- 30 Ноября, 2020
SHARDS OF THE GOLDEN HORDE: POLISH (LITHUANIAN) TATARS
Ambassador of Poland to Kazakhstan,
professor at the University of Warmia and Mazury
in Olsztyn, doctor of рolitical science
The Polish Tatars, the Lithuanian Tatars, the Polish –Lithuanian Tatars, the Lipka Tatars, the Tatars of the Great Duchy of Lithuania, the Polish Muslims, Muślimi, The Polish-Lithuanian Muslims, the Tatar Muslims in Poland and Lithuania, the Muslim – Tatars, they are the names have been used to describe the Polish Tatars during the whole history. These names have been referred to ethnicity or to religion as well as territory.
Appearing of Tatars in the Great Duchy of Lithuania in the turning of 14th and 15th centuries had occurred before the period of modern nations forming. For this reason, the Polish Tatars identity has never been at the stage of ‘nationality’ - in the contemporary understanding. Their ethnicity has always been tribal, thus there is more dual, archaic national identity – both Polish and Lithuanian. This was noticed by Marek Karp, the late founder of the Center of Eastern Studies. This is obviously one of theories associated with the Polish Tatars. The another one comes from Zbigniew Jasiewicz, a scientist from Poznan. In 1975, he conducted the research with the cooperation with students from the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan (AMU) scientific circle of ethnographers. The research results were published in 1980, in ‘Lud’. He indicated that Tatars lost attributes of an ethnical group due to assimilation, therefore they should be classified as an ethnographic group with only some distinguishing features. This thesis did not stand the test of time, after the year of 1989, there was a kind of the Polish Tatars ethnical rebirth connected with, among others, the setting of the Association of Tatars in the Republic of Poland in 1992. Zbigniew Jasiewicz withdrew his previous statement. The following researches on the Polish Tatars ethical and religious identity were carried out by Katarzyna Warminska. This researcher from Cracow published the results of her scientific peregrination without giving the accurate and unequivocal answer to the questions of this group identity and its definition of ethnicity.
Stanislaw Kryczynski, a pre–war researcher of the Tatar tradition in Poland and Lithuania, claimed, probably the most justly, that the name of ‘Tatar’ is enough exact as a historical-political term. From his point of view, the term of ‘Lithuanian Tatars’ is the most appropriate for a group of people with the Turkish origin, living on the territory of The Great Duchy of Lithuania in the 15th century. This term comes from the name of Lipka Tatarłar given by the Crimean Tatars and Ottoman Turks. This name in the form of Lipkowie was used to depict this group of people in Poland in the17th century.
Kryczynski, with the reference of the mentioned above ethnical names of Tatar -Tatarzy, quoted Ananiasz Zajaczkowski‘s findings. This latter one claims that because of the term confusing, which was mainly done by medieval Russian chroniclers, one started to distinguish Tatar and Turkish people. This is a non-scientific stand. The name of Tatar is not sufficient to be ethnographically classified because of these terms confusion. In order to specify one should use the adjective comes from the geographical name, such as: Abakan, Kazan, Crimean, Lithuanian Tatars etc. Zajaczkowki also criticizes the name of Lithuanian Muślimi, as it does not reflect the ethnical origin of this group but focuses only on the religion followers. The supporter of the last name was Julian Talko- Hryncewicz, an ethnographer, professor of the Jagiellonian University, this group researcher and the author of the publications under this title. He supported the name of Lithuanian Muślimi pointed at both varied ethnical background of the Tatar group in Poland and Lithuania, this lack of clarity in the term of the name was mentioned by Zajaczkowski, and at the Muslim religion as a key element of identity forming and self-identification of group members forming.
Contemporary researchers, hardy ever dealing with this problem, give the findings similar to Zajaczkowski ones. It is worth that mention that the last names used to describe the Polish Tatars in the former Republic of Poland – the Hospodar and Cossack Tatars. These terms describe not the ethnical background but the social hierarchy. Furthermore, Radziwill Tatars depicts belonging to the one of noble families.
During the interwar period, The Polish Tatars described themselves as a minority or a national group.
To conclude, it is worth to notice, that according to Act of 6 January 2005 on national and ethnic minorities, The Polish Tatars are an ethnical minority.
The History of Settlement 14th – 18th Centuries
Gilbert de Lannoy, from France, wrote about the Tatar settlement in Lithuania. He was in Troki in 1414 and reported: ‘There is also, in mentioned above town in Troki and outside it in a few villages, a huge number of Tatars, living with families, they are normal Saracen, they have nothing from Jesus Chris faith, but they have own language called Tatar’. The oldest settlement was established due to the initiative of the Great Duke of Lithuania – Vytautas. He treated Tatars as good and brave soldiers, and thanks to these Tatar migrants from Crimea and the Golden Horde, intended to fulfill his long–range plans in the East. It was depended on geopolitical factors such as the disintegration of the Golden Horde into khanates: Crimean, Astrakhan, Kazan and Siberian, inferior fights, and connected with them economic problems, the pressure of Lithuania and Moscow – two forming powers in the 15th century. The Tatar settlement in Moscow Duchy and in the Great Duchy of Lithuania had economic and partly political background. The economic factor, in this case, was caused by the climate, for example: a lack of rainfall, drought that was a disaster for a nomad people. The territory of settlement was Lithuanian – Russian borderlands from the Carpathians in the East to Kazan and Wild Fields where Tatar people came into a settled way of life. In the frontiers of the Great Duchy of Lithuania and Grand Moscow Duchy in Sieviersk Land there was even the fief of Jaholdaj Khan so called Jahołdajewszczyzna (Jaholdaj Land) lasting to 1494. After that it was incorporated to Moscow. This fief of Jaholdaj Khanate was the first form of Lithuanian Tatar statehood.
The Tatar settlement in Lithuania increased in the period of military conflicts between the Khan of the Golden Horde and Timur Lenk (Tamerlane) – a real ruler of Ulus Chagatai. Therefore, Jan Tyszkiewicz’s assumption, from the beginning of 14th century until the year of 1440, the Lithuanian areas were mainly settled by migrants from the Volga Region, which is connected with the origin of Tokhtamysh’s supporters and his sons from Volga Bulgaria.
The Tatars occurred in Lithuania during the ruling of Jagiello’s father, the Duke Algirdas, whereas Vytautas proceeded his military colonization consequently. He settled the Tatars in the borderlands with the Teutonic Order, near the biggest cities: Grodno, Trakai, Vilnius, Kreva, Navahrudak, Minsk.
The next stage of Tatar migration to Lithuania was linked with inferior fights between Gireis in the Crimean Khanate. The important moment within the Tatar settlement in the Great Duchy of Lithuanian took place on the 5th August 1505 – the battle of Kletsk. During this fight the Lithuanian forces under Michal Glinski command, the prince with Tatar background, won with the Crimean Tatars. A lot of prisoners of war settled in towns belonged to Radziwill family and in the neighborhood of Minsk. There was another wave of migration in the second part of 16th century, this time by refugees from the areas captured by Ivan IV Terrible (The Kazan Khanate – 1552 and The Astrakhan Khanate – 1556).
The last great migration took part in 1637 after the rage of Budziacz Horde against the Crimean Khan. This time a part of rebels asked the Commonwealth of Poland for protection, it is estimated that two thousand soldiers with families came to Ukraine.
