Tartary (Latin: Tartaria; French: Tartarie; German: Tartarei; Russian: Тартария, romanizedTartariya) or Tatary (Russian: Татария, romanized: Tatariya) was a blanket term used in Western European literature and cartography for a vast part of Asia bounded by the Caspian Sea, the Ural Mountains, the Pacific Ocean, and the northern borders of China, India and Persia, at a time when this region was largely unknown to European geographers.

Map of independent Tartary (in yellow) and Chinese Tartary (in violet), in 1806.

The active use of the toponym (place name) can be traced from the 13th to the 19th centuries. In European sources, Tartary became the most common name for Central Asia that had no connection with the real polities or ethnic groups of the region; until the 19th century, European knowledge of the area remained extremely scarce and fragmentary. In modern English-speaking tradition, the region formerly known as Tartary is usually called Inner Asia or Central Eurasia. Much of this area consists of arid plains, the main nomadic population of which in the past was engaged in animal husbandry.[1]

Ignorance surrounding Tartary's use as a place name has spawned conspiracy theories including ideas of a "hidden past" and "mud floods". Such theories assert that Tartary (or the "Tartarian Empire") was a lost civilization with advanced technology and culture. This ignores the well-documented history of Asia, which Tartary refers to.[2] In the present day, the Tartary region spans from central Afghanistan to northern Kazakhstan, as well as areas in present Mongolia, China and the Russian Far East in "Chinese Tartary".

Geography and history Edit

Tartaria map and description by Giovanni Botero from his "Relationi universali" (Brescia, 1599).

Knowledge of Manchuria, Siberia and Central Asia in Europe prior to the 18th century was limited. The entire area was known simply as "Tartary" and its inhabitants "Tartars".[3] In the early modern period, as understanding of the geography increased, Europeans began to subdivide Tartary into sections with prefixes denoting the name of the ruling power or the geographical location. Thus, Siberia was Great Tartary or Russian Tartary, the Crimean Khanate was Little Tartary, Manchuria was Chinese Tartary, and western Central Asia (prior to becoming Russian Central Asia) was known as Independent Tartary.[3][4][5] By the seventeenth century, however, largely under the influence of Catholic missionary writings, the word "Tartar" came to refer to the Manchus and the lands they ruled as "Tartary".[6]

European opinions of the area were often negative, and reflected the legacy of the Mongol invasions that originated from this region. The term originated in the wake of the widespread devastation spread by the Mongol Empire. The adding of an extra "r" to "Tatar" was suggestive of Tartarus, a Hell-like realm in Greek mythology.[3] In the 18th century, conceptions of Siberia or Tartary and its inhabitants as "barbarous" by Enlightenment-era writers tied into contemporary concepts of civilization, savagery and racism.[7]

More positive opinions were also expressed by Europeans. Some saw Tartary as a possible source of spiritual knowledge lacking in contemporary European society. In Five Years of Theosophy, edited by the Theosophist and scholar G.R.S. Mead, the polymath and "seer" Emanuel Swedenborg is quoted as having advised, "Seek for the Lost Word among the hierophants of Tartary, China, and Tibet."[8]

Decline Edit

The use of "Tartary" declined as the region became more known to European geographers; however, the term was still used long into the 19th century.[5] Ethnographical data collected by Jesuit missionaries in China contributed to the replacement of "Chinese Tartary" with Manchuria in European geography by the early 18th century.[3] The voyages of Egor Meyendorff and Alexander von Humboldt into this region gave rise to the term Central Asia in the early 19th century as well as supplementary terms such as Inner Asia,[5] and Russian expansionism led to the term "Siberia" being coined for the Asian half of the Russian Empire.[4]

By the 20th century, Tartary as a term for Siberia and Central Asia was obsolete.[citation needed] However, it lent the title to Peter Fleming's 1936 book News from Tartary, which detailed his travels in Central Asia.

Tartaria conspiracy theory Edit

Misinterpretations of Tartary as an empire distinct from the Mongol Empire or as an archaic name for Central Asia gave rise to a conspiracy theory alleging the existence of an advanced "Tartarian Empire".[9]

See also Edit

References Edit

Citations Edit

  1. ^ Connell 2016.
  2. ^ Dunning, Brian (February 2021). "Skeptoid #765: Tartaria and the Mud Flood". Skeptoid. Archived from the original on 16 September 2021. Retrieved 16 September 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d Elliott 2000, pp. 625–626.
  4. ^ a b Vermeulen 2018, p. 88.
  5. ^ a b c Sela 2016, p. 542.
  6. ^ Dong 2020, pp. 82–83.
  7. ^ Wolff 2006, p. 448.
  8. ^ Mead, G.R.S. (2004). Five Years of Theosophy. Project Gutenberg.
  9. ^ Mortice, Zach (April 2021). "Inside the 'Tartarian Empire,' the QAnon of Architecture". Bloomberg News. Retrieved 2021-09-20.

Sources Edit

External links Edit

  Media related to Tartary at Wikimedia Commons