Mirfatyh Zakiev



Who were called and who are called Tatars?

Before starting a discourse about the problems of the Tatars' origin, it is necessary to understand what are the Tatars we talk about. Frequently different peoples, at times ethnically not connected with each other, were called Tatars. Many historians and ethnologists in the 19th-20th centuries, following the Kazan missionaries, designate with the ethnonym Tatar (without definitions) the peoples who in the past were called Tatars by someone, for example, the ancient Tatars, and the Mongolo-Tatars, and the Kipchak Khanate Tatars and the modern Bulgaro-Tatars, all of them are just simply called Tatars. As a result these ethnically not connected or only partially connected Tatars were group identified. We find this identification in the monographs on the history of Tatars, and in the "Tatar" sections of the school and high school textbooks written by some Russian, and sometimes by foreign authors. It resulted in rude distortions in the study of the ethnogenesis for the specific Tatars, and as a result also suffered the study of the origin of the Bulgaro-Tatars, the modern Tatar nation formed in the Tatarstan and in Russia.

One of the main venues in the research of the leading Bulgaro-Tatar historians even then was their fight against identifying the modern Bulgaro-Tatars with the ancient Tatars, and the Mongolo-Tatars, and the Kipchak Khanate (i.e. Golden Horde) Tatars.

In the middle of the 1990's, strangely enough, among the Tatar historians also appeared people who were identifying the modern Bulgaro-Tatars with the Kipchak Khanate Tatars, with the Mongolo-Tatars, or with the ancient Tatars. These so-called Tataro-Tatarists are as they are coming back from the concept of the Türko-Bulgarian origin of the modern Tatars to the out-of-date missionary concept of Mongolo-Tatars, or Kipchak Khanate origin, simultaneously addressing to the Russian historians with an ardent request to value positively the Mongolo-Tatar conquest of the Rus principality, and also the Chingizids oppressing the local population. As a result, the Tatarian Tataro-Tatarists and some Russian historians unite all the Tatars in a single whole, and portray the Bulgaro-Tatars as direct descendants of the Mongolo-Tatars, Kipchak Khanate Tatars, even "Tartars".

Taking into account all this, the semantics of the ethnonym Tatars needs to be understoon from the beginning. Who were called and who are called now "Tatars"?

1. In the scientific research the ancient Tatars were called and are called now "Tatars". The following groups of Tatars belong to them.

As the historical sources allow to judge, the ethnonym Tatars was a self-name long before our era for a fairly advanced, well known then tribal union or people who were the northern neighbors and a contender of China. It is known that the Chinese even then handled them with fear and hostility, calling them Ta-ta ("dirty", "barbarians"). Chinese called with that name also their other northern neighbors. Even their Great Chinese Wall they started erecting for protection from the Tatars, i.e. from all their northern close and far neighbors [Mitford В., 1838, t. IV, 189].

Tatars are known as Mongolian tribe originally living in the vicinity of the river Kerulen in the territory of the modern Mongolia. In the 206 BC the Mongolian tribes (Ch. Dunhu 东胡) were included in the Eastern Hun state, their Chinese name was Hi or Si (Chinese h/s alteration). Mongol tribes that escaped were eventually named after their mountain refuge places, Syanbi and Uhuan. Thus, the historical departure point are the Hi or Si tribes of the 3rd c. BC, self-name was Kai, i.e. Mong. "Snake", Turk. "Yilan, Djilan, Gilan", and "Uran". Apparently, the Kerulen Kais were intermarried with Huns/Uigurs, because for the next millennia they became a permanent refuge for the Tülrkic tribes during trouble times. In accordance with the dominant tribe nomenclature, Kais accepted Huns, Uigurs, and Onguts (Chuye Huns, Ch. Shato 沙陀), and unknown number of Türkic tribes in between. By the 8th c. AD they numbered 30 tribal subdivisions, most likely each subdivision representing a splinter of originally individual tribe. The exogamy law would keep each tribe as a separate unit, to trace the do's and dont's of the law. Except for a nearly complete wipe-out, of any of which we do not know, this mostly Türkic conglomerate was very Türkic-friendly. By the  7th c. AD they were already known as Tatars (Ch. Ta-ta, Da-da), and they were members of all successor states after the eastern Huns. As allies of Seyanto in their fight with Uiguro-Chinese assault in 648, they suffered along with Seyanto, and a fraction of them evacuated to the Black Irtysh to start a Kimek Kaganate, in which the Kai tribe was a dynastic tribe. At that time, the Tatars were split in two fractions, one growing by further migration of the Tatar tribes in the Kimek Kaganate, and the other remaining in place and known as Otuz Tatars "Thirty Tatars". The Kerulen Tatars were members of the Second Türkic Kaganate, Uigur Kaganate, and Kirgiz Kaganate. With the fall of the Kirgiz Kaganate ended the Türkic era and started a Mongolian era. It is unlikely that there was much of linguistic, ethnical, or demographical change in the period from 840 to 1200, so we can expect that Chingiz-khan inherited the same composition that was left after the Kirgiz Kaganate. In addition to the appellation "Tatar", "Kai", and "Otuz Tatars", we know "White Tatar" appellation , "Black Tatar" appellation, and a few others, apparently collective names applied to ethically distinct groups of tribes. The Onguts, for example, belonged to White Tatars and consisted of three Chuye Hun tribes.