The Tatar migration to Poland and Lithuania had a reverse direction during centuries. The second part of 17th century brought the counterreformation restrictions and limitations of Tatar civic liberties. In the same time, the religious freedom was also limited. The Tatar companies did not receive the pay. Finally, the Seym passed the bill putting the Tatars on the same level as peasants. In response, the Tatar units gave the notice of service for the Commonwealth of Poland and came to the Turkish side. It was 1673 – the beginning of the Polish – Turkish war which was ended after the death of Michal Korybut Wisniowiecki. The new king - Jan III Sobieski – signed the treaty in Zurawno in 1676. Due to the King negotiations with Tatars, the majority of them came back under the Polish banners. This Tatar protest in the protection of their rights was called the ‘Lipka’s range’. It was the withdrawal of some parts of the Tatars units from the Polish army. They were Tatars mainly from Ukraine and Volhynia, in the majority, from the last wave of migration in 1637. The Tatars who had settled in the Great Duchy of Lithuania, especially these ones from the oldest settlements near Vilnius and Troki, were loyal to the Commonwealth of Poland. The leader of rebels was the cavalry captain - Aleksander Kryczyński, appointed the bey (command) of Bar fortress in 1678. After his death the bey (Turkish: beylik) was given to Hussein Murawski.
During Polish – Turkish Wars 1672-1676 the issue of Tatars played an important role. In the treaties ending these military expeditions (treaties in Buczacz and Zurawno) the Turkish put the pressure in order to state the rights of free movement for Tatars, even of leaving the Commonwealth of Poland. About eight thousand Tatars left Poland this time, some of them came back afterwards. It must be said that the main reason of the rage was the pay arrears (3 years) and too high taxes, among them head tax, which made Tatars peasants. The Turkish settled them mainly in Dobruja, on the territory of present Romania, where about 35 thousands of Tatar minority live. For the second time, the Tatars migrated to the Ottoman Empire form the Polish-Lithuanian areas in the first part of the 18th century.
During the Great Northern War, after Charles XII entering, some Tatars supported Stanislaw Leszczynski. After the defeat in the battle of Poltava, in Lithuania, Tatars started to be grinded down with intolerance and religious fanaticism by some nobles. It was also caused by famine and plagues, which were devastating the country. Because of the oppression, mainly religious one, a vast part of Tatars migrated to Ottoman Turkey. They were again settled down in Dobruja, as in 1673. A lot of Tatars went to Chocim, under the rule of Turkey.
The Tatar settlement was also in the village of Kruszyn in Podlasie. In 1657, eleven Tatars from this place came to a display (inspection). The Suwalki Region (Suwalszczyzna) was also called Zapuszcza and the Tatars living there – The Zapuszcza Tatars. In the 19th century, this group was the most resistant to russification. Because of some political rights in comparison to Lithuania. They were more Polonized. These relations were depicted as: ‘The cultural life of Zapuszcza people – was not different from their neighbours’ – the Polish. The Polish magazine were subscribed, during social meetings public issues were discussed, old days were recalled, the November and the January Uprising. (…)’. At the turning of the 19th and 20th century, Tatars properties in Zapuszcze started to decay, broken landowners began to sell their lands. There was no property left until the 1920s or 1930s. Today, there are only symbolic remains of the Tatar cemetery in Suwalki, which indicates previous Tatar settlement in this region.
In Augustów – Suwałki region, the Tatar settlement begun in the 17th/18th century. It was located by the hamlet of Viksnuipiai (Wiksznupie) – nowadays within the Lithuanian borders. Baranowski – cavalry commander – had received here six voloks by 1662.
The Baranowsky family lived in Grodno and Bialystok districts, using ‘Tuhan’ and ‘Grzymała’ coats of arms. This family started to succeed during the period of the Swedish ‘deluge’. The settlement on the former county of Brest and Kobryń, in Podlasie Region should be mentioned. The first one consisted of Brest-Litovsk (current: Brest on the Bug that is Brest, belonged to Belorussia), Biała Podlaska, Włodawa. Jan III Sobieski launched the settlement in this region by locating colonel Samuel Murza Korycki and his thirty soldiers in Brest county: the villages of Lebiedziewo and Małaszewicze and in Kobryn county: Batcza, Litwinki, Kleszcze, Pohatycze, Piaski, Żabiny, Ruchawicze as well as in Studzianki. In the same time, the cavalry captain Samuel Murza Krzeczowski was granted lands in Kruszyniany, Łużany and Nietup – in the Grodno district, whereas the cavalry captain Olejewski together with his company received some grounds in Bohoniki, Drahle, Malowicze – in the Sokolniki Forestry. These lands, given by Sobieski in the Crown Land, became an object at issue between the Tatars-tenants and the Lithuanian treasurer – Antoni Tyzenhauz, during the Stanisław August Poniatowski ruling. This dispute was lasting for many years, Tyzenhauz considered the lands granted to Tatars by Sobieski and Wettins as given illegally and tended to eliminate Tatars. The Jan III Sobieski ruling should be treated as the end of the Tatars’ settlement in the Kingdom of Poland and in the Great Duchy of Lithuania. All the following changes resulted from new social, political – and economic factors; no from the Tatar people migration within the borders of the Commonwealth of Poland.
The Settlement Distribution and Structure
The beginning of settlement, 15th and 16th centuries, was defined by Krzysztof Grygatis as the centers of ‘ethical concentration’. It was a kind of tribal structure rebirth in Lithuania, at least partly in the territorial banner recruitment, i.e. Tatar light cavalry units. This territorial-banner structure was connected with the military service rules in exchange for the land grant. This type of army organization was called Cossack, at that time. The Cossack Tatars are these ones who received some land in exchange for the military service. Since the half of the 17th century, there had been changes in the distribution of the Tatar settlement in the Kingdom of Poland. The Tatars’ settlement in Vilnus and Nowogródek lands deteriorated because of wars with Moscow and massive damages. The Tatars moved to Volhynia, Podlasie and so called Zapuszcza (current Suwalki and Augustów districts). In the 17th century, one can notice a slowly decline of the former Tatar properties based on the Cossack location. The cost of this service overcame the ability of the Tatar landowners. They often got rid of their properties and went to a mercenary army in the exchange for a pay. This led to controversy and protest of the nobles, it was an issue of some Seym interpellations in the 17th century.
The following changes in the structure and the distribution of the Tatar settlement were caused by partitions. Above all, the Tatar settlement in the Kingdom of Poland was divided by the borders of occupants. The main part, which there as in the Vilnus, the Nowogródek and the Minsk regions, remained under the Russian control. The settlement west from Neman – the surroundings of Augustów, Suwałki, Kalwaria, as well as in the Grodno and Sokolniki lands were from 1795 to 1807 under the Prussia power. Finally, the Tatar settlement in the south part of Podlasie, in the neighborhood of Studzianki, became a part of the Austria Partition, so called West Galicia. New authorities treated the Tatars with respect. Russian tsars’ ukases, Catherine II of 2 December 1795, Paul I – November 1796 and Alexander I of 9 November 1801 confirmed former and provided new privileges for the Tatar landowners.
