Tatar, Mishari in Russia

Tatar, Mishari
Photo Source:  Anonymous 
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People Name: Tatar, Mishari
Country: Russia
10/40 Window: No
Population: 800
World Population: 800
Primary Language: Tatar
Primary Religion: Islam
Christian Adherents: 1.00 %
Evangelicals: 0.20 %
Scripture: Complete Bible
Online Audio NT: Yes
Jesus Film: Yes
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Ural-Siberian
Affinity Bloc: Turkic Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

The Tatars make up the second largest ethnic group in Russian after the ethnic Russians. Mishars are a sub-group of the Turkic Tatars. They inhabit the right bank of the Volga River up to the right bank of the Oka River to the north in Niznyi Novgorod, Penza and Ulyanovsk regions. The locals refer to the area as Misharistan because it is the land of Mishari Tatar.

Most Tatars become Muslims in the ninth century. They speak a western dialect of the Tatar language. In the 16th century, Ivan the Terrible forcibly baptized many Tatars into the Russian Orthodox Church. However, they Tatars have tried to carefully preserve their Muslim traditions so not to be absorbed into the Russian majority. The Tatars have a reputation for being fierce fighters and excellent horsemen.

Despite the actions of the Soviet government to eradicate Islam in the country, the local Tatars have managed to preserve wooden mosques—unique historical monuments with a 200-year history. But what is more interesting; the Mishari Tatars not only honor their own tradition but keep and respect ancient Russian traditions and holidays. During the Majlis (Assembly), funeral or religious holidays, they place samovars on their tables and drink tea from saucers in the ancient Russian manner.

The Tatars speak Tatar at home and Russian in their schools and in business. Some Tatar leaders have tried to gain more autonomy for the Tatars since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990. The Russian government has resisted these moves.

What Are Their Lives Like?

The Tatars are integrated into the Russian economy. They work in agriculture growing grains, fruits and vegetables. Some Tatars raise cattle, goats and sheep. Other Tatars work in factories and in trade. There is a variety in the lives of Tatars. Some work as day laborers while others have taken advantage of the Russian education system are professionals and owners of businesses.

Tatars often have larger families than ethnic Russians. Tatars see children, especially boys, as a gift from Allah. Young people choose their own mates with the approval of their parents. Tatars tend to marry within their group.

Tatars wear their distinctive clothing on Muslim holidays. They sing songs, recite poetry and dance. Sports involving horses are popular as well as archery and wrestling.

What Are Their Beliefs?

Almost Mishari Tatar are Sunni Muslims. Nevertheless, the Tatar's beliefs remain more liberal and intellectual than the beliefs held by the more Orthodox Muslims of Central Asia or the Caucasus. For instance, in many of their mosques, prayer times have been arranged so as not to conflict with work schedules. Women have also been encouraged to join the men at the mosques instead of praying at home, as is the usual custom.

The Tatars sees being a Muslim as part of their essential personal identity. By becoming a follower of Christ, a Tatar will face persecution from their family and clan.

What Are Their Needs?

The Tatars frequently see Christianity as a European religion. They have faced various forms of discrimination by Russian Orthodox Christians for centuries. The Tatar must understand that becoming a Christian will not change the fact that he or she is a Tatar. Christ alone can forgive their sins and grant them eternal life.

Prayer Points

Ask the Lord to send workers to the Mishari Tatars of Russia.

Pray that God will give mission agencies favor and strategies for reaching these Muslims.

Ask God to open doors for Christian businessmen, teachers and other tentmakers to share the gospel with the Tatars.

Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Mishari Tatar elders and leaders towards Christians so that they will be more receptive to Christ.

Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Mishar Tatars in this decade.

Text Source:   Joshua Project