Siberian Tatars - Settlements



The Siberian Tatars called their settlements aul or yort, although the earlier names of ulus and aymak are still used by the Tomsk Tatars. The most common type of village was riverine or lacustrine. In the more distant past the Tatars had two kinds of settlement, one for winter and one for summer. With the construction of roads came a new form of settlement with a straight rectilinear layout of the streets. On the farms there were, in addition to the house, buildings for livestock, storehouses, barns, and bathhouses.

In the seventeenth century and later, sod houses and semisubterranean dwellings were customary among some Tatars. But for some time now they have used frame houses above the ground and brick dwellings. Later the Tatars began to build houses on the Russian model, including two-story frame houses, and, in the cities, brick houses. Among the buildings with a social function may be distinguished mosques (wooden and brick), buildings of regional administration, post offices, schools, stores, and shops.

The central place in the majority of dwellings was occupied by plank beds, covered by rugs and felt. Trunks and bedding were crammed along the sides of the rooms. There were little tables on short legs and shelves for the dishes. The homes of wealthy Tatars were furnished with wardrobes, tables, chairs, and sofas. Houses were heated by special stoves with an open hearth, but the Tatars also used Russian stoves. Clothes were hung on poles suspended from the ceiling. On the wall above the beds Tatars hung the prayer book containing sayings from the Quran and views of the mosques of Mecca and Alexandria.

The exteriors of the houses were usually not decorated, but a few houses had decorated windows and cornices. This ornamentation was generally geometrical, but sometimes one can discern representations of animals, birds, and people, which, in general, are prohibited by Islam.

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