After 1815, all the territories settled by the Tatars were within the Russia borders or in dependent on Russia Congress Poland (which was formed by Greater Poland detachment from the Dutchy of Warsaw). Favorable political factors, i.e. the introduction of the Napoleonic Code in the Dutchy of Warsaw and extensive autonomy of the Kingdom of Poland till 1831, caused that the Tatars living in Podlasie, the Suwalki Land and Zapuszcza started to participate in the social and political life earlier than those one settling in the lands incorporated to Russia directly. In 1818, inhabitants of the Biała Podlaska district elected Jan Murza Tara Buczacki, a Tatar, to the Seym of the Kingdom of Poland, it was a sign of entire acculturation of the Tatar minority in the society of the time.
There was a change in the economic and social conditions. The Tatars landowners began to solve the problems which they had with their properties’ maintenance and keeping the previous standards of living quite fast by starting working in administration, judicature, finances, local governments and the Russian army. Whereas the poor noblemen, because of the Polish army disposal – the service in which had provided them means of livehood, pauperized very quickly. They moved into town, started to work in craft, gardening, carting, tannage. In the second half of the 19th century, there was a formation of the Tatar intelligence, lawyers, freelances, sometimes doctors. The traditional landowners’ class connected the most often the work in the local and state governments or the service for the emperor-Russian army with farming in properties.
In the 19th century, due to the social-economic process described above, the rural settlement near Vilnus and Trakai began to decline gradually. The new Tatar settlements became in the north - east from Vilnius, in the direction of the Daugava, towards Breslau and Myadel. A numerous Tatar settlement was formed in Navahrudak, Lachowice, Kletsk, Nesvixh and their surroundings. There was the ‘Tatar Street’ with a mosque in the suburbs of Slonim.
A significant number of Tatars settled in Vilnius itself, where since the 18th century there had been a Tatar settlement in Łukiszki. In the turning of the 18th and 19th centuries, a mosque was built there, renovated in the second half of the 19th century. Many Tatars settled down in Minsk, where there were such districts or suburbs inhabiting by Tatars called ‘sloboda Tatarska’ and ‘ogrody tatarskie’ until to 1950s. The Tatars mainly dealt with gardening, saddlery, carting, purse making, tannage.
The Polish-Lithuanian Tatar War Effort
The Tatar settlement in Lithuania had had a military character since the beginning. The Tatars had six banners in the Lithuanian Army, which the recruitment area more or less corresponded to the territories inhabited by particular tribes. A banner was led by a banner bearer or a cavalry captain. This dignity was inherited among the Tatar aristocracy families. These banners were: Juszynska, Jałoirak, Najmańska, Barińska, Kondracka, Ułańska. Since the beginning of the 17 centuries, the division on the ancestral – territorial bases had been gradually loosening, so that at the turn of the 17th and 18th countries it completely disappeared. The Tatars mainly started to join the mercenary army, which caused the noblemen protests against them. The nobilities demanded Tatars not to fight in the exchange for a pay, whereas their ancestors were granted lands. However, in a case of long-term service and wars conducted by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the 17th century, especially with Moscow in the middle of the century, Tatars properties started to deteriorate, not giving sufficient income to survive. This is why, the Tatars sold them and joined the mercenary armies.
The Tatars participated in all Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth military needs. The Tatar units took part in the battle of Grunwald in 1410, during the Thirteen Years’ War from 1453–1466, in an expedition during the Livonian War with Moscow conducted by Stefan Batory in the years of 1578-1582, in the Battle of Kircholm in 1605, in Polish-Turkish wars in 17th century supporting the Polish side, in the Great Northern War and in the Seven Years’ War in the framework of the Royal Saxon Arm, during the period of Augustus I and Augustus II, under Colonel Alexander Ułan’s command, after his surname the whole light cavalry was named.
Tatars took part at the Bar Confederation as soldiers of the 4th Advance Guard Regiment of the Dutchy of Lithuania, under Józef Bielak’s command – a Lithuanian Tatar. In 1790, this unit consisted of the staff unit in the number of 14 officers, Mustafa Achmatowicz’s 74-person general squadron, cavalry captain Samuel Bielak’s 70-persons squadron and cavalry captain Józef Ułan’s 76-persons squadron. Colonels’ posts were provided 612 soldiers, but actually 442 ones served there. Thus, unit consisted of Polish – Lithuanian Tatars. This unit joined to confederates on about 12-15 June 1769. It was the main part od the Confederation Army in Navahrudek and Grodno districts.
This unit together with its commander in person – Joseph Bielak, participated in the Kosciuszko Insurrection. During the access to uprising, the Tatar unit under Bielak’s command – 4th Advance Guard Regiment of the Dutchy of Lithuania, numbered approximately 630 soldiers and officers. In 1792, the unit together with its commander took part in the war with Russia in the defense of the Constitution of 3 May.’ ‘Gazeta Narodowa y Obca’ from 1792, number XLII of 26 May, on page 249 states, that: ‘The Tatar nation through the elected deputies inform on the provincial session of the Great Duchy of Lithuania, that in Warsaw, as well as in provinces, these brave soldiers, gathered to their Mullahs or clergymen swore on the Alkoran to protect the King, Homeland and the Government Act’. The Tatar unit had a battle contact with General Mellina’s Russian army on 30th May 1792, near Talachyn. It was the first Polish unit fighting in the defense of the Constitution of 3 May.
In 1794, Bielak’s unit was a part of insurrection corps under the command of Franciszek Sapieha. On 5 June 1794, General Bielak took the corps command from Sapieha and becoming the chief of the insurrectionary army in Lithuania for short. General Józef Bielak also one of the first awarded The War Order of Virtuti Militari. The rest of General Bielak unit, after his death, were under the command of Colonel Achmatowicz and Azulwiecz, took part in the defense of Warsaw, against Suvorov’s forces. They protected Praga, where a lot of Tatars soldiers were killed. They also fought to protect Vilnius, where Colonel Azulewicz fell.
In 1797, two units on an ‘Uhlan post’ consisted of Lithuanian Tatars were formed in the Russian Army. These units after the Napoleon wars were reduced, one of them existed almost until the first half of the 19th century in parallel with the cavalry unit of Crimean Tatars.
In 1795–806, there was a Tatar cavalry unit in the Prussia army, set out by Frederick William on 20 November 1795. It was under Janusz Murza Tarnowski’s command. It consisted of five squadrons in the total number of 250 soldiers - Tatar noblemen and 250 privates. There were 11 officers from the Tuhan-Baranowski family. In 1799, the Tatar unit were transformed into a battalion with one entirely Tatar squadron, whilst in 1806, this Tatar unit was eliminated.
Almost every soldier and officer came from the Tatar settlements to the west of the Neman, such as Winkszupie, the surroundings of Augustów, Sejny and Suwałki.
