Chuvash Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Chuvash Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic


(Chävash Avtonomillĕ Sovetlä Sotsializmla Respubliki, Chuvashia), a part of the RSFSR. The Chuvash ASSR was formed on Apr. 21, 1925, superseding the Chuvash Autonomous Oblast, which had been established on June 24, 1920. It is situated in the eastern part of the East European Plain, almost entirely on the right bank of the Volga, between two of the river’s tributaries, the Sura and Sviiaga. Area, 18,300 sq km. Population, 1,281,000 (Jan. 1, 1977). Chuvashia is divided into 21 raions and has nine cities and six urban-type settlements. The capital is Cheboksary.

Constitution and government. The Chuvash ASSR is a socialist state of workers and peasants and an autonomous Soviet socialist republic. Its present constitution was adopted by the Eighth Extraordinary Session of the Supreme Soviet of the Chuvash ASSR on May 31, 1978. The highest bodies of state power are the unicameral Supreme Soviet of the Chuvash ASSR, composed of 200 deputies elected by constituencies with equal populations for terms of five years, and its Presidium. The Supreme Soviet forms the government, the Council of Ministers of the Chuvash ASSR. The republic sends 11 deputies to the Soviet of Nationalities of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. Local bodies of state power include city, raion, settlement, and village soviets of people’s deputies, elected by the population for terms of 2½ years.

The Supreme Soviet elects the Supreme Court of the Chuvash ASSR for a five-year term. The Supreme Court is composed of two judicial divisions, one hearing criminal and the other civil cases, and the Presidium of the Supreme Court. The procurator of the Chuvash ASSR is appointed by the procurator-general of the USSR for a term of five years.

Natural features. The republic’s right-bank region is occupied by the Volga Upland. In the northeastern part of the upland, the Chuvash Plateau, lying at an elevation of 175 m to 227 m, descends precipitously toward the Volga. The plateau is crisscrossed by ravines and gullies, whose density may be as much as 0.5–0.9 km per sq km. The left bank, or Trans-Volga Region, is a plain (elevation 50–70 m) with sandy knolls of fluvioglacial origin, swamps, and peat bogs. The climate is moderately continental, with fairly cold winters and warm summers. The temperature averages –12.7°C in January and 19.3°C in July. About 70 percent of the annual precipitation of 450–500 mm falls during the warm period. The growing season lasts 180 days.

All the republic’s rivers drain into the Volga, which flows through Chuvashia for 127 km and whose principal tributaries are the Sura, Tsivil’, and Anish. The south is drained by tributaries of the Sura (Bezdna, Kiria, Menia) and of the Sviiaga (Kubnia, Bula). There are lakes on the river floodplains, as well as karst lakes. Among the larger lakes are the Shikhazanskoe and Siutkul’.

About 70 percent of the republic’s territory is covered by soddy podzolic and gray forest soils, commonly found in the north and on the watersheds. Leached chernozems, occupying 20 percent of the republic’s area, are found in the Trans-Sura Region and in the southeast. With the exception of the Trans-Volga Region, which belongs to the southern taiga subzone, the republic lies in the forest-steppe zone. Forests, found chiefly in the Sura and Trans-Volga region, cover 32 percent of the territory. The most common trees are pine, spruce, birch, oak, and linden. Wildlife includes the brown bear, wolf, fox, lynx, marten, raccoon dog, muskrat, squirrel, marmot, and elk.

Population. The Chuvash constitute the bulk of the population. The 1979 census showed that the republic was inhabited by 887,700 Chuvash, 338,100 Russians, 37,600 Tatars, 20,300 Mordovians, Ukrainians, and Mari.

Over the years the population of Chuvashia has increased from 891,000 in 1926 to 1,078,000 in 1939, 1,098,000 in 1959, and 1,224,000 in 1970. The average population density is 70 persons per sq km. The proportion of urban dwellers increased from 5 percent in 1926 to 45 percent in early 1977. The main cities are Cheboksary, Alatyr’, Mariinskii Posad, Tsivil’sk, and Iadrin. The cities of Novocheboksarsk, Kanash, Shumerlia, and Kozlovka were founded in the Soviet period.

Historical survey. Relics of the middle Paleolithic, Mesolithic, and Neolithic have been discovered in Chuvashia. Finno-Ugric tribes arrived in the area at the end of the Neolithic. At the beginning of the Bronze Age (end of the third millennium B.C.) tribes of the Fat’ianovo culture migrated into Chuvashia from the southwest. They practiced livestock raising and hoe farming and made copper and bronze tools. In the early Iron Age (first millennium B.C.) the primitive communal system began to disintegrate among the tribes living in the area.

The tenth century A.D. saw the rise of the first state in the Middle Volga Region, Bulgaria on the Volga. Conquered by the Mongol Tatars in the 1230’s, the state was included in the Golden Horde in 1241. The Chuvash nationality evolved in the 15th century through the mingling of Bulgars, who had moved into northern Chuvashia, and Finno-Ugric tribes. The Chuvash engaged in farming, apiculture, and, to a lesser extent, livestock raising, hunting, and fishing. After the Golden Horde broke up in the early 15th century, the Kazan Khanate emerged to rule over the Chuvash and other nationalities, all of whom had to pay tribute to the Tatar feudal lords. A considerable part of the Chuvash feudal nobility—centurion (serbiu) and decurión (vonbiu) princes and tarkhans—entered the service of the Tatars.

In 1551 the Chuvash voluntarily joined Russia, and the next year they helped Russian troops conquer Kazan. The fortified cities that were built, notably Cheboksary (first mentioned in chronicles in 1469 and founded as a fortified city in 1555), Alatyr’, Tsivil’sk, and Iadrin, soon became trade and artisan centers. The incorporation of Chuvashia into Russia was a progressive event inasmuch as it freed the Chuvash working masses from the oppression of the Kazan feudal lords and put an end to devastating wars and raids by nomadic tribes. In the second half of the 16th and in the 17th centuries, as the Chuvash moved into the southern regions of the present-day republic, the area under cultivation expanded. Moreover, farming methods improved under the influence of the Russian peasantry. The Chuvash began to excel in woodworking and the processing of hides, wool, and fiber. Leather, tallow-making, and distilling enterprises were established in the cities of Chuvashia in the latter half of the 17th century; from the late 18th century they employed hired laborers.

