finished pies with a cloth to prevent dough from drying.
  8. Heat about ½ inch of vegetable oil in a large skillet. Cook the pies, with the hole side down, in the oil. Cook a few at a time without crowding them in the skillet, for approximately 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Makes 24 pies.

12 FOOD

Lamb and rice play a prominent role in the traditional Tatar diet, as in those of many other central Asian peoples. The Tatars are known in particular for their wide array of pastries, especially their meat pies, which, besides beef or lamb and onions, may include ingredients such as hard-boiled eggs, rice, and raisins. Another traditional dish is chebureki, or deep-fried lamb dumplings. A recipe for the basic Tatar meat pie called peremech is included in this article.

13 EDUCATION

During the Soviet era, the required Russian language exam served to keep many Tatar youths out of institutions of higher learning.

14 CULTURAL HERITAGE

It is believed that Tatar prose dates back to the twelfth century, but scholars disagree about its origin. During the early part of the Soviet era and immediately after World War II (193945), Tatar literature was largely confined to praising communist ideology. Since the 1960s, however, Tatar literature has often emphasized the role of the artist in voicing the ideals of the Tatar people.

15 EMPLOYMENT

Traditional occupations of the Tatars include agriculture, hunting, fishing, crafts, and trade. Under Soviet rule, many jobs were in state-run agricultural and industrial collectives. The Tatars have held an increasing number of white-collar and professional jobs since World War II.

16 SPORTS

The Tatars enjoy many traditional and Western-style sports. Soccer became popular during the Soviet years and is perhaps the most widely played sport among young men. Horse racing is also very popular, as the horse has long been an important part of traditional Tatar culture.

17 RECREATION

Tatars enjoy many of the same leisure-time activities as neighboring populations in the former Soviet Union, such as watching television and visiting with friends and neighbors. Prominent among the traditional entertainments in rural areas is the week-long Festival of the Plow, or Sabantui, held in spring, which ends with a day of singing, dancing, and sporting events.

18 CRAFTS AND HOBBIES

The ancestors of the modern Tatars were skilled in crafting jewelry of gold, silver, bronze, and copper. They also were known for making pottery with engraved ornaments, as well as for crafting metal decorations and bronze locks in the shape of animals.

19 SOCIAL PROBLEMS

The Tatars in general suffered discrimination under the imperial Russian government, as well as during the Soviet era. Large deportations of Tatars fragmented the culture, and the loss of lives and property from those days still has an impact on modern Tatar society.

Problems with Crimean Tatars are much more complicated because of forced deportation from their homeland in the Crimean peninsula. Now that almost half of the Crimean Tatars have returned from Central Asia, they are facing problems with employment, housing, and schooling.

20 BIBLIOGRAPHY

Fisher, Alan W. The Crimean Tatars. Stanford, Calif.: Hoover Institution Press, 1978.

Rorlich, Azade-Ayse. The Volga Tatars: A Profile in National Resilience. Stanford, Calif.: Hoover Institution Press, 1986.

Shnirelman, V.A. Who Gets the Past?: Competition for Ancestors among Non-Russian Intellectuals in Russia. Washington, D.C.: Woodrow Wilson Center Press; Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.

Smith, G., ed. The Nationalities Question in the Post-Soviet States. New York: Longman, 1996.

WEBSITES

Agi, Iskender. Tatar/Tatarstan FAQ with Answers. [Online] Available http://www.csl.sri.com/~iskender/TMG/Tatar_FAQ.htm/#shs007, 19951996.

Embassy of Russia, Washington, D.C. Russia. [Online] Available http://www.russianembassy.org/, 1998.

Interknowledge Corp. and Russian National Tourist Office. Russia. [Online] Available http://www.interknowledge.com/russia/, 1998.

World Travel Guide. Russia. [Online] Available http://www.wtgonline.com/country/ru/gen.html, 1998.

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Tatars

Tatars (tä´tərz) or Tartars (tär´tərz), Turkic-speaking peoples living primarily in Russia, Crimea, and Uzbekistan. They number about 10 million and are largely Sunni Muslims; there is also a large population of Crimean Tatar descent in Turkey. The name is derived from Tata or Dada, a Mongolian tribe that inhabited present NE Mongolia in the 5th cent. First used to describe the peoples that overran parts of Asia and Europe under Mongol leadership in the 13th cent., it was later extended to include almost any Asian nomadic invader. Before the 1920s Russians used the name Tatar to designate the Azerbaijani Turks and several tribes of the Caucasus.

