The Crimean Tatar of Ukraine
The Tatar have had a strong civilization since the tenth century. It survived the Mongol invasion of the thirteenth century and the Russian conquest of the sixteenth century. In the nineteenth century, Tatar cities ranked among the greatest cultural centers of the Islamic world.
Because the Tatar have dispersed to several urban Russian cities, more than thirty percent of them claim Russian as their mother tongue. The others speak their native language, called Tatar.
The physical appearance of the Tatar ranges from blue-eyed blondes to more Mongoloid features. They have oval faces with very little facial hair.
What are their lives like?
Their social system is strongly patriarchal. This means that the father is the legal head of the household and his word is final in all family matters. The men are also in charge of the family income and how it is spent. Women usually cook, carry water, wash clothes, and tend livestock.
The younger generation usually dresses in contemporary, city-style clothing; older collective farm members wear more traditional dress. Unlike devout Muslims, about one fourth of the Tatar eat pork. In fact, very few Tatar observe Islamic eating customs and fasts.
In Ukraine, the most important Tatar colony is in the Donets region. Most of the Tatar in this area are industrial workers who have assimilated into the Russian culture. In 1979, only half of the Tatar population of the Donets region claimed Tatar as their mother tongue.
What are their beliefs?
Muslims strictly adhere to the belief in only one god, as expressed in their creed: "there is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet." They believe that his revelation completes the biblical revelations received by Jews and Christians.
Although the Tatar are monotheistic (believing in only one god), they also honor saints and holy places. Nevertheless, some beliefs in supernatural powers, such as the "evil eye," still exist from pre-Islamic days. Many Tatar today identify themselves as Muslim before they identify themselves as a Tatar. However, fifteen percent of the Ukrainian Tatar are now categorized as being non-religious.
Unfortunately, the view of Christianity held by the Tatar has been marred by the Russian Orthodox Church's attempts to convert them through coercion and tax inducements. During the nineteenth century, their mosques were frequently burned or destroyed. The few who were "converted" by these measures returned to their Islamic faith when the repression stopped.
What are their needs?
Although the New Testament is available in the Tatar language, Christian broadcasts are needed as well.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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