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Tatars or Tartars, collective name applied to the Turkic-speaking people of Europe and Asia. Most Tatars live in the central and southern parts of Russia, Ukraine, and in Bulgaria, China, Kazakhstan, Romania, Turkey, and Uzbekistan. They collectively numbered more than 8 million in the late 20th century. Most of the Tatars are Muslims (followers of Islam).

The majority—in European Russia—are descendants of the Volga Bulgars which were conquered by Mongol invasion of the 13th century and kept the name of their conquerors. Tatars of Siberia are survivors of the once much more numerous Turkic population of the Ural-Altaic region, mixed to some extent with Finnish and Nenets (Samoyed) stems, as also with Mongols.

The name is derived from that of the Ta-ta Mongols, who in the 5th century inhabited the north-eastern Gobi, and, after subjugation in the 9th century by the Khitans, migrated southward, there founding the Mongol empire under Genghis Khan. Under the leadership of his grandson Batu Khan they moved westwards, driving with them many stems of the Turkic Ural-Altaians towards the plains of Russia.

The ethnographical features of the present Tatar inhabitants of European Russia, as well as their language, show that they contain no admixture (or very little) of Mongolian blood, but belong to the Turkic branch of the Ural-Altaic stock, necessitating the conclusion that only Batu, his warriors, and a limited number of his followers were Mongols, while the great bulk of the 13th century invaders were Turks. On the Volga they mingled with remnants of the old Bulgarian empire (Volga Bulgaria), and elsewhere with Finnish stems, as well as with remnants of the ancient Italian and Greek colonies in the Crimea and Caucasians in the Caucasus.

The name of Tatars, or Tartars, given to the invaders, was afterwards extended so as to include different stems of the same Turkic branch in Siberia, and even the bulk of the inhabitants of the high plateau of Asia and its northwestern slopes, described under the general name of Tartary. This last name has almost disappeared from geographical literature, but the name Tatars, in the above limited sense, remains in full use.

This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica.

The present Tatar inhabitants of Eurasia form three large groups:

Table of contents
1 European Tatars
2 Caucasian Tatars
3 Siberian Tatars
4 Generic meaning
5 Authorities
6 Chinese Tatars
7 See also

European Tatars

The discrimination of the separate stems included under the name is still far from complete. The following subdivisions, however, may be regarded as established:

Volga Tatars

Kazan (Qazan) Tatars

The Kazan (Qazan) Tatars are descendants of the Volga Bulgarians, They settled on the Volga in the 8th century, where they mingled with Finnish stems and partly with descendants of the Kipchaks, settled on the Volga in the 13th century. After Mongol inavasion Bulgaria was defeateted and ruined. Note that the most of the population of Volga Bulgaria survived: they hadn't kept their language, but we can say that Kazan Tatars are Bulgars because they did keep their old culture and religion - Islam. (The Bulgars were converted to Islam in 922 by Ahmad ibn Fadlan). After the conquest of Volga Bulgaria they mostly hadn't mixed with Mongol and Turkic aliens, espetially at the north of Volga Bulgaria (nowadays Tatarstan).

Interestingly, that Qazan Tatars in some places named themself Volga Bulgars until 1920s! Nowdays some Tatars (see Bulgarism) don't recognize Tatar word for their nation.

Qazan Tatars form the ethnic majority in Tatarstan (nearly 2 million), one of the constituent republics of Russia.

In the 1910s they numbered about half a million in the government of Kazan (Tatarstan, Kazan Tatars' historical motherland), about 400,000 in each of the governments of Ufa, 100,000 in Samara and Simbirsk, and about 30,000 in Vyatka, Saratov, Tambov, Penza, Nizhny Novgorod, Perm and Orenburg; some 15,000 belonging to the same stem had migrated to Ryazan, or had been settled as prisoners in the 16th and 17th centuries in Lithuania (Vilnius, Grodno and Podolia); and there were some 2000 in St. Petersburg, where they were mostly employed as coachmen and waiters in restaurants. In Poland they constituted 1% of the population of the district of Plock.