The Tatar Empire

The original Tatars probably came from E central Asia or central Siberia; unlike the Mongols, they spoke a Turkic language and were possibly akin to the Cumans or Kipchaks and the Pechenegs. They were nomads, moving across the vast Asian and Russian steppes with their families and their herds of cattle and sheep. After the conquests of the Mongol Jenghiz Khan, the Mongol and Turkic elements merged, and the invaders became known in Europe as Tatars. The Mongol invasion led by Batu Khan into Hungary and Germany in 1241 is also known as the Tatar invasion.

After the wave of invasion receded eastward, the Tatars continued to dominate nearly all of Russia, the Ukraine, and Siberia. Because of the gorgeous tents of Batu Khan, his followers were known as the Golden Horde. The empire of the Golden Horde—also known as the Kipchak khanate—controlled most of Russia either directly or through exacting tribute from the Russian princes. The Golden Horde adopted Islam as its religion in the 14th cent.

Disintegration of the Empire

Internal divisions, the expansion of Moscow, the invasion by Timur, and the appearance of the Ottoman Turks contributed to the disintegration of the Tatar empire in the late 15th cent. The independent khanates of Kazan, Astrakhan, Sibir, and Crimea emerged. In the 16th cent. Russia conquered the khanates of Kazan, Astrakhan, and Sibir (Siberia); the khans of Crimea became (1478) vassals of the Ottoman Empire. Nevertheless Siberia long continued to be known as Tartary and the Crimean domains as Little Tartary. The Crimean Tatars continued to harass the Ukraine and Poland and to exact tribute from the czars of Russia; they raided Moscow in 1572.

The majority of the Tatars in Russia had by that time reached a relatively high degree of civilization. They were generally settled, were skillful in agriculture and crafts, and had great centers of Muslim learning. Only minorities, such as the Nogais, who were subject to the Crimean khans, remained nomadic. Tatar political leaders, administrators, and traders had a great influence on Russian history. Many Russian noble families were of partly Tatar origin. The social and military organization of the Muscovite state was influenced by the institutions of the Tatars, and many Russian customs are traceable to them.

Recent History

In 1783 the last Tatar state, Crimea, was annexed to Russia. The Nogais were gradually pushed eastward into the Caucasus by the Russian settlers. The Crimean Tatars themselves—except for the large numbers that emigrated to Turkey at the time of the Russian conquest of Crimea and after the Crimean War—remained in the Crimea until World War II and formed the basis of the Crimean Autonomous SSR, founded in 1921. It was dissolved in 1945, and all Crimean Tatars (about 200,000 in 1939) were exiled to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan for alleged collaboration with the Germans. In 1956 they regained civil rights and beginning in the late 1980s many returned to Crimea; their numbers there now exceed prewar levels. Following the disintegration of the USSR, leaders of Tatarstan began to press the Russian government for increased powers. In a 1992 referendum, over 61% of the voters supported a "sovereign" Tatarstan.

Bibliography

See B. S. Izhbolden, Essays on Tatar History (1963).

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Tatars

Tatars

ETHNONYM: Turks


Tatar peoples living in China represent only 1 percent of all Tatar peoples. The Tatar population in China was 4,837 in 1990, up from 4,300 in 1957. Most Tatars live in the cities of Yining, Qoqek, and Urumqi in the Xinjiang Uigur Autonomous Region, though until the early 1960s a number of them herded livestock, also in Xinjiang. The Tatar language belongs to the Turkic Branch of the Altaic Family. The Tatar have no writing system of their own, but rather use Uigur and Kazak scripts.

