Prayer Profile
The Tatar of Byelorussia

[IMAGE] The Tatar are a group of Turkic people with sizable colonies in virtually every republic of the former Soviet Union. Although most of them live around the Volga region, others inhabit Azerbaijan, Byelorussia, the Ukraine, and the Central Asian republics. The Tatar speak a language that is also called Tatar. However, in some urban areas, more than 30% of them claim Russian as their mother tongue.

The physical appearance of the Tatar ranges from blue-eyed blondes to those with more Mongoloid features. In general, they have oval faces with little facial hair. They are mostly peasants and merchants, who have completely lost their previous tribal and clan structure.

The Tatar have maintained a strong urban civilization since the tenth century. It survived both the Mongol invasion in the 1200's and the Russian conquest in the 1500's. In the nineteenth century, Tatar cities ranked among the greatest cultural centers of the Islamic world.

What are their lives like?
During the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries, a flourishing Tatar community existed in present-day Lithuania, Poland, and Byelorussia. By the early twentieth century, however, much of their native language had been lost, but their religion was retained. Today, their descendants reflect many of the cultural traits of their neighbors.

Most of the Tatar in Byelorussia live in urban areas. In the cities, their lives are no different from contemporary Russians; however, in rural areas some still cling to pre-Revolutionary traditions. For example, as many as three generations may live in the same house.

The Tatar's social structure remains strongly patriarchal. The father is the head of the household, and his word is final. He is in charge of the family income and determines how it is spent. The women usually cook meals, carry water, wash clothes, and tend to the livestock.

What are their beliefs?
Today, many Tatar will identify themselves as Muslims before they will identify themselves as Tatar. Most Tatar are Sunni Muslims of the Hanafite branch; however, in Byelorussia, 15% are now classified as non-religious.

The Muslim Tatar follow the five "pillars" of the Islamic faith. (l) Each day they recite the shahadah, affirming that "there is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet." (2) Salat, or daily prayers, are said five times a day, facing Mecca. (3) Zakat, or almsgiving, is considered an important duty. (4) Sawm, or fasting, is expected, especially during the holy month of Ramadan. (5) Hajj, or a pilgrimage, to Mecca is to be attempted at least once in a person's lifetime.

Men pray in the mosque under a prayer leader, when possible. Women usually pray at home, but if they do worship at the mosque, they are separated from the men. Despite their belief in monotheism (one god), many Tatar also honor saints and holy places. Some beliefs in supernatural powers, such as the "evil eye," still persist from pre-Islamic days.

The Tatar view of Christianity has been marred by the attempts of the Russian Orthodox Church to convert them through force and tax incentives. During the nineteenth century, their mosques were frequently burned or destroyed. The few who were "converted" by these measures returned to their Islamic faith as soon as the repression stopped, or the taxes were removed.

What are their needs?
When the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown occurred in 1986, Byelorussia absorbed 70% of the radioactive contaminants. It may never be known how many lives have been ruined or shortened by this disaster. The number of cases of cancer and birth defects has skyrocketed.

Byelorussia is a young republic. Having freed itself from Communist Russia in 1991, it has set up a democracy with freedom of religion and separation of powers. The citizens of Byelorussia desperately need God's wisdom as they make choices concerning the future of their nation. Only through prayer and the demonstrated love of Christians can their wounds of the past be healed.

Prayer Points

  • Ask the Lord to send Christian medical workers to minister to the physical needs of the Tatar of Byelorussia.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to the missions agency that is targeting them.
  • Pray for effectiveness of the Jesus film among the Tatar.
  • Pray that God will reveal Himself to the Tatar through dreams and visions.
  • Pray that God will give the Tatar believers courage to share Christ with their own people.
  • Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that have kept the Tatar bound for many generations.
  • Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
  • Pray that strong local churches will be raised up among the Tatar by the year 2000.

See also the following related groups:
The Nogay Tatar of Romania and Russia;
The tatar of Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and Russia.

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: Tatar
  • Country: Byelorussia
  • Their language: Tatar
  • Population: (1990) 12,500
    (1995) 12,400
    (2000) 12,300
  • Largest religion: Muslim (Hanafite) 83%
    Nonreligious 15.5%
  • Christians: 1.5%
  • Church members: 186
  • Scriptures in their own language: New Testament
  • Jesus Film in their own language: Available
  • Christian broadcasts in their own language: None
  • Mission agencies working among this people: 1
  • Persons who have heard the Gospel: 4,700 (38%) Those evangelized by local Christians: 900 (8%)
    Those evangelized from the outside: 3,800 (30%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 7,700 (62%)
  • Country: Byelorussia
  • Population: (1990) 10,211,900
    (1995) 10,140,900
    (2000) 10,068,900
  • Major peoples in size order: Byelorussian 77.8%
    Russian 13.2%
    Polish 4.1%
    Ukrainian 2.8%
    Jew 1.1%
  • Major religions: Christian (all types) 77.9%
    Nonreligious 14.4%
    Atheist 6.3%

© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center

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