In the 11-12th cc., an advent of the Naiman and Merkit tribes forced westward drift of the tribes belonging to the Kimek confederation. They became known in the Eastern Europe as Kipchaks and Kumans. With the Kimek tribes first Tatar tribes became known and recorded in Eastern Europe. Other Kimek Tatars occupied the "Deshti-Kipchak", the steppes from Balkhash to Itil. That was how  Chingiz-khan incorporated Tatars into Mongol realm, the Eastern Tatars around Kerulen, in a hostile action, and the Middle Asia Tatars in the Deshti-Kipchak as submitted tribes of the Kipchaks. The Eastern European Tatars were included with the Eastern European Kipchaks in another hostile action. With the first disintegration of the Mongol Empire, the Western Tatars remained in the Juchi Ulus, and the Еastern Tatars remained in the Mongol domain (home rule) in Mongolia.

The Rus fell into Mongol Empire in 1240, and the Rus Slavs gave a moniker "Tatar" to the Mongol army, which consisted of various Türkic tribes. That moniker became a common name for all Türkic tribes and any other tribe associated with Türks. From the 16th c. to the 18th c., the Rus princedoms, Russian Kingdom, and then Russian Empire led an unending war of conquest against the "Tatar" states and people. Only in the 18th c., the Russian state learned to discriminate among its new subjects, and to name separately non-Türkic ethnic groups. The Türks captured previously, however, went under their initial moniker of "Tatars", discriminated by the locative or political adjective: Kazan Tatars, Astrakhan Tatars, Nogai Tatars, Uzbek Tatars, etc. In fact, very few of these people were Tatars, every Türkic people had its own ethnonym, and it took centuries to initiate people on using the Russian moniker. In the Middle Age, there were individuals who would call themselves Tatars, for the prestige of the name, or in communications with the Russian-speaking administrations and people, but that had nothing to do with their native ethnonym of the whole people, the ethnonyms lived and survived below the official nomenclature, censuses, and documentation.


Further, the ethnonym Otuz Tatars "Thirty Tatars" we meet in an inscription monument in honour of Kül-Tegin (8th century AD), the ethnonym Tokuz Tatars "Nine Tatars"  we meet in the inscription "Moün-Chur Monument" (8th century AD). Were these ethnonyms self-names (endoethnonyms) or the names of these tribes by the others (exoethnonyms) is not known, but the ethnonym Tatars recorded in the inscriptions tells that then in the Central Asia lived tribes called Tatars.

In the same 8th century the tribes under the name Tatars are recorded in the Kimak state, which existed in the 8th-11th centuries in the Western Siberia between the river Irtysh and the Ural mountains, in the Kazakhstan and Central Asia. This state played a significant role in forming the Kazakh nation and the Siberian Türks (Tatars) nation. The last then called themselves after the names of the locations, and in the 19th-20eth centuries accepted the ethnonym Tatars.

In the 2nd half of the 11th century Mahmud Kashgarly in the encyclopedic work "Divanu lugat it-Türk", listing the Türkic peoples, points to the Tatars  place next to Kirgizes. He writes that the Türks most close to the Byzantium are Besenyos (Badjinaks), further are located: the Kypchaks, Oguzes, Yemeks, Bashkirts, Basmyls, Kais, Yabaks, Tatars, Kirgizes; the Kirgizes are the most close neighbors of China [Kashgarly М., 1992, vol. 1, 28]. Per this list it is clear that the Tatars were located somewhere in the Central Asia.

