Minority Rights Group International (MRG) Deputy Director, Claire Thomas, writes this opinion piece for the Thomson Reuters News Foundation.+ LEARN MORE
According to the 2010 national census, there are 1,435,872 Chuvash in the Russian Federation. Chuvash are descended from Volga Bolgars who assimilated local Finnic and Turkic peoples. Chuvash live, primarily, in the Chuvash Republic as well as in Tatarstan and Bashkortostan.
The Chuvash language is from the Turkic branch of the Uralo-Altaic language family. Chuvash are Eastern Orthodox Christians in religion.
The Chuvash are descended from that part of the Volga Bolgar population that did not convert to Islam in the tenth century. Previously part of the Kazan Khanate, Chuvashia became part of Russia in 1551.
The Chuvash Autonomous Oblast was established in June 1920 and became an ASSR on 25 April 1925. The republic has the lowest concentration of Russians in the region. Traditions of nationalism have never been strong among the Chuvash compared to some other Turkic groups in the Russian Federation, yet the Chuvash language and culture underwent a revival in the 1990s. Chuvash law requires the republic’s president to be a Chuvash-speaker.
The Chuvash National Congress (CNC) protested the announcement of President Putin’s plans to terminate the election of regional governors in 2004, which would allow the federal centre to ignore the language requirements of republican leaders envisioned in Chuvash law.
Authorities in the Chuvash Republic are concerned about the decline of the Chuvash language in the region, with many regarding the language of limited usefulness after leaving school. In September 2012, the government of the Chuvash Republic approved a 2013-2020 programme to promote popular interest in the language. Like other communities whose languages are endangered, Chuvash representatives have expressed alarm about the potential implications of a draft language law that will reduce opportunities for minority language learning.
Updated December 2020
Minorities and indigenous peoples in
- Kabards and Balkars
- Karachay and Cherkess
- Khants and Mansi
- Meskhetians or Meskhetian Turks
- Russian or Volga Germans
- Ukrainians, Belarusians and Kazakhs