Treatment of ethnic Chuvash with particular comment on their treatment in the Republic of Bashkortostan; state protection [RUS42473.E]

The Chuvash or Bulgar (Bolgar) minority (Ethnologue 2000) is the fourth largest nationality in the Russian Federation (Nationalities Papers 2000, 696). Population estimates report nearly 1.8 million Chuvash living across Russia (Ethnologue 2000; NUPI n.d.a), which amounts to approximately one per cent of the national population (Rossiyskiye Vesti 14 Nov. 1997). Forming the titular nationality of Chuvashia Republic since the 1920s, the Centre for Russian Studies of the Norwegian Institute for International Affairs (NUPI) reported that Chuvash made up 51 per cent of the region's inhabitants in 1989 (n.d.a). In 2001, The Moscow Times reported that the ethnic Chuvash constituted some 70 per cent of the region's 1.4 million inhabitants (Moscow Times 25 June 2001). According to 1989 data, over 100,000 ethnic Chuvash were found in Tatarstan (134,000 persons), Samara (118,000) and Ulyanovsk (117,000) (NUPI n.d.a). Approximately 120,000 Chuvash live in the Bashkortostan Republic (ibid.; RFE/RL 21 Sept. 2001), which amounts to three per cent of a regional population otherwise dominated by Russians (39 per cent), Tatars (28 per cent) and Bashkirs (22 per cent) (NUPI n.d.b).

The Chuvash speak a dialect of Turkish and are nominally Orthodox Christian (Ethnologue 2000; NUPI n.d.a), although there are some who practice pre-Christian Chuvash beliefs (Nationalities Papers 2000, 699) and Islam (Eurominority 17 Mar. 2004). According to the Imam of Cheboksary, the total number of Muslims in Chuvashia was about 50,000 persons in 1999 (Blagovest 17 June 1999).

Treatment in Chuvashia and in the Broader Russian Federation

A Nationalities Papers article published in 2000 noted that since 1994, Chuvash President Nikolai Fyodorov (Federov) has had the goal to maintain ethnic harmony within Chuvashia and between the republic and the federal government (2000, 702). The Moscow Times credits Fyodorov with helping preserve the group's culture and noted that the national "language remains widely spoken" across the region (25 June 2001). Despite the availability of Chuvash-language publications in Chuvashia, the same report cited feelings among some members of the Chuvash community that their "language and culture are vanishing" (The Moscow Times 25 June 2001).

The Research Directorate found few comments on the treatment of members of the Chuvash minority among the sources consulted. According to its listing on the Organization for the European Minorities website,, the Chuvash are a "minority in search of autonomy" although one not in conflict with the Russian Federation (17 Mar. 2004). Alexander Sokolov of the Russian NGO, Memorial, did not include the Chuvash among the most vulnerable groups in Russia in his 2001 analysis of human rights in Russia (MHG 2001). In his report entitled "The Status of the Most Vulnerable Groups and Violation of Their Rights: The Situation of Ethnic Minorities," Sokolov mentions the minority only twice: in relation to educational opportunities in Bashkortostan (see below) and in relation to media accounts of the minority (ibid.). In the latter, Sokolov cites, but does not specifically comment on a July 2001 Moskovsky Komsomolets article that claimed that "'Chuvash people ... can also pass as Russians'" (ibid.).

In 2001, several Russian human rights organizations indicated that there was both ethnic discrimination and restrictions on the freedom of speech in Bashkortostan (RFE/RL 8 Feb. 2001). The Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) report of the NGO claims did not specify the Chuvash as being victims of such discrimination (ibid.). According to the Chairman of the Bashkortostan People's Assembly, a parliamentary organization developed to facilitate ethnic relations, minorities in the republic "'felt like natives, capable of self-realization'" (ITAR-TASS 10 June 2001). Speakers at a 2001 Assembly meeting noted that there was "also great progress in the revival of religious and national cultures" (ibid.). In 2001, the Chuvash plenipotentiary representative to Bashkortostan was also of the opinion that the Chuvash minority had the support of the republic's leadership (RFE/RL 21 Sept. 2001).

