The Tatars were the Turkic-speaking population of Tartary, the lands ruled by Turco-Mongol elites from the 14th century until the conquests of the Russian Empire in the 18th to 19th centuries. During the early modern period, a distinction was made between the European and Asian Tatar territories, by referring to Lesser Tartary and Greater Tartary, respectively.
The largest group by far descending from the historical Tatars are the Volga Tatars, native to the Volga region (Tatarstan and Bashkortostan), who for this reason are often also simply known as "Tatars", and their language as Tatar language. Their number is estimated as close to 6 million (as of 2002). Besides the Volga Tatars, there are smaller groups also descended from the historical Tatars, the largest group of these being the Crimean Tatars, numbering close to half a million, whose Crimean Tatar language is not now intelligible with the Volga Tatar language.
As various nomadic groups became part of Genghis Khan's army in the early 13th century, a fusion of Mongol and Turkic elements took place, and the invaders of Rus and the Pannonian Basin became known to Europeans as Tatars or Tartars (see Tatar yoke). After the breakup of the Mongol Empire, the Tatars became especially identified with the western part of the empire, known as the Golden Horde.
The various Tatar khanates of the early modern period are the remnants after the breakup of the Golden Horde, and its successor, the Great Horde. These include:
the Khanate of Kazan (1438), conquered by the Tsardom of Russia in 1552, but continued as a Russian vassal state, within the Qasim Khanate (established 1452), until 1681.
The Turco-Mongol dominance in Central Asia was absolute during the 14th and 15th centuries. The Crimean-Nogai raids into Russia were especially for the capture of slaves, most of whom were exported to the Ottoman Empire. The raids were an important drain of the human and economic resources of both countries. They largely prevented the settlement of the "Wild Fields" – the steppe and forest-steppe land that extends from a hundred or so miles south of Moscow to the Black Sea. The raids were also important in the development of the Cossacks.
The end of absolute Tatar dominance comes in the late 15th century, heralded by the Great stand on the Ugra river in 1480. The 16th to 18th centuries are characterized by the gradual expansion of Russia and absorption of the Tatar khanates into Russian territory. The Crimean Tatars attacked Russia in 1507, followed by two centuries of Russo-Crimean Wars for the Volga basin. Similarly, the Russo-Kazan Wars lasted for the best part of a century and ended with the Russian conquest of the Kazan khanate.
The last of the Tatar khanates was that of the Kazakhs, independent until 1822. Their last ruler, Kenesary Khan was proclaimed khan of the Kazakhs when the Russian Empire was already fully in control of Kazakhstan, and the Kazakhs were prohibited by Russian law from selecting their leader after 1822. Kenesary Khan's popular rise was in defiance of Russian control of Kazakhstan, and his time as khan was spent on continuous fighting with the Russian imperial forces until his death in 1847.
Drawing of Mongols of the Golden Horde outside Vladimir presumably demanding submission, before sacking the city.
It became a name for populations of the former Golden Horde in Europe, such as those of the former Kazan, Crimean, Astrakhan, Qasim, and Siberian Khanates. The form Tartar has its origins in either Latin or French, coming to Western European languages from Turkish and Persiantātār "mounted messenger". From the beginning, the extra r was present in the Western forms, and according to the Oxford English Dictionary this was most likely due to an association with Tartarus.
The Persian word is first recorded in the 13th century in reference to the hordes of Genghis Khan and is of unknown origin, according to OED "said to be" ultimately from tata, a name of the Mongols for themselves. The Chinese term for Tatars was dada 韃靼, especially after the end of the Yuan period (14th century), but also recorded as a term for Mongolian-speaking peoples of the northern steppes during the Tang period (8th century).
Nowadays Tatar is usually used to refer to the people, but Tartar is still almost always used for derived terms such as tartar sauce or steak tartare.
All Turkic peoples living within the Russian Empire were named Tatar (as a Russian exonym). Some of these populations still use Tatar as a self-designation, others do not.
