2019, vol. 7, no. 3. Pow S.

2019, vol. 7, no. 3, pp. 545-567

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.22378/2313-6197.2019-7-3.545-567


Stephen Pow
Central European University
Budapest, Hungary

Abstract: Objective: An attempt is made to explain why Mongols were so often referred to as Tatars in thirteenth-century primary sources and to offer a new interpretation of how the usage of both ethnonyms evolved over the course of the Mongol Empire’s expansion and dissolution.
Research materials: Primary sources were used which originated from Russian, Mongolian, Latin, Persian, Arabic, Chinese, and Korean authors. The Russian Novgorod and Galicia-Volhynia Chronicles, Secret History of the Mongols, Rashid al-Din, the Yuan Shi, and the Mengda Beilu were the most significant in formulating an argument. Secondary literature by leading figures in the field of Mongol history was consulted.
Research results and novelty: The main finding is that the different explanations found in primary source texts composed under Mongol governments for how these names were used in the pre-imperial period and for the double-naming phenomenon seem implausible when compared to the broader body of primary sources whose authors were not directed by an evolving Mongol imperial ideology. Furthermore, the various explanations cannot be combined into some workable model for how the double-naming phenomenon happened in the thirteenth century, since they contradict one another on fundamental issues such as whether Tatars still existed or were an extinct nation. As such, it is more plausible that the Mongols used the name “Tatar” to self-identify in the first three or four decades of the Mongol Empire’s expansion. The gradual replacement of “Tatar” by “Mongol” was solidified by the development of imperial historiography in the 1250s and 1260s. This proposed scenario can make sense of the strange dichotomy in the primary sources regarding ethnonyms. Novelty is found in the comparison of Chinese and European sources and the attempt to synthesize their claims – an approach which highlights potential avenues of research for experts in Islamic, Russian, and Chinese sources.

Keywords: Tatars, Mongols, Tartars, Mongol Empire, Golden Horde, Russian Chronicles, Ethnonyms, Early Mongol Empire, Ethnogenesis, Chinggis Khan

For citation: Pow S. “Nationes que se Tartaros appellant”: An Exploration of the Historical Problem of the Usage of the Ethnonyms Tatar and Mongol in Medieval Sources. Zolotoordynskoe Obozrenie=Golden Horde Review. 2019, vol. 7, no. 3, pp. 545–567. DOI: 10.22378/2313-6197.2019-7-3.545-567


