Brief Information

The areal of traditional settlement of the Chuvash people in the Volga-Ural region is on the territories of the Chuvash Republic (except for the southwestern part), regions of the Republics of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, Samara Oblast, Ulyanovsk Oblast, Orenburg Oblast, Saratov Oblast, and Penza Oblast. During the XX century the number of Chuvash migrants in Siberia increased (first of all, in Tyumen Oblast and Kemerovo Oblast, and in Krasnoyarsk Krai). Moscow and the Moscow region are the main centers of resettlement in recent decades. Besides the territories of Russia, Chuvash People live in other CIS countries too (first of all, in Ukraine: 10 thousand people live there, according to the 2001 census). Even with the preservation of ethnic identification, the Chuvash language is barely preserved outside the areas of compact Chuvash settlement in the Volga-Ural region. 


According to the data of 2010 Census, 1,042,989 of the Russian Federation citizens identified themselves as Chuvash speakers. In 2002, 1,325,382 people identified themselves as Chuvash speakers; thereby, in eight years the number of Chuvash speakers diminished by 21,3 %. In view of this figure, and since the language shift has only accelerated over the past decade, the current number of native speakers of Chuvash is estimated to be no more than 700 thousand people.


The autoethnonym of the Chuvash people is чăваш, the autoethnonym of the Chuvash language is чӑваш чӗлхи. Four dialects of Chuvash are distinguished: Upper, Lower, Middle-Lower, and Northwestern (Malokarachkinsky) dialects.


The traditional economy of the Chuvash is based on agriculture combined with animal husbandry. The traditional religion is the folk religion of the Chuvash people. In the XVIII–XIX centuries, the vast majority of the Chuvash population was baptized, small groups of adherents of the folk religion (чăн чăваш ‘true Chuvash’) remained in the Republics of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, in the Ulyanovsk Oblast, Samara Oblast, and Orenburg Oblast.


Chuvash belongs to the Bulgar branch, one of the two big branches of the Turkic languages. It does not have any close relatives, since all of the dialects of Bulgar type, which are not direct ancestors of Chuvash, became extinct in the Middle Ages. 


Dialectal division of Chuvash was traditionally based on the distinction of the Upper dialect (Viryal) in the north-west of Chuvashia and the Lower dialect (Anatri) in the south-east. The Middle-Lower dialects (Anat Enchi) in the north-east are often distinguished as a separate group. In another interpretation, this territory is a kind of "transition zone" between the Upper dialect and the Lower one. A special dialect of Chuvash is represented in the Maloe Karachkino village of the Yadrinsky District of Chuvashia. All of the dialects of Chuvash are characterized by a high degree of mutual intelligibility.


The Chuvash people are settled throughout the whole territory of Chuvashia excluding Alatyrsky and Poretsky District. Vast areas of traditional compact residence pattern can also be found in Tatarstan (Aksubayevsky, Drozhzhanovsky, Nurlatsky, Buinsky, Cheremshansky, Alkeyevsky, Tetyushsky and other districts), in Bashkortostan (Aurgazinsky, Bizhbulyaksky, Sterlitamaksky, Karmaskalinsky and other districts), in Samara Oblast (Koshkinsky, Pokhvistnevsky, Shentalinsky, Chelno-Vershinsky, Isaklinsky, Klyavlinsky and other districts), and in Ulyanovsk Oblast (Tsilninsky, Ulyanovsky, Melekessky, Cherdaklinsky and other districts).


The Chuvash population is also significant in the capitals and regional centers of the regions mentioned. Small enclaves of the Chuvash population traditionally exist in the Saratov Oblast (Volsky, Bazarno-Karabulaksky, Khvalynsky Districts) and Penza Oblast (Neverkinsky, Kuznetsky, Lopatinsky Districts) too.

Language contacts and multilingualism

Except for very rare exceptions in the oldest generation, all of the Chuvash speak Russian. Due to the fact that people of different ethnic groups live together in the same villages and various peoples inhabit the Volga-Ural region, the Chuvash often spoke the languages of their neighbours too (Tatar, first of all). Russian and Tatar people, in turn, were more or less proficient in the Chuvash language. In recent decades, due to the deterioration of the sociolinguistic situation, cases of representatives of neighboring peoples speaking Chuvash have become rare.

Language functioning

The official language of the Chuvash Republic.

Chuvash is a written language with an established spelling norm. The current alphabet originates from the variant of the Chuvash alphabet created in the 1870s by the enlightener I.Ya. Yakovlev. The Yakovlev alphabet replaced the scattered Chuvash writing systems that existed in the period from the XVIII to the third quarter of the XIX century (the so-called Old Chuvash period).