Kipchak–Bulgar branch, or "Tatar" in the narrow sense
Volga Tatars,the largest group which still uses the Tatar designation, although a minority adheres to "Bulgarism", preferring a self-designation of "Bulgar" over "Tatar".
The appellation Tatar was also extended to other, non Turkic peoples, especially the Tungusic peoples of Siberia. The descendants of Tatars in Eastern Europe have partly lost their Turkic languages due to cultural assimilation, but may still retain a "Tatar" identity.
There are three Tatar dialects: Eastern, Central, Western. The Western dialect (Misher) is spoken mostly by Mishärs, the Central dialect is spoken by Kazan and Astrakhan Tatars, and the Eastern (Sibir) dialect is spoken by Siberian Tatars in western Siberia. All three dialects have subdialects. Central Tatar is the base of literary Tatar.
Of these Siberian Tatar dialects are actually independent of Volga–Ural Tatar; these dialects are quite remote both from Standard Tatar and from each other, often preventing mutual comprehension. The claim that this language is part of the modern Tatar language is typically supported by linguists in Kazan and denounced by Siberian Tatars.
Crimean Tatar is the indigenous language of the Crimean Tatar peoples. Because of its common name, Crimean Tatar is sometimes mistaken to be a dialect of Kazan Tatar. Although these languages are related (as both are Turkic), the Kypchak languages closest to Crimean Tatar are (as mentioned above) Kumyk and Karachay-Balkar, not Kazan Tatar.
The present territory of Tatarstan was inhabited by the Volga Bulgars who settled on the Volga river in the 7th century AD and converted to Islam in 922 during the missionary work of Ahmad ibn Fadlan. After the Mongol invasion, Volga Bulgaria was annexed by the Golden Horde. Most of the population survived, and there may have been a certain degree of mixing between it and the Kipchaks of the Horde during the ensuing period. The group as a whole accepted the exonym "Tatars" (finally in the end of the 19th century; although the name Bulgars persisted in some places; the majority identified themselves simply as the Muslims) and the language of the Kipchaks; on the other hand, the invaders eventually converted to Islam. As the Horde disintegrated in the 15th century, the area became the territory of the Kazan khanate, which was ultimately conquered by Russia in the 16th century. Otuz Tatar Bodun ('Thirty Tatar' tribe). The name Tatar likely originated amongst the nomadic Tatar confederation in the north-eastern Gobi desert in the 5th century. The name "Tatars" was used an alternative term for the Shiwei, a nomadic confederation to which these Tatar people belonged.
The Volga Tatars used the Turkic Old Tatar language for their literature between the 15th and 19th centuries. It was written in the İske imlâ variant of the Arabic script, but actual spelling varied regionally. The older literary language included a large number of Arabic and Persian loanwords. The modern literary language, however, often uses Russian and other European-derived words instead.
Before 1917, polygamy was practised only by the wealthier classes and was a waning institution.
There is an ethnic nationalist movement among Kazan Tatars which stresses descent from the Bulgars and is known as Bulgarism – there have been graffiti on the walls in the streets of Kazan with phrases such as "Bulgaria is alive" (Булгария жива)
A significant number of Volga Tatars emigrated during the Russian Civil War, mostly to Turkey and Harbin, China. According to the Chinese government, there are still 5,100 Tatars living in Xinjiang province.
The Crimean Tatars emerged as a nation at the time of the Crimean Khanate. The Crimean Khanate was a Turkic-speaking Muslim state which was among the strongest powers in Eastern Europe until the beginning of the 18th century. The nobles and rulers of the Crimean Tatars were the progeny of Hacı I Girai a Jochid descendant of Genghis Khan who was Great Mongol ruler, and thus of Batu Khan of the Mongol Golden Horde. The Crimean Tatars mostly adopted Islam in the 14th century and thereafter Crimea became one of the centers of Islamic civilization. The Russo-Turkish War (1768–74) resulted in the defeat of the Ottomans by the Russians, and according to the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca (1774) signed after the war, Crimea became independent and Ottomans renounced their political right to protect the Crimean Khanate. After a period of political unrest in Crimea, Russia violated the treaty and annexed the Crimean Khanate in 1783.
