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Who are the Crimean Tatars?
The Crimean Tatars are descendants of the people who inhabited the Crimean peninsula and its surroundings for over seven centuries. The majority of these were nomadic Turkic people who came to Eastern Europe with the Chingizid (Turkic-Mongolian) armies. They established the Crimean Khanate in 1400s, and fusing with the native people of peninsula, they have constituted the distinctive “Crimean Tatar” people. Crimean peninsula, today a part of Ukraine is the homeland of the Crimean Tatars, who are Sunni Muslims of Hanafi School and speak Kipchak Turkic language.
After the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 1783, the Crimean Tatars have largely emigrated from their homeland. Today an estimated 5 million Tatars live in diaspora, having settled in countries as Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria, the US and Germany. The remaining Crimean Tatars in the homeland were deported on the 18 th of May, 1944 by the Soviet government, being unjustly accused of collaboration with the Nazis. Almost half of the Tatars have lost their lives in the process. Until today, only half of the Crimean Tatars have repatriated, the rest being unable to return to homeland due to political, and economic difficulties.
The word “Tatar” appears in the Kultigin tablets belonging to the 8 th century which were located in Mongolia today. These were the first written document of the Turkic peoples. According to the inscriptions, Tatars were one of the tribes living in the vicinity of Altai river. In the 13 th century, Tatars were said to be forcibly incorporated to the Mongol armies of Chingis Khan.
“Tartarus” in Latin refers to "the infernal regions of Roman and Greek mythology, hence Hell." The Europeans in the 13 th century mistakenly applied the term “Tartar” to Chingisid Hordes who swept through Europe and Asia.
By the 13 th century the term “Tatar” or “Tartar” was applied to all groupings of Turkic origin, such as Kipchaks, Pechenegs and Khazars, and especially to the members of the Chingizid Hordes, by Europeans. Mongol leadership of these Hordes was absorbed by the predominant Tatar speaking members in time
Chingis Khan founded a militarized centered at Karakorum, but incorporated Turkic tribes in Central Asia, who outnumbered the Mongolians and formed the basis of his armies. Genghis Khan's son Ogodei succeeded him in 1229, and he and other descendants extended the empire from the Black Sea to the Korean Peninsula, from the Russian princedoms to the Bulgar principalities, Central and East Asia. While his grandson Kubilai Khan established his dynasty in China, and Mongolia, the Ilkhanate dynasty founded by Genghis Khan's sons established rule over nations of Iran, Iraq, Mesopotamia, India, and Persia. Batu Khan, another grandson, led the Golden Horde in the conquest of Hungary, Bulgaria, and Russia in the west as well as Central Asia. Crimea came under Mongolian-Turkic domination as a result of Batu Khan’s conquests.
The Golden Horde:
The Western domains of Chingisid empire, known as Golden Horde was bequeathed to his son Jochi(1184-1225), but it was Jochi’s son, Batu(1227-1255) who expanded it from the Northern China to the Carpathians, including Ural-Idil region, Muscovy, Kiev and the Crimea. Batu Khan’s invasion of Hungary and Germany in 1240 constituted the last of the Mongolian invasions. Batu Khan established the Golden Horde Khanate with its capital at Sarai, on lower Volga, under the suzerainty of Great Khan in Karakorum. The Golden Horde seems to be the Russian name for the empire, in Turkic sources it was called the White Horde(Aq Orda). In some sources, it is referred as the “Khanate of Qipchak” as the Qipchak Turks were predominant in numbers, and the Mongols constituting the ruling minority. The Golden Horde did not remain as a nomadic empire, soon after it was founded it developed a complex bureaucracy to rule over settled societies. It became the most powerful state in Europe and dominated trade.
Although Russian principalities and Muscovy had paid tribute to Golden Horde for 240 years, the Russians have had numerous advantages such as trade and protection under the Golden Horde, and eventually replaced it in the northern steppes inheriting its economic and political structures. The Golden Horde approach to rule was pragmatic: They did not seek to impose their view of the world over their subjects, interfere in their religions and cultural life, and preferred indirect rule through local dynasties where possible.
The predominant religion of the Qipchaks in the Golden Horde was largely Shamanism although there were some Turkic groups who practiced Judaism or Christianity. Berkei Khan(1255-1267) is the first khan who converted to Islam, but Islam was widely established only under the reign of Ozbeg Khan(1313-1340). Its acceptance by all Tatars was completed in the beginning of 15 th century.