Language standardization is based on the Lower dialect. Speakers of various dialects may communicate with each other in standard language or using their own dialects (because Chuvash dialects are highly mutually intelligible).

Dynamics of language usage

Chuvash is relatively well preserved in the older generation, much worse amongst adults, and very poorly in the younger generation.


Until about the middle of the XX century, Chuvash was well preserved among the Chuvash people; this process was facilitated by the low degree of urbanization of the Chuvash territories. In the period between 1960s and 1980s, when the Chuvash population massively moved to the cities, the situation deteriorated significantly. During these years, the following ideological attitude prevailed: poor command of the Russian language, the Chuvash accent, and the other nuisances of language proficiency were declared to be the primary problems of the Chuvash-speaking population. 


There was a negative attitude towards the Chuvash language as a “village” one in the society, and many parents preferred not to pass it to their children in order not to “spoil” their Russian. The status of Chuvash increased slightly in the 1990s, but steadily declined over the next twenty years. This process was facilitated by various factors: the growing sociolinguistic pressure from the side of Russian, non-compliance of the Republican language legislation, and the lack of proper administrative support.


According to the 2010 Census, 1,017,000 people stated Chuvash as their native language; 1,042,000 of Chuvash people stated that they speak Chuvash.


The language transmission to children in urban areas is almost non-existent. In rural areas language is transmitted, but by far not everywhere.


Many representatives of the Chuvash ethnic group maintain the widespread idea of “uselessness” of Chuvash, as well as the fear that teaching children Chuvash will affect the level of their proficiency in Russian. At the same time, the phenomenon of a positive attitude to the Chuvash language (which is not accompanied, however, by the desire to use it in everyday life) is relatively widespread. Chuvash appears only as a symbol of native places and relations with older relatives.


There are also segments of the Chuvash population that have a positive attitude towards the Chuvash language and strive to use it in everyday communication, but often they are faced with the inability to use Chuvash or with serious restrictive factors (for example, their own limited knowledge combined with the lack of an effective system of teaching Chuvash from scratch, the lack of multimedia aids that are attractive for children to learn, etc.).

The number of the ethnic group in different periods



The number of the Chuvash population

The first half of the XVI century

Khanate of Kazan

90,000–120,000 (estimate)


Russia (I revision)



Russian Empire (II revision)



Russian Empire (III revision)



Russian Empire (IV revision)



Russian Empire (V revision)



Russian Empire (VIII revision)



Russian Empire (X revision)



Russian Empire




1,117,000 (incl. 1,114,000 in RSFSR)



1,842,000 (incl. 1,774,000 in RSFSR)


Russian Federation



Russian Federation


Language structure


The Chuvash language has 8 vowels and 17 consonants.

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Morphological type of the language: agglutinative (suffixes).

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The basic word order is SOV. The strategy for verbal agents' coding is nominative-accusative.

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The largest sources of borrowings are Russian and Tatar.

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Исследование языка

The beginning of Chuvash lexicography was laid in the first half of the XVIII century, the first grammar was published in 1769. The fundamental works in almost all areas of the Chuvash language study were prepared in the period from the late XIXth to the early XXth century by N. I. Ashmarin. Later, the history of the Chuvash language was studied by G. Ramstedt, M. Ryasyanen, N. Poppe, V. G. Egorov, M. R. Fedotov, L. S. Levitskaya, A. Rona-Tash, A. V. Dybo, O. A. Mudrak. Chuvash dialectology was developed in the works of T. M. Matveev, A. S. Kanyukova, L. P. Sergeev. N. A. Andreev, I. P. Pavlov, and I. A. Andreev dealt with the questions of grammar.

Language experts

Hèctor Alòs i Font
(Barcelona, Spain)

Expert in the sociolinguistic situation of modern Chuvash.

Gennadiy A. Degtyarev
(Cheboksary, Chuvash State Institute of Humanities)

Expert in lexicology and lexicography of modern Chuvash, also deals with the problems of terminology and language norm.

Alevtina P. Dolgova
(Cheboksary, Chuvash State Institute of Humanities)

Expert in grammar, dialectology, lexicography, and sociolinguistics of modern Chuvash.

Anna V. Dybo
(Moscow, Institute of Linguistics of the Russian Academy of Sciences)

Expert in the Chuvash language position in context of Turkic and Altaic studies, history of the Bulgar branch of the Turkic languages, conducts field studies of Chuvash dialects.

Alena M. Ivanova
(Cheboksary, Chuvash State Institute of Humanities)

Expert in Chuvash morphosyntax, phonetics, graphics, and the history of Chuvash written culture.

