The Tatar of Ukraine
The Tatar are a group of Turkic people who have large communities in virtually every republic of the former Soviet Union. While the main population is centered around the Volga region, they also inhabit Azerbaijan, Belarus, Ukraine, and the Central Asian republics.
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?
Eighty-eight percent of the Tatar of Ukraine live in urban areas where their lives are no different from contemporary Russians. However, in rural areas some still cling to pre-Revolutionary traditions. In these outlying areas, up to three generations may live in one house.
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?
The Ukrainian Tatar are 83% Muslims. The five duties or "pillars" of the Islamic faith are as follows: recitation of the creed, daily prayer, almsgiving, fasting, and pilgrimage to Mecca. They pray by facing Mecca at dawn, midday, mid-afternoon, sunset, and at night. Men pray in the mosque under the leadership of a prayer leader, and the women usually pray at home. When they do worship at the mosque, they are separated from the men.
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?
Ukraine is a young republic. Having freed itself from communism, the Ukraine must now create its own government and national identity. They desperately need God's wisdom in making decisions that will affect their nation's future.
Although the New Testament is available in the Tatar language, Christian broadcasts are needed as well.
- Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to Ukraine and share Christ with the Tatar.
- Pray that they will become dissatisfied with Islam, and that they will begin searching for the Truth.
- Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the small number of Tatar Christians in Ukraine.
- Pray that God will raise up qualified linguists to complete translation of the Bible into the Tatar language.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Tatar Muslims toward Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
- Pray that God will open the hearts of Ukraine's governmental leaders to the Gospel.
- Ask the Lord to raise up a strong local church among the Tatar of Ukraine.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Tatar
- Country: Ukraine
- Their language: Tatar
- Largest religion:
- Christians: 1.5%
- Church members: 1,301
- 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: 37,700 (43%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 49,100 (57%)
- Country: Ukraine
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 29
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
This profile may be copied and distributed without obtaining permission
as long as it is not altered, bound, published
or used for profit purposes.