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The Tatars: A Pre-Turkish European, Largely Sunni Muslim, Minority Of 10 Million Citizens In The Eastern Heart Of The New Europe

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  • MeltemB
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    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 30, 2006
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      The Tatars: A Pre-Turkish European, Largely Sunni Muslim, Minority Of 10 Million Citizens In The Eastern Heart Of The New Europe

      "Tatars (Tatar: Tatarlar/Татарлар), sometimes spelled Tartar (more about the name), is a collective name applied to the Turkic speaking people of Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

      Most current day Tatars live in the central and southern parts of Russia (the majority in Tatarstan), Ukraine, Poland and in Bulgaria, China, Kazakhstan, Romania, Turkey, and Uzbekistan. They collectively numbered more than 10 million in the late 20th century. Most Tatars are Sunni Muslims.

      The majority - in European Russia - are descendants of Eastern European Volga Bulgars who were conquered by the Mongol invasion of the 13th century and kept the name of their conquerors. Tatars of Siberia are survivors of the once numerous Turkic-Mongolian population of the Ural-Altaic region, mixed to some extent with the speakers of Uralic languages, as well as with Mongols.

      The original Ta-ta Mongols inhabited the north-eastern Gobi in the 5th century 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-Altayans towards the plains of Russia.

      On the Volga they mingled with remnants of the old Bulgarian empire (Volga Bulgaria), and elsewhere with Finno-Ugric speaking peoples, as well as with remnants of the ancient Greek colonies in the Crimea and Caucasians in the Caucasus.

      The name of Tatars, given to the invaders, was afterwards extended so as to include different stems of the same Turkic-Mongol branch in Russia, 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 name has almost disappeared from geographical literature, but the name Tatars, in the above limited sense, remains in full use.

      The present Tatar inhabitants of Eurasia form three large groups:

      those of Crimea, Bulgaria, European Russia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Turkey.

      those of the Caucasus,

      and those of Siberia.

      Due to the vast movements and intermingling of peoples along with the very loose utilization of the name Tatar, current day Tatars comprise a spectrum of ethnic groups that looks Mongoloid at one end and Caucasoid at the other. As to the original Tatars from Mongolia, they most likely shared characteristics with the Mongol invaders from Central Asia....

      Tatars of the Crimean Autonomous Republic of Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, and Poland

      Crimean Tatars

      The Crimean Tatars constituted the Crimean Khanate which was annexed by Russia in 1783. The war of 1853 and the laws of 1860-63 and 1874 caused an exodus of the Crimean Tatars.

      Those of the south coast, mixed with Scyth, 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. Since the 1980s late, about 250,000 Crimean Tatars have returned to their homeland in the Crimea.


      Lithuanian Tatars

      After Tokhtamysh was defeated by Tamerlane, some of his clan sought refuge in Grand Duchy of Lithuania. They were given land and nobility in return for military service and were known as Lipka Tatars. They are known to have taken part in the Battle of Grunwald.

      Belarusian Tatars

      The Islam in Belarus spread in the 14th -16th centuries. The process was encouraged by great Lithuanian princes, who invited the Tatar Muslim from the Crimea and Golden Horde as guards of state borders. Already in the 14th century the Tatars were proposed the settled way of life, state posts and service positions. By the end of the 16th century over 100 thousand persons of Tatar population settled in Belarus and Lithuania, including those hired to the service, voluntarily moved, prisoners of war, etc.

      The Tatars follow to the Sunni Hanafi Islam. Some groups of Tatar in Belarus have accepted Christianity and got assimilated, but mostly they adhere to Muslim religious traditions what ensures their definite endogamy and preservation of ethnic features. Interethnic marriages with representatives of Belarusian, Polish, Lithuanian, Russian nationalities are not rare, but do not result in total assimilation.

      Originating from different ethnic associations, Belarusian (and also Polish and Lithuanian) Tatars back in ancient days lost their native language and switched mainly into Belarusian, Polish and Russian. However, liturgy is conducted in the Arabic, which is known by the clergymen. There are estimated 20,000 Tatars in Belarus.

      Polish Tatars

      From the 13th to 17th centuries various groups of Tatars settled and/or found refuge within the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth. This was promoted especially by the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, because of their deserved reputation as skilled warriors. The Tatar settlers were all granted with szlachta (~ nobility) status, a tradition that was preserved until the end of the Commonwealth in the 18th century. They included the Lipka Tatars (13-14 centuries) as well as Crimean and Nogay Tatars (15th-16th centuries), all of which were noticeable in Polish military history, as well as Kazan Tatars (16th-17th centuries). They all mostly settled in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, lands that are now in Lithuania and Belarus.

      Various estimates of the number of Tatars in the Commonwealth in the 17th century range from 15,000 persons to 60 villages with mosques. Numerous royal privileges, as well as internal autonomy granted by the monarchs allowed the Tatars to preserve their religion, traditions and culture over the centuries. The Tatars were allowed to intermarry with Christians, a thing uncommon in Europe at the time. The May Constitution of 1791 gave the Tatars representation in the Polish Sejm.

      Although by the 18th century the Tatars adopted the local language, the Islamic religion and many Tatar traditions (e.g. the sacrifice of bulls in their mosques during the main religious festivals) were preserved. This led to formation of a distinctive Muslim culture, in which the elements of Muslim orthodoxy mixed with religious tolerance and a relatively liberal society. For instance, the women in Lipka Tatar society traditionally had the same rights and status as men, and could attend non-segregated schools.

      About 5,500 Tatars lived within the inter-war boundaries of Poland (1920-1939), and a Tatar cavalry unit had fought for the country's independence. The Tatars had preserved their cultural identity and sustained a number of Tatar organisations, including a Tatar archives, and a museum in Wilno (Vilnius).

      The Tatars suffered serious losses during World War II and furthermore, after the border change in 1945 a large part of them found themselves in the Soviet Union. It is estimated that about 3000 Tatars live in present-day Poland, of which about 500 declared Tatar (rather than Polish) nationality in the 2002 census. There are two Tatar villages (Bohoniki and Kruszyniany) in the north-east of present-day Poland, as well as urban Tatar communities in Warsaw, Gdańsk, Białystok, and Gorzow Wielkopolski. Tatars in Poland sometimes have a Muslim surname with a Polish ending: Ryzwanowicz, Jakubowicz.

      The Tatars were relatively very noticeable in the Commonwealth military as well as in Polish and Lithuanian political and intellectual life for such a small community. In modern-day Poland, their presence is also widely known, due in part to their noticeable role in the historical novels of Henryk Sienkiewicz, which are universally recognized in Poland. A number of Polish intellectual figures have also been Tatars, e.g. the prominent historian Jerzy Łojek.

      A small community of Polish speaking Tartars settled in Brooklyn, New York City in the early 1900s. They established a mosque that is still in use today." ...

      *

      With thanks to Mariko for the interest and the trail. (And for N.)
















      European Tatar woman, 18th Century.

      Source and image credit: Wikipedia (slightly adapted) and wikimedia. With thanks.

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