The Kazan Tatars speak a pure Turkic dialect (with a big complement of European and Arabic words); they are middle-sized, broad-shouldered and strong, and mostly have black eyes, a straight nose and salient cheek bones. Kazan Tatars mostly have European faces (they have not only Turkic and Finno-Ugric ancestors: their ancestors are Scythians and Slavs too). They practice Islam; polygamy was practised before 1917 only by the wealthier classes and was a waning institution. Excellent agriculturists and gardeners, very laborious, and having a good reputation for honesty, they live on the best terms with their Russian peasant neighbours. The Bashkirs who live between the Kama, Ural and Volga are possibly of Finno-Ugric origin, but now speak a language same as Tatar and have converted to Sunni Islam.

Kazan Tatars converted to Sunni Islam the most of Turkic tribes lived in what is now Russia and Kazakhstan in the 11-16th centuries.

Kazan Tatars' language became literacy Tatar language since the 15th century (iske tatar tele), because it is understandable to all groups of European Tatars as well as to the Chuvash and Bashkirs. The old literary language included a lot of Arabic and Persian words. Nowadays the literary language includes European and Russian words instead of Arabic.

Kazan Tatars number nearly 6 millions, mostly in Russia and ex-USSR republics. While the bulk of the population is to be found in European Russia, significant numbers of Kazan Tatars live in Central Asia, Siberia and the Caucasus but they never mix with local Tatar tribes. Outside of Tatarstan urban Tatars ususally speak Russian as their first language (in cities such as Moscow, Saint-Petersburg, cities of Ural and West Sibiria)

See also: Tatar language

Noqrat Tatars
Kazan Tatars live in Kirov Oblast of Russia.

Perm Tatars
Kazan Tatars live in Perm Oblast of Russia.

Keräşen Tatars

Christianizated by Ivan the Terrible (16th century) part of Kazan Tatars.

Some scientists suppose that Keräşen Tatars ancestors, Suwars were converted to Christianity by Armenians in the 6th cencury, when they lived in the Caucasus. Suwars, like other tribes (which converted to Islam later) became Volga Bulgars, the modern Chuvash (mostly Christians) and Kazan Tatars (mostly Muslims).

Keräşen Tatars live all over Tatarstan.


Tatar people, which became Cossacks (border keepers). Russian Ortodox. They live in the Urals, where the Russian border with Kazakhstan was in the 17th-18th century.

Tiptär Tatars

Like Noğaybaqs, but they are Sunni Moslems. Some Tiptär Tatars speak Russian or Bashkir.

Kazan Tatar language dialects

There are 3 dialects: Eastern, Central, Western.

The Western dialect (Misher) is spoken mostly by Mishärs, Middle is spoken by Tatarstan and Astrakhan Tatars ("Volga Bulgarians"), Eastern (Siberian) Tatar is spoken by some groups of Tatars in Tyumen Oblast of Russia. It was isolated from other dialects. Some scientists believe that the Eastern dialect is an independent language. It seems true, because the Bashkir language, for example, is better understood by Kazan Tatars, than the Siberian Tatars language (or Eastern dialect).

Middle Tatar is the base of literary Kazan Tatar Language. The Middle dialect also has subdivisions.

Mişär Tatars

(or Mishers)

Mişär Tatars are a group of Tatars speaking a dialect of the Kazan Tatar language. They are descendants of Kipchaks in the Middle Oka and Meschiora where they mixed with the local Finno-Ugric tribes and Russians. Nowadays they live in Tambov, Penza, Ryazan oblasts of Russia and in Mordovia.

Qasím Tatars

Mişär Tatars capital is the town of Qasím (Kasimov in Russian transcription) in Ryazan Oblast whith a Tatar population of 1,000.

Astrakhan Tatars

The Astrakhan Tatars number about 10,000 and are, with the Mongol Kalmucks, all that now remains of the once so powerful Astrakhan empire. They also are agriculturists and gardeners; while some 12,000 Kundrovsk Tatars still continue the nomadic life of their ancestors.

While Astrakhan (Ästerxan) Tatar is a mixed dialect, around 43,000 have assimilated to the Middle (i.e., Kazan) dialcet. Their ancestors are Khazars, Kipchaks and some Volga Bulgars. (Volga Bulgars had trade colonies in the Astrakhan and Volgograd oblasts of Russia.)

