Some FAQs about Tatars.
Updated: Sep 21
For a long time I was thinking about what should be the first post on this blog and finally, I have decided to take up the challenge of answering frequently asked questions about Tatars, and dealing with the myths that had accumulated for many years in popular culture.
Was Genghis Khan a Tatar? No, Genghis Khan was a son of Yesugei - the lider of a major Mongolic tribe confederation called Khamag Mongol who in fact was killed by poison by the Tatars. Tatars and Khamag Mongols were rivals to each other, but even, both Mongol clans.
Are Mongols and Tatars the same ethnic group?
No, they have partly common roots and at the very beginning Tatars were one of the Monoglian tribes, and for a long time Tatar tribes and Mongol tribes were living side by side. Today, Tatars are part of Turkic* (not turkish) world.
Do Tatars still exist?
Yes, Tatar peoples still exist. Some countries have big groups of one or more Tatar minorities.
Are all Tatars the same? No, because of historical, political, linguistic and cultural background, today we can talk about at least 4 big Tatar branches and 13 Tatar groups (due to language classification):***
Siberian Tatars, Altay Tatars, Chulym Tatars, Yenisey Tatars, Shors (Mras-Su Tatars).
Oghuz branch: Caucasus Tatars
Volga Tatars, Astrakhan Tatars, Lipka Tatars (Polish–Lithuanian Tatars).
Where and how many Tatars live today?
Between 4.000 000 and 6 000 000 people with Tatar and Nogay roots (the ethnic group of northern Turkic nations closely related to Tatars) live in Turkey**. Russia is a home to circa 5,5 milion Tatars, around 500 000 Tatars live in Uzbekistan and about 350 000 to 450.000 in Ukraine. Besides aforementioned countries, large groups of Tatars live in: Kazakhstan (240 000), Turkmenistan (36 000), Kyrgyzstan (28 000) Azerbaijan (26 000), Romania (20 000), Mongolia (18 500), Israel (15 000), Belarus, Lithuania and France (each circa 7000), China and Canada ( around 5000), Estonia, Poland and Bulgaria (about 2000). Small groups of Tatars live also in Finland (circa 1000), Japan, Australia, Czech Republic and Switzerland. Around 220,000 people with Tatar roots live in Germany, most of them came as migrants with Crimean Tatar ancestors in the 1960s and 1970s.
Due to large discrepancies in data found in censuses and statistics, it is difficult to discern the actual and accurate number of people who identify themselves as "Tatars" (with a determinant). Despite the above difficulties, we can roughly estimate that there are between 7 and 12 million Tatars in the world.
Do Tatars have their own state?
Yes and no. No, because there is no independent Tatar state as a subject to international law, and yes, because Volga Tatars live in the federal subject of the Russian Federation called The Republic of Tatarstan. People of The Republic of Tatarstan are granted the privilige to elect their own president and parliament, to have their own constitution (Constitution of the Republic of Tatarstan) and to run many autonomous, „native” Tatarstanian institutions (not „Tatar” institutions, because nearly half of Tatarstan population is of Russian, Tshuvash, Bashkir, Udmurt and other ethnic background).
Do Tatars have their own language? What languages do they speak? Tatars speak Tatar language (татар теле/Tatar tele, татарча/Tatarça) , Siberian Tatar language (сыбырца, sıbırtsa), Crimean Tatar language (къырымтатар тили, qırımtatar tili) and languages of the countries they live in. The mother tongue of the Lipka Tatars depends on where they live: Polish in Poland and Lithuanian in Lithuania, Belarussian in Belarus.
What religion do Tatars follow?
Tatars mostly believe in hanafi sunni islam, but christianity (orthodox churches, new evangelist movements) and shamanism are also very popular. Nowadays, Tatar communities around the world are mostly affected by secularisation so they are largely non-denominational.