The Chuvash peasants, who paid the iasak tax in money and kind and performed labor services, were gradually enserfed. In the 1720’s the iasak-paying Chuvash were assigned to the category of state peasants, and the iasak was replaced by a poll tax and quitrent. The Chuvash were forcibly Christianized in the middle of the 18th century. The Chuvash peasants were exploited by moneylending tradesmen, Russian and Tatar merchants, and the Chuvash patriarchal feudal nobility. In the 16th and 17th centuries Chuvashia was administered by the Prikaz Kazanskogo Dvortsa; in the early 18th century it was divided between Kazan and Nizhny Novgorod provinces; and by the administrative reform of 1775 it became part of Kazan and Simbirsk provinces. The Chuvash working masses resisted feudal serfdom and national oppression and fought in the peasant wars led by S. T. Razin (1670–71) and E. I. Pugachev (1773–75).

The general crisis and decline of feudal serfdom in the first half of the 19th century also affected Chuvashia. In the early 19th century one-fourth of the Chuvash peasants were placed under the jurisdiction of the Office of Appanages, which administered the landed property belonging to the imperial family. The reforms introduced by P. D. Kiselev from 1837 to 1841 only intensified feudal oppression and increased the burden of requisitions for maintaining the bureaucracy. Peasant discontent, initially manifested in sporadic disturbances in 1841, escalated the next year into a full-scale armed uprising, sometimes called the Akramovo War. The uprising, which involved some 10,000 Chuvash and Mari, was suppressed.

Throughout much of the first half of the 19th century industry was limited to 15 votchina manufacturing establishments (seeVOTCHINA INDUSTRY) producing leather, cloth, and other goods, as well as a glass and cloth factory. By about 1850 there were some 150 spinning, brick-making, copper-smelting, and other small enterprises. After the abolition of serfdom, capitalism developed more slowly in Chuvashia than in central European Russia, and the region became a source of agricultural raw material for the Central Industrial Zone. The post-Reform period saw the stratification and impoverishment of the peasantry. By the 1890’s kulaks constituted more than 10 percent of the peasants; middle peasants, about 35 percent; and poor peasants, 55 percent. About 2 percent of the peasants owned no land. The kulaks opened small handicraft enterprises or became tradesmen, while the poor peasants hired themselves out as seasonal laborers in the local logging industry or migrated in search of seasonal employment. Capitalist factory production expanded somewhat in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1913 there were 29 large and more than 400 small industrial enterprises. Together, industry and transport employed 6,000 workers.

The first Marxist circles were organized between 1902 and 1904 in Alatyr’, Tsivil’sk, Cheboksary, and Iadrin. During the Revolution of 1905–07 in Russia, Bolshevik groups operated in several places in Chuvashia, and a united Social Democratic organization, calling itself Kurmysh-Iadrin-Vasil’sursk, was founded. There were large workers’ strikes at the locomotive repair shops and railroad depot in Alatyr’, at the Efremov Sawmill in Cheboksary, and at other mills. Armed peasant uprisings broke out in the Russian village of Ivanovo (1905) and in the Chuvash villages of Abashevo, Pervoe Semenovo (1906), and Chemeevo (1907). T. S. Krivov, who was of Chuvash peasant descent, took an active part in the revolution, joining the RSDLP in 1905. In 1913, 23 peasant villages in Iadrin District rebelled against Stolypin’s agrarian reform aimed at resettling peasants on farmsteads.

The development of capitalism and expanding contacts between the Chuvash and the Russians and other nationalities contributed to a rise in the material and spiritual culture of the Chuvash people. Primary schools for the Chuvash were established by the Ministry of Education, the zemstvos (district and provincial governing bodies), and church parishes. In 1870 the tsarist government reluctantly allowed Chuvash to become the language of instruction in primary schools. Major credit for the spread of learning among the Chuvash belongs to I. N. Ul’ianov, the inspector of public schools of Simbirsk Province, and I. Ia. Iakovlev, the inspector of Chuvash schools of the Kazan School District. In 1868 Iakovlev founded the Simbirsk Chuvash School, which graduated more than 1,000 teachers before the October Revolution of 1917. He also developed an alphabet and a written language and published books in Chuvash (711 such books were published before 1917).

After the February Revolution of 1917, soviets were organized almost immediately in Cheboksary and Alatyr’ and in June in Iadrin. Several soviets of peasants’ deputies were also formed. The Cheboksary soviet, headed by K. Ia. Grasis and dominated by Bolsheviks, published the newspaper Cheboksarskaia Pravda. The Great October Socialist Revolution opened a new era in the history of the Chuvash people, permitting free political, economic, and cultural development. Soviet rule was established in Cheboksary on Oct. 30 (Nov. 12), 1917, in Iadrin in November, in Alatyr’ and Tsivil’sk in January 1918, and in volost (small rural district) centers and villages by March. The Commissariat for Chuvash Affairs was established under the Kazan Provincial Soviet on Mar. 7, 1918, and the Chuvash Department of the People’s Commissariat of Nationalities of the RSFSR was formed in May.

The struggle for the establishment of Soviet power was headed by groups of Bolsheviks who formed party organizations in late 1917 and in the first half of 1918. Among the most dedicated fighters for the establishment and consolidation of Soviet power were I. G. Kadykov (killed by the counterrevolutionaries in July 1918), A. S. Kosyrev, I. G. Filippov, and I. K. Skripkin. In 1918 district committees of the RCP(B) were established in Cheboksary, Iadrin, Tsivil’sk, and Alatyr’. By this time Bolshevik cells were active in many volosts and villages. Chuvash sections of the Kazan and Simbirsk provincial committees of the RCP(B) were formed in November 1918. In the Civil War of 1918–20, Chuvash working people fought at the front against the White Guards and interventionists and supplied the Red Army with food, uniforms, and wood for the railroads. V. I. Chapaev, the legendary division commander, and P. P. Lebedev, the chief of the Field Staff of the Red Army, were born in Chuvashia, and the army commander S. D. Pavlov was of Chuvash origin.

