Location: While most of the Tatar people live in Volga region of Russia, there are sizeable colonies in every republic in the former Soviet Union.
Population: There are approximately 5,416,000 Tatar people in Russia. Around the world, there are approximately 6,719,000 Tatar people.
History: The Tatar have had a strong civilization since the tenth century. Their culture survived the Mongol invasion of the thirteenth century and the Russian conquest of the sixteenth century. In the 1800′s, Tatar cities ranked among the greatest cultural centers of the Islamic world. Today, the Tatar are a settled people, mostly peasants and merchants, who have completely lost their traditional tribal structure. Many of those in the Volga region work on community farms where they raise grains, hemp, legumes, and other fodder crops.
Culture: “Among the Tatar, the father is the legal head of the household. He is also in charge of the family income and how it is spent. The women usually cook, carry water, wash clothes, and tend to the livestock, while the men do more strenuous labor in the fields. Most Tatar are well educated. There are 1800 libraries in Tatarstan, having over 20 million books in Tatar. The Tatar people enjoy the arts – especially theatre, the orchestra, opera, and ballet. Although the Tatar are primarily Islamic, many still observe sabantuy, or “rites of spring.” This is an ancient agricultural festival that is celebrated simultaneously with the anniversary of the founding of the Russian Tatar Republic on June 25. These celebrations have their origins in Shamanism (the belief in an unseen world of gods, demons, and ancestral spirits). The younger generation of Tatar wear contemporary city-style clothing. However, the older, collective farm members wear traditional dress. Many Tatar will identify themselves as Muslims before they will identify themselves as Tatar. Unlike devout Muslims, however, 25% of the Tatar will eat pork, and very few observe the prescribed Islamic fasts.” (see below)
Language: They speak Tatar, however, in urban areas more than 30% of them primarily speak Russian.
Religion: Most are Hanafite Muslim. Some beliefs in supernatural powers such as the “evil eye” still exist from their pre-Islamic days. Islam has had a stronghold on the Tatar people since the ninth century, but their beliefs are typically much more liberal than Orthodox Muslims of Central Asia. Some examples of this are that prayer times are modified in some places so as not to conflict with work schedules, and women are sometimes encouraged to join men at the mosques for prayer.
march 30 2010