Volga Tatars

The Volga Tatars or simply referred to as Tatars (Tatar: татарлар) are a Turkic ethnic group native to the Volga-Ural region of Russia. They are subdivided into various subgroups. Volga Tatars are Russia's second-largest ethnicity after the Russians.[13] They compose 53% of the population of Tatarstan and 25% of the population of Bashkortostan. The Volga Tatars are by far the largest group amongst the Tatars.

Volga Tatars
Tatars of Kazan.jpg
Volga Tatars in 1870
Total population
c. 6.2 million
Regions with significant populations
 Russia: 5,310,649[1]
Tatar, Russian
Predominantly Sunni Islam[11][12] with Orthodox Christian and irreligious minority
Related ethnic groups
Bashkirs, Chuvash, and other Turkic peoples


Tatars inhabiting the Republic of Tatarstan, a federal subject of Russia, constitute one third of all Tatars, while the other two thirds reside outside Tatarstan. Some of the communities residing outside Tatarstan developed before the Russian Revolution of 1917, as Tatars were specialized in trading.[14]

During the 14th century, Sunni Islam was adopted by many of the Tatars.[15] Tatars became subjects of Russia after the Siege of Kazan in 1552.[16]

Russians were using the Tatar ethnonym during the 18th and 19th centuries to denote all Turkic inhabitants of the Russian Empire,[17] but, before the emergence of the Soviet Union, the Turkic peoples of the Russian Empire did not generally identify as Tatars.[16] Up to the end of the 19th century, Volga Tatars mainly identified as Muslims, until the rehabilitation of the ethnonym Tatar occurred.[18] Russian officials used literary Tatar language to interact with the Turkic peoples of the Russian Empire before the end of the 19th century. The Volga Tatar role in the Muslim national and cultural movements of the Russian Empire before the 1917 Revolution is significant and this continued even after 1917.[14]

The 1921–1922 famine in Tatarstan was a period of mass starvation and drought that took place in the Tatar ASSR as a result of war communism policy,[19][20] in which 500 thousand[21] to 2 million[22] peasants died. The event was part of the greater Russian famine of 1921–22 that affected other parts of the USSR,[23] in which up 5 million people died in total.[24][25]

Tatar authorities have attempted since the 1990s, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, to reverse the Russification of Tatarstan that took place during the Soviet period.[16]


Kazan TatarsEdit

Volga Tatar retired professional tennis player Marat Safin

The majority of Volga Tatars are Kazan Tatars. They form the bulk of the Tatar population of Tatarstan. Traditionally, they inhabit the left bank of Volga River.[26]

Khazar invasions forced the Bulgars, Turkic people, to migrate from the Azov steppes to the Middle Volga and lower Kama region during the first half of the eighth century.[18] In the period of 10th–13th centuries, other Turkic peoples, including Kipchaks, migrated from Southern Siberia to Europe. They played a significant role in the Mongol invasion of Rus' in the 13th century. Tatar ethnogenesis took place after migrated Turkic peoples, mixed with the local Bulgar population and other inhabitants of the Volga River area, kept Kipchak dialect and became Muslims. Several new Tatar states had emerged by the 1500s after the Golden Horde fell.[27] These states were Khanate of Kazan, Astrakhan Khanate, Khanate of Sibir, and Crimean Khanate.[15]

Controversy surrounds the origin of the Tatar people, whether they are descended either from Bulgars or Golden Horde.[14] According to one theory, Kazan Tatar heritage can be traced back to Kipchaks of the Golden Horde, yet according to another theory, the Tatars emerged from the Bulgar culture that survived the Mongol conquest of 1236–1237.[18]

Among Volga Tatars, especially in Tatarstan, there is an ongoing debate about whether they should embrace their Turkic Bolgar history. Advocates of such idea (see: Bulgarism) feel like they are the descendants of Volga Bolgars and at the same time experience the umbrella term Tatar as a derogative given to them by the Russians. Leading figure among the Bolgarists was Rashid Kadyrov, who pointed out how recent generations of 'Tatars' have taken the term for granted and don't even know it's history.[28][29]


Mishars (or Mişär-Tatars) are an ethnographic group of Volga Tatars speaking Mishar dialect of the Tatar language. They comprise approximately one third of the Volga Tatar population. They are descendants of Cuman-Kipchak tribes who mixed with the Burtas in the Middle Oka River area and Meschiora. Nowadays, they live in Chelyabinsk, Ulyanovsk, Penza, Ryazan, Nizhegorodskaya oblasts of Russia and in Tatarstan, Bashkortostan and Mordovia.

Qasím TatarsEdit

The Qasím Tatars have their capital in the town of Qasím (Kasimov in Russian transcription) in Ryazan Oblast. See "Qasim Khanate" for their history. Today, there are 1,100 Qasím Tatars living in Kasimov. There is no reliable information about their number elsewhere.