The First All-Russian Congress of Chuvash Communists, held in February 1920, discussed the question of Chuvash autonomy within the Soviet state. On June 24, 1920, V. I. Lenin and M. I. Kalinin signed the decree of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee and the Council of People’s Commissars of the RSFSR establishing the Chuvash Autonomous Oblast. Cheboksary was designated the administrative center of the oblast, which was formed out of seven districts in Kazan and Simbirsk provinces. Soon thereafter, the Revolutionary Committee of the Chuvash AO was formed under the chairmanship of D. S. El’men’. By a resolution of the Organizational Bureau of the Central Committee of the RCP(B), a provisional oblast committee of the RCP(B) was established for the Chuvash AO on July 1, 1920.

The First Oblast Party Conference, held on Oct. 6–9, 1920, completed the establishment of the oblast party organization. The First Oblast Congress of Trade Unions (Sept. 6–7, 1920) and the First Oblast Conference of the Russian Communist League of Youth (October 1920) formed oblast trade union and Komsomol organizations. At the First Congress of Soviets of the Chuvash AO, held on Nov. 7–11, 1920, the administrative organization of the oblast was completed and an oblast executive committee was elected. The Soviet government and the working people of Moscow and Moscow Province extended massive aid to the Chuvash population during the famine of 1921–23. On Apr. 21, 1925, the Chuvash AO was transformed into the Chuvash ASSR. In June 1925 part of Alatyr’ District, including the city of Alatyr’, was detached from Ulianovsk Province and added to the republic. In 1927 the republic was subdivided into regions. From 1929 to 1936 it was part of Nizhny Novgorod (Gorky) Krai.

During the prewar five-year plans the de facto inequality of the Chuvash people was overcome, and the Chuvash socialist nation was formed through the implementation of the Leninist nationality policy, the support of the Russian and other fraternal peoples of the USSR, socialist industrialization, the collectivization of agriculture, and a cultural revolution. Woodworking, chemical, and food enterprises were built, and by 1940 the gross output of large industry was 9.5 times that of 1913. The Kanash-Cheboksary Railroad was built in 1939. In 1940 the republic’s kolkhozes included 85.5 percent of the peasant households and 97.5 percent of the sown area. The living standard of the working people improved, and illiteracy was eradicated. A Chuvash working class and intelligentsia evolved. In 1935 the republic was awarded the Order of Lenin for outstanding achievements in economic and cultural development.

In the Great Patriotic War the Chuvash people acquitted themselves honorably in fulfilling their duty to their homeland. The title of Hero of the Soviet Union was conferred on 75 soldiers from Chuvashia, and some 54,000 persons were awarded orders and medals. More than 20 industrial enterprises were relocated here from the western and central regions of the country. New successes were achieved during the postwar five-year plans, when many workers in industry and agriculture were awarded orders and medals of the USSR. The title of Hero of Socialist Labor was conferred on 58 persons, including S. K. Korotkov on two occasions. In 1970, in honor of the 50th anniversary of its autonomy, Chuvashia was awarded the Order of the October Revolution for its achievements in communist construction. In 1972 the republic received the Order of Friendship of Peoples on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the formation of the USSR.


Economy. Socialist construction has transformed Chuvashia into a republic with a diversified industry and a well-developed agriculture.

INDUSTRY. Between 1941 and 1976 the republic’s industrial output increased by a factor of 42, compared to a factor of 18 for the USSR as a whole. The republic has more than 200 industrial enterprises. Table 1 shows the output of selected industrial goods.

The heat and power plants in Cheboksary, Novocheboksarsk, Alatyr’, Kanash, and Shumerlia are part of the Unified Power Grid of the European USSR. In 1978 construction was under way on a second large heat and power plant in Cheboksary and on the Cheboksary Hydroelectric Power Plant on the Volga.

The machine-building industry, predominantly labor-intensive, produces relays, contactors, magnetic exchanges, and other low-voltage apparatus, instruments for controlling and regulating technological processes, electric meters, electric actuating devices, cables, tools, and technological equipment. Also produced are shuttleless looms, specialized motor vehicles and vans, spare parts for tractors and motor vehicles, and power loaders. Most of the machine-building enterprises are located at Cheboksary, Kanash, Alatyr’, and Shumerlia. Experimental models of the T-330 tractor have been assembled at the industrial tractor plant under construction at Cheboksary.

The chemical industry specializes in the manufacture of toxic chemicals, dyes, paints and varnishes, polymer products, and household chemicals. Light industry is represented by a cotton combine, a hosiery and knitwear factory, the Rassvet Clothing Production Association (Cheboksary), hemp plants, two footwear factories, and the Pakha Těrě National Embroidery Factory (Al’geshevo). The food industry, which processes mainly local raw materials, includes the meat-packing combines of the Chuvashmiasoprom Association in Cheboksary, Alatyr’, and Kanash,

Table 1. Output of selected industrial products
Electricity (million kW-hrs) ...............35.288.1292.71,1571,275
High-voltage electric equipment (million rubles) ...............10.1
Low-voltage electric equipment (million rubles) ...............6076.6
Instruments, means of automation, and spare parts (million rubles) ...............3.220.833.2
Shuttleless looms (units) ...............4,000
Spare parts for tractors and motor vehicles (million rubles) ...............5985.9
Washing machines (thousand units) ...............56434265
Lumber (thousand eu m) ...............369536855731590
Construction bricks (million units) ...............21.725.9192.3305.1317.2
Cotton fabrics (million m) ...............0.048.690.1117.3111.7
Hosiery (million pairs) ...............
Kitted underwear (million units) ...............
Leather footwear (thousand pairs) ...............1843291,2801,8662,168
Butter (thousand tons) ...............

a powdered milk plant in Vurnary, a flour-milling combine and macaroni factory in Cheboksary, and breweries, distilleries, and enterprises of the Chuvashkrakhmalob”edinenie in Ial’chiki, Pervomaiskoe, and Kovali. The lumber and wood-products industry is concentrated in the Sura Region and along the Volga. The woodworking enterprises produce furniture, wood chips, skis and other sports equipment, and musical instruments. The construction industry, based in Novocheboksarsk, produces precast reinforced concrete, bricks, keramzit, ceramic blocks, and other structural members and construction materials.

