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
V. Diutlen, Tatar
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.
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.