Member of a Turkic people, the descendants of the mixed Mongol and Turkic followers of Genghis Khan. The Tatars now live mainly in the Russian autonomous republic of Tatarstan, western Siberia, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan (where they were deported from the Crimea in 1944). There are over 5 million speakers of the Tatar language, which belongs to the Turkic branch of the Altaic family.
Traditionally many were teachers, traders, Islamic missionaries, and artisans. Today Tatars farm, fish, and breed horses, although many are urbanized. They are mainly Sunni Muslims, although some have converted to the Orthodox Church and many retain practices from shamanism.
Tatar demonstrations in Moscow 1987 demanded the restoration of the Crimea as an autonomous republic to which they could return. A special commission, established to look into the community's grievances, subsequently reported that such a move was not feasible because the Crimea had been repopulated by Russians and Ukrainians since 1944. In 1988 a federal ruling confirmed the right of deported Tatars to residence in the Crimea.
In the 8th century the word ‘Tatar’ was used to denote the Mongolian-speaking peoples of northern China. It was later applied to Genghis Khan's Mongols (called the Golden Horde because of the wealth they gained by plunder), and particularly to Turkic peoples, such as the Bulgars and Turkomen, who preceded and followed the Mongolian invasion of Europe. From the 14th century the name Tatary was applied by western Europeans to the area of southern Russia and central Asia that was inhabited by Tatars. The vast Tatar state was conquered by Russia 1552.
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