AGRICULTURE. Both crop farming and animal husbandry are well developed. Of the 1,052,700 hectares (ha) of agricultural land in 1976, arable land covered 847,100 ha, hayfields 50,600 ha, and pastures 138,400 ha. That year there were 41,700 ha of irrigated lands, of which 29,200 ha were plowland, and 16,100 ha were drained land. The republic’s 210 kolkhozes and 96 sov-khozes (Jan. 1, 1977) had at their disposal more than 10,000 tractors, about 3,000 grain-harvesting combines, and 7,600 trucks. See Table 2 for the distribution of the sown area.

Table 2. Sown acres (hectares)
Total sownarea ...............582,500663,500831,000
Grain ...............564,800525,200473,700
Potatoes ...............4,40052,10080,800
Industrial crops ...............7,60011,8003,300
Vegetables ...............1004,6004,700
Fodder ...............60069,800267,500

The main grain crops are spring wheat, barley, and rye, although buckwheat and peas are also grown. Industrial crops include hops, grown in the northeast, hemp, and makhorka (Indian tobacco). Between 1971 and 1975 the annual grain harvest averaged 839,300 tons, representing an 8 percent increase over the 1966–70 harvests. Concurrently, the yield of hops increased by 65 percent, averaging 19,800 centners between 1971 and 1975. In 1976 the grain harvest totaled 1.12 million tons, and orchards and berry plantings covered 17,200 ha.

Table 3. Livestock1
1At the beginning of each year
Cattle ...............174,000160,000273,000495,000
cows ...............117,000102,000154,000216,000
Pigs ...............136,00095,000281,000457,000
Sheep andgoats ...............590,000510,000621,000459,000

Agriculture is increasingly tending toward animal husbandry. (See Table 3 for data on the increase in the number of livestock.) Between 1940 and 1976 the output of meat rose from 15,000 tons to 68,300 tons (dressed weight), milk from 116,000 tons to 420,800 tons, eggs from 46 million to 213.1 million, and wool from 659 tons to 1,236 tons. In accordance with the resolution On Measures for the Further Development of Agriculture in the Nonchernozem Zone of the RSFSR, adopted by the Central Committee of the CPSU and the Council of Ministers of the USSR in 1974, livestock raising complexes and state and interkolkhoz mixed feed plants are being built in Chuvashia.

In 1976 state purchases amounted to 194,900 tons of grain, 158,000 tons of potatoes, 30,300 tons of vegetables, 1,952 tons of hops, 684 tons of makhorka, 83,200 tons of livestock and fowl (liveweight), 218,000 tons of milk, 107.3 million eggs, and 958 tons of wool.

TRANSPORTATION. The operational length of the railroads was 429 km in 1976. The main railroad lines cross in Kanash, forming a major railroad junction. The lines connect Kanash with Alatyr’, Arzamas, Kazan, and Cheboksary. In 1976 there were 9,100 km of highways, of which 2,100 km were paved. The Volga and Suva are used for shipping; Cheboksary is the largest port on the Volga. The republic is crossed by several oil and gas pipelines that run from Western Siberia and the Middle Volga Region to the Central and Northwestern economic regions.

Chuvashia exports to other regions of the USSR machinery, chemical products, fabrics, clothing, and hops, and it imports chiefly industrial equipment, agricultural machinery, metals, and fuel.

REGIONAL DIFFERENCES. The Northern Region, the industrial heartland of Chuvashia, has machine-building, metalworking, chemical, textile, woodworking, and food industries. The northern industrial construction enterprises serve the entire republic. Grain, potatoes, and hemp are grown, and the production of hops, vegetables and fruit is highly mechanized. The region’s livestock farms raise beef and dairy cattle, hogs (specialized complexes), and poultry. The main cities are Cheboksary, Novocheboksarsk, Kanash, Shumerlia, Kozlovka, Mariinskii Posad, Tsivil’sk, and Iadrin.

The Southeastern Region is predominantly a crop farming area producing large quantities of grain for the market. Beef and dairy cattle and hogs are also raised. Industry is limited to textile manufacture, food processing, and the repair of agricultural machinery.

The Southwest, which includes the Sura Region, has machine-building, food, forestry, and woodworking industries, many of them located in Alatyr’. The region is divided by the Sura River into the grain-growing steppe Trans-Sura region and the forested Sura Region. Other crops include Indian tobacco, hemp, and potatoes.

STANDARD OF LIVING. The republic’s inhabitants are enjoying a steadily rising living standard. Between 1965 and 1976 the average monthly wage of workers increased by a factor of 1.6 and the remuneration of kolkhoz members doubled. The retail commodity turnover of state and cooperative trade, including food services, increased by a factor of 2.6 between 1966 and 1976, reaching 872 million rubles. From 1965 to 1976 the volume of consumer services increased by a factor of 5 in urban areas and a factor of 8.5 in rural areas. About 600,000 sq m of new housing are built each year by the state, the kolkhozes, or private individuals.


Public health. In 1913 medical care in the area now included in the republic was provided by 40 doctors, 74 intermediate medical personnel, and 19 hospitals with 486 beds (0.6 per 10,000 population). In the years of socialist construction the incidence of infectious diseases has been greatly reduced, and trachoma and smallpox, formerly widespread, have been eradicated. In 1977 there were 118 hospitals with 14,000 beds, or 10.9 beds per 1,000 population, compared to 3,000 beds, or 2.8 per 1,000 population, in 1940. The republic had 2,901 doctors in 1977, or one for 442 inhabitants, compared to 351 doctors, or one for 3,100 inhabitants, in 1940. The number of intermediate medical personnel increased from 2,400 in 1940 to 11,744 in 1977. Doctors are trained at the medical department of Chuvash University, and intermediate medical personnel are graduated from medical schools in Cheboksary and Kanash. There are six Sanatoriums for children and adults.

