The Tatars are a Turkic people living in Asia and Europe. Historically, the term “Tatars” was applied to a variety of Turco-Mongol semi-nomadic empires who controlled the vast region known as Tartary. More recently, however, the term refers more narrowly to people who speak one of the Turkic languages.
The largest group by far that the Russians have called “Tatars” are the Volga Tatars, native to the Volga region (Tatarstan and Bashkortostan), who for this reason are often also simply known as “Tatars”, with their language known as the Tatar language. As of 2002 they had an estimated population close to 6 million. There is a common belief that Russians and Tatars are closely intermingled, illustrated by the famous saying “scratch any Russian just a little and you will discover a Tatar underneath” and the fact that a number of noble families in pre-Petrine Russia had Tatar origins; however, genetics show that Russians form a cluster with Northern and Eastern Europeans (especially Belarusians and Ukrainians), and are very far from Tatar peoples.