Tatars


Tatars
   A Turkic-speaking people originally from the Crimea. In the nineteenth century the Tatars, settling along the river Volga and on the Crimea, developed a sophisticated discourse about their nationality and its relationship to the Russians while the tsarist government tried to incorporate non-Russians, especially the Asian nationalities, into a politically, socioeconomically, and culturally homogenous Russian state. The main question for Russian intellectuals and the tsarist administration was how the Tatars and other Asian nationalities could be assimilated into the Russo-European nation. Tatars sought to keep their nationality vital within the empire. Although at the beginning of the nineteenth century there were some Tatar voices who demanded a secularization of Tatar-Muslim culture, they were isolated.
   The great discussion on the future of the Tatar identity began after the Crimean War of 1853. The confrontation with the Western powers was not only for Russians but also for Russian Muslims a trauma, because Tatars understood that the Muslim world had become a colonial object of European powers. One of the most influential Tatar leaders of the nineteenth century was Ismail Bey Gaspirali (1851–1914). In a century where industrialization and modernization meant a Russian political, economic superiority, Gaspirali demanded an educational and spiritual renewal of Tatar identity to overcome Tatar backwardness. In 1881, Gaspirali wrote a book entitled Russian Islam: Thoughts, Notes and Observations of a Muslim in which he propagated a Tatar-Muslim renaissance that could be done - in his opinion - only in concert with the tsarist government. Gaspirali was convinced that a coexistence of different cultures was possible, and through Tatar-Russian cooperation, the tsarist government would give up its hostility toward Muslims. Gaspirali was also a spokesman of women’s rights and emancipation. He emphasized that the Qur’an demanded a fair treatment of women and that the veil was nothing more than an Asian relict. Gaspirali understood that without women’s emancipation, it would be difficult for the Tatar-Muslim society to follow Russia’s modernization. As a reformer (jadidist), however, Gaspirali faced opposition from the traditional Tatar-Muslim elite, as well as the Russian conservative Pan-Slavists.
   See also <>.
   FURTHER READING:
    Fisher, Alan. Between Russians, Ottomans, and Turks: Crimea and Crimean Tatars . Istanbul: Isis Press, 1998;
    Frank, Allen J. Islamic Historiography and “Bulghar” Identity among the Tatars and Bashkirs of Russia . Leiden: Brill, 1998.
   EVA-MARIA STOLBERG

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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