Turkic tribes had no equals in archery. The bow and arrow are still very important symbols of the culture of Tatarstan. In addition to the metaphorical usage, bow and arrows are widely used in modern sport with various shooting competitions taking place throughout the Republic all year round.
Alexander Blok in his series of poems titled "On the Kulikovo Field" wrote:
"Oh, my Russia! My wife! It’s so painful
Today, arrows only pierce through sports targets, and young athletes might perhaps just scrape their fingers lightly when shooting. But Blok’s verses precisely define the essence of the true nature of Tatarstan peoples: hitting the target with the record speed - this type of behavior was formed many centuries ago.
Turkic tribes have been famous for their archery since ancient times: Bulgars, Chuvash, Bashkirs, and Tatars were all excellent at using the bow and arrow.
Russian and Turkish bows were similar to each other and differed from the Western bows. They had a complex, so-called composite, construction pattern, and were made of several glued layers of wood. Ligaments were used in their design, and in some cases, bows were covered with bone plates. Turkic bows, unlike the highly praised bows of England and Wales, allowed for the ability to achieve maximum bending: the space between the string and the bow was also used at a maximum capacity. The secret was in the glue foundation: when European archers tried to recreate the trophy bows, they were not able to make the glue that would hold the wood together just as strongly.
The shooting speed was measured by the quantity of arrows, which the archer released and which were hovering in the air at the same time a trained archer could keep up to eight arrows in the air. Even after the invention of firearms, the bow did not become obsolete, as it offered a much higher shooting speed than the early muskets.
The last archers, who participated in the European war, were the Turks. General Marbot, who served in the army of Napoleon, wrote in his memoirs that the Russian troops had a lot of Tatars and Bashkirs, armed with just bows - the French nicknamed them Northern Cupids. The archers were also involved with the Kazan militia during the Patriotic War of 1812, and they inflicted considerable damage to the enemy.
Nowadays, archery is a popular sport in Tatarstan. In 2009, the Archery Federation of the Republic was established, with the purpose to resurrect the sport in different parts of the Republic. Sviyazhsk Island has been the venue for the Sviyazhsk Cup Crossbow and Traditional Bow Shooting Tournament since 2010.
Those who want to experience shooting without taking part in professional competitions, may want to visit the Lazy Torzhok Military and Historical Reconstruction Center. The center offers the services of bow shooting galleries and the Archery Fun Online Program, which introduces tourists to military life from the late Middle Ages. A similar program is offered in the Kazan Kremlin. The weapons that are exhibited are the exact copies of bows and crossbows that were used by our ancestors.