Chuvash people

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An old dancing couple.jpg
Group of dancing Chuvash people
Total population
1.5 million[1]
Regions with significant populations
 United States900[citation needed]
Predominantly Orthodox Christian
Minority Tengrism and Muslim
Related ethnic groups
Volga Tatars, Mari people
Baptized Chuvash people, 1870
Chuvash diaspora in Volga Federal District

The Chuvash people (/ʊˈvɑːʃ/; Chuvash: чăваш, IPA: [t͡ɕəˈʋaʃ]; Russian: чуваши, pronounced [t͡ɕʊˈvaʂɨ]) are a Turkic ethnic group, native to an area stretching from the Volga Region to Siberia. Most of them live in Chuvashia and the surrounding areas, although Chuvash communities may be found throughout the Russian Federation.


There is no universally accepted etymology of the word Chuvash, but there are two main theories. One suggests that the word Chuvash may be derived from Common Turkic jăvaš ('friendly', 'peaceful'), as opposed to şarmăs ('warlike'). Another theory is that the word is derived from the Tabghach, an early medieval Xianbei clan and founders of the Northern Wei dynasty in China. The Old Turkic name Tabghach (Tuoba in Mandarin) was used by some Inner Asian peoples to refer to China long after this dynasty. Gerard Clauson has shown that through regular sound changes, the clan name Tabghach may have transformed to the ethnonym Chuvash.[15]


Chuvash people are divided into three main groups:[16]

  • Virjal or Turi (Chuvash: вирьял, тури, 'upper')
  • Anat jenchi (анат енчи, 'mid-lower')
  • Anatri (анатри, 'lower')
    • Hirti (хирти, 'steppe') (this is a sub-group that is recognized by some researchers)


Distribution of Chuvash in the broader Volga-Ural region. Source: 2010 Russian Census.

The Turkic ancestors of the Chuvash people are believed to have come from central Siberia, where they lived in the Irtysh basin (between Tian Shan and Altay) from at least the end of the third millennium BC. In the beginning of the first century AD, the Bulgars started moving west through Zhetysu and the steppes of modern-day Kazakhstan, reaching the North Caucasus in 2nd–3rd centuries AD. There they established several states (Old Bulgaria on the Black Sea coast and the Suar Duchy in modern-day Dagestan.

Old Bulgaria broke up in the second half of the 7th century after a series of successful Khazar invasions. Some of its population fled north, to the Volga-Kama region, where they established Volga Bulgaria, which eventually became extremely wealthy: its capital being the 4th largest city in the world. Shortly after that, the Suar Duchy was forced to become a vassal state of Khazaria. About half a century later, the Suars took part in the Arab–Khazar wars of 732–737. The adoption of Islam in the early tenth century in Volga Bulgaria led to most of its people (including the Chuvash) to embrace the religion.[17]

After the collapse of Volga Bulgaria by the Mongols in 1236, the Golden Horde kept control of the region until its slow dissolution in 1438. The Kazan Khanate then became the new authorities of the region and of the Chuvash. The modern name 'Chuvash' began to appear in records starting from the sixteenth century from Russian and other foreign sources.[17]

In 1552, the Russians conquered the Kazan Khanate and its territories. The subsequent centuries saw the Christianization and Russification of the Chuvash. During this period, most Chuvash converted to Orthodox Christianity (sometimes by force) but Russification was never achieved.

The eighteenth and nineteenth century saw the revival of Chuvash culture and the publication of many educational, literary, and linguistic works along with the establishment of schools and other programs. The Chuvash language began being used in local schools and a special written script for the Chuvash language was created in 1871.[17]

On June 24, 1920, the Chuvash Autonomous Region was established but was renamed the Chuvash Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic on April 21, 1925. Around this time saw the rise of Chuvash nationalism but the Soviet authorities attempted to suppress these nationalist movements by redrawing the borders of the republic so that many Chuvash will be living in neighboring republics or Russian districts. During most of the Soviet period, the Chuvash were subjected to Russification campaigns and propaganda. The Chuvash language vanished from educational and public use. In 1989, another Chuvash cultural revival began partly in response to these changes. Soon, the Chuvash language was once again used in educational, public, and political life.[17]

Today, the Chuvash language and culture is taught in schools in the Chuvash Republic and in areas outside that have large Chuvash populations. Chuvash around Russia also have media available to them in their local communities.[17]


Chuvash woman

According to one theory, the Chuvash may be descended from the Volga Bulgars.[18]

They have been subjected to much infusion and influence, not only from Russian and Turkic peoples, but also from neighboring Finnic tribes, with whom they were persistently and mistakenly identified for centuries, perhaps aided by the fact that the Chuvash language is a highly divergent form of Turkic, and was not easily recognized as such.[18] Chuvash is classified, alongside the extinct Bulgar language, as the only remaining member of the Oghuric branch of the Turkic language family.