The main tourist routes follow the Volga and Sura rivers. There is a tourist hotel in Cheboksary and a tourist center on the Sura River.

Education and cultural-educational institutions. In the 1914–15 school year the 463 general-education schools on the territory of the present-day republic had an enrollment of 29,900 students and the area’s two specialized secondary schools were attended by 140 students. By the 1977–78 school year there were 783 general-education schools of all types with 67,700 students, 27 vocational-technical schools with more than 13,600 students, and 23 specialized secondary schools with 23,300 students. Some 15,700 students attended higher educational institutions, namely Chuvash University, an agricultural and a pedagogical institute, and a correspondence department of the Moscow Cooperative Institute, all in Cheboksary. In 1976 the republic’s 346 preschool institutions were caring for 48,300 children.

As of Jan. 1, 1977, there were five theaters and 722 public libraries with 8.4 million book and magazine holdings. The principal museums, located in Cheboksary, are the Chuvash Republic Art Gallery and the Chuvash Republic Museum, of Local Lore with its affiliates, the V. I. Chapaev Museum and a literary museum. Kanash also has a museum of local lore. There are 1,100 clubs, about 1,200 stationary motion-picture projection units, and 60 extracurricular institutions. (See below: Music and Theater.)

Scientific institutions. The republic’s research institutions, all founded in the Soviet period, include the Scientific Research Institute of Language, Literature, History, and Economics (founded 1928), the All-Union Scientific Research and Design Technological Institute of Relay Construction (1961), the Chuvash Laboratory of the Scientific Research Institute of National Schools under the Ministry of Education of the RSFSR (1972), and the Chuvash State Agricultural Experiment Station (1925). Research is also conducted at the I. N. Ul’ianov Chuvash State University, the I. Ia. Iakovlev Chuvash State Pedagogical Institute, and the Chuvash Agricultural Institute.

Press, radio, and television. In 1979 the Chuvash Publishing House published 207 titles of books and pamphlets totaling 2.1 million copies. The republic newspapers are Kommunizm yálavé (The Banner of Communism), issued in Chuvash since 1918; the Russian-language Sovetskaia Chuvashia (Soviet Chuvashia, since 1917) and Molodoi kommunist (The Young Communist, since 1925); and Pioner sassi (The Call of the Pioneer), published in Chuvash since 1931. Seven magazines are published, among them the miscellany Druzhba (Friendship), founded in 1941.

In addition to the three programs of All-Union Radio, transmitted 60 hours daily, there are local radio broadcasts in Chuvash and Russian (2½ hours daily). Central Television broadcasts are relayed for 22.6 hours daily, and local television broadcasts, in Chuvash and Russian, are on the air three hours daily.

Literature. Chuvash oral folk poetry includes epics, historical and everyday-life songs and narratives, fairy tales, and legends. The earliest efforts to collect Chuvash folklore date from the 18th century. The first literary works were produced in the mid-19th century by the historian, folklorist, and ethnographer S. M. Mikhailov (1821–61). A distinctive national literature emerged in the 1870’s on the basis of the written language developed by the educator I. Ia. Iakovlev (1848–1930). Its founders, I. I. Ivanov (1848–85) and I. N. Iurkin (1863–1943), were essentially portrayers of mores. The poet M. F. Fedorov (1848–1904), who helped shape the literary language, advocated critical realism.

Revolutionary democratic poetry appeared in the early 20th century. Among the contributors to the first Chuvash newspaper, Khïpar (News), published from January 1906 to July 1907, were the satirist and playwright M. F. Akimov (1884–1914), the revolutionary poet Tair Timki (T. S. Semenov, 1889–1916), N. I. Polorussov-Shelebi (1881–1945), and G. A. Korenkov (1884–1958). The highest achievement of prerevolutionary national poetry, the narrative poem Narspi (1908) by the Chuvash classic author K. V. Ivanov (1890–1915), criticized patriarchal and feudal social values. The poem was staged, and an opera was based on its plot. N. Shubossinni (N. V. Vasil’ev, 1884–1942) drew on folk motifs in creating his realist narrative poem Tale of lantrak (1908).

Chuvash literature was able to develop freely only afer the victory of the October Revolution of 1917. Verse reforms were introduced by the founder of Soviet Chuvash poetry and the communist poet M. Sespel’ (M. K. Kuz’min, 1899–1922), who wrote about the October victory and the regeneration of the Chuvash people. The lyrics of I. E. Akhakh (1898–1920) and G. V. Tal-Mrza (1895–1921) extolled the revolutionary fighter and the Civil War soldier. Satirical motifs appeared in the epics of I. E. Tkhti (1889–1938) and the short stories of I. I. Muchi (1895–1946). A national dramaturgy was founded by F. P. Pavlov (1892–1931), M. F. Akimov-Arui (1895–1972), and N. S. Efremov (born 1895), whose traditions were developed in the plays of I. S. Mak-simov-Koshkinskii (1893–1975) and P. N. Osipov (born 1900).

Prose came into its own in the mid-1920’s. The short stories and novellas of D. V. Isaev (1905–30), M. D. Trubina (1888–1956), S. F. Fomin (1903–36), and M. N. Danilov-Chaldun (1894–1944) dealt with the revolutionary renewal of the countryside, the emergence of new mores and a new morality, and the development of the public-spirited woman.

The literary, artistic, and sociopolitical monthly Suntal (The Anvil), founded in 1924 and renamed Yălav (The Banner) in 1946, published such important works as the narrative poems Under the Yoke (1931) by S. V. El’ger (1894–1966) and Twenty-six (1930) by P. P. Khuzangai (1907–70), the novella Village in Flames (1929) by Isaev, the plays of manners by Osipov, the short stories of Fomin and Danilov-Chaldun, and the poems of N. T. Vasianka (born 1903), I. S. Tuktash (1907–57), and V. E. Mitta (1908–57).