With respect to cultural renewal, education in the Chuvash language is available in most schools in Chuvashia (ITAR-TASS 5 Feb. 2004) as well as many schools in Bashkortostan (RFE/RL 21 Sept. 2001; ibid. 14 Sept. 2001; Bashkir State University n.d.; MHC 2001). As of 2001, there were "more than 300 secondary schools in 14 republics and oblasts of Russia" including 93 secondary schools in Bashkortostan in which students study the Chuvash language (RFE/RL 14 Sept. 2001). For Bashkortostan, according to the Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG),

[t]he Russian-language public schools with a multi-ethnic mix of students have the "native languages" taught in small groups (Bashkir, Tatar, Chuvash, Marii, etc.) to cater to the students' interests, according to the curriculum for public schools of the Republic of Bashkortostan (2001).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Bashkir State University. n.d. "Education, Press and Broadcasting in Bashkortostan." [Accessed 16 Mar. 2004]

Blagovest Religion News Agency [Moscow]. 17 June 1999. "Sponsor Funds Needed to Complete Mosque." [Accessed 17 Mar. 2004]

Ethnologue: Languages of the World. 2000. 14th Edition. "Chuvash: A Language of Russia (Europe)." [Accessed 16 Mar. 2004]

ITAR-TASS [Moscow]. 5 February 2004. "Putin Praises Russia's Ethnic, Religious 'Unity.'" (FBIS-SOV-2004-0205 6 Feb. 2004/Dialog)

_____. 10 June 2001. "Russia: Tatar, Bashkir Leaders Criticize Moscow's Nationalities Ministry." (FBIS-SOV-2001-0610 11 June 2001/Dialog)

Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG). 2001. A. Sokolov. "The Status of the Most Vulnerable Groups and Violation of Their Rights: The Situation of Ethnic Minorities." Human Rights in Russian Regions. Collection on the Human Rights Situation Across the Territory of the Russian Federation in the Year 2001. [Accessed 17 Mar. 2004]

The Moscow Times. 25 June 2001. Torrey Clark. "Chuvasia Fetes 450-Year Union With Russia." (NEXIS)

Nationalities Papers [Abingdon, Oxfordshire, UK]. 2000. Vol. 28, No. 4. Olessia P. Vovina. "Building the Road to the Temple: Religion and National Revival in the Chuvash Republic."

Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI), Centre for Russian Studies. n.d.a. "Ethnic Groups: Chuvash." [Accessed 16 Mar. 2004]

_____. n.d.b. "Ethnic Groups: Ethnic Composition of 'Bashkortostan'." [Accessed 16 Mar. 2004]

Organization for the European Minorities (Eurominority). 17 March 2004. "Chuvashia." [Accessed 17 Mar. 2004]

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). 21 September 2001. Tatar-Bashkir Daily Report. "Cheboksary Opens Representation in Ufa." [Accessed 17 Mar. 2004]

_____. 14 September 2001. Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Report. "Chuvash Language Taught in 14 Regions of Russia." [Accessed 17 Mar. 2004]

_____. 8 February 2001. Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Report. "Russian Organizations Say Ufa Restricts Freedom of Speech." [Accessed 17 Mar. 2004]

Rossiyskiye Vesti [Moscow, in Russian]. 14 November 1997. Emil Pain. "Russia: 1994 'Mini-Census' Results Analyzed." (FBIS-SOV-97-318 20 Nov. 1997/Dialog)

Additional Sources Consulted

IRB Databases

Internet sites, including:

Amnesty International,, Committee for the Protection of Human Rights in Tatarstan, Country Reports 2003, European Country of Origin Information Network, FSU Monitor, Human Rights International, Johnson's Russia List, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).

Associated documents