In the earliest Chinese references to the Tatars, in records dating to the eighth century, they are called "Dadan." They were part of the Turk Khanate until it fell apart in approximately 744. Following this, the Tatar grew in strength until they were defeated by the Mongols. The Tatar mixed with Boyar, Kipchak, and Mongols, and this new group became the modern Tatar. They fled their homeland in the region of the Volga and Kama rivers when the Russians moved into Central Asia in the nineteenth century, some ending up in Xinjiang. Most Tatar became urban traders of livestock, cloth, furs, silver, tea, and other goods as a result of the trading opportunities created by the Sino-Russian treaties of 1851 and 1881. A small minority of Tatar herded and farmed. Perhaps one-third of the Tatar became tailors or small manufacturers, making things such as sausage casings.

The urban house of a Tatar family is made of mud and has furnace flues in the walls for heating. Inside, it is hung with tapestries, and outside there is a courtyard with trees and flowers. Migratory pastoralist Tatar lived in tents.

The Tatar diet includes distinctive pastries and cakes, as well as cheese, rice, pumpkin, meat, and dried apricots. They drink alcoholic beverages, one made of fermented honey and another a wild-grape wine.

Though Muslim, most urban Tatar are monogamous. Tatar marry in the house of the bride's parents, and the couple usually lives there until the birth of their first child. The wedding ceremony includes the drinking of sugar water by the bride and groom, to symbolize long-lasting love and happiness. The dead are buried wrapped in white cloth; while the Koran is being read, attendants throw handfuls of dirt on the body until it is buried.

Bibliography

Ma Yin, ed. (1989). China's Minority Nationalities, 192-196. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press.


National Minorities Questions Editorial Panel (1985). Questions and Answers about China's Minority Nationalities. Beijing: New World Press.


Schwarz, Henry G. (1984). The Minorities of Northern China: A Survey, 69-74. Bellingham: Western Washington University Press.

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Tatars

Tatars (Tartars) Turkic-speaking people of central Asia. In medieval Europe, the name Tatar referred to many different Asiatic invaders. True Tatars originated in e Siberia, and converted to Islam in the 14th century. They divided into two groups: one in s Siberia, who came under Russian rule; the other in the Crimea, which was part of the Ottoman Empire until annexed by Russia in 1783.

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Tartars

Tartars: see Tatars.

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Tartars

Tartars See Tatars

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Tatars

Tatars

LOCATION: Russia
POPULATION: 6.6 million
LANGUAGE: Tatar; Russian; Ukrainian
RELIGIONS: Islam (Sunni Muslims, majority); Christianity; Sufism; Old Believers; Protestantism; Judaism

INTRODUCTION

Of all the Turkic ethnic groups living within the former Soviet Union, the Tatars historically lived farther west than any other Turkic nationality. It is believed that the name Tatar came either from a term of contempt applied by the Chinese to the Mongols or from the Mongol term for "conquered." Later, the name Tatar itself became synonymous with Mongol.

After the death of Atilla the Hun in the middle of the 5th century, the Great Hun Empire started disintegrating into several smaller Turkic kingdoms, out of which the Kingdom of Great Bulgaria emerged in the 7th century. This kingdom did not last long and split into two nations upon the death of its ruler, Kubrat Han. His youngest son, Asparuh Han, moved into present-day Bulgaria, allied with the Slavic people already there, and established the Bulgarian Kingdom in ad 681. The two older sons, Batbay and Kutrag, favored an alliance with the Khazar and Alan tribes and remained in the eastern part of the European Plains. By the 8th century, some of these people had moved to what is now Tatarstan and Bashkirtistan, began to accustom themselves with other Turkic and Finno-Ugric peoples, and formed the Bulgar realm in the 9th and 10th centuries.

The Bulgars traded goods with the peoples of Central Asia and China and converted to Islam in 922. They established an urban culture and became skilled in agriculture and commerce. Bulgar society had potters, blacksmiths, coppersmiths, carpenters, stonemasons, jewelers, and tanners. However, in 1236 the Bulgars were conquered by the Mongolian ruler Batu, and they were made provincial subjects of the new Bulgar Khanate. Power struggles within the Bulgar Khanate prompted many people to move west to the more stable area of Kazan. As Mongolian control dissipated in the 1430s and 1440s, several Tatar states emerged, including the Kazan, Crimean, Kasym, Siberian, and Astrakhan Khanates. During the 15th and early 16th centuries, the Kazan Khanate became the most prominent, and its people became known as the Tatars (named for the Turkic tribes forced to fight in the vanguard of Genghis Khan's armies).