In 1812, during Napoleon’s I Grande Armee Russian Campaing, Polish-Lithuanian Tatars started to organize themselves. On 12 August 1812, the governor of Lithuania on behalf of Emperor Napoleon, General Dirk Hogendorp issued a note to express his hope of organizing a voluntary corps of Tatar cavalry. On 23 October 1812, newly appointed the commander of Tatar cavalry, mentioned above Colonel Mustafa Murza Achmatowicz, issued the manifesto to the Lithuanian Tatars in which, he wrote, among others: ‘Nationals, Brothers and Friends! I would like to announce that in order to prove our zeal in the service of Poland, our lovely Homeland, to reinforce our antient opinion in this kingdom (Lithuania), which just came back under the protection of the Great Emperor and King – Napoleon, I and my comrades, who share the same view, have asked the government of Lithuania, for an agreement to form the Tatar regiment’. While this unit was being formed, the Grande Armee withdrawal from Moscow began, for this reason only one - the first planned squadron was formed. It numbered, except the commander, 4 captains, 7 colonels and second lieutenants and approximately 50 soldiers. On 12 December 1812, Mustafa Achmatowicz, the commander and the squadron organizer, was killed. His successor was Samuel Ułan till to the squadron dissolution. In the autumn of 1813, the squadron was attached to Light Cavalry Regiment of the Imperial Guard. This squadron, who fought only for one year, numbered only 46 people therein 23 fit to fight. In April 1814, there was only one officer and 14 soldiers left. In 1814, after the abdication of Napoleon, they returned to Lithuania.
Tatars also participated in the November Uprising of 1830 fighting in the ranks of the Volhynian Calvary Regiment under Colonel Karol Różycki’s command and in the January Uprising of 1963. In this last one, the most merited was the Tatar unit under the command of Alexander Achmatowicz who operated in the area of the Sejny district. He defeated the Russian army in the battle of ‘Pawłówka’ near Sejny and in Veisiejai in this district. He was a member of the Tatar noble family – Achmatowicz with Achmat coast of arms, living in the Suwałki province in the 19th century. He graduated from gymnasium in Sejny. Alexander Bohdanowicz, who at first supported insurgents of 1863 and later cooperated with Alexander Sulkiwiecz, was remarkable as well. This last one was also a Tatar, a co-founder of PPS (Polish Socialist Party) together with Józef Piłsudski, a member of the founding congress of this party in 1892. Bohdanowicz was a revenue officer in Seyjny. Adam Tuhan-Baranowski should be also mentioned, a nobleman of the cavalry district, an active participant of the uprising in the Suwalki region, a chief of the Polish National Gendarmerie in the region of Marijampole, Kalwaria and Vawkavysk.
The Tatar military units were also active in the renascent Poland. In January 1919, Józef Pilsudki, the Chief of State and Commander in Chief, ordered to organize ‘Tatar cavalry’, which size was not set due to the problem of even rough estimation of Tatar people number. The Committee for Protection of the Eastern Borderlands under Władyslaw Raczkiewcz ‘s command, later the first president of the Polish government in exile, was responsible for the Tatar unit organization, At the beginning of January of 1919, the recruitment power was given to Colonel Maciej Mustafa Bajraszewski and Dawid Janowicz-Czaiński, both connected with the Central Committee of Polish, Lithuania, Belarussian and Ukrainian Tatars. In the autumn of 1919, a young Konstantin Kerim Achmatowicz and Leon Arslan Achmatowicz, went to the Minsk district to enlist. Recruiters issued a manifesto to the Tatar people which referred to these ones from 1792 and 1812. It was written, among others: ‘To all loyal Quran believers! Many ages had been passing since the time when the magnificent Polish Commonwealth, holding You to its bosom, giving You lands and the knighthood, providing the freedom of religion and the full citizens right, became Your Second Homeland. You repaid by true love and loyal service. Your Tatar regiments had always been the first to fight, the last in retreat – fighting against a Moskal and a Swedish, accompany Sobieski, following the Napoleon Eagles traits went to Moscow.
Today, when Homeland is in danger again, we addressed to You, believing in Your bravery… All loyal Prophet followers to arms! Our old Tatar regiment of the Polish Republic is reborning and call You all the loyal, living in Poland and Lithuania, to its forces under the green Prophet’s banner! (…)’.
On 16 September 1919, due to the daily order number 113 of Commander-in Chief, ‘Tatar cavalry regiment’ was renamed into ‘Colonel Mustafa Achmatowicz’s Tatar Ulahs Regiment’ whereas on 20 January, General Alexander Romanowicz became its commander. At the same time there was the order to direct all Tatar soldiers serving in the Polish army to the Ulans’ regiment. In the first half of 1920, the regiment consisted of 6 officers and 226 ulans. On the 2nd July 1919, an Iman – a Muslim cleric heard the army oath from the regiment soldiers. In the end of the year, in the winter, the regiment units fought with Bolsheviks in Polesie. In April 1920, the regiment was incorporated into the 7th Cavalry Brigade commanded by General Romanowicz and took part in the Kiev offensive, in May. In the morning of 7 May 1930, the 3rd squadron of the Tatar Cavalry as the first serried unit of the Polish Army went into Kiev. In the afternoon, the rest of the regiment led by General Romanowicz entered the city. On the 9th May, the regiment took part in the Polish army parade in Khreshchatyk, the main street of Kiev, in the front of General Rydz- Śmigły.
The Tatar Ulans’ Regiment took covering operations during the retreat of the Polish forces from Ukraine and in September 1920, it took part in the Warsaw Battle, protecting the crossing through the Vistula, in the framework of the Płock defense. On 16th September, the raid in the force of 6 Tatar cavalry ulans fought with the Bolsheviks whose units had just taken Płonsk and Bielsk.On the 18th August, there was a bloody battle for the left bank of the Vistula. In the city itself, taken by Bolsheviks, few groups of soldiers were fighting. Finally, the Red Army retreated, even Płock was taken back. After the Warsaw Battle, the Tatar Ulans’ Regiment due to massive damages was disformed per the order of 25th September 1920. On the 17th September 1920, it was replaced by the Mahometan Squadron under the cavalry captain Emir Hassan Chursz ‘s command. The commander came from Caucasus. This squadron existed till 1922, earlier on the 6th July 1921, it was transformed into the 1st Squadron of the Mounted Fusilier Regiment and on the 2nd February 1922, it was incorporated as the 3rd squadron into the 10th Mounted Fusilier Regiment.
In 1936, the 1st squadron of the Vilnusis Ulans’ Regiment was renamed into the 1st Tatar Squadron. Since 1936, it was under the command of a Polish Tatar, captain cavalry Alexander Jeljaszewicz. The squadron together with the 13th Regiment of Vilnius Uhlans in the framework of the Wilenska Cavalry Brigade took part in the 1939 Defensive War. It was decimated during the Vistula crossing, a part of the squadron was joined to the Independent Operational Group ‘Polesie’, commanded by general Kleberg.
Many of the Polish-Lithuanian Tatars were in conspiracy or in the Home Army – it was their last input into the martial history. For instance, Veli Bek Jedigar was a chief of cavalry staff of the Home Army Headquarters, whereas Antoni Olechnowicz was the last commander of the Vilnius Home Army Ares as well in Vilnius as in later after his transit to Pomerania. He was also in charge of ‘Łupaszka” unit who also fled to Gdansk and Pomerania.
In 1922, on the waves of tradition reviving after the system transformation, The Polish Tatar Military Commission stood up. It was responsible for, on behalf of the reborn Organization of Tatars of the Polish Republic, negotiating with the Ministry of National Defense of the Republic of Poland and the government of Jan Olszewski about bringing the Tatar tradition in the Polish Army back to life.
