According to the population census of 1989, there were 47328 Tatars in Mordovia, 4,9% of the total population of Mordovia.

The microcensus of 1994 shows the growth of Tatar population by 18% compared to 1989, while the total population of Mordovia has fallen down to 950100 (1996). So, the share of Tatars in Mordovia is growing and according to some sources, is about 8-10% from the total population now.

It is known that the Volga Tatars include two main ethnic groups - Kazan Tatars and Mishars.

It is not possible to use the word Diaspora to designate Tatars of Mordovia, who are Mishars, because Mishars are the nation set independently from Kazan Tatars in XI-XIV centuries in Temnikov Meshchora - now it is Mordovia, East of Ryazan, South of Nizhni Novgorod, North of Penza and Ulyanovsk regions.

Mishars are the aboriginal nation of Mordovia and as they were set as a nation in the very same territory they are autochthonal population. Mishars living in other areas - Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, in all Volga region, Siberia are descendants of the emigrants from Temnikov Meshchora.

Mishars are actually a nation with its own history, language, culture. A nation like Bashkirs, with almost the same correlation to the Kazan-Tatar dialect.

The language of Tatars-Mishars living in Mordovia is called Mishar dialect of Volga-Tatar language. People in the most of the Tatar villages of Mordovia speak "choking" variant of Mishar dialect. There are also four villages in the West of Mordovia where "tsoking" Mishars live.

The carriers of Mishar, Madjar, Madyar ethnonims were spotted in three places during the Middle Ages - in Meshchora, Hungary and the North Caucasus. We should mention that Mishars by their anthropologic features are closer to the North Caucasian tribes, than to Kazan Tatars. We can say the same about Hungarians, or Magyars, which were formed on the base of Ugro-Finns with a serious addition of Turkic Madjars, Pechenegs, Bessermen and Kabars.

Most scientists think that Mishars’ ancestors - Turkic speaking Pechenegs, Polovets, Burtas, Madjars and Old Ugro-Finn speaking Magyars, began settling this area no later than in the 7th century A.D. Some scientists say that the Turkic tribes began populating this area in the 2nd century A.D.

The Turkic and Hazarian Khakanates (Kaganats?), the Volga Bulgaria, the Golden Horde (Mukshi Ulus - an administrative unit of the Golden Horde), the Big Horde, the Temnikov Principality and the Russian state in consecutive order have had influence on the territory where the Mishar ethnos was formed.

Khan Uzbek temporarily moved the capital of the Golden Horde to the ulus centre Muhshi, and began the construction of a new capital only in the 1330-s. That was the period of economic upswing of the area where Mishars lived. But after the death of Uzbek in 1342, as a result of inner dissensions the Golden Horde began to weaken and decay.

The segregation of Mishar lands began in 1361 - two princes - Sekiz-bey on the river Piana and Tagay in Muhshi-Naruchad tried to create their own principalities.

After the first unsuccessful war of Khan Tokhtamysh with Emir Timur in 1388, Khan Behan, a Chingizid, begins consolidating the Meshchora. Because of vulnerability during conflicts with Ryzan Principality he moves the capital from Sarklych (nowadays it is called Sarov, notorious for the first Soviet atomic bomb being created here) to an ancient town, it is called Kangushian gorodishche now (near Kangushi village of the Yelnikovsky district of Mordovia). The date of moving the capital of the coming into being independent state to Temnikov is unknown.

After the second war with Timur in 1391-96 the Golden Horde was completely ruined, the ulus centre Mukhshi-Naruchad (the Narovchat Principality in Russian chronicles) was destroyed, the inhabitants were taken to the Middle Asia. Mukhshi was rebuilt later, but it could not revive to its former importance and the centre of attraction of the remaining Mishars moved to more protected places - Temnikov, Kadom, Yermish, Saryklych, Meshchora Gorodok (Kasimov).

In the completely independent Temnikov Principality, the Mishars actively engaged Mordva - Mokshas and Erzias in the military service. Mordvas had high posts in the principality, some Tatar murzas originated from Mordovian warriors who accepted Islam.

Almost all the prince families of the Temnikov Principality originate from its first independent governor Bekhan, whose posterity was one of the largest groups of Tatar Prince families patriarchs.

The Senate and the supreme authorities of Russia accepted 32 families in merit of "Tatar Princes", 27 of them originate from the Temnikov Meshchora.

The generation of Temnikov murzas, christians and muslims, is very numerous among Tatars, Russians and other peoples. The most famous names are Akchurins, Yengalychevs, Yenikeevs, Kudashevs, Kulunchakovs, Tenishevs and others.

The allies of the Temnikov Principality were the Crimean Khanate and Moscowian Principalty, the rivals were Ryazan Principality, Kazan Khanate and the Big Horde (the main successor of the Golden Horde). In 1502 the Crimeans completely destroyed the Big Horde, and the Moscowian Principality annexed Ryazan.

In that situation the Temnikov Princes had to chose whether to join the strengthening and expanding Moscow and to keep everything except their sovereignty, or to become the enemy of Moscow, which meant that the Principality and the most of its population would be exterminated.

1523 - a crucial point in the history of Mishars - the Temnikov Principality joins the Russian state.

