THE DECADE OF EXPLORATION OF THE POLISH-LITHUANIAN TATARS' EPIGRAPHY. RESULTS AND PERSPECTIVES
Since 1998, when the first field works on the Polish-Lithuanian Tatars' material culture was carried out in Belarus, Lithuania and Poland, we have been able to draw certain conclusions concerning the epigraphy. Epigraphical activity of the Polish-Lithuanian Tatars has been revealed in the four major areas: a) decoration of minbars and mihrabs, b) devotional panels (muhirs), c) textiles (predominantly funerary ones), d) gravestones. Epigraphy of the Polish-Lithuanian Tatars proves to be one of the most important elements of the culture of this Oriental community inhabiting the territory of the Polish - Lithuanian Commonwealth since the end of the 14th century. The Tatars' epigraphy reflects their complex cultural situation, like the Tatars' handwritten religious literature in Polish - Byelorussian language and its dialects but rendered with the Arabic script. The most significant part of the Tatars epigraphy are the grave inscriptions. The oldest ones can be dated back to the 1st decades of the 17th cent. It was spring of 1998 when the author was invited to cooperate in preparing the 2nd volume of the 'Katalog Zabytków Tatarskich' (Catalogue of the Tatar Monuments), which was about to be published to commemorate the 600th anniversary of the Tatar settlement in Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. At that time very little was known of original material culture preserved by Polish-Lithuanian Tatars. Most of what we had expected to present in the Catalogue was the handwriting (religious books, as kitabs, khamails - though they were rather the subject of literature research) and the architecture of the mosques (though the mosques were also predominantly creations of local carpenters). Another area to be presented was the cemeteries (Pltat. mizar - Tur mezar, and the older form Pltat. zirec - Tat. zerät / ziyarät - Ar. ziyarat). The literature on this subject is reviewed. However till 1998 the Polish-Lithuanian Tatars epigraphy was generally unexplored area. The invitation for the work on the 'Katalog...' was connected with the urgent need of collecting the materials. A quick expedition to Belarus and Lithuania (summer1998) showed condition and importance of the Tatar cemeteries, thus opening a new field for the Polish-Lithuanian Tatars studies. The collected materials enabled to publish two volumes of the 'Katalog..'. The first one (1999) was devoted to the mosques, minbars and cemeteries. The second volume was devoted to the Tatars' religious writing, manuscripts and art of devotional panels called muhirs. The results of field works caried our in Poland, Belarus and Lithuania. within 2000-2008, are presented as well.
CEJSH db identifier