The 2nd Half of the 19th Century and the 20th Century
In Saint Petersburg, in the end of the 19th century, there was a quite big settlement of the Polish and other inhabitants of the Empire. According to the statics data, in 1900, there were 50 thousand Poles living there, that stood for 3,57% of the city population. The same statistics shows that there were about 5,8 thousand Tatars from Crimea, the Volga Region, and Siberia settled in Saint Petersburg. In these numerous national mosaics there also were the Polish-Lithuania Tatars. In Saint Petersburg, activists of national, Pan-Turkism and Pan-Islam movements in Russia were educated. Among them one could also find Polish-Tatars students from such families as Achmatowicz, Kryczyński, Sulkiewicz, Bazerewski et al. At that time, at the beginning of the 20th century, Leon Kryczyński began to be an organizer and leader. He descended from the old, landowner Tatar knez family of Najman Mirza Kryczyński, originated from the knez family of Nejman-Piotrowicz, one of the oldest Tatar aristocratic family of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Leon, together with his brother, Olgierd started to organize the Tatar academic youth in the contemporary Petersburg, formatting illegally the Polish Tatars Academics Circle in 1907-1908. Brothers – Leon and Olgierd Najman Mirza Kryczyński, participated actively in the movement of Muslim nations in Russia rebirth, after the year of 1920, they built keenly the Polish reality. Leon Kryczyński was a leader, a publisher, an activist, a writer. After 1935, he lived in Gdynia, acting as a vice-president of a regional court. He was an editor – in -chief and in practice the publisher of ‘Rocznik Tatarski’, which actually was more as an almanac than a periodical. Three volumes of ‘Rocznik Tatarski’ were issued, they were a basis for scientific research on the Polish-Lithuanian Tatars as well as for this group self-identification .In 1939, he was killed by Germen in Piaśnica. Olgierd Kryczyński was also a social and political leader of the Polish Tatars, the chairman of Muslim Community in Warsaw, the prosecutor of the Supreme Court in Poland, killed by NKWD (The
People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs) in Smolensk, in 1941.
One of the most well-known Tatars of this period, were Alexander Sulkiewicz, Maciej Sulkiewicz and Jakub Szynkiewicz. Aleksander Szulkiewicz, descended from the old Tatar aristocracy, a close colleague and a friend of Marshal Piłsudki from the early period of fighting for independence. He was one of the co-founders of PPS (The Polish Socialist Party), he was in charge of smuggling the underground newspaper published by PPS – ‘Robotnik’ through the border of the Russian Partition. After the split in the party, he supported Józef Piłsudki, organized the future Marshal’s escape from a prison in Saint Petersburg. He was killed in 1916 as a soldier of 1st Brigade of the Polish Legions.
Maciej Sulkiewicz, Aleksander’s cousin, General Lieutenant of the Russian Army, after the February revolution of 1917, he was an organizer of the Muslim Corps in the Romanian front. It consisted of Muslim soldiers and officers from the former the Imperial Russian Army. After the corps disarmament by Germen, he went with officers on Crimea, where, from June- October 1918, was acting as the Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and War of the Crimean People’s Republic, until the Crimean Tatars declared the independence. After that, the General Denikin Volunteer Army seizured Crimea. He went to Azerbaijan, where he was the Staff chief and was responsible for organizing an army for this country, which was independent for a short time. In 1929, he was killed by Bolsheviks in Baku.
Jakub Szykiewicz, a graduate form oriental philology of the Berlin University, he was a religious leader of the Polish Tatars, at the 1st All-Polish Muslim Congress in Vilnius in 1925 he was elected a mufti – the head of Islam in Poland. After the war, he emigrated to Egypt and the USA.
Stefan Tuhan Mirza Baranowski, should also be mentioned here, a publicist, a historian, an editor-in-chief of ‘Życie Tatarskie’ – a monthly, issued in 1934-1939 in Vilnius by the Cultural and Educational Union of Tatars in Vilnusis. This organization was formed by Kryczynscy brother, it existed from 1926-1939. Its aim was both the national revival and self-help, as well as the improvement of the education level among the Polish Tatars. This union organized common rooms, folk bands, lectures, as well as balls, games and the youth meetings. This organization input into the maintenance of the Tatar tradition in the inter-wars Poland has been of incredible importance.
In the period of the Second Polish Republic, the Tatar population in Poland amounted to six thousand people. They lived in the north-east provinces: Wilno Voivodeship and Nowogródek Voivodeship. In Poland, in the years of 1918-1938, there were 17 mosques and 2 houses of prayer, there were 19 religious communities associated with the Muslim Religious Union in Poland, headed by a mufti. Three press titles were issued: ‘Przegląd Islamski’, a quarterly from 1930-37 in Warsaw, ‘Życie Tatarskie’ a monthly form 1934-1939 in Vilnius and ‘Rocznik Tatarski’ a scientific and social-literary journal. Vilnius was a cultural and social center of the Tatars in the inter-wars period.
During the Second World War, there was the Supreme Military Imamate of Polish Muslims at the headquarters of the Polish II Corps of the Polished Armed Forces in the West, operating till 1947. In the same year, on 26th- 27th September, the 1st General Assembly of the Polish Muslims in Great Britain appointed the Supreme Imamate of the Polish Muslims in Great Britain, which closely cooperated with the Polish centers in exile. The chief imam Emir Bajraszewski was a member of the 4th National Council of Poland by the assistant August Zaleski, the President of Poland in Exile. The Imamate published its own periodicals such as ‘Komunikat’ and later ‘Głos z Mainaretu’.
The Tatar Community in Poland, after 1945
In 1945, Pomeralia was a destination of first groups of the Tatar people, citizens of the Polish Republic dorm the former voivodeships: The Wilno Voivodeships and Nowogórdek Voivodeship; the former districts: the Vawkavysk District and the Grodno District and other lands of Borderlands. The Tatar community came on the terms of so called ‘repatriation’ with the Polish people. This ‘agreement’ between the Polish and the Soviet governments did not include the Tatar minority, therefore those Polish Tatar who had written in their documents ‘the Tatar nationality’ as a declared one, had a lot of difficulties do obtain the entry permit. It was not a huge ethnical group. According to the data of January 1939, there were six thousand people of the Polish citizens of the Tatar nationality who were Muslims. The part of Tatars, a big one, was not able to decide to leave their everlasting properties, especially rural people. There were also those ones who wanted to wait for clarification, from their point of view, of the unstable political situation, expecting that the borders of Poland came back to its pre-war shape. Tatars came mainly on so called ‘the Recovered Territories’, directed by PUR (State Repatriation Office, in small groups numbering from a dozen to a few families, or just single families among of the Polish ones. The majority of Tatar people came to Gdansk and Pomerania or at all the Western Territories from 1945 to 1949, after that, departures occurred, even till 1970s. They were though sporadic, individual ones, the majority of Tatars settled down during the time period mentioned above. Those who leave the Soviet territories represented mainly urban population, intelligence, or former Tatar landowners. These people, were the most aware of the character and duration of changes, they felt the most vulnerable to the Soviet power. In new Poland, despite the system transformation, they felt really safe.
After the Second World War, the border changes, the expulsion of the Polish people named ‘repatriation’, the centers of religious and socials life on the Borderlands became extinct. This was also the caesura of civilization for small ethnical and religious groups, among them Polish Muslims – Tatars. Since 1945, a ‘cultural odyssey’ of these people began. Those of Tatars, who decided on ‘repatriation’, often just not have a choice, together with the Polish population were directed by transports to Pomerelia, and also to so called Recovered Territories, the west voivodeships of Poland. A part of Muslim-Tatars settled down in Warsaw.
