The Tatars are one of the oldest minorities in Finland. For a hundred years they have kept their culture, religion and language while adapting to Finnish society. There are about a thousand Tatars, who mostly live within the Helsinki area and Tampere.

Most of them speak a Tatar dialect, Mishär, but often mix in Finnish. The Tatars are well educated, at least bilingual and well integrated in Finnish society. They often choose not to express publicly their ethnicity, language or their religion, Islam. Tatar cultural, social and religious activities take place exclusively within the community. It is difficult enter the Tatar community from outside.

The Tatars in Finland originate from Aktuk (Russian: Aktukovo) and neighbouring villages south of the Volga River in Russia. The first Tatars migrated to Finland at the end of the nineteenth century as traders through Saint Petersburg or directly. Still some keep trade companies, but today Tatars can be found in all fields.

The Tatars have always considered themselves liberal, moderate Muslims and have little understanding for fundamentalism. They keep a clear distance to later immigrated non-Tatar Muslims. There are or have been several cultural or hobby organisations or groups, for instance sports clubs, choir, rock band and theatre groups. Since the changes in Russia during the 1990s, the Tatars in Finland have searched for their roots and have active contact with other Tatars, mostly in Kazan.

See Studia Orientalia Electronica Special Issue: Tatars in Finland in the Transnational Context of the Baltic Sea Region

Tatars in Sweden

Tatars moved from Finland to Sweden during World War II and founded cultural and religious organisations. However the numbers have remained low, and soon the Tatars became minorities in the organisations due to immigration from other countries, including Turkey. Although in the 1990s new groups of Tatars have moved from Russia to Sweden, this group is in danger of disappearing.

Article by Sabira Ståhlberg and Ingvar Svanberg in Muslim Tatar Minorities in the Baltic Sea Region. Brill 2016.

Tatars in the Baltic Sea region

Article by Ingvar Svanberg and Sabira Ståhlberg in Baltic Rim Economies (2/2017, PDF 3MB)

Tatars in Saint Petersburg

Tatars participated in the construction of Saint Petersburg and are still part of the city’s population. At the end of the 19th century, Tatars moved in greater numbers to the capital and opened businesses, mostly restaurants and small shops, or they worked as petty traders. From here many moved on to Finland around 1918.

Article by Sabira Ståhlberg and Ingvar Svanberg in Muslim Tatar Minorities in the Baltic Sea Region. Brill 2016.

Peremets – Tatar pastries

Dough: 200 ml fat milk, 1 tbsp butter, 1 egg, 1 tsp salt, about 500 ml wheat flour

Filling: 400 g minced beef,1 finely chopped onion, 2 tsp white pepper, 1 tbsp salt. Vegetarian filling: mashed potatoes instead of meat

Mix half of the flour with the milk (room temperature). Mix in the other ingredients to make a firm dough. Leave for 30 minutes. Prepare the filling.

Form a long, thick ”sausage” of the dough and cut into 24 pieces. Roll every piece into a ball, flatten it out with your fingers and roll into thin ”pancakes” about 13 cm diameter. Put 2-3 tbsp filling in the middle of the ”pancake”, flatten it out but leave 3 cm at the margin. Lift the dough edge with your fingers and make small folds all around. Leave a 1 cm hole in the middle.

Fry in oil or bake in the oven the relatively flat pastries with hole down in hot oil or butter. Turn over when one side gets golden brown. Serve with salt cucumber, pickled beetroot, tomato, fresh cucumber, creme fraiche, any Balkan yoghurt, mustard, ketchup or melted butter mixed with hot water.