The successors of Bekhan, who governed the country according to old rules proceeding from the Golden Horde institutions, stayed in the head of the administration up to 1570-s. But after the Temnikov Meshchora was accepted into the common Russian system of administration in the last quarter of the 16th century, Bekhanids lost their absoluteness in the country - a Russian voyevoda (warlord) was sent to govern Temnikov.

The actual low percentage of Mishar population in Mordovia can be explained by constant exodus under the influence of different factors.

The first great exodus of Mishars was caused by the destruction of the Golden Horde by Emir Timur in 1395-96.

The second - a terrible drought in 1428-29, when the "choking" Mishars move to Zapyanie, and there was a great epidemy of plague right after the drought in the whole Middle Volga region.

The third exodus - after the Teminkov Principality joined Russia, Mishars took part in all Russian conquests; the Kazan Khanate conquest and Mishars, "choking" and "tsoking" were sent to supervise the conquested Kazan Tatars and Bashkirs.

The fourth exodus - patrol service in the steppes against Nogays and Crimeans. Many went to towns near Moscow to live there. Many Mishars were taken to Kazak service and a part of them, especially where they were not dominant, became Russians.

The fifth exodus - christening of Mishars and intensive rusification.

The sixth exodus - after the weight of Mishars as a significant military power was declining, as the borders of Russia were moved away from the Volga region, in the beginning of the 18th century, when Peter I was ruling, the Sluzhiliy Tatars (Tatars on the state service) were deprived of all franchises and the national, religious and economical oppression was intensified. Up to the abolishment of slavery, almost for 150 years Tatars were exploited very hard. Mishar peasants, and unchristened Murzas (a nobiliary title) and Princes, deprived of all their property and titles among them, were leaving for Bashkortostan, Orenburg area. Some of them became Bashkirs to have taxing and other facilities.

The Tatar community in Mordovia now.

There is one Tatar public organization - the Yaktashlar Society. The religious centre - the muftiat of Mordovia was registered in 1996 but the registration was cancelled in 1997 because of the documentation was made with mistakes.

According to the Ministry of Education, the Tatar language is taught in different forms in 32 schools. Only one primary school teaches in Tatar. Textbooks are unavailable because of serious financial problems.

The training of teachers for Tatar schools is done in colleges in Saransk and in the Ichalki pedagogical school. Tatar language is taught only to a group of Tatar students in the Ichalki pedagogical school. The rating of this school is very low among Tatars, becuse the Ichalki district is mostly populated by Erzias, there are no Tatar villages, the teacher of Tatar comes once a week from Saransk. Those who go to Kazan to study don’t usually come back. Tatar is taught by teachers of different subjects, they get some training during the course of qualification’s improvement in the College of Teacher’s Skills Improvement.

Since August 1997 there is a free republican newspaper for the Tatars of Mordovia, The Tatar Gazette, established by the Yaktashlar society, and which is financed by charity.

Once a week, on Monday, 18:20 there is a 28-minute radiotransmission in Tatar. There is nothing on republican TV.

In Lyambir district centre there is a Centre of Tatar Culture. There is also a folk group Umorzaya (since 1969).

Eminent Tatars from Mordovia: poet Hadi Taktash, writers Sharif Kamal, Abdurakhman Absalyamov, Fakhrelislam Agiyev, literary critic Muhametsha Mamin, journalist Ahmet Simayev, artist Ahmed Kitayev, academician Mirza Mahmutov, Doctors Shamil Ahmetov, Farit Ayzyatov (in Mordovia), Osman Kurmayev, Anvar Layshev, Isaak Mustafin, Zagidulla Syunyayev, Suleyman Yenaleyev, Muhamet Yerzin, Anvar Meshcherov, Husain Meshcherov, Farid Yambushev, the First Secretary of Central Commitee of the Communist Party of Bukhara Alimdjan Akchurin (1920), custodians and performers of folk songs Abdulla Krotov and Hafiz Ishmuhammetov, the Heroes of Soviet Union Colonel General Fatikh Churakov, Alimkay Abdershin, Asym Balyayev.

There is one Tatar in the government of Mordovia - Rafail Ashirov, the Minister of Health. In the administration of the Head of the Republic there is a Tatar too - the director of the informational-analytical office Nazif Yenaleyev. Among the delegates in the Governmental Board (parliament) nearly 10% are Tatars.

Tatars in Mordovia are the most successful in business. There are among them some large and plenty of small businessmen. Apparently this is connected not only with the natural enterprise of Tatar-Mishars but also with the fact that most of bright Tatars find it difficult to realize their abilities in governmental system due to the still existing covered discrimination of Tatars. Bright young Tatars, understanding the vanity of the efforts of making a career in the civil service, go to business that gives fast welfare.

Nowadays, entering the Mordovian University, Tatars don’t feel the discrimination by nationality, which existed in the Soviet times. But long years of that practice have brought to the situation when there are more than twice less people of Tatar nationality with a degree than of other nationalities in the republic.

Young Tatars with a university degree don’t eager to work to the state structures, where there are many obstacles for them, usually artificial, and they go to those spheres of activities, where their nationality does less harm. However, the Tatar businessmen very often complain about the prejudgement of officials, sometimes they have to send their Russian or Mordva employees to them to get a needed result.

E-mail: irek@moris.ru