Crimean Tatars

Crimean Tatars are the indigenous people of Ukraine, whose origin and historical fate are inextricably linked to Crimea and the northern coast of the Black Sea

By National Museum of the History of Ukraine

The "Miras/Heritage" exhibition, created within NGO «Alem»’s project “Meanings Unifying People” supported by Switzerland

The traditional culture of this community has for centuries combined the features of different civilizations: Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Central Asian.

Saber of the Crimean Sagib sultan from the Geray family (1532 - 1551) by AsadollahNational Museum of the History of Ukraine

However, on its path, it did not become a fragment of any of them, but has constructed its own identity and originality in the unique ethnic tapestry of Crimea.

During the 15th to18th centuries, the Crimean Khanate existed in the south of Ukraine – a state that had a long-lasting influence on the politics and culture of countries and peoples of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, the Middle East, and the Balkans.

Coin of the Crimean Khan Devlet I Gerai (1551 - 1577) by UnknownNational Museum of the History of Ukraine

It was perpetually ruled by the Giray dynasty, whose coat of arms was a "tarakh-tamga" in the form of a comb, which was depicted on the documents, coins, weapons, everyday objects, and symbols of power.

Bakhchysarai, the capital of the Crimean Khanate, was constructed in the 16th century by Khan Sahib I Giray, amidst lush gardens in the Salachyk Canyon.

Bakhchysarai (1857) by Friedrich GrossNational Museum of the History of Ukraine


Khan's tombs in Bakhchysarai (1857) by Friedrich GrossNational Museum of the History of Ukraine

It was in their honor that the magnificent palace-garden got its name. The court chronicler of Khan Kaysuní-zade compared it to a heavenly place, where amid healing springs and fountains, the Crimean Khan sat upon his throne with the dignity of King Solomon...

Censer (1800 - 1900) by UnknownNational Museum of the History of Ukraine

The censer, also known as the "bakhur"

has long been an essential part of the household, hygiene, diplomatic culture and etiquette of Crimean Tatars.

Fragrant substances, such as camphor, amber, musk, and lavender were burned in the censers. Their delightful aromas filled homes, palaces, public baths, mosques, or madrasas. These scents purified the space, clothing, and thoughts of individuals before important matters or leisure.

Pouch. Nishan kisesi (1800 - 1900) by UnknownNational Museum of the History of Ukraine


was a small bag for tobacco, coins, and other small items that was attached to a belt. In everyday use, people carried this accessory to the market or while traveling. 

During engagement, the bride gave to her future husband a set of nine items, including a rectangular-shaped pouch adorned with ornamental compositions.  From this kyset, the bridegroom treated his friends to tobacco, smoking pipes with them during the wedding festivities.

Quran Case (1800 - 1900) by UnknownNational Museum of the History of Ukraine

Sacred book

For a long time Crimea was an important center of Islamic civilization, a center of Muslim education, law, intellectual and spiritual life.

Over the centuries, Muslim rituals intertwined closely with the national customs of the Crimean Tatars and became a harmonious part of their daily life and traditions, enriched by the experience of coexistence with other ethnicities and religions in southern Ukraine.

Zarfy. Stands for coffee cups (1875 - 1920) by UnknownNational Museum of the History of Ukraine

Coffee tradition

The Crimean Tatar coffee tradition dates back to the mid-16th century.

After the appearance of this beverage in Crimea, coffee houses quickly became a symbol of civilization in the city, and serving it at the Khan's court became part of diplomatic and palace etiquette. In this atmosphere, coffee was served in small ceramic cups called "fildjan," and to avoid burning their fingers, they used copper, silver, or gold stands called "zarf."  Crimean Tatars still consider coffee a symbol of hospitality, a hallmark of domestic comfort, national and family traditions.

Fountain in Artek (1857) by Friedrich GrossNational Museum of the History of Ukraine

Fountains held a special place in the culture of the Crimean Tatars, as the source of water provided life to the settlement. In the Crimea, fountain areas were public spaces for resting, socializing, exchanging news, and observing potential partners.

The construction of a fountain was considered an honorable deed, which was perpetrated by a commemorative plaque with the name of the patron. They were also established in memory of a loved one or a soldier fallen in battle.

Jug for carrying water. Gugyum by UnknownNational Museum of the History of Ukraine

Jug for carrying water

Water from the fountain was brought home in a copper vessel called a "gugyum" or "gugum." This jug has a convenient and well-thought-out shape: a wide base and a narrow neck make it stable and easy to carry water from the source without spilling it on the road.

The traditional culture of the Crimean Tatars is full of profound meanings and important details that are not always noticeable to the external observer.

Credits: Story

Research and text: Oleksii Savchenko
Project Сurator:  Esma Adzhiieva, NGO "Alem"
Technical implementation: Oleg Mitiukhin, Oksana Mitiukhina, Liudmila Klymuk
Text editors:  Nataliia Panchenko, Yevgeniia Lebid-Hrebeniuk
Translation: Dmytro Mitiukhin
Selection of exhibits:  Oleksii Savchenko
Photographer: Oleg Mitiukhin

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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