Modern Tatars, a Turkic-speaking Muslim minority in Russia, are considered by some historians to be the direct descendants of those ancient warriors who ruled over most of the Asia and a part of Europe in the 13th and 14th centuries. But most scholars emphasize the complexity of modern Tatars’ historical roots.
Traditions of statehood among the Tatars and their ancestors, different Turkic peoples, go back to ancient times. They moved to Central Asia from the Middle East, from Palestine approximately 4,000 years ago. Ancient Turkic tribes built many states during their history, including the Hun Kingdom (376-454) and the Avarian Khaganate (562-803) in Central Europe.
The first enormous Turkic state, the Great Turkic Khaganate, was established in 552 A.D. Its eastern extreme was Korea, and the western border was on Danube River, now Romania and Bulgaria.
Less than 700 years later, in 1240-42, Tatars and Mongols together established the biggest state ever in the history of mankind, uniting most parts of Europe and Asia. This superstate later broke up into several smaller states, one of which, the Kazan Khanate, was subsequently subjugated by Russia in 1552.
That year was the most tragic year in the whole Tatar history, because it marks the end of the Tatar statehood and the beginning of the centuries-long process of forced assimilation and russification of Tatars.
Fast forward to modern times. The Bolsheviks, trying to preserve the cohesion of the multi-ethnic state, established a tiny autonomous republic for Tatars, called Tatarstan. Its territory now is even less than that of South Carolina.
Only a quarter of all Tatars live within Tatarstan. Most are dispersed all over Russia and some live in such countries as Australia, Canada, Finland, Germany, Turkey and the United States.
Two generations of Tatars now live in America. They represent the old and the new Tatar immigration. The first group’s way to America was very long and tortuous. Most of its members started their journey as refugees from Russian Bolsheviks and settled in China, Korea and Japan. In 1949, they fled from the communists to Australia, Turkey and Japan.
Many then moved to America in the 1950s. The new Tatar immigrants came to the United States mostly after the collapse of the Soviet Union.