All these Tatars, usually called ancient Tatars, did not become the direct ancestors of the modern Bulgaro-Tatars, for en mass they did not migrate to the territory of the formation of the Itil-Bulgarian state. If some insignificant number also had filtered to that territory, in the Bulgarian state they accepted the general ethnonym of the Bulgars. The ancient Tatars, during the spread of the general ethnonym Türk, gradually lost their ethnonym.

2. The Central Asian part of the ancient Tatars achieved a prevailing position among the Mongolo-speaking and Manchjuro-speaking peoples and transferred to the last their ethnonym Tatars as a general name. Precisely in a struggle against these Tatars, Timuchin - Chingiz-Khan succeeded in creating the mighty state, and under a general name Tatars in organizing a strong army with a system of precise subordination. This army is usually called Mongolo-Tatars. During conquest campaigns of Chingizids in these armies were poured the representatives of other defeated peoples: Türks, Chinese, Persians, Arabs, Caucasians, Slavs, Finno-Ugrians, etc. These multilingual Mongolo-Tatars settled in all Mongolian feudal empire, which included Mongolia, the most part of Siberia, Northern China, Korea, Central and Central Asia, Afghanistan, Iran, Southern Caucasus, Northern Caucasus, the Itil Bulgaria, a significant part of the Rus lands. The expeditionary armies of Chingizids were called as Tatar's also after the disintegration of the Mongolian feudal empire, during the existence and expansion of the independent Mongolian states of Batyi (Djuchi Ulus), Khulagu (who also conquered Mesopotamia, Arabian Caliphate, Syria), Chagatai and Hubilai (who conquered Southern China and other countries and called his empire Yuan). But the Mongolo-Tatars in all Mongolian states constituted an insignificant part of the population, and very quickly assimilated among the local Türks, Chinese, Persians, Arabs, Caucasians, Slavs, and also the Turkic-speaking Bulgars. For a long time Mongolo-Tatars or simply Tatars in these states were called the Chingizids who occupied the dominant position.

The Mongolo-Tatars, though are believed by some historians to be the ancestors of the modern Tatars, actually have no close ethnic relation to the Bulgaro-Tatars, they cannot be counted as the ancestors of the Bulgaro-Tatars, or of the Uzbeks, or of the Afghans, or of the Chinese, or of the Persians, etc. (Prominently missing among this etc. are the Ruses, who must have had the most admixture of the Mongolo-Tatars than all others listed - Translator's Note).

3. The scientists of Western Europe in the 14th century counted as Tatars, or Tartars in their lingo (comers from Hell), the population of all Chingizid Mongolian states. According to this understanding of the semantics of the ethnonym Tatars, the West-European scientists on the first European geographical maps placed the so-called Tartaria within the territories subordinated to Chingizids. They also started to write books about Tatars. Seeing these maps and the first works about the Tatars, our Tataro-Tatarists expressed a sincere surprise at the greatness of their "ancestors", alas, here are the Tatars, our ancestors, what vast regions of Eurasia they occupied. In reality everybody understands that the descendants of the Tatars, i.e. the population of the Mongolian feudal empire and all four uluses of Chingizids, are not only the Bulgaro-Tatars, but and first of all are the Mongols, Türks, Manchurians, Chinese, Iranians, Arabs, Caucasians, Russians, Finno-Ugrians, etc.

4. The Russian scientists and the West-European scientists invited by them called "Tatars" all the population of the Dzhuchi Ulus (Kipchak Khanate, Altyn Orda, Kipchak Khanate). Later, studying the East up to the Pacific Ocean, they carried all eastern non-Russians to these Tatars. Even the  palaeoasiatic Oroches, who were living opposite the Sakhalin Island, the Russian researchers called "Tatars", from that the passage was also called "Tatar". This understanding of a situation could be accepted for a recognition of the people under the name Kipchak Khanate Tatars. In practice, the Kipchak Khanate did not have the necessary conditions to form a uniform ethnos from its multilingual, multiethnic population.