After trauma, caused by the war, the expulsion or the new authorities’ activities, Muslim-Tatars tried to organize themselves. It is impossible to provide a full description of the post war period, because of the lack of records – a lot of archival materials disappeared, were lost by the Tatar activists, who were not aware of the importance and of the need of materials collecting. It is a well- known fact, that in 1946, the Central Muslim Community in Warsaw was formed. Since 1946, the Polish Muslims going from the Borderlands to the west, came in a few or in a dozen families. The majority of Tatars arrived between 1945 and 1950. The migration lasted till 1956. In the 1960s, single families or people came from the east border to establish residence. A map of the Tatar settlement after the Second World war, is as well a map of the Muslim settlement, took the shape as follows: Gdansk, Elblag, Trzcianka Lubuska, Gorzów Wielkopolski, Krosno Odrzańskie, Szczecinek, Szczecin, Poznań, Wrocław, Jelenia Góra, Wałbrzych, Oleśnica, Bydgoszcz. Despite this, the traditional venues of Tatar – Muslim settlement are Warszawa, Białystok, Sokółka, Suwałki, Bohoniki and Kruszyniany in the Podlaskie Voivodeship.
The Muslim Religious Association was officially reactivated in 1947, it was led by Jakub Romanowicz. This association was restarted on the basis of the act on state relation to Muslim religion of 1935 with changes of 1947. According to these changes, the Supreme Muslim Association College with the President are in charge of the Association. The College members and the president are not clerics, since in Islam there are no clerics in the Christian sense. The next president was Emir Tuhan Baranowki. The Muslim Religious Association consists of 6 religious communities in: Gdańsk, Białystok, Warszawa, Gorzów Wielkopolski, Bohoniki and Kruszyniany. There are wooden historical mosques dated on the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries in Bohoniki and Kruszyniany. The Muslim Community in Gdansk was organized in 1960. At the same time, i.e. 1960, the Muslim Community in Bialystok was formally established, too. In the 1980s, the city authorities gave a small building on Grzybowa Street to the community. This is a house of prayer as well as a place of the community board’s meetings or religious gatherings. In 1991, a praying house on Wiertnicza Street in Wilanów was opened for use. This house of prayer was founded by the Muslim states’ embassies in Poland. Due to these funds and the own input of the Tatar society, the wall and the mortuary on the Tatar cemetery on Powązki, on Tatarska Street, was renovated. In 2001, one another Muslim community was set up, this time in Bydgoszcz.
In 1992, the Union of the Polish Tatars were registered as an ethnical, cultural and social organization which aims at representing the interests of the Tatar people. So far, the Union of the Polish Tatars has had three autonomic branches in: Gdańsk, Białystok, Warsaw. Publishing has been still continuing. Periodicals are published: ‘Rocznik Tatarów Polskich’, a scientific, literary and social journal, ‘Życie Tatarskie’ a social bimonthly, ‘Świat Islamu’ a quarterly, what is more ‘Wydawnictwo Rocznika Tatarów Polskich’ publishes books. The last book issued there is ‘Herbarz rodzin tatarskich Wielkiego Księstwa Litewskiego’ written by Dumin. At present, this publishing and editorial action is a kind of folklore substitute. Especially today, the Polish Muslims try to generate a new model of activity corresponding to the reality of Poland and Europe.
The Tatars on Pomeralia – an Example of articipation in the Polish Social Life
Before 1945, actually, there had been no, with some exceptions, settlement of the Polish-Lithuanian Tatars neither in Gdańsk nor in Vistula Pomerania. These exceptions are more historical episodes connected with the Tatar presence in the neighborhood of Gdansk than settlement situations. The first one occurred during the 13 Years’ War, related to the battle of Nieszawa. The Teutonic military attack on ships, on the Vistula River near Nieszawa, was put down by Kazimierz IV Jagiello army, in large part due to The Polish-Lithuania Tatars’ banners, which were in the King’s personal guard. The second one was when the Tatar banner took part in the last war with the Teutonic Knights during the reign of Zygmund I the Old. The next was when the Tatar banner cut wartime food provision deliver to Gdańsk by land, during the Siege of Gdańsk in the days of Stefan Batory. It must be mentioned that a small number of Tatar living in the interwar period, no in Gdansk, but in Gdynia. In this place, since 1935, Leon Najman Mirza Kryczynski lived. He was a leader of the cultural movement of the Polish Tatar, an editor-in-chief of ‘Rocznik Tatarski’ – a journal of culture, science, literature and society depicted the history and culture of the Polish-Lithuania Tatars. This periodical played a key role in the solidification of the self-awareness of the ethnical Tatar people in Poland. Leon Kryczynski was a vice-president of a Regional Court from 1935–1939, he was killed by Germen in Piaśnica in 1939. The second prominent person was Dżennet Dżabagi Skibniewska. She was a daughter of a leader of Caucasian nations in exile in Poland. She fought in the battle of Gdynia, later she served at the Commander-in-Chief Staff in London. After the Second World War, Ms. Skibniewska returned to Poland, to Gdynia. She was an active participant of the Tatar society life.
From 1945-1946, a huge group of Tatars from Vilnius came to Gdansk. Imam (cleric) Ibrahim Smajkiewcz went with them. He organized these people’s religious life slowly as needs and opportunities. He conducted holiday prayers, led the ceremony of the newborn babies’ admission to Islam, provided services at funerals and weddings. It happened without any official registration of a religious Muslim organization, in private places, however, on the advice of then authorities, out of necessity.
The Tatars, who had come to Gdansk, decided to work in factories, state-owned plants in the Polish administration throughout Tricity. They were employed in the administration of justice, hospitals, PZU (State Insurance Company). For instance, Aleksander Sulkiweicz was one of the Polish jurisdictions in Gdansk organizers. Since July 1945, he was a judge of the Regional Court in Gdansk, a founder of this Court Civil Department, later – Commercial Department, finally – the president of the 2nd Civil Department of Appeal. Ali Szmajkiewicz, a son of Imam Ibrahim Smajkiewicz, started to work for PZU, he organized the Department of Commercial and Industry Insurance in a PZU regional branch. Michal Korycki worked in hospitals of Gdansk. He was a doctor, a graduate from the Medicine Faculty of Stefan Batory University in Vilnius. With the passing of time, the Polish Tatars took up maritime jobs never done before, such as Raszyd Alijewicz an ocean-going captain or Bekir Milkamanowicz a long term telegraph operator on the PLO (Polish Ocean Lineas) ships.
Since 1946, the Muslim Community in Gdansk has operated as a port of the Muslim Religious Association, led by Ibrahim Smajkiewicz. The Community had not had any legal regulations yet.
In 1953, Ibrahim Smajkiewicz died, he was buried on the Garrison Cemetery in Gdansk on Henryk Dąbrowski Street. Due to the agreement with the cemetery board, the Muslim sector was assigned, it has been still existing. Ali Smajkiewcz, his son, took over imam duties, and Lut Micha, the Imam of Bialystok together with Bekir Radkiewicz – the Imam of the Tatar parish in Gorzów Wielkopolski, came to Gdansk if necessary. The young generation of Tatars led an intensive social life as a substitute of former social activity.