The number of Crimean Tatars is estimated at 650,000. The Crimean Tatars emerged as a nation at the time of the Crimean Khanate. The Crimean Khanate was a Turkic-speaking Muslim state which was among the strongest powers in Eastern Europe until the beginning of the 18th century. The rulers of the Crimean Tatars were the progeny of Hacı I Giray a Jochid descendant of Genghis Khan. The Crimean Tatars are subdivided into three sub-ethnic groups: the Tats (not to be confused with Tat people, living in the Caucasus region) who used to inhabit the mountainous Crimea before 1944 (about 55%), the Yalıboyu who lived on the southern coast of the peninsula (about 30%), and the Noğay (about 15%).
Crimean Tatars were present on the territory of today's Romania and Bulgaria since the 13th century. In Romania, according to the 2002 census, 24,000 people declared their ethnicity as Tatar, most of them being Crimean Tatars living in Constanţa County in the region of Dobruja. The Crimean Tatars were colonized there by the Ottoman Empire beginning in the 17th century.
From the 13th to 17th centuries various groups of Tatars settled and/or found refuge within the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth. This was promoted especially by the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, because of their reputation as skilled warriors. The Tatar settlers were all granted szlachta (nobility) status, a tradition that was preserved until the end of the Commonwealth in the 18th century. They included the Lipka Tatars (13th–14th centuries) as well as Crimean and Nogay Tatars (15th–16th centuries), all of which were notable in Polish military history, as well as Volga Tatars (16th–17th centuries). They all mostly settled in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, lands that are now in Lithuania and Belarus.
Various estimates of the number of Tatars in the Commonwealth in the 17th century are about 15,000 persons and 60 villages with mosques. Numerous royal privileges, as well as internal autonomy granted by the monarchs allowed the Tatars to preserve their religion, traditions and culture over the centuries. The Tatars were allowed to intermarry with Christians, a thing uncommon in Europe at the time. The May Constitution of 1791 gave the Tatars representation in the Polish Sejm.
Although by the 18th century the Tatars adopted the local language, the Islamic religion and many Tatar traditions (e.g. the sacrifice of bulls in their mosques during the main religious festivals) were preserved. This led to formation of a distinctive Muslim culture, in which the elements of Muslim orthodoxy mixed with religious tolerance formed a relatively liberal society. For instance, the women in Lipka Tatar society traditionally had the same rights and status as men, and could attend non-segregated schools.
About 5,500 Tatars lived within the inter-war boundaries of Poland (1920–1939), and a Tatar cavalry unit had fought for the country's independence. The Tatars had preserved their cultural identity and sustained a number of Tatar organisations, including a Tatar archives, and a museum in (Vilnius).
The Tatars suffered serious losses during World War II and furthermore, after the border change in 1945 a large part of them found themselves in the Soviet Union. It is estimated that about 3000 Tatars live in present-day Poland, of which about 500 declared Tatar (rather than Polish) nationality in the 2002 census. There are two Tatar villages (Bohoniki and Kruszyniany) in the north-east of present-day Poland, as well as urban Tatar communities in Warsaw, Gdańsk, Białystok, and Gorzów Wielkopolski. Tatars in Poland sometimes have a Muslim surname with a Polish ending: Ryzwanowicz; another surname sometimes adopted by more assimilated Tatars is Tataranowicz or Taterczyński, literally "son of a Tatar".
The Tatars were relatively very noticeable in the Commonwealth military as well as in Polish and Lithuanian political and intellectual life for such a small community. In modern-day Poland, their presence is also widely known, due in part to their noticeable role in the historical novels of Henryk Sienkiewicz, which are universally recognized in Poland. A number of Polish intellectual figures have also been Tatars, e.g. the prominent historian Jerzy Łojek.
