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TATAR REFUGEE MAGAZINE PRINTED IN SWEDEN: Heberçi. Isviçdegi Dini-Medini-Türk-Islam Oyuşması Karşında Vakitlı Revişte çıgarılaridir. No. 1. [The Reporter. Swedish Religious-Civil-Turkish-Islamic Association Against the Contemporary Popular Magazines]



An extraordinary single-issue Tatar language magazine, largely in Ottoman script, published in Stockholm, in 1952, by exiles from the Soviet Union.

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4°: 20 pp. mimeographed text in Ottoman Turkish in purple and pink with manuscript details, original printed wrappers, mimeographed text on inner sides of the wrappers, stapled (Very Good, slightly stained, wrappers with small marginal tears and a small scratched spot, soft vertical fold, two old owner’s stamps to the cover and title page, first two pages printed a little pale).


This fascinating magazine was published in only a single issue, in 1952, in Stockholm, by Tatar exiles from the Soviet Union.  The Tatars are a Turkic people hailing from many disparate regions, primarily in Crimea, Russia and Kazakhstan.  They were often brutally persecuted by Russian/Soviet authorities, a situation that was especially severe during the Stalinist era.  However, many Tatars found safe refuge in Sweden.

The present mimeographed magazine is written in the Tatar language, largely in Ottoman script (but with some elements in Latin script), and is richly colourful and decorative in places.  It was issued primarily for the recent wave of Tatar exiles from the Soviet Union who had arrived in Sweden via Estonia and Finland.

Heberçi incudes biographic information on the late Turkish president Mustafa Kemal ‘Atatürk’ (a hero to all Turkic peoples), as well as poems, games for children and community notices.  The text was entirely written by members of the Tatar exile community, and a poem in homage of Atatürk was written by one Mr. Minhatsch (whose name is stamped on the cover of the present example, bearing his address in Neu-Ulm, Germany).

A Brief History of the Tatars in Sweden

Very few Tatars settled permanently in Sweden prior to the 20th Century, and those that did would have had to lose their identity and integrate into the traditional Swedish culture, owing to a long-lasting 1686 law that required all immigrants to convert to Christianity (the Tatars were generally Muslims).  Indeed, the 1930 Swedish census records only 15 Muslims as living in the country, while the formation of Islamic congregations was strictly forbidden.

However, Stalin’s brutal, anti-Tatar policies saw a wave of emigration from the Soviet Union.  In 1941-3, many of the Tatars that had initially fled to Finland were (to their great misfortune) forcibly returned to the USSR.  As such, many of the Tatars that manged to make it to Finland and Estonia, carried on to Sweden. 

The first wave of Tatars arriving in Sweden mostly hailed from the Mishar subgroup of the Volga Tatars, from Sergach, a town that was the administrative centre of Sergachsky District in Nizhny Novgorod Oblast, Russia. 

By the end of World War II, the immigration laws in Sweden had been greatly relaxed, and the Tatars were free to openly practise their religion and celebrate their culture.  In 1949, a group of immigrants, which included several Tatars and 2 Turks, founded the Turkic-Islamic Association of Sweden for the Promotion of Religion and Culture. 

In 1952, the Association published the one and only edition of their newspaper, being the present issue.  Subsequently, they planned to build their own mosque, but their proposal was rejected by the state.  However, they purchased their own plot of land, upon which they built a Muslim cemetery.

Meanwhile and subsequently, Sweden saw ever larger waves of Tatar immigration, and today Tatars represent one of the country’s most vibrant communities.

The present sole issue of Heberçi is extremely rare.  We can trace only a single institutional example worldwide, at the University of Chicago Library. 

References: University of Chicago Library: OFC687; Suomen Itämainen Seura, Studia orientalia (1981), p. 21, no. 45; Muslim Tatar Minorities in the Baltic Sea Region (2016), pp. 152-3.

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