In the 1930’s, as Chuvash literature moved toward socialist realism, the socialist changes in the country were analyzed in greater depth. Among the gifted young writers who began their careers in the 1930’s were Ia. G. Ukhsai (born 1911), L. Ia. Agakov (1910–77), A. F. Talvir (1909–1979), A. D. Kalgan (born 1911), I. N. Ivnik (1914–42), A. A. Eskhel’ (born 1914), M. Uip (M. D. Shumilov, 1911–70), and A. E. Alga (1913–77). The industrialization of the country was the subject of the poem-essay Magnetic Mountain (1933) by Khuzangai and the plays Noise (1931) by N. S. Aizman (1905–67) and Might (1932) by Agakov. The collectivization of the Chuvash countryside was depicted in the novel Uphill (1929–64) by V. I. Krasnov-Asli (born 1900), the novella Bull’s Ravine (1931) by Tuktash, and the plays New Wave (1933) by Osipov and On the March (1930) by Trubina. Themes from history and revolutionary history were treated in El’ger’s novella At Dawn (1940), Krasnov-Asli’s novella 77¡e Struggle With the Whites (1929), and the plays Sadur and Hem (1933) by Maksimov-Koshkinskii, Aidar (1937) by Osipov, and Tudimer (1940) by Ukhsai. Children’s literature flourished.

During the Great Patriotic War several fine patriotic lyrical epic works were produced: the narrative poems Tania (1942) by Khuzangai, The Soldier’s Mother (1943) by Uip, The Pioneer From Kiev (1944) by S. Shavla (1910–76), and The Eagle (1944) by Eskhel’. Other outstanding wartime works were the novella Partisan Murat (1943) by Agakov and the plays of Aizman and Maksimov-Koshkinskii.

Since the war Chuvash writers have celebrated the combat and labor feats of the Soviet people in poetry and prose. The theme is sensitively rendered in such narrative poems as Ukhsai’s Old Man Kel’buk (1951), The Pass (1952), and Star of My Childhood (1973), Khuzangai’s Aptraman’s Family (1957), and Alga’s My Countrymen (1959). Outstanding novels and novellas devoted to this theme include Village Among White Willows (1951) by K. S. Turkhan (born 1915), The Pilots (books 1–2, 1952–57) by V. L. Sadai (born 1926), The Golden Bee (1964) by V. S. Alendei (born 1919), Heroes Never Just Disappear (1968) by D. A. Kibek (born 1913), Salambi (1954) by A. S. Artem’ev (born 1924), Agakov’s Soldiers’ Children (1961) and Hope (1971), and The People of the Village of Shurgely (1957) by V. V. Ukhli (born 1914).

A number of fine historical novels and novellas have been produced, notably On the Buinsk Road (1954) by Talvir, Black Bread (1962) by N. F. Il’bekov (born 1915), The Sviiaga Flows Into the Volga (1960–67) by Turkhan, The Snare (1952) by F. E. Uiar (born 1914), The Bridge (1964–66) by V. Paimen (1907–73), and Living a Lifetime Is Not Like Crossing a Field (parts 1–4, 1959–71) by N. F. Mran’ka (1901–73). Historical plays include Entip (1958) by V. T. Rzhanov (born 1915) and October Wave (1957) by Kalgan.

Lenin and the friendship of peoples have inspired Khuzangai’s narrative poems House in Gorki (1952) and Generous Heart (1960) and lyrics by Ukhsai, Alga, A. A. Vorob’ev (1922–76), G. A. Efimov (born 1928), V. I. Davydov-Anatri (born 1917), and A. A. Galkin (born 1928). These themes are also developed in the play The Waves Pound the Shore (1969) by N.T. Terent’ev (born 1925). The life of the contemporary working class and rural workers is portrayed in the novels Flooding of the Tsivil’ (1966) by A. V. Emel’ianov (born 1932), Foundation (1964) by Talvir, and We Are Young Only Once (1972) by G. V. Krasnov (born 1936), as well as in short stories by A. N. Lazareva (born 1917), I. G. Grigor’ev (born 1924), and M. N. Iukhma (born 1936).

Prominent literary critics and scholars include M. Ia. Sirotkin (1908–70), I. D. Kuznetsov (born 1906), V. A. Dolgov (born 1906), V. Ia. Kaniukov (born 1926), E. V. Vladimirov (born 1922), G. Ia. Khlebnikov (born 1932), and N. S. Dedushkin (born 1915). Many Chuvash works have been translated into other languages of the USSR and into foreign languages. The Writers’ Union of Chuvashia was founded in 1934.


Architecture, fine art, and decorative applied art. Archaeological sites dating from the Paleolithic have been discovered in Chuvashia. The tribes of the Fat’ianovo, Timber-frame, and Abashevo cultures left behind fortified and unfortified settlements (pit houses, dwellings of logs or pisé) and burial grounds and kurgans. Remains of Volga Bulgar settlements, built between the tenth and 12th centuries, include a castle in the village of Tiga-shevo, unfortified settlements in the Bula, Tsivil’, and Sura river basins, and a small town near the village of Bol’shaia Taiaba.

After Chuvashia’s voluntary union with Russia in the middle of the 16th century, the Russian strongholds of Alatyr’, Cheboksary, Tsivil’sk, and Iadrin gradually developed into urban centers modeled on Russian cities. Cheboksary acquired the five-domed Vvedenskii Cathedral (1657) and imposing mansions such as the Zeleishchikov House (17th century) and the Solovtsov House (mid-18th century). The influence of Russian folk architecture spread to the countryside in the second half of the 19th century. Chuvash peasant dwellings typically had a storeroom with a separate entrance and a las’, or summer house, that later became the kitchen. Window casings and shutters, gate and wicket posts, and cornices were decorated with planar, relief, applied, or openwork carving, employing geometric or floral designs.

Large public buildings have been erected in the Soviet period. Noteworthy examples in Cheboksary include the House of Soviets (1940, architect M. M. Bazilevich), the Agricultural Institute (1957, architect E. E. Kalashnikova), the Chuvash Theater of Music and Drama (1961, architect A. P. Maksimov), and the Elektrik Palace of Culture (1964, architect A. P. Korol’kov), which incorporates decorative motifs from Chuvash folk art. Large residential districts of multistory, large-panel apartment houses have been built in Cheboksary and Novocheboksarsk. Modern houses, farm structures, and public buildings are changing the appearance of Chuvash villages.

