The Issue of The Tatars’ Ethnogenesis
Approaches to the history of tatars-and especially to the issue
of their ethnogenesis have been made so far from a subjective point
of view serving political purposes rather than objective one aiming
to highlight scientific truth. Tatars were seen by early Christian
chroniclers as well as by several western historians as "God’s
punishment" for deviations from the teaching of Rome, while
Russian historians employed their skills at justifying thus the
Tsarist expansion over Tatar territories.
Over the last decades, an ever greates
number oh historians have applied themselves to the task of shedding
a light on the true history of Tatars. Unfortunately, part of their
approaches have continued to be tributary to the same old cliches
cultivated with great care by the Roman Church and by Russian historiography.
We should nevertheless mention a series of pertinent studies by
some of the most prominent specialists in Central Asian issues,
as well as the free access granted to Tatar historians by the liberalization
of regimes in Eastern Europe and, most of all, in the ex-USSR.
Based on the first document assessing the
presence of the Tatars which dates back to 732 and also employing
other sources of the time, the coclusion is reached that the ancient
Tatars-whom the author conventionally designates as proto-Tatars-belongs
to the Turkish tribes. The force of attraction given to the appellation
Tatar is considered to be the most prominent contribution of the
proto-Tatars to the ethnogenesis of the nowadays Tatar people. Researches
having focused on the history of Genghis Khan’s Empire are of the
same mind when ascertaining that both the population and the army
of this huge state counted a non-Mongolian majority with a predominant
Turkish element. This enormous mass of people within which Mongols
hemselves were a minority, bore the generic name of Tatars.
The coming into being of the khanate of
the Golden Horde as a political entity would mark the embarking
upon a decisive stage of ethnogenesis. The Tatar people was born
within Euro-Asiatic boundaries, to be more precise in the European
parts of the great Khanate of the Golden Horde (1243-1502). The
Islamization of the Golden Horde impelled by Khan Berke (1257-1266)
and completed by Khan Uzbek (1312-1340) would coincide with the
final stage of ethnogenesis of the modern Tatars.
Also based on conculsions reached by prominent
specialists such as Louis Hambis, Bernard Lewis, Gotthard Juschke,
Behaeddin Ugel, Jean-Paul Roux, Bertold Spuler, Mustafa Kafai a.s.o.,
it is being highlighted that in the process of ethnogenesis of the
Tatar people the Kiptchak (Cuman) element was the bottom layer on
which an osmose would take place between pre-existing elements of
Turkish origin and elements newly arrived in the western part of
the Golden Horde. To this main body of Turkish origin a contribution
derived from the Turkification of the minoritian but politically
dominant Mongolian element would add up. As in the case of other
peoples, during the process of ethnogenesis as well as in the subsequent
evolution of the Tatars several other ethnical influences would
be at work, exerted, among which we may cite as most prominent the
Finnish, the Slav, the Caucasian, the German, the Persian ones.
But before the Tatar people could reach
unitary development, the state which had harboured and nurtured
its process of formation would witness a decline followed by disintegration.
Tha Tatar people underwent thus a fragmentation among the Tatar
khanates being set upen the ruins of the Golden Horde, in the 15th-16th
centuries. Beginning with the middle of the 16th century, this fragmentation
would be aggravated by the liquidation of these Tatar states as
a result of Russian expansion. Throught the centuries, all these
segments of the Tatar people-apart from the Crimean Tatars, whose
close links to Turkey were preserved until the destruction of their
state in 1783-would live in isolation from the Turkish-Islamic world
outside the Russian (Soviet) Empire, as well as from one another.
Even if the separate historical evolution
allowed for the development of differents traits characteristic
of the various Tatar groups and communities, it is irrefutable that
most of the nowadays 12-14 million tatars have the same ethnical
identity and speak dialects of the same Turkish language. As a result,
the Tatars can communicate rather freely with all the peoples and
populations having the same Turkish origin as theirs.
Therefore, the Tatar people of nowadays
was born in the European parts of the great state of the Golden
Horde, as a people of Turkish origin and of Islamic faith.