34722 Göztepe Campus, Istanbul, Turkey,
The ethnonym “Tatar” has a very long and extremely complicated history. It is inseparably linked with broad historical changes across vast geographic spaces. Tracing the spatial dimension of the changes in the meaning of the name “Tatar” sheds light on the long-term evolution of geographical imaginations in large parts of Eurasia as well as provides useful insights into the politics of modern Tatar nationalism. The article describes the history of the ethnonym “Tatar” from a spatial perspective, focusing first on the evolution of its meaning from medieval times to the 20th century, then considering the use of the name in the context of modern nationalist practices. The latter issue is examined through the developments in the Tatar historiographical thought: the author traces how spatial visions of Tatar history have been transformed from the beginning of the 19th century to the present. In the Tatar historiography the two confronting viewpoints have clashed and interacted (the Bulgarist-Tatarist debate). The article considers this confrontation from the spatial perspective and within the related context of the identity formation process among the Volga-Ural Turkic population, which was profoundly impacted by the Soviet historiography.
Key words: Tatar history, Tatar historiography, the name “Tatar”, national spatial imagination, the Bulgarist-Tatarist debate, Soviet historiography.