The most highly developed Chuvash folk applied arts are patterned weaving, embroidery, beadwork, and wood carving. In weaving, the traditional color scheme consisted of red rhomboid designs on a white ground or multicolored designs on a red ground. Embroidery was used to adorn clothing and ritual objects. A dense stitch (nabor) was employed in embroidering headbands (masmak), towels (surban). belt pendants (sar, iarkach), shawls (khul’chi), bridal veils, and kerchiefs. Shirts were embroidered with slanting (kosaia stezhka) and outline stitches (rospis’). The main colors were black (outline) and red with touches of yellow, green, and blue. Headdresses, belt tassels, and purses were embroidered with bands, which were also used to make necklaces. Furniture and such domestic articles as ladles, shaft-bows, and distaffs were decorated with carving, including fluted and sculptural carving. Fine art did not appear until the Soviet period, when the first works were produced by the painters M. S. Spiridonov, N. K. Sverchkov, and Iu. A. Zaitsev, the sculptor G. S. Spiridonov, and the stage designer K. M. Vasil’ev.

Chuvash art has been developing intensively since the 1960’s. Especially noteworthy are the thematic canvases of N. P. Karacharskov, N. V. Ovchinnikov, and R. F. Fedorov, the portraits of P. G. Grigor’ev, the landscapes of E. A. Vdovicheva and V. S. Gurin, and the still lifes of R. M. Ermolaeva and V. L. Nemtsev. The leading graphic artists and book illustrators are V. I. Ageev, I. T. Grigor’ev, V. E. Emel’ianov, and A. A. Ereikina. Poster art is represented by O. I. Filippov. Fine work is also being done in sculpture (Iu. I. Ksenofontov), monumental decorative art, and stage design. The traditions of folk embroidery are carried on by E. I. Efremova at the artistic embroidery factory in the village of Al’geshevo near Cheboksary.

B. M. SHIMAREV (architecture) and N. A. URGALKINA (art)

Music. Chuvash folk songs are monophonic and encompass a great variety of genres. Among the oldest are daily life songs (cradle, children’s, lyric, drinking, humorous, dance, and round-dance songs), ritual songs, work songs, and songs about social evils or historical events. The most popular songs of the Soviet period are songs about the new mores and kolkhoz life, as well as lyric young people’s songs. Chuvash music is generally based on the pentatonic scale, although diatonic scales with semitones are also encountered. A free variable meter is characteristic. Folk instruments include the shakhlich (pipe), the shapar (bagpipe made of bull’s bladder), the sarnai (goatskin bagpipe), the kesle (gusli), the varkhan and palnai (reed instruments), the parappan (drum), and the khankarma (tambourine). The fiddle and the accordion have become popular in modern times.

The first published collection of Chuvash folk music was V. A. Moshkov’s The Music of Chuvash Songs, issued in Kazan in 1893. It was followed by two collections entitled Examples of Chuvash Folk Tunes With Texts, published in Simbirsk in 1908 and 1912. The finest Soviet collections are S. M. Maksimov’s Songs of the Upstream Chuvash (1932) and Chuvash Folk Songs (1964). Many songs are collected by V. P. Vorob’ev, G. G. Liskov, T. P. Para-monov, and Iu. A. Iliukhin. The best-known folk singers are G. F. Fedorov and I. G. Vdovina, whose repertoires include between 800 and 900 songs. The collection Chuvash Folk Songs: 620 Songs and Melodies Recorded From Gavril Fedorov’s Performances was published in 1969.

Professional music appeared after the October Revolution of 1917, when the first Chuvash works were composed by F. P. Pavlov, Maksimov, V. P. Vorob’ev, and Liskov. In the 1930’s G. V. Vorob’ev wrote a symphony (1939, completed by N. I. Peiko) and several suites for piano. A major contribution to the development of Chuvash music was made by the Russian musicians I. V. Liublin, S. I. Gaber, and especially V. M. Krivonosov, who composed the first Chuvash musical comedy, Joy (1935), as well as cantatas and orchestral and chamber works. The Leningrad composer V. G. Ivanishin wrote the first Chuvash symphony (1936) and the opera Narspi (1940).

Some of the best Chuvash vocal music—songs, choral works, and arrangements—has been written by F. M. Lukin, G. Ia. Khirbiu, G. S. Lebedev, A. G. Orlov-Shuz’m, and A. N. Togaev. Outstanding works for chorus and orchestra include F. S. Vasil’ev’s oratorios Samana (The October Epoch, 1965) and Lenin on the Volga (1970) and his suite Frontline Sketches (1975), A. V. Aslamas’ oratorio Lenin (1952) and the poem In Memory of the Poet (1957), Khirbiu’s Patriotic Oratorio (to M. Sespel’s verses; 1970), and the cantatas Song of Glory by V. A. Kho-diashev (1950), Song of Chuvashia by A. A. Petrov (1971), and Ivan lakovlev by T. I. Fandeev (1968).

Postwar symphonic music is best represented by A. M. Toka-rev’s three symphonies (1967, 1970, and 1974), Fandeev’s symphony (1954), M. A. Alekseev’s three symphonies (1961, 1964, and 1971) and his Chuvash Capriccio (1962), F. S. Vasil’ev’s War Symphony (1975), his symphonette (1953), and his tone poem Aidar (1970), A. A. Petrov’s symphony (1962), Aslamas’ Cosmic Symphony (1974), and works by Khirbiu, Khodiashev, and A. G. Vasil’ev. These composers also produced instrumental pieces, concerti for solo instruments and orchestra, and chamber compositions.