Volga Tatars in the world

Places where Volga Tatars live include:

Tatars of Crimea, Ukraine and Poland

Crimean Tatars

The Crimean Tatars occupied the Crimea in the 13th century, and they have preserved the name of their leader, Nogai. During the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries they constituted a rich empire, which prospered until it fell under Turkic rule, when it had to suffer much from the wars fought between Turkey and Russia for the possession of the peninsula. The war of 1853 and the laws of 1860-63 and 1874 caused an exodus of the Crimean Tatars; they abandoned their admirably irrigated fields and gardens and moved to Turkey.

Those of the south coast, mixed with Greeks and Italians, were well known for their skill in gardening, their honesty, and their work habits, as well as for their fine features, presenting the Tatar type at its best. The mountain Tatars closely resemble those of Caucasus, while those of the steppes–the Nogais–are decidedly of a mixed origin with Turks and Mongols.

During World War II, the entire Tatar population in Crimea fell victims to Stalin's oppressive policies. In 1944 they were accused of being Nazi collaborators and deported en masse to Central Asia and other lands of the Soviet Union. Many died of disease and malnutrition. Although a 1967 Soviet decree absolved the charges against Crimean Tatars, the Soviet government did nothing to facilitate their resettlement in Crimea and to make reparations for lost lives and confiscated property. Today more than 250,000 Crimean Tatars are back in their homeland, struggling to reestablish their lives and reclaim their national and cultural rights against social and economic obstacles.

Poland Tatars

Some Tatar ethnical groups live in Poland, Byelorussia and Lithuinia. Their ancestors were Crimean or Nogay soldiers in the Polish service in 15th-16th centuries. Enother groups' ancestors was Kazan Tatars (16th-17th century).

Nowadays Poland Tatars had forgotten their language. Some of them are Catholics. They often have a Muslim surname with a Polish ending: Ryzwanowicz, Jakubowicz.

Caucasian Tatars

These are Tatars who inhabit the upper Kuban, the steppes of the lower Kuma and the Kura, and the Araks. In the 19th century they numbered about 1,350,000. This number includes a number of Kazan Tatar oil workers who came to the Caucasus from the Middle Volga in the end of the 19th century.

Nogays on the Kuma

The Nogais on the Kuma show traces of a mixture with Kalmucks. They are nomads, supporting themselves by cattle-breeding and fishing; a few are agriculturists.

Qundra Tatars

Some groups of Nogays emigrated to Middle Volga, where were (are) assimilated by Volga Tatars (in terms of language).


The Karachais who number 18,500 in the upper valleys about Elburz live by agriculture.

Mountain Tatars

The mountain Tatars number about 850,000, and they are divided into many tribes and of an origin still undetermined, and are scattered throughout Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia and Dagestan.

They are certainly of a mixed origin, and present a variety of ethnological types, all the more so as all who are neither Armenians nor Russians, nor belong to any distinct Caucasian tribe, are often called Tatars (for examle, in the 19th century Chechens were often called Tatars by Russians). Some of these people are not even Turkic, mountain Tatars thus being more of an umbrella term. As a rule, they are well built and little behind their Caucasian brethren. They are celebrated for their excellence as gardeners, agriculturists, cattle-tenders and artisans. Although most fervent Shi'ites, they are on very good terms both with their Sunnite and Russian Orthodox neighbours. Mountain Tatars is an umbrella term denoting a variety of

Siberian Tatars

The Siberian Tatars were estimated (1895) at 80,000 of Turkic stock, and about 40,000 of mixed Finnic stock. They occupy three distinct regions - a strip running west to east from Tobolsk to Tomsk, the Altai and its spurs, and South Yeniseisk. They originated in the aglomerations of Turkic stems which in the region north of the Altai reached some degree of culture between the 4th and the 5th centuries, but were subdued and enslaved by the Mongols. They are difficult to classify, for they are the result of somewhat recent minglings of races and customs, and they are all more or less in process of being assimilated by the Russians, but the following subdivisions may be accepted provisionally.

Baraba Tatars

The Baraba Tatars take their name from one of their stems (Barama) and number about 50,000 in the government of Tobolsk and about 5000 in Tomsk. After a strenuous resistance to Russian conquest, and much suffering at a later period from Kirghiz and Kalmuck raids, they now live by agriculture, either in separate villages or along with Russians.