The Kazan Tatars were conquered by imperial Russian forces during the reign of Tsar Ivan IV in 1552, thus giving Russia control over the middle part of the Volga River. In 1556, Russian troops conquered the Astrakhan Tatars, thus securing control over all the Volga River and access to the Caspian Sea. To celebrate the victory of Russia over the Tatars, the tsar ordered the construction of St. Basil's Cathedral in what is now Red Square in Moscow. The Tatars became the first Muslim subjects of the Russian Empire. In 1593 Tsar Fedor ordered the destruction of all Kazan Tatar mosques. In 1708 the region was officially organized by the Russian Empire as the Kazan Province, and the construction of mosques was allowed in 1766.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a renewal in Tatar national identity began. This cultural awakening included increased interest in religion, education, publishing, and political activity. When the Russian Empire collapsed in 1917, the Tatars were encouraged by the Bolsheviks to pursue their ethnic identity within a communist setting. The Tatars took advantage of the chaos and formed the Idil-Ural State in November 1917. This territory encompassed about 220,000 square kilometers (85,000 square miles), an area about as large as Utah, in what is now Tatarstan and Bashkirtistan. The Soviet government, however, did not tolerate the independence movement and declared the formation of the Bashkir Autonomous Republic in 1919 and the Tatar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic in 1920. When the Soviet government annexed these regions, it redrew the boundaries to give neighboring Russian provinces preferential treatment. By altering those boundaries, about 75% of the Tatar population found itself living outside the borders of Tatarstan.

In the 1920s, members of the independent Tatar government and most of the educated Tatar population were eliminated through execution or exile. This policy against the Tatars continued to some extent until the early 1950s. Tatar culture was also affected until the 1970s through the policy of Russification, where the Russian language, alphabet, and culture were legally imposed on the Tatars and other ethnic groups. During the Soviet era, economic hardship and job preference given to Russians in industrial areas caused many Tatars to leave their homeland.

A distinct group of Tatars known as the Krym (Crimean Tatars) once inhabited a certain part of the Crimean peninsula (during the Soviet era, the region was called the Crimean Tatar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic and was located within Soviet Ukraine). The Crimean Tatars had occupied the peninsula for more than 1,000 years as a result of intermarriage and mixing with other peoples present. The independent Crimean Khanate was abolished in 1783 when the Crimea was annexed by the Russian empire. Afterward, the Crimean Tatars suffered from repressive policies that limited their control over political, economic, cultural, and religious affairs; violence was often used to enforce imperial policy. The Crimean Tatar population declined from around 2.5 million in 1783 to 130,000 in 1921 while its territory was thoroughly settled by colonists. In 1944–45, the Soviet government forced them to leave, because Crimean Tatars had been accused of supporting the Germans during World War II. As scapegoats, the Crimean Tatars were deported to various regions of Central Asia, Kazakhstan, the Urals, and Siberia. The deportation served as a type of genocide, because 194,000 (about 46% of all Crimean Tatars) died in the process due to violence, starvation, and destitution. Their property and lands were confiscated as well. In 1989 the Soviet government began a repatriation program that allowed for the return of some 50,000 persons per year. Since gaining independence in 1991, Ukraine has administered this program, and over 200,000 of the estimated 550,000 Crimean Tatar population have returned, but many have suffered from discrimination and poverty. The Crimea is officially an autonomous region within Ukraine, but the government is controlled by ethnic Russians. Many Tatars want more political power, but not necessarily autonomy.

After the breakup of the Soviet Union, many Tatars agitated for an independent Tatar nation-state. In August 1990, the Tatar parliament declared Tatarstan's sovereignty and in April 1991 declared that Tatar law had dominance over Russian law whenever the two were in conflict. Tatarstan functioned as an independent state until 1994, when the leaders of Tatarstan and Russia signed a treaty bringing Tatarstan into the Russian Federation. Since the rise to power of Vladimir Putin, Tatarstan has lost even more of its autonomy. That said, Tatars have maintained their linguistic and cultural rights within Tatarstan.

