Tatar in Lithuania

Tatar
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Shamilini - Shutterstock  All rights reserved.  Used with permission
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People Name: Tatar
Country: Lithuania
10/40 Window: No
Population: 2,200
World Population: 6,370,400
Primary Language: Tatar
Primary Religion: Islam
Christian Adherents: 1.00 %
Evangelicals: 0.10 %
Scripture: Complete Bible
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: Yes
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Ural-Siberian
Affinity Bloc: Turkic Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

The ancestors of the Tatars were a nomadic people living in northeastern Mongolia near Lake Baikal starting in the 5th century CE. Some of the Tatars and other Turkic peoples became part of Genghis Khan's conquering armies in the early 13th century, leading to a fusion of Mongol and Turkic peoples. These invaders of Russia and Hungary became known to Europeans as "Tatars" meaning "archer." After Genghis Khan's power eroded, Tatars were associated with the western half of the remaining Mongol domain and known as the Golden Horde. The Tatars have had a strong civilization since the tenth century. Tatars came to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania as allies in a battle against the Crusaders in 1319-1320. They settled in Trakai, Vilnius and Alytus. More settled in Lithuania at the end of the century. Most of these Tatars were with the military, though they also served in diplomatic services. For the next 400 years they were prominent in the Lithuanian military, but by the beginning of the 20th century some Tatars in Lithuania were artists, doctors and scientists.

What Are Their Lives Like?

Lithuanian Tatars are concentrated in Alytus, Kaunas and Vilnius counties. In order to maintain their cultural distinctions, Lithuanian Tatars formed the Lithuanian Tatar Cultural Revival Society in 1988 around the time Lithuania left the USSR. They have their own newspaper and organize their own cultural events. Starting in 1997 they began to restore their folklore through the first collective, "Alije." There is also the Trakai History Museum with a permanent exhibit of Lithuanian Tatar history. Tatars also have their own culinary arts. Their signature dish is called simtalapis. It is a layered cake with poppy filling. They also love dumplings with lamb and beef, pumpkin pie with meat, and scones.

What Are Their Beliefs?

Many Tatars place more of their identity in Islam than in being Tatar. Most are Hanafite, one of the four schools of Sunni Islam. While orthodox Muslims believe in Allah as the only God, many Tatars still honor saints and holy places. Some believe in supernatural powers such as the "evil eye," involving the ability to curse someone with a glance. Unlike most Muslims some of the Tatar eat pork, and very few observe the prescribed Islamic fasts. They remain more liberal than most orthodox Muslims of Central Asia, even inviting women to pray in the mosques instead of at home.
Unfortunately, the Tatars' view of Christianity has been scarred by negative interactions with the Russian Orthodox Church and its earlier attempts to convert them through force. This has served to get them more dedicated to Islam and weary of any form of Christianity.

What Are Their Needs?

Christian laborers are needed to live and work among the Tatars. The Tatars are an unreached people group wherever they live.

Prayer Points

Pray for the Lord to provide an abundant grain harvest among the Tatar that will demonstrate His power and goodness.
Pray for Holy Spirit-driven workers to go to the Tatar people and begin a church planting movement.
Pray for a spiritual hunger that will drive the Tatars to the empty tomb.
Pray for a powerful Tatar church where people place their hope and identity in Christ alone.

Text Source:   Joshua Project