The Nogay Tatar of Russia
The Nogay Tatar are part of a larger Turkic population living in Russia. Although most live in the Volga steppe region between the Terek and Kuma Rivers and in the Crimea, they are also scattered among Russians and other ethnic peoples all across the former Soviet Union. Small groups have emigrated to Turkey, Romania, and Bulgaria.
The name Nogay means "dog" in Mongol and may come from the Emir Nogay of the Golden Horde and the territory he ruled. The two large, loosely grouped tribes that emerged after the Emir's death in 1300 have evolved into the two present-day Nogay federations: the Kara-Nogay ("Black Nogay") and Ak-Nogay ("White Nogay"). Ninety percent of the people speak two mutually understandable dialects of the Nogai language. More than seventy-five percent speak Russian as a second language. The Nogay are surrounded by Russians on all sides. They also live next to Kalmyks, Ukrainians, Turkmen, and Chechens.
What Are Their Lives Like? Life on the Volga steppe is ruled by the harsh climate. Annual rainfall ranges from 20 to 34 centimeters (about 7 to 13 inches). No rain falls at all during some summers. Severe winter snowstorms sweep through with hurricane-intensity winds, heaping snowdrifts up to six feet, and plunging temperatures to –35 degrees Celsius (about –37 degrees Fahrenheit).
The Nogay used to be divided into nomadic cattle breeders (Black Nogay) and farmers (White Nogay). Modern farming techniques, including irrigation canals, have increased the productivity of both crops and cattle.
Until the early 1900's most Nogay were pastoral nomads. They traveled in two types of groups: large groups, called auls, made up of different families and tribes; and smaller groups, called otars, consisting of the members of one family. The two groups traveled together during the winter, then spread out in summer to make it easier to find water. They lived in two different types of shelters: the otay (a fixed round shelter, which was on wheels and was about twelve feet in diameter) and the larger terme (a structure that could be taken apart and hauled to the next pasture site).
The earliest Nogay farmers can be traced back to the end of the seventeenth century. Their first homes were one-room mud and brick huts. Four- and five-room and multi-story houses are now common in rural areas; urban dwellers live in Soviet-style apartment complexes.
Men and women divide work in the traditional manner: men tend the animals, work the fields, handle construction, and acquire goods outside the home. Women take care of domestic chores.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Today, virtually all of the Nogay profess to be Sunni Muslim. However, as far back as the Russian Revolution in the early twentieth century travelers noted that the Nogay were not very religious. With increased assimilation into the Russian culture, it is doubtful if Islam will survive in Nogay society.
What Are Their Needs?
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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