Tatar Pedlars in the Grand Duchy of Finland in the Late Nineteenth Century
Keywords:Tatars, petty trade, mobile trade, practices, space
In the 1880s, the arrival of a new group of traders was noted in Finnish- and Swedish-language newspapers published in the Grand Duchy of Finland. The newcomers were Muslim Tatars, petty traders originating in a few villages south of Nizhny Novgorod. They found a livelihood in market and itinerant trade in the Russian Empire. This article examines depictions of Tatar mobile traders in the late nineteenth-century press in Finland. While petty trade has left fragmentary traces in historical sources, the Finnish National Library’s digital newspaper database offers new possibilities to create an overview of how the press depicted relations between the early Tatar itinerant
traders and the local sedentary society. Through the concepts of space and practices, the article discusses the following topics: fairs as a space for ethnic encounters, Tatar trading practices and interaction with local customers, the traders’ use of space and tactics in relation to formal regulation and the fairs as a “threatening” space. The article contributes new knowledge on the early period of Tatar presence in Finland, relatively invisible in previous research, and on the multiethnic character of late nineteenth-century petty trade.