A small community of Polish speaking Tatars settled in Brooklyn, New York City in the early 1900s. They established a mosque that is still in use today.
The Astrakhan Tatars (around 80,000) are a group of Tatars, descendants of the Astrakhan Khanate's nomadic population, who live mostly in Astrakhan Oblast. For the Russian census in 2010, most Astrakhan Tatars declared themselves simply as Tatars and few declared themselves as Astrakhan Tatars. A large number of Volga Tatars live in Astrakhan Oblast and differences between them have been disappearing.
The Siberian Tatars occupy three distinct regions—a strip running west to east from Tobolsk to Tomsk—the Altay and its spurs—and South Yeniseisk. They originated in the agglomerations of various Uralo-Altaic stems that, in the region north of the Altay, reached some degree of culture between the 4th and 5th centuries, but were subdued and enslaved by the Mongols.
The Baraba Tatars are a sub-group of Siberian Tatars. The Baraba Tatars take their name from one of their stems (Barama). They numbered at least 9,000 in 1990.
Encyclopedia Brittanica: Tatar, also spelled Tartar, any member of several Turkic-speaking peoples ... 
The Columbia Encyclopedia: Tatars (tä´tərz) or Tartars (tär´tərz), Turkic-speaking peoples living primarily in Russia, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. 
Meriam-Webster: Tatar – a member of any of a group of Turkic peoples found mainly in the Tatar Republic of Russia and parts of Siberia and central Asia 
Oxford Dictionaries: Tatar – a member of a Turkic people living in Tatarstan and various other parts of Russia and Ukraine. They are the descendants of the Tartars who ruled central Asia in the 14th century. 
Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa: Turks are an ethnolinguistic group living in a broad geographic expanse extending from southeastern Europe through Anatolia and the Caucasus Mountains and throughout Central Asia. Thus Turks include the Turks of Turkey, the Azeris of Azerbaijan, and the Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Tatars, Turkmen, and Uzbeks of Central Asia, as well as many smaller groups in Asia speaking Turkic languages. 
Encyclopedia Brittanica: Tatar, also spelled Tartar, any member of several Turkic-speaking peoples ...  The Columbia Encyclopedia: Tatars (tä´tərz) or Tartars (tär´tərz), Turkic-speaking peoples living primarily in Russia, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.  Meriam-Webster: Tatar – a member of any of a group of Turkic peoples found mainly in the Tatar Republic of Russia and parts of Siberia and central Asia  Oxford Dictionaries: Tatar – a member of a Turkic people living in Tatarstan and various other parts of Russia and Ukraine. They are the descendants of the Tartars who ruled central Asia in the 14th century.  Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa: Turks are an ethnolinguistic group living in a broad geographic expanse extending from southeastern Europe through Anatolia and the Caucasus Mountains and throughout Central Asia. Thus Turks include the Turks of Turkey, the Azeris of Azerbaijan, and the Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Tatars, Turkmen, and Uzbeks of Central Asia, as well as many smaller groups in Asia speaking Turkic languages. 
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citing a letter to St Louis of Frances dated 1270 which makes the connection explicit, "In the present danger of the Tartars either we shall push them back into the Tartarus whence they are come, or they will bring us all into heaven"
Chen Dezhi 陳得芝, Jia Jingyan 賈敬顔 (1992). "Dada 達靼", in: Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史, vol. 1, pp. 132-133. Cited after "Dada 韃靼 Tatars" by Ulrich Theobald, chinaknowledge.de.
"Tartar, Tatar, n.2 (a.)". (1989). In Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved 11 September 2008, from Oxford English Dictionary Online.
The name originating from the name of Spruce-firTaiga forests in Russian language: черневая тайга
Akhatov G. "Tatar dialectology". Kazan, 1984.(Tatar language)