LOCATION AND HOMELAND

The Tatars are a very diverse group, both ethnically and geographically. The Tatars formed the second largest non-Slavic group (after the Uzbeks) in the former Soviet Union. There are more than 6.6 million Tatars, of whom about 26% live in Tatarstan, an ethnic homeland of the former Soviet Union that is located in present-day Russia. Tatarstan, with about 3.8 million inhabitants, is about the size of Ireland or Portugal and considered the most northern frontier between Muslim and Orthodox Christian cultures. The capital of Tatarstan is Kazan (sometimes referred to as "the port of five seas"), a city of more than a million people and the largest port on the Volga River. Tatarstan is a secular republic with political stability, official support for two languages, and a high percentage of mixed marriages.

After Russians and Ukrainians, the Tatars are the most populous ethnic group in the Russian Federation. About 15% of all Tatars live in Bashkiria, another ethnic homeland that lies to the east of Tatarstan. There are also smaller Tatar populations in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Romani and in the regions to the north and west of Tatarstan. Small Tatar communities are also scattered all across Russia. A unique group of Tatars are the Krym (also called the Crimean Tatars), with a population of around 550,000. The Krym are from the Crimean peninsula of present-day Ukraine. Along with the Russians, Armenians, Estonians, and Latvians, the Tatars were the most urbanized ethnic group of the former Soviet Union, especially among those who lived outside of Tatarstan.

There are numerous subgroups within the Tatar population. The Bukharlyk Tatars are descended from 15th- and 16th-century fur traders who lived in Central Asia and western Siberia. The Kasymov Tatars are descended from the refugees of the Kazan Khanate who settled in Riazan in the 15th century. Lithuanian Tatars (also called Polish or Belarusian Tatars) are the Polish-speaking Muslim descendants of the Nogai Horde warriors who helped the Lithuanians fight against the Teutonic Order. The Volga Tatars (also called the Kazan Tatars) are the largest of all the Tatar groups and are descended from Turkic-influenced Eastern Finns, and range from Scandinavian to Mongol in appearance. The Mishars are also Turkic-influenced Eastern Finns who are Finnish in appearance. The Teptiars are Volga Tatars who fled to the east after the Russian Empire took over the Kazan Khanate. The Kryashans are Volga Tatars who converted to Christianity during the 16th and 18th centuries.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, over 200,000 Crimean Tatars have returned to Ukraine. In addition, thousands of Crimean Tatars have immigrated to Russia and the European Union in search of work.

LANGUAGE

Tatar is a Turkic language. Like other Turkish languages, it is agglutinative, meaning suffixes are added to the ends of words to form sentences. Tatar is closely related to Kazakh and Kyrgyz. It is a more distant relative of the Turkic languages spoken in Azerbaijan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Tatar has three main dialects. Western Tatar is spoken by the small Tatar minority in Finland. Middle Tatar, by far the most widely spoken dialect of the language, is spoken in Russia and Ukraine. Finally, Siberian Tatar is spoken by the Tatar ethnic groups of Siberia. Tatar borrows a large number of words from Russian and incorporates some English words as well.

In 922, the Bulgars converted to Islam, and the old Turkic script was replaced by the Arabic alphabet. Tatar is now written using the Cyrillic alphabet.

A famous old Tatar saying is " Kilächägem nurlï bulsïn öchen , utkännärdän härchak ut alam ," which means "To make my future bright, I reach for the fire of the past." Another well-known Tatar proverb is " Tuzga yazmagannï soiläme ," which means, roughly, "If it's not written on salt, it's wrong to even mention it." The proverb refers to the ancient method of keeping records on plaques made of wood and salt and commends the practicality of keeping written records.

FOLKLORE

There are many Tatar legends about how the new city of Kazan (which means "cauldron") was built. The origin of the city's name goes back to Tudai-Menghe, who ruled the city in the late 13th century. One of his servants was said to have dropped a golden cauldron into the river, and the town was later founded nearby.

Another Tatar legend about Kazan tells of a rich man who was a beekeeper and would often take along his daughter to visit his hives in the woods near Jilan-Tau ("snake hill"). When the daughter got married, she lived in the old part of Kazan, where it took a long walk to get water. She complained about the poor planning of the town to Ali-Bei, the ruler of Kazan. She suggested that Jilan-Tau would be a better place for the city, because it was at the mouth of the Kazanka River. The khan ordered two nobles to take 100 warriors to the site and to then open his sealed orders. According to the orders, they were to cast lots and bury the loser alive in the ground on the spot where the new city was to be built. However, when the khan's son lost, they buried a dog in his place. When the khan heard the news, he was happy for his son but said that it was an omen that the new city would one day be overtaken by the "unholy dogs"—a term referring to those of a different religion.

