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The Tatars are a unique ethnic group currently living in Lithuania, in the western part of Belarus, and along the eastern border of Poland. During the 14th-16th centuries their ancestors settled in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.  

V. Diutlen, Tatar mosque, 1916

Lithuanian Tatars are descended from the Golden Horde and the Crimean Khanate. Their distinctive community, although separated from its Tatar-Turkic roots and surrounded by a foreign world, was able to preserve the culture and characteristics of their ancestors as well as their national and religious identity. For various reasons Lithuanian Tatars lost their language rather quickly, but on account of their profound attachment to Islam, they have preserved their national consciousness for 600 years. The rulers of Lithuania and Poland have always been tolerant of the Tatar community and its religion. In these lands the Tatars built mosques and freely practiced their religion. They were granted various rights and privileges; the Tatar aristocracy had the same status as the nobility of Lithuania and Poland. For centuries Lithuanian Tatars maintained the image of fearless and capable warriors; their main activity was warfare. During various periods the Tatar community found its place in the life and liberation struggles of the Lithuanian and Polish nations. At the beginning of the 20th century national struggles for independence also roused the Tatar intelligentsia to a national reawakening; educated Tatars appeared in various fields, in learning and in warfare. Encouraged by the movement of national rebirth, Polish scholars of Tatar ancestry have begun to study the history of Lithuanian Tatars.

Tatar warrior

During the period of sovietization, Lithuanian Tatars lost much in the area of spiritual culture and religion. The national rebirth of Lithuania and restoration of independence at the end of the 20th century created the conditions for Tatar communities to return to their ethnic culture, to their roots, to the sources of their national life.

In 1988 the Lithuanian Tatar Cultural Society was re-established, and with it - the social activity of Tatar communities. In 1997 the 600th anniversary of the settlement of Tatars and Karaims in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was celebrated. In 1998 a spiritual center, or muftiate, was re-established for Lithuania's Sunni Muslims.

We hope that you will find it interesting to become acquainted with the history and present life of Lithuanian Tatars.

This page is just a small introduction, presented by the Tatar community of the Vilnius region.

Ekskursija In the illustrated excursion-Web site Lithuanian Tatars you will have an opportunity to find out more about Lithuanian Tatars: their culture, history, religion, traditions, rights and privileges, and present life. Presented by the Tatar community of the Vilnius region.

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