In 1955, Emir Tuhan Baranowski became a new chairman of the Muslim Religious Association in Poland. In 1959, in turn, the 1st Muslim population census in Poland was conducted by the Supreme College of the Muslim Religious Association. According to it, one hundred and forty people of the Tatar ancestry professing the Islam were living in Gdansk and Elblag. Upon this group request, the All-Polish Muslim Congress decided to form the Muslim Religious Commune with its registered office in Gdansk, which formally was set up on the 20th September 1959. The Muslim Religious Commune is a part of the Muslim Religious Association. It has possessed the legal status obtained by the decision of the Regional National Council in Gdansk of 28 April 1960 Ref. No. IV 576/60. According to the Status, the Commune is led by the board, its number has been changed but it has been taken care of staffing it. The Board term lasted for four years with the possibility of extending. The ultimate authority of the Muslim Religious Commune has been vested in the General Assembly of the Members with the right to vote, above 18 years old. Every Polish citizen of Muslim faith could be the Commune member. The membership has been extended to other states citizens with the right of permanent residence in the Polish Republic. From 1959–1961, the chairmen of the Board were as successively: Leon Chazbijewicz, Alexander Jeljaszewicz: a retired cavalry captain, later promoted to the rank of major, a former commander of the last squadron of the Tatar cavalry in the Polish Army – the Tatar Squadron of the 13th Wilno Uhlan Regiment, and Bekir Szabanowicz. During the process of the Commune setting up, the imam position was vacant. Maciej Chalecki, chosen for this post, reigned soon because of the accommodation problems. He went with his family to Jelenia Góra. In 1963, Bekir Jakubowski, appointed to this position, also was forced to quite due to workload. It must be mentioned that all position in the religious commune have been performed in the absence of financial reward, socially. The next imam Adam Szabanowicz – gave up his position in 1965 because of the necessity to leave Gdansk. From 1956 to 1967, the imam post was vacant. The duties were fulfilled by Ali Smajkiewicz, on and ad-hoc basis. From September 1967 to September 1984, Ali Smajkiewicz, a graduate from the Law Faulty of Stefan Batory University in Wilno, was the imam. From September 1984 – September 1995, Bekir Jakubowski served as an imam, whereas from November 1995 – September 2004, Selim Chazbijewicz was the imam. Since 2004, Hani Hraisz has taken up the imam’s duties, an immigrant from Palestine with the Polish citizenship. Maciej Milkanowicz was the long-standing chairman of the Muslim Religious Commune in Gdansk, for 1962–1971. He also allowed to use his flat on Robotnicza Street in Gdansk for religious needs, prayers as wells as meetings and lectures. The religious gatherings of the Muslim Religious Commune were also held in Gynia-Orłowo, on Perkuna Street, at the house of Eugeniusz Szczęsnowicz and at Alekander Bajraszewski’s flat in Gdansk, on Wieniawski Street.
All these members of the Commune gave for the ad hoc needs their houses and flat for free, bearing a burden of the place’s adaptations for joint prayers and gatherings. Between the year of 1971 and1974, Ali Smajkiewicz was the Commune chairman, whilst from 1974–1977, imam Adam Alijewicz served as the chairman. In 1977, the next chairman was Konstanty Mucharski, whereas since 1979 these duties were fulfilled by Dżemila Smajkiewicz-Murman, a pediatrician. She was the chairman for several terms until 2004, succeeding in the Commune consolidation and integration of its members as well as on religious-cultural developments. In 2004, Tamara Szabanowicz took over the responsibilities of the chairman. Till the formal registration of the of the Muslim Religious Commune in Gdansk, its following boars had endeavored to obtain a place for the religious needs or a building plot to build a new object. In 1983, then Board also applied, adding that was going to build a mosque on this land in the future, surprisingly, the authorities did not deny but accepted their proposal. The Board picked up the location on the corner of Polanki and Abrahama Street out of many others because of ta good tram network. The building site covering 1008 square meters was granted in perpetuity of the Muslim Religious Commune by Decision of then the Mayer of Gdansk of the 26th January 198, Notarial deed No 709/84.The decision of a mosque construction was issued on the 6th January 1984, whereas the construction permit on the 31st October 1984. The Muslim Religious Commune formed the Mosque-Building Committee. The Committee possessed the legal statue and operated independently from the Muslim Religious Commune and the Supreme College of the Muslim Religious Association. The Committee consisted of Stefan Bajraszewski – the President, Ali Milkamanowicz, Stefan Muchla – treasurer and accountant, Tamerlan Półtorżycki, Dżemila Smajkiewicz-Murman, Bekir Jakubowski.
On the 29th of September 1984, there was a ceremony of a foundation stone for the construction lying. It has to be claimed, that the construction stimulated the revival of Tatar ethnical and religious tradition of it was a center of the activities aiming at them. It largely contributed to extension of Tatar community existing, its self-identification. The mosque construction was supported by the Muslim World league from Saudi Arabia, the Grand Mufti of Lebanon as well as the Committee of Muslim States Ambassadors for the Support of the Polish Muslim Support included the ambassadors of Turkey, Egypt, Indonesia, Morocco and Algeria. The Turkish Ambassador was the first President of the Committee. The religious commune also began to learn religious rules, this catechesis had been given sporadically before. The Mosque was named after Jamal al-Din al-Afghan, a Muslim philosopher from the middle of the 19th century, the founder of Islamic Modernism. The Mosque Opening Ceremony took place on the 1st June 1990 with the participation of the representatives of the authorities, the Catholic clergy in the person of Tadeusz Gocłowski – Roman Catholic archbishop, the ambassadors of Muslim States in Poland and the delegation of Kashubian-Pomeranian Association.
In 1992, The Tatar Union of the Republic of Poland was founded, during the inter-war period it existed as the Cultural – Educational Religious Union of Polish Tatars in the Polish Republic, in 1926–1939. This Union came back to the publishing of ‘Rocznik Tatarów Polskich’ – the continuation of ‘Rocznik tatarski’. The Union was very active in the field of organizing integration gatherings, meetings, conferences and cooperation with the Tatars from Lithuania, Belorussia, Crimea, as well as a different kinds of meetings and initiatives connected with interreligious dialogue – the culmination of it was the summit of the representatives of the Polish Tatar society and Pope John Paul II in Drohiczyn, in 1999. From 1999- 2007, Selim Chazbijewicz was the Union President, who had been also an editor in chief of ‘Rocznika Tatarów Polskich” since 1994. Obviously, the Union of the Polish Tatars cooperated closely with both the Muslim Religious Commune in Gdansk and the Muslim Religious Union. Since 2004 the Union of the Polish Tatars has been called the Union of Polish Tatars in the Polish Republic.
It is worthy to notice that the Tatar minority co-operated with the Gdansk Branch of the Union of Ukrainians in Poland and other minorities in this region such us Belarusian, Jewish, Karaim, Greek, Armenian. In 2004 and 2005, Pomeranian Ethnic Days were organized under the patronage of the Marshal of Pomerania. In 2004, the Days took place in Gdynia and Sopot – there were a presentation of traditional outfits, ethnical cuisine as well as the performances of Tatar, Ukrainian and Belarusian folk bands.
Culture, Religion, Assimilation
During the six hundred years of their being on the area of the Grand Dutchy of Lithuania and Poland, the settled Tatars crated their unique culture, characteristic exclusively for the Republic of Poland Tatar inhabitants.