Waterfowl are an important symbol of life in Tatar culture. Ducks especially are significant because, according to ancient Bulgar mythology, the Earth was formed when a duck dove to the bottom of an ancient sea, brought up a piece of mud, and set it afloat on the water's surface.

RELIGION

Most Tatars are Sunni Muslims, with the exception of the Kryashan Tatars, who are Christian. In Tatarstan, along with Islam and Orthodoxy there are some other religious communities such as Old Believers, Protestants, Seventh-Day Adventists, Lutherans, and Jews. Islam has played an important role in solidifying the Tatar culture, because the imperial Russian government repeatedly tried to limit the spread of Islam from the Tatars to other peoples. This approach, however, usually pushed Tatar Muslims closer to their faith, and there is generally a devout observance of rituals and ceremonies among Muslim Tatars. Sufism (Islamic mysticism) also has a long history with the Tatars and is appealing for many because of its emphasis on ascetics. While observance of some Islamic rituals was common, it was very uncommon for Tatars to have a deep knowledge of their faith or to practice all the tenets of Islam. For example, Islamic clergymen would often preside over Tatar weddings. After the clergyman would leave, family and friends would celebrate the wedding by drinking vodka (alcohol is forbidden to Muslims).

Islam has enjoyed a resurgence among Tatars since the fall of the Soviet Union. In 1990, there was only one mosque in Kazan. Now there are dozens. A number of madrasas , or religious schools, have also been established in order to educate Tatar Muslims about their faith.

MAJOR HOLIDAYS

Tatars typically observe some of the Soviet-era holidays and also Muslim holidays that, to a large degree, are the same as those elsewhere in the Muslim world. The Soviet celebrations include New Year's Day (January 1), International Women's Day (March 8), Labor Day (May 1), and Victory Day (May 9— commemorates the end of World War II). Since the Tatars are widely scattered across Russia and Central Asia, different communities may observe regional holidays as well. Many Tatars celebrate the new year holiday of Nowruz, which is celebrated throughout the Persian and Turkic world.

The Islamic holidays include Milad al-Nabi (the birth of the Prophet Muhammad), Id al-Adha (celebrating the ancient account of Abraham offering his son for sacrifice), and Id al-Fitr (celebrating the end of the Ramadan fast). The dates of these holidays are not fixed due to the rotating nature of the lunar calendar. Russian influence has led many Tatars to incorporate the drinking of alcohol into their traditional celebration. The Kryashan Tatars celebrate Christian holidays such as Easter and Christmas. These religious celebrations were observed in secret during the Soviet era but are now held in the open. As a result, the number of Tatars who celebrate Islamic and Christian holidays has increased considerably since the fall of the Soviet Union.

RITES OF PASSAGE

Circumcision and other rituals associated with birth, death, and marriage are practiced by many Tatars today.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the number of Tatars performing the Hajj—pilgrimage to Mecca—has increased greatly. Every Muslim is expected to make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once during his or her lifetime.

INTERPERSONAL RELATIONS

For centuries, there was tension between ethnic Russians and Tatars. As a result, the Tatars suffered from discrimination, which affected how they came to interact with Russian society.

The Tatars of today typically live in small communities and often utilize a network of friends and business contacts from within the Tatar community.

In the early 1990s, the hundreds of thousands of Crimean Tatars who returned to Ukraine faced hostility from their Russian and Ukrainian neighbors. Over time, these tensions have eased considerably.

LIVING CONDITIONS

Health care is provided by the state, although not all Tatars have adequate access to it. The government of Tatarstan is in the process of moving to an insurance-based health care delivery system. The high rate of new HIV infections affects Tatars, just as it affects the other peoples of the Russian Federation.

Most Tatars live in the Soviet-style apartment blocks found throughout Russia. Tatars live relatively well, as Tatarstan is one of the most prosperous republics in the Russian Federation.