Cholym Tatars

The Cholym or Chulym Tatars on the Cholym and both the rivers Yus speak a Turkic language with many Mongol and Yakut words, and are more like Mongols than Turks. In the 19th century they paid a tribute for 2550 arbaletes, but they now are rapidly becoming fused with Russians.

Abakan Tatars

The Abakan or Minusinsk Tatars occupied the steppes on the Abakan and Yus in the 17th century, after the withdrawal of the Kirghizes, and represent a mixture with Kaibals (whom Castren considers as partly of Ostiak and partly Samoyedic origin) and Beltirs — also of Finnic origin. Their language is also mixed. They are known under the name of Sagais, who numbered 11,720 in 1864, and are the purer Turkic stem of the Minusinsk Tatars, Kaibals, and Kizil or Red Tatars. Formerly shamanists, they now are, nominally at least, adherents of the Greek Orthodox Church, and support themselves mostly by cattle-breeding. Agriculture is spreading, but slowly, among them; they still prefer to plunder the stores of bulbs of Lilium martagon, Paeonia, and Erythronium dens-canis laid up by the steppe mouse (Mus socialis). The Soyotes, or Soyons, of the Sayan mountains (estimated at 8000), who are Finns mixed with Turks, the Uryankhes of north-west Mongolia, who are of Turkic origin but follow Buddhism, and the Karagasses, also of Turkic origin and much like the Kirghizes, but reduced now to a few hundreds, are akin to the above.

See more: Khakass, Tuvans, Altays

Northern Altai Tatars

The Tatars of the northern slopes of the Altai (nearly 20,000 in number) are of Finnish origin. They comprise some hundreds of Kumandintses, the Lebed Tatars, the Chernevyie or Black-Forest Tatars and the Shors (11,000), descendants of the Kuznetsk or Iron-Smith Tatars. They are chiefly hunters, passionately loving their taiga, or wild forests, and have maintained their shaman religion and tribal organization into suoks. They live partly also on pine nuts and honey collected in the forests. Their dress is that of their former rulers, the Kalmucks, and their language contains many Mongol words.


The Altai Tatars, or Altaians, comprise

Although Turkestan and Central Asia were formerly known as Independent Tartary, it is not now usual to call the Sarts, Kirghiz and other inhabitants of those countries Tatars, nor is the name usually given to the Yakuts of Eastern Siberia.

Generic meaning

It is evident from the above that the name Tatars was originally applied to both the Turkic and Mongol stems which invaded Europe six centuries ago, and gradually extended to the Turkic stems mixed with Mongol or Finnish blood in Siberia. It is used at present in two senses:


The literature of the subject is very extensive, and bibliographical indexes may be found in the Geographical Dictionary of P. Semenov, appended to the articles devoted respectively to the names given above, as also in the yearly Indexes by M. Mezhov and the Oriental Bibliography of Lucian Scherman. Besides the well-known works of Castren, which are a very rich source of information on the subject, Schiefner (St Petersburg Academy of Sciences), Donner, Ahlqvist and other explorers of the Ural-Altaians, as also those of the Russian historians Soloviev, Kostomarov, Bestuzhev-Ryumin, Schapov, and Ilovaiskiy, the following containing valuable information may be mentioned:

Various scattered articles on Tatars will be found in the Revue orientale pour les Etudes Oural-Altaiques, and in the publications of the university of Kazan. See also E. H. Parker, A Thousand Years of the Tartars, 1895 (chiefly a summary of Chinese accounts of the early Turkic and Tatar tribes), and Skrine and Ross, Heart of Asia (1899). (P. A. K.; C. EL.)

Chinese Tatars

The Tatars form one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China.

Chinese ethnic groups
Achang - Bai - Blang - Bonan - Buyi - Dai - Daur - De'ang - Dong - Dongxiang - Drung - Evenki - Gaoshan - Gelao - Gin - Han - Hani - Hezhen - Hui - Jingpo - Jino - Kazakh - Kirghiz - Korean - Lahu - Lhoba - Li - Lisu - Manchu - Maonan - Menba - Miao - Mongol - Mulam - Naxi - Nu - Oroqin - Pumi - Qiang - Russian - Salar - She - Shui - Tajik - Tatar - Tibetan - Tu - Tujia - Uighur - Uzbek - Wa - Xibe - Yao - Yi - Yugur - Zhuang

See also