The Role of Language in (Re)creating Tatar Diaspora Identity: The Case of the Estonian Tatars

Maarja Klaas


This paper focuses on the meanings assigned to Tatar language among the Tatar diaspora in Estonia. According to interviews with Estonian Tatars as well as descriptions of field material from Tatarstan, language is an important aspect of Tatar ethnic identity. This paper will track common discourses about the Tatar language and the way it is connected to Tatar ethnic identity. Issues concerning Tatar language are used to demonstrate various ways of enacting Tatarness in Estonia. It is shown that Estonian Tatars worry about the vitality and purity of Tatar language, but for some, marginalization of dialects is also an issue. People categorized with the same identity labels by self and others can experience and enact their Tatarness in a variety of different ways.


Tatars; identity; diaspora; language; Islam

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ISSN (print) 1736-6518. ISSN (online) 2228-0987. JEF is a joint publication of the University of Tartu, the Estonian National Museum and the Estonian Literary Museum.