Noqrat TatarsEdit

Noqrat Tatars live in Russia's Republic of Udmurtia and Kirov Oblast. In 1920s their number was around 15,000 people.

Perm (Ostyak) TatarsEdit

Ethnographic subgroup of Kazan Tatars that lives in Russia's Perm Krai. Some Tatar scholars (as Zakiev) name them Ostyak Tatars. Their number is (2002) c.130,000 people.


A policy of Christianization of the Muslim Tatars was enacted by the Russian authorities, beginning in 1552, resulting in the emergence of Keräşens (Christianized Tatars).[30]

Many Volga Tatars were forcibly Christianized by Ivan the Terrible during the 16th century, and continued to face forced baptisms and conversions under subsequent Russian rulers and Orthodox clergy up to the mid-eighteenth century.[31]

Keräşen Tatars live in much of the Volga-Ural area. Today, they tend to be assimilated among the Russians and other Tatar groups.[32] Eighty years of Atheistic Soviet rule made Tatars of both faiths not as religious as they once were. Russian names are largely the only remaining difference between Tatars and Keräşen Tatars.

Traditional cultureEdit


Sabantuy in Tatarstan

Historically, the traditional celebrations of Tatars depended largely on the agricultural cycle.

Spring/summer period

Fall/winter period


Tatar cuisine is rich with hot soups (şulpa), dough-based dishes (qistibi, pilmän, öçpoçmaq, peremech, etc.) and sweets (çäkçäk, göbädiä, etc.). Traditional Tatar beverages include ayran, katyk and kumys.

Population figuresEdit

Tatar-inhabited areas in Russia according to the Russian Census of 2010

In the 1910s, they numbered about half a million in the area of Kazan.[17] Nearly 2 million Volga Tatars died in the 1921–22 famine in Tatarstan. 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[17] (Vilnius, Grodno, and Podolia). Some 2,000 resided in St. Petersburg. Volga-Ural 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 (around 2 million) and neighbouring regions, significant number of Volga-Ural Tatars live in Siberia, Central Asia, 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 Siberia).


According to over 100 samples from the Tatarstan DNA project, the most common Y-DNA haplogroup of the ethnic Volga Tatars is Haplogroup R1a (over 20%), predominantly from the R1a-Z93 subclade.[33][34]Haplogroup N is the other significant haplogroup. According to different data, J2a or J2b may be the more common subclade of Haplogroup J2 in Volga Tatars. The haplogroups C and Q are among the rare haplogroups.

Haplogroups in Volga Tatars (122 samples):[35]

  • C2: 2%
  • E: 4% (V13: 3%)
  • G2a: 2%
  • I1: 6%
  • I2a1: 5%
  • I2a2: 2%
  • J2a: 7%
  • J2b: 2%
  • L1: 2%
  • N1c2: 9%
  • N1c1: 16%
  • O3: 2%
  • Q1: 2%
  • R1a: 33% (Z282: 19%, Z93: 14%)

According to Mylyarchuk et al.:

It was found that mtDNA of the Volga Tatars consists of two parts, but western Eurasian component prevails considerably (84% on average) over eastern Asian one (16%).

among 197 Kazan Tatars and Mishars.[36] The study of Suslova et al. found indications of two non-Kipchak sources of admixture, Finno-Ugric and Bulgar:

Together with Tatars, Russians have high frequencies of allele families and haplotypes characteristic of Finno-Ugric populations. This presupposes a Finno-Ugric impact on Russian and Tatar ethnogenesis... Some aspects of HLA in Tatars appeared close to Chuvashes and Bulgarians, thus supporting the view that Tatars may be descendants of ancient Bulgars.[37]

Volga Tatars, along with Maris, Finns, and Karelians, all cluster genetically with northern and eastern Russians, and are distinct from southern and western Russians. The scientists also found differences in relationships among some of the northern and eastern Russians.[38]

According to a genetic admixture study, Volga Tatars reveal roughly 90% Caucasoid and 10% Mongoloid maternal genetic lineages.[39]