FA M I LY LIFE

Urban Tatars often promote endogamy (marriage to other Tatars) out of the belief that it will help keep the Tatar identity from being assimilated. However, since the 1960s, intermarriage with Russians and other ethnic groups has become more common. Family size is usually larger than that of neighboring populations. Traditional Tatar households are comprised of three or more generations.

CLOTHING

Tatars, as one of the most urbanized minorities, wear European-style clothing, and occasionally, mostly in rural areas, include fragments of traditional clothing such as the heads-carf for women and skullcaps for men. In 2003 Muslim Tatar women won the right to wear headscarves in their passport photographs.

FOOD

Lamb and rice play a prominent role in the traditional Tatar diet, as in those of many other central Asian peoples. The Tatars are known in particular for their wide array of pastries, especially their meat pies, which, besides beef or lamb and onions, may include ingredients such as hard-boiled eggs, rice, and raisins. Another traditional dish is chebureki, or deep-fried lamb dumplings. Following is the recipe for the basic Tatar meat pie called peremech

Peremech
Dough ingredients:
2 eggs
½ cup sour cream
6 tablespoons of light cream or half-and-half
a pinch of salt
2½ cups flour

Filling ingredients:
1 pound slightly fatty boneless beef chuck
1onion
1clove garlic
1 teaspoon salt
vegetable oil for frying

Dough: Beat eggs, then add sour cream, light cream, sugar, salt, and flour. Knead until smooth and pliable. Wrap the dough in wax paper and chill overnight before making into pies.

Filling: Add salt and garlic to meat and grind together with onion in a meat grinder or food processor.

To make the pies: Take only a quarter of the dough out of the refrigerator at a time. Roll each quarter of dough into a 12-inch cord. Slice each cord into six pieces, rolling these smaller pieces between the palms of the hands to form balls, then flatten the balls slightly. On a surface dusted with flour, roll each into a 3½ to 4 inch round disk. Spread 1 tablespoon of the meat mixture on each disk, leaving a 1 inch border around the edge. Gather the dough upward all the way around each patty, forming a round, flat pastry and leave a hole about 1 inch across on top. As each pie is made, cover with a cloth to prevent uncooked dough from drying. Heat the pies in ½ inch of vegetable oil in a large skillet, a few at a time, with the hole side down. Cook for approximately 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Makes 24 pies.

EDUCATION

During the Soviet era, the prerequisite Russian language examination served to keep many Tatar youths out of institutions of higher learning.

Since the end of the Soviet period, Tatar-language education has increased in popularity. In 1998 there were 38 Tatar language schools in Kazan alone. Tatar-language schools differ from Russian-language schools in that the purpose of the Tatar schools is to inculcate students with a sense of Tatar national identity. Many of these schools actively seek to create a new Tatar intelligentsia.

CULTURAL HERITAGE

It is believed that Tatar prose dates back to the 12th century, but scholars disagree about its origin. Jakub ibn-Nogman, who wrote "The History of Bulgaria," lived in the first half of the 12th century. The scholar Burchan ibn-Bulgari wrote about rhetoric and medicine. The 13th-century poem by Kol-Gali called "A Tale about Yusuf" was well-known far from Bulgar lands and greatly influenced the development of Bulgarian and Tatar literature.

Professional Tatar theatre began in December 1906 with the premiere of Galiaskar Kamal's play, Wretched Child . Modern Tatar literature began around the same time period. The poet Gabdulla Tukay is credited with founding modern literary Tatar. During the early part of the Soviet era and immediately after World War II, Tatar literature was largely confined to praising communist ideology. Since the 1960s, however, Tatar literature has often emphasized the role of the artist in voicing the ideals of the Tatar people. Prominent modern Tatar writers include R. Faizullin, R. Gäray, R . Mingalimov, R. Kharisov, F. Shafigullin, M. Agliamov, and Zöl'fat. Famous Tatar artists include actress Chulphan Khamatova, ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev, and composer Farit Yarullin.

WORK

Traditional occupations of the Tatars include agriculture, hunting, fishing, crafts, and trade. Under Soviet rule, many jobs were based on collectivized agriculture and industrialization. The Tatars have held an increasing number of white-collar and professional jobs since World War II.