Ozbeg Khan eliminated Mongolian, and adopted Arabic and Turki as official language.
Under the Golden Horde, the peoples of northern steppes have molded into a Turkic-Islamic identity which crystallized in the 14 th century. The Turkic-Islamic identity underlied the Crimean and other khanates descending from Golden Horde, and it stimulated the development of closer relations with the Ottomans.
The Golden Horde began to weaken in 1430s because of the internal struggles for power, and dissolved in 1490s after the defeat of Toktamish Khan by Timur(Tamerlane). With the death of Toqtamish, the Golden Horde declined and eventually fragmented. By the middle of the 15th century, the Golden Horde had shattered into the Crimean Khanate, the Astrakhan Khanate, the Sibir Khanate, the Kazan Khanate, the Nogai Horde, Kasim Khanate.
See the Golden Horde Archeological Remnants:
See “The Treasures of the Golden Horde” Exhibit in Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg: http://www.cloudband.com/frames.mhtml/magazine/articles3q01/exh_gibbs_goldenhorde_0801.html http://www.hermitagemuseum.org/html_En/03/hm3_5_13.html
See the Golden Horde piece at Metropolitan Museum, New York
See the Golden Horde Coinages:
See Golden Horde Remnants in Crimea:
IV. Crimean Peninsula:
Crimea is a 27000 sq meter peninsula on the north side of the Black Sea which is connected to the mainland by Isthmus of Perekop(3-4m across). Its coasts are washed by the Black Sea, except on the northeast where is the Sivash Sea, a shallow lagoon separated from the Sea of Azov by the Arabat spit of sand. The peninsula is divided into two parts by the mountainous ridge north of Black Sea coastline. The mountains rise up to 1500 m, creating mild climate on the coast. The shores are broken by several bays and harbors.
Crimea was known as Tauris in the ancient times (“ Crimea” in English or “Krym” in Russian comes from Crimean Tatar name of the peninsula - Q?r?m) Because of its strategic location, Crimean peninsula has been occupied by many ethnic groups during its history. The earliest known inhabitants of Crimea are Celtic Cimmerians. Scythians expelled them in the 7 th century BC, and in the same century Greeks began to settle the coasts of Crimea, such as Panticepaeum(later called Bosporus, today Kerch), and Theodosia(today Feodosia). Later, Bosporus Kingdom was founded at Bosporus and eastern Crimea, in close relations with Athens. In 15 BC, it became a tributary state of Rome. The Greeks never succeeded in taking over the whole peninsula, and had to defend themselves against frequent attacks by the Scythians and then by the even more warlike Sarmatians.(also known as the Alans). Nevertheless, the peninsula became the major source of wheat for ancient Greece.
The Romans established naval bases at Khersonessos and in the Bosporan kingdom. Roman legionaries were also stationed at fortresses built in strategic locations along the coast, such as the Ai-Todor promontory near Yalta. Many Greeks remained in Crimea after the Bosporan kingdom fell to the Goths(AD 250), and various Asiatic and Turkic groups such as Huns(376), and Khazars(8 th cen.), Cumans, Pechenegs, and Kipchaks. After the division of the Roman Empire, Crimean protectorates, especially Khersonessos became part of the Byzantium. Kievan Rus’ have attempted to conquer Crimea but could not. Instead, they established trade relations with the major Crimean trading ports, in
Greek Ruins in Khersonnes
which a Slavic population have settled among the cosmopolitan population of Greeks, Italians, Jews, Armenians. Crimea constituted an important trade center as being the western terminus of the Silk Road.
Genoese Fortress in Sudak
In the 13th century, taking advantage of the power vacuum after the destruction of Constantinople by the Crusaders, the Genoese and the Venetians asserted control on the Crimean ports. Soon Genoese destroyed or seized the settlements of the Venetians, and established themselves at Soldaia (Sudak), Chembalo (Balaklava), Kaffa (Theodosia), Eupatoria, and Cerccio ( Kerch)-flourishing trading towns. They held those ports until Ottomans conquered them in 1475. The Tatars of the Golden Horde had got a firm footing in the northern and central parts of the peninsula as early as the 13th century, and at the end of the century established their authority over the Genoese. Their first Muslim khan, Berke encouraged the settlement of Seljuk Turks to Crimea. Solhat(Eskikirim), the center of the Golden Horde in Crimea also became a major Islamic intellectual center, with mosques and madrasas.
Ozbek Khan Mosque in Solhat(Eski k?r?m)
Ph.D Tutku Filiz