Chuvashes are autosomally approximately 75% West Eurasian and 25% East Eurasian on average.

The three main Y-DNA haplogroups amongst the Chuvash are R1a (Z282 and Z93) at the frequency of 28-32%, N-B211 at about 20%,[19] and N-L1419 at about 8%. R1a haplogroup peaks in the Kyrgyz at 63% and is present at 57.5% in Poles. N-B211, which is a subclade of N-M46/N-TAT, reaches its highest frequency at 67% in Udmurts[19] and is also found in approximately 20% of Komis and Ugrians and in approximately 10% of Maris and Mordvins. Haplogroup N-L1419, which is a subclade of N-P43, is found especially among Vepsians (17.5%[19]), Maris (15.7%[19]), Komis (3.3% - 23.5%[19]), Ugrians (9.5%[19]), Russians from Arkhangelsk Oblast (6.6% - 16.5%[19]), and Volga Tatars (4.5%[19]). Other haplogroups also found amongst the Chuvash are E-M78, J2, other subclades of N-M46 and N-P43, I1, R1b, I2a, J1a, and C.[16]

Osteopetrosis affects 1 newborn out of every 20,000 to 250,000[20] worldwide, but the odds are much higher in the Russian region of Chuvashia (1 of every 3,500–4,000 newborns) due to genetic traits of the Chuvash people.[21][22]


They speak the Chuvash language and have some pre-Christian traditions. The Chuvash language is Turkic and is the only Oghur Turkic language that survives. The language has been influenced by Tatar, Russian, and Finno-Ugric languages. It has two to three dialects.[17] In addition to Chuvash,[23] many people also use the Russian language.


Today Chuvash people are Eastern Orthodox Christians and belong to the Russian Orthodox Church. They retain some pre-Christian Tengrism traditions in their cultural activities. They syncretized Orthodox Christianity and Tengriism. Parallel pray in the shrines called keremet and sacrifice geese there. One of the main shrines is located in the town of Bilyarsk. There are some Chuvash who follow Islam which also has many traces of pre-Islamic beliefs and rituals.[17]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Joshua Project
  2. ^ Census 2010
  3. ^ Census 2002
  4. ^ "Демоскоп Weekly - Приложение. Справочник статистических показателей". 2013-03-21. Archived from the original on 2011-06-04. Retrieved 2016-02-09.
  5. ^ "Всеукраїнський перепис населення 2001 - English version - Results - Nationality and citizenship - The distribution of the population by nationality and mother tongue - Selection".
  6. ^ [1][dead link]
  7. ^ "Демоскоп Weekly - Приложение. Справочник статистических показателей". 2013-03-21. Archived from the original on 2012-03-14. Retrieved 2016-02-09.
  9. ^ "Демоскоп Weekly - Приложение. Справочник статистических показателей". 2013-03-21. Archived from the original on 2016-01-25. Retrieved 2016-02-09.
  10. ^ "Демографические тенденции, формирование наций и межэтнические отношения в Киргизии". Archived from the original on 2016-02-06. Retrieved 2016-02-09.
  11. ^ "Демоскоп Weekly - Приложение. Справочник статистических показателей". 2013-03-21. Retrieved 2016-02-09.
  12. ^ [2][dead link]
  13. ^ "Демоскоп Weekly - Приложение. Справочник статистических показателей". 2013-03-21. Archived from the original on 2011-08-26. Retrieved 2016-02-09.
  15. ^ Gerard Clauson, Studies in Turkic and Mongolic Linguistics. Routledge, 2002, p. 23.
  16. ^ a b "Family Tree DNA - Genetic Testing for Ancestry, Family History & Genealogy".
  17. ^ a b c d e f g Skutsch, Carl, ed. (2005). Encyclopedia of the World's Minorities. New York: Routledge. pp. 312, 313. ISBN 1-57958-468-3.
  18. ^ a b John R. Krueger, Chuvash Manual. Introduction, Grammar, Reader, and Vocabulary (Hague, 1961), 7–8.
  19. ^ a b c d e f g h Ilumäe 2016
  20. ^
  21. ^ Центр Молекулярной Генетики
  22. ^ Медицинская генетика Чувашии Archived February 1, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ ""Haval" somera tendaro 2015 | Чувашская общественная организация "Хавал"". (in Russian). Retrieved 2016-02-09.

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