USAGE BY COUNTRY (OFFICIAL LANGUAGE)Official Language: Republic of Tatarstan Home Speakers: Kazakhstan, Azerbaijian, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan
BACKGROUNDTatar, also spelled Tartar, is spoken in the Reppublic of Tatarstan and other Republics of the former Soviet Union, and also in Siberia. Its nearly 6 million speakers are divided into a number of branches, the most important being the Volga Tatars, who inhabit the lands drained by the Volga River and its affluents The greatest concentrations of Volga Tatars are in the Republic of Tatarstan, where they number about 2 million, and in the Bashkorstan, where they number about one million. A second branch of the Tatars consists of the Siberian Tatars, who number about 100,000 and live in western Siberia. Tatar is a Turkic language belonging to the Altaic family. The Tatars first appear in Russian history in the 13th century when, as the Mongols, they overran most of the country and settled down to rule. The new state was known as the Golden Horde, with its capital at Sarai, near the modern city of Astrakhan. But its distance from the capital of the Mongol Empire, coupled with the small number of governing Mongols in the Horde itself, led to its ultimate absorption by Turkic elements. When the Golden Horde began to collapse in the 15th century, a number of new Tatar kingdoms were formed-Kazan, Astrakhan, Crimean, and Siberian. These in turn fell to Russia a century later. Originally written in the Arabic script, Tatar now uses the Cyrillic.