In 1959 the republic’s drama theater was reorganized as the Chuvash Theater of Music and Drama, and in 1969 the company was divided into a music and a drama group. Over the years the theater’s opera company has given outstanding performances of F. S. Vasil’ev’s Shyvarman’ (The Water Mill, 1960) and Khamar”ial (Countrymen, 1962), Aslamas’ The Interrupted Waltz (1963), Sespel’ (1971), and The Sacred Oak Grove (1976), Khirbiu’s Narspi (1967), and Orlov-Shuz’m’s Stellar Path (1969). The theater has also staged Vasil’ev’s ballets Sarpige (1970) and Arziuri (The Ghost, 1975) and musical comedies and operettas, notably Orlov-Shuz’m’s When the Bird Cherry Blossoms (1949) and Fandeev’s Three Weddings (1953) and Happiness (1963). Other noteworthy works include the operas The Singer (1971) and Salambi (1974) by Aslamas, Chakka by A. G. Vasil’ev (1972), and Narspi by I. Ia. Pustyl’nik (1952) and the ballets Uline by Alekseev (1960), Zora by Tokarev (1960), and The Wonderful Embroideress by Khodiashev (1971).

The leading singers are I. V. Vasil’ev, Honored Artists of the Chuvash ASSR A. I. Toksina and A. G. Kazakova, and Honored Artists of the RSFSR and People’s Artists of the Chuvash ASSR T. I. Chumakova and M. I. Denisov. Prominent choral conductors include F. P. Pavlov, Honored Art Worker of the Chuvash ASSR V. P. Vorob’ev, People’s Artist of the RSFSR F. M. Lukin, Honored Art Worker of the RSFSR G. S. Lebedev, and Honored Artist of the RSFSR and People’s Artist of the Chuvash ASSR A. G. Orlov-Shuz’m. Musical performances are given regularly by the Chuvash Music Theater, the philharmonic society (founded 1936), the State Song and Dance Ensemble of the Chuvash ASSR (1924), the chorus of Chuvash Radio and Television (1943), and the House of People’s Creativity (1936). The Composers’ Union of the Chuvash ASSR was founded in 1940. Musical training is offered by the Cheboksary Music School (1929) and 40 secondary music schools.


Theater. Before the October Revolution dramatic elements were to be found in oral folklore and in games and rituals. A professional theater emerged in the first years of Soviet rule. In 1918 a group of students, Red Army soldiers, and employees staged A. N. Ostrovsky’s You Can’t Always Live as You Like in Kazan. Subsequently known as the Chuvash Soviet Traveling Theater, the group included the future playwright and prominent man of the theater I. S. Maksimov-Koshkinskii, P. N. Osipov, O. I. Yrzem, and K. M. Vasil’ev. The founding of the theater promoted the rise of a national dramaturgy; among the first Chuvash plays to be produced were M. F. Akimov-Arui’s Untimely Death (1918) and F. P. Pavlov’s On Trial (1919). The development of a national theater owed much to the concurrent mastery of the realist traditions of the Russian theater and dramaturgy. The Kazan company’s repertoire included plays by A. N. Ostrovsky, N. V. Gogol, L. N. Tolstoy, Moliere, Schiller, and V. Hugo. During the struggle with the interventionists in 1919, Chuvash drama groups performed in Simbirsk, Ufa, and Kazan.

After the formation of the Chuvash Autonomous Oblast in 1920, the theater was transferred from Kazan to Cheboksary, where it staged Pavlov’s In the Village (1922), Narspi (based on K. V. Ivanov’s narrative poem, 1923), and P. N. Osipov’s Kuzhar (1926). A number of fine productions from the second half of the 1920’s and early 1930’s developed the character of the contemporary man fighting for a new life: Osipov’s Cursed Tribe (1927), M. D. Trubina’s On the March (1931), Maksimov-Koshkinskii’s Sadur and Hem (1933), N. F. Pogodin’s The Aristocrats (1934), V. M. Kirshon’s The Miraculous Alloy (1935), and A. E. Kornei-chuk’s Piaton Krechet (1935). The theater company was joined by graduates of the Chuvash music and theater technicum, notably I. O. Molodov, L. F. Semenov, B. A. Alekseev, and E. V. Shornikova. In 1933 the theater was designated an academic theater.

Among the theater’s outstanding productions of the 1930’s and 1940’s were Osipov’s Aidar (1935), a stage adaptation of N. A. Ostrovskii’s novel How the Steel Was Tempered (1937), M. Gorky’s Lower Depths (1938), Shakespeare’s Othello (1943), and N. S. Aizman’s Liza Korotkova (1943). V. I. Lenin was portrayed on the Chuvash stage for the first time in 1947 in Pogodin’s Man With a Gun, with B. A. Alekseev playing the leading role. The directors E. A. Tokmakov, G. V. Parne, and K. I. Ivanov did much to build up the theater at that time. The theater was periodically augmented by graduates of the Chuvash Studio of the State Institute of Theatrical Art and the Ostrovskii Leningrad Theatrical Institute.

In 1959 the theater was reorganized as the Chuvash Theater of Music and Drama and named in honor of the poet K. V. Ivanov. In 1969 the company was divided into the Music Theater and the K. V. Ivanov Academic Drama Theater. Among the most successful productions of the postwar years were V. T. Rzhanov’s Entip (1950), N. T. Terent’ev’s What Is Happiness? (1957), The Cuckoo Cuckoos (1960), and The Waves Pound the Shore (1971), a stage adaptation of Ch. Aitmatov’s My Little Poplar in the Red Scarf (1965), Gorky’s The Old Man (1968), Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (1970), N. P. Ankilov’s The Soldier’s Widow (1972), F. Garcia Lorca’s Blood Wedding (1974), and I. A. Pe-trova’s Telei and Hem (1977). The theater performed in Moscow in 1974.

In addition to the K. V. Ivanov Academic Drama Theater, the republic has a Russian drama theater (founded 1922), a Chuvash young people’s theater (1933), and a puppet theater (1943). In 1977 the leading performers of the Chuvash drama theater were People’s Artist of the USSR A. K. Urgalkin, People’s Artist of the RSFSR V. K. Kuz’mina, Honored art Worker of the RSFSR V. N. Iakovlev, and Honored Artists of the RSFSR O. I. Irzem, E. N. Nikitin, and V. I. Rodionov. In 1969, L. N. Rodionov (People’s Artist of the Chuvash ASSR) was appointed the theater’s principal director, a post he had previously held from 1941 to 1947.



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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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