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Russia’s Charming Chuvash Republic

The Chuvash Republic of Russia lies in the heart of the spectacular Volga-Vyatka region, between Kazan and Nizhny Novgorod. With a number of the Volga River valley reservoirs found in the north, and the Sura River flowing along the republic’s western boundary before joining the Volga, together with vast stretches of forested territory, the Chuvash Republic is very picturesque and rich in natural resources. Its natural beauty, together with a moderate continental climate, makes Chuvashia a popular leisure destination choice, and boat trips along the Volga often include a stop at the republic's largest city, Cheboksary.

As is the case with most of Russia, Chuvashia has a long and tumultuous history, with conquests, domination, rebellions and changes in rulers being the order of the day. Ancestry of the Chuvash peoples includes the Turkic Bulgars and Suars who resided in the Northern Caucasus as far back as the 5th century. The Chuvash consider themselves to be descendants of the Suars who migrated north and integrated with the Finnic Mari tribe. In 1242, following an uprising suppressed by the Mongols, the Chuvash people lived in subjugation to the Golden Horde for a period of time.

During the war of conquest carried out by Ivan the Terrible against the Khanate of Kazan in the mid-1500s, Chuvash leaders swore loyalty to the Grand Duchy of Muscovy. In return, Ivan undertook to honor historic land rights of the Chuvash and Mari peoples, while authorizing a five-year period during which time Chuvash and Mari leaders would be free from tribute. Dissatisfied with Russian rule, the Chuvash and Mari joined the rebellions of Cossack leader Stenka Razin and the later Cossack Rebellion, which affected the Volga region from Nizhni Novgorod to Astrakhan until 1775. During this time, and up to 1850, the Russian Orthodox Church sent missionaries to attempt to convert the Chuvash, and it was these missionaries who created a written Chuvash language .

During Soviet Rule, Lenin ordered the creation of a Chuvash state in 1920, but the 1930-1931 campaign by the communist government against the wealthy kulak peasant class saw an end to independent peasant farming, with many of the Chuvash intelligentsia and academics being sent to prison camps or shot. This almost brought an end to the Chuvash language, but not the people, and during the Great Patriotic War, the towns of Chuvashia started to expand.

Today the Chuvash Republic is an autonomous republic of the Russian Federation. The Chuvash language is widely spoken, with Russian being the official language, and official signs and announcements are made in both Chuvash and Russian. There has reportedly been a revival in Chuvash traditions, culture and heritage in the republic, with more people learning the ancient language and discovering their complex ancestry. Certainly, Chuvashia is a fascinating area of the vast country of Russia worthy of attention.

 



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