Volga Tatars

Volga Tatars

Ethnic group
group=Volga Tatars

poptime="c. " 8 million (2005)

all over former Soviet Union






langs=Tatar, Russian, many others in diaspora
rels=Sunni Islam, Atheism, Orthodox Christianity
related=other Turkic peoples

Volga Tatars are a Turkic people of Russia most of whom occupy the west central portion of the Ural Mountains. Today, the term Tatars is usually used to describe the Volga Tatars only; historically, the Russians applied it to a large number of peoples speaking one or another of the Turkic languages. During the 2002 census, the Volga Tatars were officially divided into common Tatars, Astrakhan Tatars, and Keräşen Tatars.

Kazan (Qazan) Tatars

The majority of Volga Tatars are Kazan (Qazan) Tatars. They are the majority of the population of Tatarstan, one of the constituent republics of Russia.

During the 11th-16th centuries, numerous Turkic tribes lived in what is now Russia and Kazakhstan. The present territory of Tatarstan was inhabited by the Volga Bulgars, a people whose origins are uncertain, but who scholars consider to have been Turkic. The Bulgars settled on the Volga River in the 8th century and converted to Islam in 922 during the missionary work of Ahmad ibn Fadlan. On the Volga, the Bulgars mingled with Scythian and Finno-Ugric speaking peoples. After the Mongol_invasion_of_Europe from 1241, Volga Bulgaria was defeated, ruined, and incorporated into the Golden Horde.

Much of the population survived, and there was a certain degree of mixing between it and the Kipchak Tatars of the Horde during the ensuing period. The group as a whole accepted the language of the Kipchaks and the ethnonym "Tatars" (although the name Bulgars persisted in some places), while the invaders eventually converted to Islam. Two centuries later, as the Horde disintegrated, the area became the territory of the Kazan khanate, which was ultimately conquered by Russia in 1552. There is some debate among scholars as to the extent of that mixing and the share of each group as progenitors of the modern Kazan Tatars. It is widely accepted that demographically, most of the population was directly descended from the Bulgars. Nevertheless, some emphasize the contribution of the Kipchaks on the basis of the ethnonym and the language, and consider that the modern Tatar ethnogenesis was only completed upon their arrival. Others prefer to stress the Bulgar heritage, sometimes to degree of equating modern Kazan Tatars with Bulgars. They argue that although the Volga Bulgars did not keep their language and their name, their old culture and religion -Islam- have been preserved. According to scholars who espouse this view, there was very little mixing with Mongol and Turkic aliens after the conquest of Volga Bulgaria, especially in the northern regions that ultimately became Tatarstan. Some people even advocate the change of the ethnonym from "Tatars" to "Bulgars" - a movement known as Bulgarism. [ [http://members.tripod.com/~Groznijat/fadlan/rorlich1.html Rorlich, A. The origins of the Volga Tatars. (Stanford University, 1986)] ] [Great Soviet Encyclopedia, article on "Tatarstan".]

Population figures

In the 1910s, they numbered about half a million in the area of Kazan. Some 15,000 belonging to the same stem had either migrated to Ryazan in the center of Russia (what is now European Russia) or had been settled as prisoners during the 16th and 17th centuries in Lithuania (Vilnius, Grodno, and Podolia). Some 2,000 resided in St. Petersburg, where they were mostly employed as coachmen and waiters in restaurants. In Poland, they constituted one percent of the population in the district of Płock.

Kazan Tatars number nearly 7 million, mostly in Russia and the republics of the former Soviet Union. While the bulk of the population is found in Tatarstan (nearly 2 million) and neighbouring regions, significant numbers of Kazan Tatars live in Central Asia, Siberia, and the Caucasus. Outside of Tatarstan, urban Tatars usually speak Russian as their first language (in cities such as Moscow, Saint-Petersburg, Nizhniy Novgorod, Ufa, and cities of the Ural and western Siberia).

