Group of aged Chuvash men, early 20th century.
|c. 1.5 million|
|Regions with significant populations|
|United States||900|
|Russian Orthodox Christianity|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Volga Tatars, Mari people|
The Chuvash people (//; Chuvash: чăваш, IPA: [t͡ɕəˈʋaʂ], plural: чăвашсем, singular: чăваш; 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 the Republic of Chuvashia and 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 that try to explain it: one suggests that the word Chuvash may be derived from Common Turkic jăvaš (‘friendly’, ‘peaceful’), as opposed to şarmăs (‘warlike’). Another theory is based on 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.
Chuvash people are divided into two main groups:
- Virjal or Turi (Chuvash: вирьял, тури; ‘upper’)
- Anatri (анатри; ‘lower’), which is subdivided into:
- Anat jenci (анат енчи; ‘mid-lower’)
- Hirti (хирти; ‘steppe’)
The Turkic ancestors of the Chuvash people are believed to have come from central Siberia, where they lived in the Irtysh basin (between the 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, Bilär, became the fourth-largest city in the world.
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 rival schools of thought on the origin of the Chuvash people. One is that they originated from a mixing between the Turkic Sabir tribes of Volga Bulgaria and, according to some researches, local Finno-Ugric tribes.
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. Chuvash is classified, alongside the extinct Bulgar language, as the only remaining member of the Oghuric branch of the Turkic language family.
Subclades of Y-DNA haplogroups R1 and N are most common among the Chuvash. According to Rootsi et al. 2004, Tambets et al. 2004 (79 samples), and Trofimova 2005 (43 samples) the following distribution of haplogroups is obtained:
- I1: 7%
- I2a2: 0–2%
- I2a1: 0–2%
- J1: 0–2%
- J2a: 0–9%
- J2b: 0–5%
- Q: 0%
- R1b: 2–4%
- R1a: 28–32%
- N1c1: 18–19%
- N1c2: 9–10%
- E-M78: 0–14%
- C: 0–1%
A study sampling of unrelated 96 Chuvashes concluded:
Earlier genetic research using autosomal DNA markers suggested a Finno-Ugric origin for the Chuvash. This study examines non-recombining DNA markers to better elucidate their origins. The majority of individuals in this sample exhibit the maternal haplogroups H (31%), U (22%), and K (11%), all representative of western and northern Europeans, but absent in Altaic or Mongolian populations. Multidimensional scaling (MDS) was used to examine distances between the Chuvash and 8 reference populations compiled from the literature. Mismatch analysis showed a unimodal distribution. Along with neutrality tests (Tajima's D (−1.43365) p < 0.05, Fu's FS (−25.50518) p < 0.001), the mismatch distribution is suggestive of an expanding population. These tests suggest that the Chuvash are not directly related to the Turkic and Mongolic people along their maternal line but supports the hypothesis that their language was imposed by a conquering group—leaving Chuvash mtDNA largely of European origin with a small amount of Central Asian gene flow. Their maternal markers appear to most closely resemble Slavic and Finno-Ugric speakers rather than fellow Turkic speakers.
The MtDNA gene pool was found to be 89.1% Caucasoid, 9.1% Mongoloid and 1.8% unidentified.
According to autosomal analyses, the present-day Chuvash speak a Turkic language but are genetically a mix of East-Asian and European elements. They are generally closer to Europeans with some genetic input from Siberia.
An autosomal analysis (2015) detected an indication of Oghur and possibly Bulgar ancestry in modern Chuvash. These Oghur and Bulgar tribes brought the Chuvash language with them. Another study found some Finno-Ugric components in Chuvash people.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Chuvash people.|
- List of Chuvashes
- Chuvash Wikipedia
- Chuvash National Museum
- Society for the study of the native land
- Chuvash National Congress
- Chuvash State Academic Song and Dance Ensemble
- Chuvash national symbols
- Census 2010
- Census 2002
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