Sunday, March 3, 2019

Number of Volga Tatars in Moscow Attached to Their National Community Greater than Russian Census Reports

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 3 – Until the end of Soviet times, many members of the Volga Tatar community in the Russian capital spoke Tatar and maintained their Muslim identity; but since 1991, they have been overwhelmed by the influx of Tatars who had been living in Central Asia and who on leaving there came to Moscow rather than to Kazan, Marat Safarov says.   

            Most of the new arrivals speak Russian rather than Tatar as their first language and, as educated professionals, are less closely tied to Islam than Tatars who had lived and worked in the Russian capital earlier, the historian says in the course of a lengthy article on the community (

                Many of the Tatars in Moscow are thus acculturated and even on their way to partial or full assimilation by the ethnic Russians, he suggests, something that has sparked controversy of just how many Tatars there are now in the Russian capital. The 2010 census says there are 149,000; but many Tatars believe that there are many more, perhaps as many as a million.

            Unlike the 2002 census which had many problems, Safarov says, the 2010 enumeration was relatively good. But it failed to capture those who have ties to the Tatar community either via one or another parent or by marriage. If such people are included among the Tatars, the larger figure Tatars give is not as unreasonable as it might appear.

            While such people have generally lost the Tatar language, they remain attached to national traditions and festivals and attend mosque on major holidays.  Such links, he continues, are part of “a natural process for a megalopolis” and no reason for “panic” among the Tatar community.

            That is all the more so, Safarov says, because “people continue to visit the Tatar cultural center and the mosque, and their number in that regard is not declining.” 

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