A significant number of Tatars emigrated during the Russian Civil War (mostly to Turkey and Harbin, China), but resettled to European countries later. Some speak Turkish at home.

See also: Tatar language


The Kazan Tatars speak a Turkic language (with a sizable complement of Russian and Arabic words — see Tatar language). Because it is understandable to all groups of Russian Tatars, as well as to the neighboring Chuvash and Bashkirs, the language of the Kazan Tatars became a literary language in the 15th century (iske tatar tele). The old literary language included many Arabic and Persian words. Nowadays, the literary language substitutes European and Russian words for Arabic ones.

Kazan Tatar language dialects

There are 3 dialects: Eastern, Central, Western.

The Western dialect (Misher) is spoken mostly by the Mishärs, the Middle dialect is spoken by Tatarstan and Astrakhan Tatars ("Volga Bulgarians"), and the Eastern (Siberian) dialect is spoken by some groups of Tatars in Russia's Tyumen Oblast, i.e. autochthon Siberian Tatars. This latter, which was isolated from other dialects, and believed to be an independent language. The Bashkir language, for example, is better understood by Kazan Tatars, than is the Eastern dialect of the Siberian Tatars.

Middle Tatar is the base of literary for the Kazan Tatar Language. The Middle dialect also has subdivisions. Middle dialect as well as Bashkir is a language of Bolgar-Kypchak group, whereas Western and ester form dialect continuum, merging with Kypchak-Nogai group languages.

Volga Tatar diaspora

Places where Volga Tatars live include:

* Ural and Upper Kama (since 15th century) 15th century—colonization, 16th-17th century—re-settled by Russians; 17th-19th—exploring of Ural, working in the plants
* West Siberia (since 16th century): 16th—from Russian repressions after conquering of Khanate of Kazan by Russians 17th–19th—exploring of West Siberia; end of 19th—first half of 20th—industrialization, railways constructing; 1930s–Stalin's repressions; 1970s–1990s—oil workers
* Moscow (since 17th century): Tatar feudals in the service of Russia, tradesmen, since 18th—Saint-Petersburg
* Kazakhstan (since 18th century): 18th–19th centuries—Russian army officers and soldiers; 1930s–industrialization, since 1950s—settlers on virgin lands - re-emigration in 1990s
* Finland (since 1804): (mostly Mişärs) - 19th – Russian military forces officers and soldiers.
* Central Asia (since 19th century) (Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan; for Xinjiang see Chineese Tatars) – 19th Russian officers and soldiers, tradesmen, religious emigrants, 1920-1930s – industrialization, Soviet education program for Central Asia peoples, 1948, 1960 – help for Ashgabat and Tashkent ruined by earthquakes. - re-emigration in 1980s
* Caucasus, especially Azerbaijan (since 19th century) – oil workers (1890s), bread tradesmen
* Northern China (since 1910s) – railway builders (1910s) - re-emigrated in 1950s
* East Siberia (since 19th century) - resettled farmers (19th), railroad builders (1910s, 1980s), exiled by the Soviet government in 1930s
* Germany and Austria - 1914, 1941 – prisoners of war, 1990s - emigration
* Turkey, Japan, Iran, China, Egypt (since 1918) – emigration
* England, USA, Australia, Canada, Argentina, Mexico – (1920s) re-emigration from Germany, Turkey, Japan, China and others. 1950s – prisoners of war from Germany, which did not go back to the USSR, 1990s – emigration after the break up of USSR
* Sakhalin, Kaliningrad, Belarus, Ukraine, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Karelia – after 1944-45 builders, Soviet military personnel
* Murmansk Oblast, Khabarovsk Krai, Northern Poland and Northern Germany (1945 - 1990) - Soviet military personnel
* Israel – wives or husbands of Jews (1990s)

See also

*Tatar language
*Tatar alphabet
*Volga Bulgaria
*Finnish Tatars
*Chinese Tatars



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