The Republic of Tatarstan is a federal subject of Russia (a republic) located in the Volga Federal District. Its capital is the city of Kazan. The republic borders with Kirov, Ulyanovsk, Samara, and Orenburg Oblasts, and with the Mari El, Udmurt, and Chuvash Republics, as well as with the Republic of Bashkortostan. The unofficial Tatarstan motto is: Bez Buldırabız! (We can!). As of the 2010 Census the population of Tatarstan was 3,786,488.
The state has strong ties with its eastern neighbor the Republic of Bashkortostan.
The earliest known organized state within the boundaries of Tatarstan was Volga Bulgaria (c. 700–1238 CE). The Volga Bulgars had an advanced mercantile state with trade contacts throughout Inner Eurasia, the Middle East and the Baltic, which maintained its independence despite pressure by such nations as the Khazars, the Kievan Rus and the Cuman-Kipchaks. Islam was introduced by missionaries from Baghdad around the time of ibn Fadlan's journey in 922.
Volga Bulgaria finally fell to the armies of the Mongol prince Batu Khan in the late 1230s (see Mongol invasion of Volga Bulgaria.) The inhabitants, mixing with the Golden Horde's Kipchak-speaking people, became known as the "Volga Tatars." Another theory postulates that there were no ethnic changes in that period, and Bulgars simply switched to the Kipchak-based Tatar language. In the 1430s, the region again became independent as the base of the Khanate of Kazan, a capital having been established in Kazan, 170 km up the Volga from the ruined capital of the Bulgars.
The Khanate of Kazan was conquered by the troops of Tsar Ivan the Terrible in the 1550s, with Kazan being taken in 1552. A large number of Tatars were killed and forcibly converted to Christianity and were culturally Russified. Cathedrals were built in Kazan; by 1593 all mosques in the area were destroyed. The Russian government forbade the construction of mosques, a prohibition that was not lifted until the 18th century by Catherine the Great. The first mosque to be rebuilt under Catherine's auspices was constructed in 1766-1770.
In the 19th century Tatarstan became a center of Jadidism, an Islamic movement that preached tolerance of other religions. Under the influence of local Jadidist theologians, the Tatars were renowned for their friendly relations with other peoples of the Russian Empire. However, after the October Revolution religion was largely outlawed and all theologians were repressed.
During the Civil War of 1918–1920 Tatar nationalists attempted to establish an independent republic (the Idel-Ural State). They were, however, put down by the Bolsheviks and the Tatar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was established on May 27, 1920. There was a famine in the Tatar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic in 1921 to 1922 as a result of war communist policy. The boundaries of the republic did not include majority of the Volga Tatars. The Tatar Union of the Godless were persecuted in Stalin's 1928 purges.
The famine deaths of 2 million Tatars in Tatar ASSR and in Volga-Ural region in 1921-1922 was catastrophic as half of Volga Tatar population in USSR died. This famine is also known as "terror-famine" and "famine-genocide" in Tatarstan. The Soviets settled ethnic Russians after the famine in Tatar ASSR and in Volga-Ural region causing the Tatar share of the population to decline to less than 50%. All-Russian Tatar Social Center (VTOTs) has asked the United Nations to condemn the 1921 Tatarstan famine as Genocide of Muslim Tatars. The 1921–1922 famine in Tatarstan has been compared to Holodomor in Ukraine.
On August 30, 1990, Tatarstan announced its sovereignty with the Declaration on the State Sovereignty of the Tatar Soviet Socialist Republic and in 1992 Tatarstan held a referendum on the new constitution, and 62 percent of those who took part voted in favor of the constitution. In the 1992 Tatarstan Constitution, Tatarstan is defined as a Sovereign State. However the referendum and constitution were declared unconstitutional by the Russian Constitutional Court. However, articles 1 and 3 of the constitution, as introduced in 2002 define Tatarstan as a part of the Russian Federation.
On February 15, 1994, the Treaty On Delimitation of Jurisdictional Subjects and Mutual Delegation of Authority between the State Bodies of the Russian Federation and the State Bodies of the Republic of Tatarstan and Agreement between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of the Republic of Tatarstan (On Delimitation of Authority in the Sphere of Foreign Economic Relations) were signed.
On December 20, 2008, in response to Russia recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the Milli Mejlis of the Tatar People declared Tatarstan independent and asked for United Nations recognition. However this declaration was ignored both by United Nations and Russian government.