CHUVASHIA

Geographical Features
The Chuvash Republic is situated in the mid-Volga region. It borders the Mordovian Republic, the Mari Republic, the Republic of Tatarstan, and the Nizhni-Novgorod and Uljansk district of the Russian Federation. Area: 183,000 km2. Capital: Shupashkar.

Population
The Chuvash are descendants of the Bulgar people. The population of the Chuvash Republic is 1,4 million, of which the Chuvash make up 68%. Other groups are Russians (26,7%), Tatars (2,7%) and Mordovians (1,4%). The total number of Chuvash is 2 million in the former Soviet Union, of which 48% live in Chuvashia.

Languages
The Chuvash language belongs to the Turkic group of languages, and it is said to be the only remaining branch of the Old-Bulgaric language.

Organisations
The Chuvash are represented by the Chuvash National Congress in UNPO. Its goal is the revival of the Chuvash culture and the preservation of the national identity of the Chuvash people.

Economy
Natural resources: gypsum, phosphor, carbonates, sand and clays. One third of the area of the republic is forested, providing lumber for the wood industry. Chuvashia exports agricultural and industrial products including hops, potatoes, knit-wear, hosiery, textiles, leather goods and plastics.

Brief History

  • The Chuvash, together with the Bulgars with whom they were closely related, were the first Turkic groups to appear in Chuvashia. They settled in the middle Volga region as a result of Khazar expansion in the lower Volga region in the 7th c. and Arab expansion into the Caucasus in the 8th c. The Bulgars and Chuvash seem to have assimilated native Finno-Ugrian peoples of the region where they settled. A Volga Bulgar state was established under the Khazars. When the Khazar Khanate broke up, the Bulgars and Chuvash established a Volga Bulgar empire that dominated the middle Volga region until the Mongol conquest of 1236.
  • With the Mongols, Islam started spreading among the Chuvash. When the Golden Horde broke up into smaller sub-divisions in the 15th c., the Chuvash came under the Khazan Khanate, that had appeared by the 1440s.
  • When the Khazan Khanate was defeated by Ivan the Terrible in 1552, the Chuvash came under the rule of Russia, and were subjected to intensive Christianization.
  • In the 18th c., a Chuvash written language was developed, which contributed to the strengthening of Chuvash culture. During the 19th c., this development continued, but at the same time the Russian influence was increasing as a stream of young Chuvash were trained in Russian schools, and then sent back as teachers and priests.
  • 1868 Having been a part of the Russian Empire from the 16th century, the revival of the Chuvash culture began.
  • 1920 Chuvashia became an Autonomous Republic within the former Soviet Union. The efforts to revive, sustain and safeguard the Chuvash culture were suppressed.
  • 1989 The Chuvash Public Cultural Centre was founded.
  • 1993 The Chuvash National Congress voted to become member of UNPO.

Current situation
An agreement was signed between the Chuvash and the Russian governments about the rebuilding of the Chuvash economy, the development of the region's agriculture and the destruction of chemical weapons on Chuvash territory. Among the Chuvash there is much concern about the situation in Chechenia. Chuvashia, together with Mari El, Udmurtia and Tatarstan publicly declared their opposition to the Chechen war and called on their citizens to refuse to serve in the conflict. The Chuvash derive a strong identity from their Bulgar heritage.

Sources:
Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO)
Norwegian Institute of International Affairs [NUPI] - Centre for Russian Studies
Photos: Helene Cincebeaux, Mary Kelly, Cheboksary Fashion House


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