  1. Novgorodskaya Pervaya letopis’ starshego i mladshego izvodov [Novgorod First Chronicle according to the Oldest and Younger Transcripts]. Nasonov A.N. (red.). Moscow–Leningrad: Akademiya Nauk SSSR Publ., 1950. 561 p. (In Russian)
  2. Abramowski W. Die chinesischen Annalen von Ögödei and Güyük: Übersetzung des 2. Kapitels des Yüan-shih. Zentralasiatische Studien. 1976, no. 10, pp. 117–167. (In German)
  3. Allsen T.T. Prelude to the Western Campaigns: Mongol Military Operations in the Volga-Ural Region, 1217–1237. Archivum Eurasiae Medii Aevi. Wiesbaden, Otto Harras­sowitz Verlag, 1983, no. 3, pp. 5–24.
  4. Atwood C. Commentary of Shengwu qinzheng lu 聖武親征錄. Commentary Project of the Center for Central Eurasia Civilization Archive, pp. 1–22.
  5. Atwood C. Jochi and the Early Western Campaigns. How Mongolia Matters: War, Law, Society. Morris Rossabi, (ed.). Leiden, Brill, 2017, pp. 35–56.
  6. Atwood C. Six Pre-Chinggisid Genealogies in the Mongol Empire. Archivum Eurasiae Medii Aevi. Wiesbaden, Otto Harrassowitz Verlag, 2012, no. 19, pp. 5–58.
  7. Atwood C. The Date of the ‘Secret History of the Mongols’ Reconsidered. Journal of Song-Yuan Studies. 2007, no. 37, pp. 1–48.
  8. Atwood C. The Qai, the Khongai, and the Names of the Xiongnu. International Journal of Eurasian Studies. 2015, no. 2, pp. 35–64.
  9. Bade D. Khubilai Khan and the Beautiful Princess of Tumapel. Ulaanbaatar, A. Chuluunbat, 2002. 244 p.
  10. Bak J., Rady M. (trans.). Master Roger’s Epistle to the Sorrowful Lament upon the Destruction of the Kingdom of Hungary by the Tatars. Budapest, Central European University Press, 2010. 326 p.
  11. Barthold W. Turkestan down to the Mongol Invasion. Minorsky T., Bosworth C.E. (trans.). London, Luzac, 1968. 596 p.
  12. Bedrosian R (trans.). Kirakos Gandzakets’i. History of the Armenians. New York, Sources of the Armenian Tradition, 1986.
  13. Boyle J. (trans.). Ala al-Din Ata Malik Juvaini, The History of the World Conque­ror. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1958. 763 p.
  14. Brundage J. (trans.). The Chronicle of Henry of Livonia. Madison, University of Wisconsin Press, 1961. xliii + 288 p.
  15. Chambers J. The Devil’s Horsemen. Edison, Castle Books, 2003. xii + 190 p.
  16. Cleaves FW (trans.). The Secret History of the Mongols. Cambridge, Harvard Press, 1982. lxv + 277 p.
  17. Dankoff R. (trans.). Mahmud al-Kashgari. Compendium of the Turkic Dialects. Cambridge, Harvard University, Dept. of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, 1982.
  18. Dawson, Christopher (ed.). The Mission to Asia: Narratives and Letters of the Franciscan Missionaries in Mongolia and China in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries. London, Sheed and Ward, 1955.
  19. de Rachewiltz I. (trans.). The Secret History of the Mongols: A Mongolian Epic Chronicle of the Thirteenth Century. Leiden, Brill, 2006. cxxvi + 1347 p.
  20. Djebli M. Les invasions mongoles en orient vecues par un savant medieval arabe. Paris, Editions L’Harmattan, 1994. (In French)
  21. Dörrie H. Drei Texte zur Geschichte der Ungarn und Mongolen. Göttingen, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1956. 202 p. (In German, Latin)
  22. Franke H. A Sung Embassy Diary of 1211–1212: The Shih-chin lu of Ch’eng Cho. Bulletin de l’Ecole française d’Extrême-Orient. 1981, no. 69, pp. 171-207.
  23. Garufi C. (ed.). Ryccardi de Sancto Germano notarii Chronica. Rerum Italicarum Scriptores. Vol. VII/2. Bologna, Nicola Zanichelli, 1938. (In Latin)
  24. Giles J. Matthew Paris, English History: From the Year 1235 to 1273. 3 Vols. London, George Bell & Sons, 1889.
  25. Golden P. The Shaping of the Cuman-Qïpchaqs. Il Codice Cumanico e il suo mondo. Schmieder F., Schreiner P. (eds). Rome, 2005, pp. 247–277.
  26. Hautala R. Crusaders, Missionaries and Eurasian Nomads in the 13th–14th Centuries: A Century of Interactions. Bucharest, Editura Academiei Romane, 2017. 477 p.
  27. Hormayr J. Die goldene chronik von Hohenschwangau. Munich, G. Franz, 1842. (In German)
  28. Houdas O. (trans.). Histoire du Sultan Djelal ed-din Mankobirti Prince du Kharezm par Mohammed en-Nesawi. Paris, Ernest Leroux, 1895. (In French)
  29. Jackson P. The Mongols and the Islamic World. New Haven, Yale Press, 2017. 614 p.
  30. Jackson P. The Mongols and the West. Harlow, Pearson, 2005. 414 p.
  31. Jones S. (trans.). Kartlis Tskhovreba: A History of Georgia. Tbilisi, Artanuji Publishers, 2014. 443 p.