Heavy industry makes up a large share of employment in Tatarstan. Many Tatars work in mining, automobile manufacturing, chemical production, and oil refining.

SPORTS

The Tatars enjoy many traditional and Western-style sports. Soccer became popular during the Soviet years and is perhaps the most widely played sport among young men. Horse racing is also very popular, as the horse has long been a prominent part of traditional Tatar culture.

A traditional form of wrestling known as koresh is still practiced by Tatars. Koresh wrestlers wrestle standing up and attempt to throw their opponent to the ground. The most points are awarded to wrestlers who can throw their opponents on their backs. Wrestlers who throw their opponents on their sides or buttocks receive fewer points. The recent Tatar national revival in Russia has led to greater interest in Koresh.

ENTERTAINMENT AND RECREATION

Tatars enjoy many of the same leisure activities as neighboring populations in the former Soviet Union, such as watching television and visiting with friends and neighbors. Prominent among the traditional entertainments in rural areas is the week-long Festival of the Plow, or Sabantui , held in spring, which ends with a day of singing, dancing, and sporting events.

FOLK ART, CRAFTS, AND HOBBIES

The ancestors of the modern Tatars were skilled in crafting jewelry of gold, silver, bronze, and copper. They also were known for making pottery with engraved ornaments, metal decorations, and bronze locks in the shape of animals.

The Tatars who have returned to the Crimean Peninsula are fueling a resurgence in traditional Tatar crafts. Traditional Tatar embroidery is now practiced in Ukraine. Traditional Tatar craftsmen use gold thread to embroider images of fruits and grains.

SOCIAL PROBLEMS

The Tatar suffered discrimination under the imperial Russian dominion as well as during the Soviet era. Massive deportations of Tatars fragmented the culture, and the loss of lives and property from those days still has an impact on contemporary Tatar society.

Problems with Crimean Tatars are much more complicated because of forced deportation from the Crimean peninsula. Now that almost half of the Crimean Tatars have returned from Central Asia, they are facing problems with employment, housing, and schooling.

Social problems that affect many communities in the Russian Federation affect the Tatars. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the number of sex workers and drug users in Russia has risen drastically. These dynamics have led to an increase in the number of HIV cases in Tatar communities. Although the Russian economy in the 2000s was growing at a fast pace, many Tatars still face poverty and unemployment.

GENDER ISSUES

Tatar women who live in the countries of the former Soviet Union have legal equality with men. However, Tatar women, like women in nearly every country around the world, still face disadvantages because of their gender. Women's participation in politics has decreased drastically since the fall of the Soviet Union. Wage discrimination is a particularly acute problem for Tatars in Russia; in 1998, women in Russia earned only 70% of what men earned, even though women tended to have higher levels of education. At the same time, gender discrimination may be less prevalent among Tartars than among ethnic Russians. A 2004 study found that 44% of Tatar men believed that women should work outside the home, while only 25% of ethnic Russians held the same opinion.

Until the 1980s, it had been common for homosexual Tatars, along with every other ethnic group of the Russian SFSR, to be sent to mental hospitals. Homosexuality was decriminalized in Russia in 1993. Leaders of the Tatar Muslim community are staunchly anti-gay, and there is little public acceptance of sexual minorities amongst ordinary Tatars.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Fisher, Alan W. The Crimean Tatars. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1978.

Johnson, Juliet, Marietta Stephaniants, and Benjamin Forest. Religion and Identity in Modern Russia: The Revival of Orthodoxy and Islam. Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate Publishing, 2005.

McCann, Leo. Economic Development in Tatarstan: Global Markets and a Russian Region. New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2005.

Pope, Hugh and Joanne Myers. Sons of the Conquerors: The Rise of the Turkic World. New York: Overlook TP, 2006.

Rorlich, Azade-Ayse. The Volga Tatars: A Profile in National Resilience. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1986.

Smith, G., ed. The Nationalities Question in the Post-Soviet States. New York: Longman, 1996.

Shnirelman, V.A. Who Gets the Past?: Competition for Ancestors among Non-Russian Intellectuals in Russia. Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press; Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.

Uehling, Great Lynn. Beyond Memory: The Crimean Tatars' Deportation and Return. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2004.

—revised by B. Lazarus

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