5. As the study of the eastern peoples progressed, the Russian scientists came to realize that the Kipchak Khanate Tatars consisted of many ethnoses with their ethnonyms, but they did not stop also using and their colloquial general name of Tatars, and started to applying it with the definitions consisting of self-names or dwelling place-names of these peoples: Abakan Tatars (Khakases), Azerbaijan Tatars, Barabin Tatars, Bashkir Tatars, Bulgarian Tatars, Budjak Tatars, Vogul Tatars (Mansi), Djagataj Tatars, Yenisei Tatars, Southern Caucasusn Tatars, Kazakh Tatars (Azerbaijanis), Kirgiz Tatars (Kazakhs and Kirgizes), Kumyk Tatars, Tatari-Taranchi, Turkmen Tatars, Uzbek Tatars, Khakass Tatars, Circassian Tatars, etc. During the colonization of the East the participants of the scientific expeditions found out that eastern peoples consist of Finno-Ugrians, Türks, Paleoasiats, etc. But they continued to call the Türks, and especially the Muslim part of them, by the name Tatars, dispersing this name also to the other Türks outside of the Kipchak Khanate territory. Later, to denote the Türks separately from the other Tatars, the Russian scientists started to applying a composite ethnonym of the Turko-Tatar peoples or Türko-Tatars. Only in the 1923 they resolved to apply a general ethnonym Türks or Turkic, and for the Anatolian Türks they left the ethnonym Turks. (This above paragraph refers to the exoethnonyms bestowed more by the Russian post-revolutionary apparatchiks with screaming ignorance credentials, like the People's Commissar for Nationalities comrade J.Stalin, than by the credentialed scientists or the representatives of the peoples being renamed themselves - Translator's Note).

After the disintegration of the Kipchak Khanate the same peoples that started forming before the Mongolo-Tatar conquests went on with their independent way of development: Bulgars, Russians, Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Bashkirs, Karachay-Balkarians, Kumyks, Nogays, Chuvashes, etc. However, some of them experienced changes in their ethnonyms. So, the Sarts began to be called Uzbeks, Ases began to be called  Nogays, Bulgars dealing with Russians started to use episodically the ethnonym Tatars. Ignoring these facts, the Tatarian Tataro-Tatarists and some Russian historians ethnically identify the modern Bulgaro-Tatars with the so-called Kipchak Khanate Tatars, i.e. with the population of the Kipchak Khanate, and sometimes also with the ancient Tatars, Mongolo-Tatars, Türko-Tatars, even with Tartars.

Actually the direct ancestors of the modern Tatars of the Uralo-Itil region are not the ancient Tatars, not the Mongolo-Tatars, not Tartars, not the Kipchak Khanate Tatars as a whole, but the Bulgars in a broad sense of theword, a part of the population of the Kipchak Khanate being (i.e. Kipchak Khanate Tatars), who were given a general ethnonym Tatars only at the end of the 19th century. Therefore to differentiate our people from the other Tatars, we speak not just about Tatars, but necessarily about the Bulgaro-Tatars.

In addition to these five groups of Tatars and Bulgaro-Tatars there are also the Crimea and Dobrudja Tatars.

That stated in the above paragraphs is summarized in the following table that shows the meanings of the ethnonym Tatars(Note that the "20th century" statement reflects the global passportization of the Stalinist time bearing the "nationality" notation,  with the "nationality" being determined as defined by the Russian state apparatus that forced peoples into distorted classification pigeonholes and disfigured the ethnic continuums - Translator's Note)



Who are called Tatars Who calls Semantics of the ethnonym
1 All northern neighbors of Chinese: Türks, Mongols, Manchurs
Later a part of the Orhono-Yenisei Türks, Mongols Kimaks, Kirgiz neighbors .
Chinese (Ta - Ta or Da - Da)
Themselves (Self-name)
Ancient Tatars
2 Chingizid Army (conquest and retaliation), consisting of Mongols and ancient Tatars, 
then from representatives of all conquered peoples
Chingizids and all other peoples (scornfully) Mongolo-Tatars
3 All population of the Mongolian Chingizid states. Western Europeans, distorting the word Tatars into Tartars
(People of the Hell)
4 All population of Juchi Ulus (Kipchak Khanate), i.e. the ancestors of Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Bulgaro-Tatars, Crimean Tatars, Bashkirs, Nogays, Karakalpaks, Finno-Ugrs, including all eastern non-Russians. Russians Kipchak Khanate Tatars
5 Later all Türks, mostly Moslem Türks Russians Türko-Tatars
6 Türkic population of the Crimean Khanate Russians, and since 20th century themselves Crimea Tatars
7 Türks of N.Pontic Russians, and since 20th century themselves Dobrudja Tatars
8 Descendants of Türkic-speaking population of pre-Mongolian Itil-Bulgarian state and the territories under Bulgarian hegemony. Russians, and since end of 19th century themselves Bulgaro-Tatars


Source: Turkic History