  32. Lech K (trans.). Das mongolische Weltreich, Al-‘Umari’s Darstellung der mongolischen Reiche in seinem Werk Masālik al-abṣār fī mamālik al-amṣār. Wiesbaden, Harrassowitz, 1968. 475 p. (In German)
  33. Ledyard G. Two Mongol Documents from the Koryŏ sa. Journal of the American Oriental Society. 1963, no. 83, pp. 225–239.
  34. Li Xinchuan 李心傳. Jianyan yilai chaoye zaji 建炎以來朝野雜記 [Notes on court and provinces since 1127]. Beijing, Zhong Hua Book Company, 2000. (In Chinese)
  35. Martinez A. Gardizi’s Two Chapters on the Turks. Archivum Eurasiae Medii Aevi. Wiesbaden, Otto Harrassowitz Verlag, 1982, no. 2, pp. 109–217.
  36. Michell R., Forbes N. (trans.). The Chronicle of Novgorod 1016–1471. London, Camden Society, 1914. xliii + 237 p.
  37. Moin A. The Millennial Sovereign: Sacred Kingship & Sainthood in Islam. New York, Columbia University Press, 2012.
  38. Morgan D. The Mongols. Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2007. 272 p.
  39. Olbricht P., Pinks E. (trans.). Meng-ta pei-lu und Hei-ta shih-lüeh: Chinesische Gesandtenberichte über die Frühen Mongolen 1221 und 1237. Wiesbaden. Harrassowitz, 1980. (In German)
  40. Painter G. (trans.). The Tatar Relation. The Vinland Map and the Tartar Relation. Skelton R. et al. (ed.). New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995, pp. 20–106.
  41. Pelliot P., Hambis L. (trans.). Histoire des Campagnes de Gengis Khan, Cheng-wou ts’in-tcheng lou. Leiden, Brill, 1951. xxvii + 485 p. (In French, Chinese)
  42. Perfecky G. The Hypatian Codex, Part II: The Galician-Volynian Chronicle. Harvard Series in Ukrainian Studies 16:2. Munich, 1973. 159 p.
  43. Ratchnevsky P. Genghis Khan: His Life and Legacy. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1991. 328 p.
  44. Raverty G. (trans.). Minhaj Siraj Juzjani, Tabakat-i-Nasiri: A General History of the Muhammadan Dynasties of Asia. London, 1881.
  45. Richard J (ed.). Simon of Saint-Quentin. Histoire des Tartares. Paris, Librairie orientaliste Paul Geuthner, 1965. (In French, Latin)
  46. Richards D.S. (trans.). Ibn al-Athir, The Chronicle of Ibn al-Athir for the Crusading Period from al-Kamil fi’l-ta’rikh. Part 3: The Years 589–629/1193–1231: The Ayyubids after Saladin and the Mongol Menace. Aldershot, Ashgate, 2008. viii + 331 p.
  47. Rosenthal F (trans.). Ibn Khaldun. The Muqaddimah. Vol. 1. London, Routledge, 1958. 481 p.
  48. Shiraishi, N. 斡里札河の戦いにおける金軍の経路 [Route of Jin army in the Battle of the River Ulz]. Inner Asian Studies. 2016, no. 31, pp. 27–48. (In Japanese)
  49. Song Lian 宋濂. Yuan Shi 元史 [History of Yuan Dynasty]. Beijing, Zhong Hua Book Company, 1976. (In Chinese)
  50. Szentpétery I. Scriptores rerum hungaricarum tempore ducum regumque stirpis arpadianae gestarum. 2 Vols. Budapestini, Academia litter. hungarica atque Societate histor. hungarica in parten impensarum venietibus, typographiae Reg. universitatis litter. hung. sumptibus, 1937–1938. Vol. 2. 681 p. (In Latin)
  51. Tamura J. The legend of the origin of the Mongols and problems concerning their migration. Acta Asiatica. 1973, no. 24, pp. 1–19.
  52. Tatár M. The First Tatars in Europe. Altaica Budapestinensia MMII. Budapest, MTA, 2003, pp. 328–352.
  53. Thackston W. (trans.). Rashiduddin Fazlullah’s Jami’u’tawarikh: Compendium of Chronicles. 2nd edition. Cambridge, Harvard University Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, 1999. 811 p.
  54. Vasaru M. Bjarmaland. Oulu, University of Oulu, 2016. 486 p.
  55. Vásáry I. Cumans and Tatars. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2005. 230 p.
  56. Viard J (ed.). Les Grandes Chroniques de France. Tome 7. Paris, Librairie Ancienne, 1932. 296 p. (In French)
  57. Von Somogyi J. Ein arabischer Bericht über die Tataren im Ta’rīḫ al-Islām von aḏ-Ḏahabī. Der Islam. 1937, no. 24(2), pp. 105–130. (In German)
  58. Weatherford J. Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World. New York, Crown Publishers, 2004. 293 p.
  59. Wittfogel K., Feng C. History of Chinese Society Liao (907–1125). Transactions of the American Philosophical Society. 1946, vol. 36, 752 p.
  60. Yanai Wataru 箭內互. Wulianghe ji dada kao 兀良哈及韃靼考 [Uriyangqat and Tatar Studies]. Taiyuan, Shanxi People’s Press, 2015. (In Chinese)

About the author: Stephen Pow – M.A. (History), PhD Candidate, Department of Medieval Studies, Central European University (Nádor utca 9, 1051 Budapest, Hungary); ORCID: http://orcid.org/0000-0001-8804-0397. E-mail: Pow_Stephen@phd.ceu.edu

Received   May 3, 2019   Accepted for publication  August 27, 2019
Published online   September 29, 2019