The Tatar settlement in the Great Dutchy of Lithuania and the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland and was a voluntary choice of this population. The Tatar aristocracy and nobility received state privileges which made their social status the same as the gentry of the Great Dutchy of Lithuania and the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland. However, they did not possess the passive and active electoral rights, as infidels and Non-Christians, till the end of the previous Republic of Poland. The settlement of the Tatar captives in Ukrainia, Volhynia, Lesser Poland has not left a lasting impact. These captives, mostly baptized in captivity, very quickly, i.e. in the second or third generation lost entirely their ethnic distinctiveness. Whereas voluntary settlers, mainly – political refugees - possessing religious and social freedom, retained a sense of identity for ages. Since the 16th century, they were gradually Polonised, over the years adopting the Polish language as a home language. Since the 18th century, we can observe almost complete language assimilation. Since then, the Tatar people’s identity has been formed by the religion of Islam and by broad religious culture, to the point that the names ‘Tatar’ and ‘Muslim’ were treated as synonyms. Being a Tatar meant being a Muslim by this population common understanding. After the year of 1945, especially in 1980s, these terms begun to be separated because of the appearance of Muslim, no-Tatars in Poland. Previously, no-Tatar visitors such as Turkish, Persians, Circassians and the Volga or Crimea Tatars, assimilated fast with the Polish-Lithuanian Tatars, not forming separate settlements or social groups.
The Polish-Lithuanian Tatars culture was a synthesis of the Muslim east culture and the Western European one. Remoted from the centers of Islam culture, form the lively current of Turkish and Crimean-Tatar culture, to which they belonged to due to their ethnic background, they created very often substitutes of Islam form of existing and spiritual life, which over the time began to be permanent both in the spiritual and material culture.
The Polish Tatars spirituality was under the influence of the multiethnic and multicultural landscape of the Grand Dutchy of Lithuania. Losing the ability of using the Tatar language since the 16th-17th centuries, and completely since the 18th century, the Tatars have created their identity mainly by the literature written by themselves, in which the tradition of Islam was depicted in the Polish language or Old Belarusian in the Arabic alphabet. This literature existed in manuscripts which were handwritten by scribes. The vast scientific publications have been recently published about the Polish-Lithuanian Tatars literature. A few language and cultural layers can be distinguished in the Polish-Lithuanian Tatars’ religious texts. The oldest one was Chagatai language, used in the Middle Ages Turkish dialect, which was a language of the Golden Horde. The The next ones were Old Ottoman, Ottoman, Old Belarusian, Polish. Taking into consideration the fabula layer, the thematic treads of The Golden Horde literature were used as the continuation of the All Muslims plots. There were different types and genres of this literature till the middle of the 20th century. These genres were:
Tefsiry (arab.:تفسير) – the name was also pronounced as tafsir or tapsir – meant in the Arabic exegesis of the Qur’an, existing in the Muslim culture, including the Tatar Muslims of the great Duchy of Lithuania. At the Polish-Lithuanian Tatars they were manuscripts. They were handicraft pieces, bound in leather, often tanned by a scribe, containing the Qur’an texts written in saffron ink, also made by their own. The Qur’an texts were written linearly, whereas, below them, in italics – comments and explanations, in Polish or the Belarusian Arabic alphabet. There were often captions indicated the translation from the Ottoman texts in the margins of these books.
Tedżwidy (arab.: تجويد) – (Tajwid, Tajweed)- coursebook for learning of the Qur’an reading, including the rules of intonation, pauses, ways of reading, vowels vocalization, ways of quantity realization, phonetic and musical features of the Qur’an text form.
Kitaby (arab.: كتاب) – word – kitab – is the Arabic word for ‘a book’. In this case, they were sets of different contests, taken the form of the Old Polish genre – silva rerum (Polish: sylwa, ogrody), containing the religious literature: edifying allegories, stories from the Muhammad prophet life, known in the Muslim word as a separate genre – sirat, also stories about other prophets, legends and religious tales, poems, magical recipes, the Tatars rulers’ histories, explanations of dogma and the rules of the Islam religion, as well as prayers, local tales, local legends and stories. Kitab was a huge manuscript, often in A4 format, also were summaries used called półkitab or pólkitabek.
Chamaił (arab.: حميل) – in the Arabic means ‘something which is carried’. They were prayer books, including the most said prayers, their five-time daily order, pleading and supplicatory prayers, called from the Arabic dua (arab.: دعاء ), what was pronounced by the Polish-Lithuanian Tatars in a slavizated form – duaja, duajka, the last one as a diminutive. Chamaił could also contain calendars, magic healing recipes, a list of ‘unwanted days’ that is ominous, dream dictionaries. The language of these texts was mainly Polish or Belarusian but explanations, comments and description were written in the Chagatai language and in Old Ottoman, Arabic was used in the case of prayers and other strict ritual texts.
As one can notice, there was not a significant difference between chamaił and kitab, there were no legends, tales or myths in the first one and it was less spacious, handier, as per the name. There were so called chamaiły mollińskie, for the use of Imams that is clergymen, containing mainly a detailed description and order of ritual procedures and accompanying them prayer texts.
Another genre or subgenre of chamaił was chamaił fałdżejski used by fałdzeje that is fortune-tellers, witch doctors existing in the Polish Lithuanian society until the middle of the 20th century. The name originated from the Arabic word fal’ (arab.: فال) meant a divination, with the added ending – dży, which means among others a feature. The Polish-Lithuanian Tatars pronounced it in a Slavizated way – dżej. Such chamaił fałdżejski was used as a book of magic and fortune-telling. It consisted of augury rituals, magical-medical recipes, rites of mental diseases removing, making the rain etc. The literature of the Polish-Lithuanian Tatars was swinging between the traditions of the folk and high literature, being for the ethnical group not only a substitute of the lost language folklore but also a peculiar system of education and generation memory transferring, so that the important centre of ethnic and religious self-identification. The last genre of this literature is duałar pronounced also as dała wary. There were papers scrolls, written in saffron ink, put with the deceased into a tomb. These rolls were up to three meter long and with the width of 10-20 cm. The smaller set of prayers was carried, on the chest, in a leather pouch, folded into the harmonica. This is why the Tatar people called this religious talisman ‘hramatka’. There are a lot of residue of former shaman beliefs and practices which gained ‘Islamic” sanction, such as in the case of Turkish Sufi practice, especially in the hurufije, jesewijje and bektaszi schools.
In the 19th century, printed literature created by the Polish-Lithuania Tatars developed. It was mainly prose connected with this ethnic community traditions and history. There were occasionally historical works more or less based on the legends of the Tatars in Poland and in Lithuanian. Ii is worthy to mention a piece of work by Józef Sobolewski, published in 1830, the Polish Tatar, a judge, which was the first printed, and what is even more important preserved, testimony of the Polish-Lithuanian Tatars’ ethnic and religious awareness. The development of the Tatar literature and intellectual movement focusing in the research on the own history and defining a place in the modern era, should be connected with the publishing and coordinating activities of mentioned above brothers – Olgier and Leon Najman Mirza Kryczynski, and also essays of the last one. The publishing house, mentioned previously in this article, ‘Rocznik Tatarski’ was a basis of ethnic renaissance interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War.