Introduction / History
The ancestors of the Tatars were a nomadic people living in northeastern Mongolia near Lake Baikal starting in the 5th century CE. Some of the Tatars and other Turkic peoples became part of Genghis Khan's conquering armies in the early 13th century, leading to a fusion of Mongol and Turkic peoples. These invaders of Russia and Hungary became known to Europeans as "Tatars" meaning "archer." After Genghis Khan's power eroded, Tatars were associated with the western half of the remaining Mongol domain and known as the Golden Horde. The Tatars have had a strong civilization since the tenth century. The Russians conquered them in the sixteenth century. In the 1800s, Tatar cities ranked among the greatest cultural centers of the Islamic world. Tatars might have blue eyes and blonde hair or look like Mongolians with very little facial hair. They speak a unique Turkic language called Kazan Tatar, although many now claim Russian as their mother tongue. The Tatars often seek work outside their own region, following a trend of mobility established before 1917. For this reason, there are pockets of Tatars all over the former Soviet Union as well as Poland and Finland. Although most of them live around the Volga region, others inhabit Azerbaijan, Armenia, Byelorussia, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, and Central Asian republics like Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan.
What Are Their Lives Like?
The Tatars generally are well educated and enjoy the arts. The Tatars are a settled people, mostly small farmers and merchants, who have completely lost their traditional tribal structure. They still have their culture, though their language is waning.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Among rural Tatars the father is the legal head of the household. He is also in charge of the family income and how it is spent. The women usually cook, carry water, wash clothes, and tend to the livestock, while the men do more strenuous labor in the fields. The younger generation of Tatars wear contemporary city-style clothing. However, older rural members wear traditional dress.
Many Tatars place more of their identity in Islam than in being Tatar. Most are Hanafite, one of the four schools of Sunni Islam. While orthodox Muslims believe in Allah as the only God, many Tatars still honor saints and holy places. Some believe in supernatural powers such as the "evil eye," involving the ability to curse someone with a glance. Unlike most Muslims some of the Tatar eat pork, and very few observe the prescribed Islamic fasts. They remain more liberal than most orthodox Muslims of Central Asia, even inviting women to pray in the mosques instead of at home. Unfortunately, the Tatars' view of Christianity has been scarred by negative interactions with the Russian Orthodox Church and its earlier attempts to convert them through force. This has served to get them more dedicated to Islam and weary of any form of Christianity.
What Are Their Needs?
Christian laborers are needed to live and work among the Tatars. The Tatars are an unreached people group wherever they live.
Pray for the Lord to provide an abundant grain harvest among the Tatar that will demonstrate His power and goodness.
Pray for Holy Spirit-driven workers to go to the Tatar people and begin a church planting movement.
Pray for a spiritual hunger that will drive the Tatars to the empty tomb.
Pray for a powerful Tatar church where people place their hope and identity in Christ alone.
Scripture Prayers for the Tatar in Tajikistan.