Siberian Tatars - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs and Practices. Despite the fact that Islam became the basic religion of the Tatars in Siberia, traditional religious beliefs have been perserved, including a belief in spirits (the so-called masters of localities), in the kukol (family guardians), and in cults of sacred trees, the earth, fire, the sun, and of various animals and birds.

Almost all Tatars celebrate Sabantui, Ramazan, Kurban Bairam, and certain other holidays.

Arts. The most developed aspect of popular art was and remains folklore. There are many tales, legends, proverbs, riddles, and songs. The performance of songs was accompanied by native instruments including a wooden pipe, the kobyz (an instrument with a metal sheet, played with the tongue), the tambourine, a two-stringed violinlike instrument, and the harmonica. "Historical" songs (those thought to have value) were composed and written down on paper. The norms of popular etiquette were reflected in proverbs such as "Don't ask an oldster, ask someone experienced," "He knows who runs along the road, not he who sleeps on the stove," and others. There were not a few raconteurs: from one of them was recorded the Sibertatar variant of the heroic epic Ediger. Distinct Sibertatar intellectuals have contributed to the development of Tatar literary culture—the writing system, books in Tatar using the Arabic script, and poetry.

Folk knowledge played a not insignificant role in Tatar spiritual culture: meteorological observations; medical knowledge; knowledge involving production; knowledge of the habits and anatomy of animals and the behavior of fish; and ideas about geography and the topography of the surrounding localities, of parts of the world, and of stars and planets. People came to the Barabian Tatars from all parts of Russia to be healed by the application of leeches.

In the cities and villages there are many Tatar artistic collectives and popular theaters. Individual folk and professional artists are generally painters and sculptors. The art of decorating houses and domestic objects is developing. The Tatars prefer to embroider patterns on textiles to satin stitching; they also use a free drum stitch. The technique of appliqué is widely used for preparing rugs.

The number of Tatar scientists and professionals is increasing: professors M. Bulator, F. Valeev, D. Tumasheva, Kh. Yarmukhametor; folk dancer of the USSR G. Ismailova; director of the Bolshoi Theater F. Mansurov; and world-champion gymnast G. Shergurova are all well known.

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