Notable TatarsEdit

Rudolf Nureyev, ballet dancer and choreographer of Volga Tatar descent

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "ВПН-2010". www.gks.ru.
  2. ^ "Uzbekistan – Ethnic minorities" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-06-03.[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ Агентство Республики Казахстан по статистике: Численность населения Республики Казахстан по отдельным этносам на 1 января 2012 года Archived 2012-11-15 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ "About number and composition population of Ukraine by data All-Ukrainian census of the population 2001". Ukraine Census 2001. State Statistics Committee of Ukraine. Retrieved 27 September 2012.
  5. ^ Asgabat.net-городской социально-информационный портал :Итоги всеобщей переписи населения Туркменистана по национальному составу в 1995 году. Archived 2013-03-13 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "National composition of the population" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on November 13, 2013.
  7. ^ http://www.azstat.org/statinfo/demoqraphic/en/AP_/1_5.xls[bare URL spreadsheet file]
  8. ^ Joshua Project. "Tatar in Turkey". Retrieved 10 May 2015.
  9. ^ "Population by ethnic nationality". Statistics Estonia. Retrieved 30 March 2016.
  10. ^ "Suomen tataareja johtaa pankkiuran tehnyt ekonomisti Gölten Bedretdin, jonka mielestä uskonnon pitää olla hyvän puolella".
  11. ^ "Volga Tatars". http://russia.by, Portalus.ru. August 5, 2007 – via portalus.ru.
  12. ^ "Religion and expressive culture - Volga Tatars".
  13. ^ "Kazan Tatars See No Future for Themselves in Putin's Russia". The Interpreter. 24 March 2014.
  14. ^ a b c "TATAR. THE LANGUAGE OF THE LARGEST MINORITY IN RUSSIA". Princeton University. Archived from the original on 2006-12-13.
  15. ^ a b "Tatar". Encyclopædia Britannica.
  17. ^ a b c Kropotkin, Peter; Eliot, Charles (1911). "Tatars" . In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 26 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 448–449.
  18. ^ a b c Azade-Ayshe Rorlich. "1. The Origins of the Volga Tatars". Stanford University.
  19. ^ Mizelle 2002, p. 18.
  20. ^ Werth, Nicolas; Panné, Jean-Louis; Paczkowski, Andrzej; Bartosek, Karel; Margolin, Jean-Louis (October 1999), Courtois, Stéphane (ed.), The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression, Harvard University Press, pp. 92–97, 116–21, ISBN 978-0-674-07608-2
  21. ^ Dronin & Bellinger 2005, p. 98.
  22. ^ Mizelle 2002, p. 281.
  23. ^ Millar 2004, p. 56.
  24. ^ Millar 2004, p. 270.
  25. ^ Haven, Cynthia (4 April 2011). "How the U.S. saved a starving Soviet Russia: PBS film highlights Stanford scholar's research on the 1921-23 famine". Stanford News Service. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
  26. ^ Татары (Серия «Народы и культуры» РАН). М.: Наука, 2001. — P.36.
  27. ^ James S. Olson, ed. (1994). An Ethnohistorical Dictionary of the Russian and Soviet Empires. pp. 624–625. ISBN 9780313274978.
  28. ^ Татарская энциклопедия, Kazan, 2002, vol. 1, p. 490.
  29. ^ "«Поступали письма, я видел – примерно 65 процентов за переименование ТАССР в Булгарскую республику»".
  30. ^ Brower 2001, p. 271.
  31. ^ Yemelianova, Galina M. (2002). Russia and Islam: A Historical Survey. Palgrave. pp. 36–41. ISBN 0-333-68354-4.
  32. ^ Bennigsen, Alexandre (1986). Muslims of the Soviet empire : a guide. Wimbush, S. Enders. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. p. 234. ISBN 0-253-33958-8.
  33. ^ "Family Tree DNA - Tatarstan". www.familytreedna.com.
  34. ^ "Haplogroup R1a (Y-DNA)". www.eupedia.com.
  35. ^ "Data". pereformat.ru.
  36. ^ Malyarchuk, Boris; Derenko, Miroslava; Denisova, Galina; Kravtsova, Olga (1 October 2010). "Mitogenomic Diversity in Tatars from the Volga-Ural Region of Russia". Molecular Biology and Evolution. 27 (10): 2220–2226. doi:10.1093/molbev/msq065. ISSN 0737-4038. PMID 20457583.
  37. ^ Suslova, T. A.; Burmistrova, A. L.; Chernova, M. S.; Khromova, E. B.; Lupar, E. I.; Timofeeva, S. V.; Devald, I. V.; Vavilov, M. N.; Darke, C. (1 October 2012). "HLA gene and haplotype frequencies in Russians, Bashkirs and Tatars, living in the Chelyabinsk Region (Russian South Urals)". International Journal of Immunogenetics. 39 (5): 394–408. doi:10.1111/j.1744-313X.2012.01117.x. ISSN 1744-313X. PMID 22520580. S2CID 20804610.
  38. ^ Boris Abramovich Malyarchuk, Miroslava V. Derenko, Tomasz Grzybowski, A. Lunkina, Jakub Czarny, S. Rychkov, I. Morozova, Galina A. Denisova, and Danuta Miścicka-Śliwka, [1], Differentiation of mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosomes in Russian populations, Human Biology 76:6, pages 877–900, December 2004
  39. ^ Sardaana A. Fedorova, M. A. Bermisheva, Richard Villems, N. R. Maksimova, and Elza K. Khusnutdinova., [2], Analysis of Mitochondrial DNA Lineages in Yakuts, Pages 544–553, Table 2, January 27, 2003

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit