Who Were the Tartars?

In the last issue, I argued that the Mongols did not invade Russia. It is normally the case that “Mongol” and “Tartar” are used simultaneously. If the Mongols and Tartars were not from Mongolia, then who were they?

In 1817 Christian Kruse published his Atlas of European history. There, or the first time, the term “Mongol-Tartar” was used to describe the empire that descended on Russia in the high middle ages. PN Naumov brought it into Russian textbooks starting only in 1823. Prior to this, it was unknown as an ethnic label. There is no mention of the “Mongols” or “Tartars” in the Old Russian chronicles. The closest is the term “Mogul,” meaning “great” or “powerful” related to the Greek “megalo.”

Nikolai Levashov (2004) argues in his “Glossing Over the History of Russia” that the old pagan names Tarkh and Tara, brother and sister, was the origin of the term “Tartar” and that it was used to describe Russians. Tara was the keeper of the Russian land and Tarkh, her brother, the guardian of Wisdom. Combining these brought something like Tartary, and this is what Russia was called. Russia was often called “Grand Tartary” in western maps during the early Enlightenment.


In China, in the Party Museum in Peking, there hangs a portrait of a young Genghis estimated to be from the 14th century. He is depicted as Caucasian or certainly not Asian:


These are three pictures from Marco Polo’s travelogue, called The Travels of Marco Polo. The first, the wedding of Genghis, then his death, and a third, that of Kublai, Genghis’ grandson, presenting a gift to Marco Polo. Polo was emphatic that the Mongol leader was of European descent. These images are unmistakable:

Wedding Genghis - Polo

Death of Genghis - Polo



The famous Persian scholar and lexicographer, Rashid al-Din (d. 1318) in his “Collection of Histories” says Genghis is from the Bordjigin tribe, meaning “blue eyed.” Polo’s pictures show this to be true, but so does modern science. Moscow was called Muscovite Tartary, and the southern parts of the empire the list of countries mentioned in the Encyclopedia article above. “Tartary” used Vedic symbols such as the swastika. argues that the “Tartars” could be any Russian, but most likely refer to southerners. The picture used as the “feature image” of this site is a portrait of Tamerlane, a later Mongol leader. He is clearly not Asian.

The American Journal of Human Genetics stated the following:

The extensive analysis of the Russian pool of paternal lineages presented here establishes the following general features: (1) insignificance of the oriental gene flow, highlighted by the lack of typical East and Central Asian haplogroups; (2) well-pronounced north-to-south gradients of specific haplogroups within historical Russian area; (3) split of its overall diversity into the northern and central-southern populations; (4) close proximity of the northern populations to the northeastern and eastern non-Slavic populations, suggesting extensive assimilation or even direct language change; (5) lower Y chromosomal variation all over the central-southern historic Russia versus high variation among northern Russians; (6) close proximity, reaching virtual overlap in a MDS plot, in the Y chromosomal variation between central-southern Russians with Ukrainians, Belorussians, and Poles; and (7) this significant intraethnic differentiation of North Russian populations is the only found exception to the rule; in the wider European context, the interethnic (mainly linguistic) differences strongly predominate (The American Journal of Human Genetics 82, 236–250, January 2008, page 246).

This lack of an oriental component suggests that writers like Lev Gumilev are correct: Most of Genghis’ army was Slavic. Also, that Crimean Tartars are similar to other Russians, themselves unified over Ukraine and Belarus. Only the northern peoples, close to Finland and Perm, are slightly distinct. There is almost no Asian genes among Russians.

The northern distinction is significant, since these are the Russians prominent in the Romanov empire. The southern, “Tartar” regions were also Slavs, but with some moderate distinction in genetic structure. The “Mongol invasion” was the victory of the south against the north. The 1771 Encyclopedia Britannica says:

Tartary, a huge country in northern Asia, bordering Siberia in the north and west is called the Great Tartary. Those Tartars living south of Muscovy and Siberia called Astrakhan, Cherkasy and Dagestani; those living in the north-west of the Caspian Sea, are called Kalmyk Tartars and occupying the territory between Siberia and the Caspian Sea; Uzbek and Tartar Mongols, who inhabited the north of Persia and India, and, finally, Tibetan, living in the north-west of China (page 881).

This is the identity of the southern “Tartars.” The Khans were from this region and were not Asian. This explains the cooperation between Moscow and the Horde even to the point of blood. They were generally pagan but tolerant overall for the sake of peace. They were soon converted to Islam and the Crimean Tartars, fiercely loyal to Moscow, are their descendants. It has even been theorized that the 18th century rebellion of Emilian Pugachev was a rising of the southern forces against the northern “Romanov” empire.

Matthew Raphael Johnson, August 2016


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