Volga Tatars in Central Asia, 18th–20th Centuries: From Diaspora to Hegemony
The "Volga Tatars in Central Asia," then, is a theme that is not a matter just of geographical interest but of social, economic, cultural, and political import as well. Moreover, to a greater extent than for many other communities, Tatar identity became shaped by exceedingly complex relationships riddled with ambiguities. Are the Volga Tatars the lineal descendants of the tenth-century Volga Bulgars? If so, then the name Tatar—a much later colonial attribution—ought to be replaced with Bulgar, as members of the social organization, Bulgar al-jadid, have advocated. Largely for raisons d'etat, then, the Russian authorities extended the Tatar diaspora. Moreover, fear of the kind of Islamic unity that Tatar hegemony might produce loomed ever larger in certain Russian circles. Together a web of factors increasingly thrust the Tatars into diplomatic, political, commercial, and religio/cultural positions of influence that, as the Empire faced its late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century demise, opened up unusual hegemonic opportunities for a statistically minor people.