Siberian Tatars - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. During the nineteenth and the first third of the twentieth centuries, all Siberian Tatars practiced agriculture and kept livestock. Among the Baraba Tatars lake fishing played the major role, whereas among the Yaskolbin Tatars and the northern groups of the Tobol, Kurdak-Sargat, and Barabin Tatars it was river fishing and hunting. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the latter kinds of activity predominated in the economy of the Tomsk Tatars.

Industrial Arts. The Siberian Tatars practiced leatherwork, the manufacture of rope from bast (from basswood bark in the case of the Tiumen and Yaskolbin), the fashioning of fishing nets, the weaving of fox-shaped baskets from withies, and the production from elm and other woods of dishes, wagons, sleds, boats, and skis. Among them there were many carpenters, cobblers, rug makers, smiths, jewelers, tinsmiths, coppersmiths, and even watchmakers. Some Tatars were occupied with trade, transporting goods on their horses (as far as the Upper Alma-Ata region and Kul'dzhi to the south, the Upper Udinska region to the east, and Nizhny Novgorod to the west). Some Tatar men served in the army.

As a means of transport, Tatars everywhere used horses for riding and also harnessed them to sleds, sleighs, and wagons. Ever since ancient times the two-wheeled cart of the arba type was known to the Tatars. The Bucharian Tatars used camels for transport, but this animal did not take to the conditions of Siberia. Hunters used so-called hand sledges for taking out their kill, sometimes hitching them to a dog. The Tatars used skis everythere, both bare and lined with fur. In summer they used boats. The Tomsk Tatars sometimes used rafts. The basic kind of boat was the dugout—block-shaped on the lakes and sharp-pointed for navigating the rivers; boats made of boards were also used. The Tomsk Tatars sometimes carved the heads of sheep, horses, and dogs on the prows of their boats.

Food. The national cuisine of the Siberian Tatars includes hundreds of foods. The most widespread are sour cream, butter, cottage cheese, yogurt with water, and other milk products. Meat—mutton, beef, horse meat, and domestic fowl—was a major component of the diet. They also ate game including rabbits, elks, and wild fowl. Meat was prepared by smoking and jerking; they also made sausage. Barley groats with potatoes and peas, various soups made from meat, other soups such as fish soup, and various fish dishes were also common. The Tatars ate porridge and talkan, a dish made of barley, oats, flour, and water or milk. They knew how to make pilaf. Other dishes made of grain included pancakes (sometimes made thin), baursaki (fried pieces of dough made of flour, eggs, and water), sansu (long ribbons of dough fried in fat or butter), pies with diverse stuffings, and halvah. The Tatars drank tea, airan, juice, and fermented mare's milk.

Clothing. Clothing was often decorated. At least since the nineteenth century many villagers have not worn underclothes; shirts and pants were worn next to the skin ( sluzhili natel'noi odezhdoi ). Over this men and women wore a béshmet (a quilted jacket with sleeves), camisole (sleeveless kaftan), dressing gown, and sheepskin coat. Around 1900 men adopted Russian shirts with an open neck and pants and women began wearing dresses.

Women's headdresses had a decorated base and were beaded in front; the head binding was specific to the locality. Women also wore large nightcaps, knitted or stitched together out of silk or velvet textiles. Other styles of nightcap were smaller and stitched partly of velvet. These caps were decorated with gold and silver embroidery and beads and coins that were sewn on. Women also wore cylindrical caps, kerchiefs, and shawls, whereas men wore little skull caps, felt caps, and winter caps made of quilted material. All Siberian Tatars wore leather boots decorated with curvilinear designs of an embroidered mosaic, leather slippers, and felt boots (Russian: valenki ). For personal ornamentation, the Siberian Tatars used bracelets, rings, rings with stones, earrings, beads, strings, and ribbons, and they attached coins to their braids.


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