Tatars, or Tartars, Turkic-speaking people who live in European Russia and Central Asia. The main group of Tatars lives in the Tatar Republic, a part of Russia in the central part of the Volga Valley. Other large groups of Tatars live in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, the Bashkir Republic (in Russia), and the Crimea (in Ukraine). Most of the Tatars are Sunnite Muslims.
In the 13th century, Mongol hordes, under the rule of Genghis Khan, swept westward across Asia and absorbed various Turkic nomadic tribes who occupied the Russian steppe. The Mongol and Turkic elements merged, and Europeans came to refer to the invaders collectively as Tatars. When Tatar rule over Russia was ended in 1480, many Tatar khanates (principalities) survived, but Russia gradually absorbed them. The last to be annexed was the Crimean khanate, in 1783.
During 1944–45, the Crimean Tatars were deported to Central Asia. Nationalist sentiment among the Tatars of Tatarstan arose during the late 1980's, and in 1991 the republic declared independence. Its independence, however, was not recognized by Russia. During the early 1990's, many Crimean Tatars began returning to their homeland.