Aleksandr V. Kuznetsov
(Cheboksary, Chuvash State Institute of Humanities)

Expert in the peculiarities of Chuvash traditional etiquette, dialectology, lexicography, lexicology, and sociolinguistics.

Eduard E. Lebedev
(Cheboksary, Chuvash State Institute of Humanities)

Expert in Chuvash verb morphology, conducts comparative studies of Chuvash and other Turkic languages.

Oleg A. Mudrak
(Moscow, Institute of Linguistics of the Russian Academy of Sciences)

Expert in historical phonetics and morphology of Chuvash, instantiations of the Old Chuvash writing system, the position of Chuvash in the context of Turkic and Altaic studies, the history of the Bulgar branch of the Turkic languages, conducts field studies of Chuvash dialects.

Aleksandr V. Savelyev
(Moscow, Institute of Linguistics of the Russian Academy of Sciences)

Expert in the contacts of the Chuvash language, Chuvash in the Volga-Kama language union, instantiations of the Old Chuvash writing system, the position of Chuvash in the context of Turkic and Altaic studies, the history of the Bulgar branch of the Turkic languages, conducts field studies of Chuvash dialects.

Eduard V. Fomin

Expert in the history of Chuvash, stylistics, and lexicography.

Petr Ya. Yakovlev
(Cheboksary, Chuvash State Institute of Humanities)

Expert in Chuvash philology, phonetics and phonology, accentology, translation studies.

Research centres

Institute of Linguistics of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Moscow)

History of Chuvash in the Turkic and Altaic context, dialectology, field research (Department of Ural-Altaic languages).

Chuvash State Institute of Humanities (Cheboksary)

Issues of grammar, sociolinguistics, and dialectology of modern Chuvash, as well as field research (section of linguistics, section of dictionaries).

I. Yakovlev Chuvash State Pedagogical University (Cheboksary)

Methodology of Chuvash language teaching (Department of Russian and Chuvash Languages at the Faculty of Chuvash and Russian Philology).

Chuvash State University (Cheboksary)

Issues of grammar, theory of translation, methodology of Chuvash language teaching (Department of Chuvash Philology and Culture, Faculty of Russian and Chuvash Philology and Journalism).

Core references

Grammatical descriptions: grammars, sketches

Andreev I. A. Chuvashskiy yazyk [Chuvash language] // Yazyki mira: Tyurkskie yazyki. 

Moscow, 1996. P. 480–491.


Ashmarin N. I. Materialy dlya issledovaniya chuvashskogo yazyka [Materials for the study of Chuvash]. Kazan. Typo-lithography of the Imperial University, 1898. XXXIV + 392 + XIX pp.


Pavlov I. P. Sovremennyy chuvashskiy yazyk. Vol. 1. Morfemika. Morfonologiya. Slovoobrazovanie. Vol. 2. Morfologiya [Modern Chuvash. Vol. 1. Morphemics. Morphonology. Word formation. Vol. 2: Morphology]. Cheboksary: Chuvash state Institute of Humanities, 2014, 2017.


Sergeev L. P., Andreeva E. A., Kotleev V. I. Чăваш чĕлхи. Cheboksary: Chuvashknigizdat, 2012.


Savelyev, A. (2020). Chuvash and the Bulgharic languages. In: Robbeets, M., and Savelyev, A. (eds), The Oxford Guide to the Transeurasian languages. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. Pp. 446–464.


Ashmarin N. I. Slovar' chuvashskogo yazyka [Dictionary of Chuvash]. V. I−XVII. Kazan, Cheboksary, 1928−1950.


Skvortsov M. I., Skvortsova A. V. Chuvashsko-russkiy i russko-chuvashskiy slovar' [Chuvash-Russian and Russian-Chuvash dictionary]. Cheboksary: Chuvashknigizdat, 2017.


Fedotov M. R. Etimologicheskiy slovar' chuvashskogo yazyka [Etymological dictionary of Chuvash]. Vol. I−II. Cheboksary: Chuvash state Institute of Humanities, 1996.

Selected papers on grammatical issues

Andreev I. A. Prichastie v chuvashskom yazyke [Participle in Chuvash]. Cheboksary: Chuvash publishing company, 1961.


Lebedev E. E. Aktsionsartovye znacheniya slozhnoverbal'nykh analiticheskikh form v chuvashskom yazyke. [Aktionsart semantics of comlex verb forms in Chuvash] Cheboksary: Chuvash state Institute of Humanities, 2016.

Работы по социолингвистике

Alòs i Font H. Issledovanie yazykovoy situatsii v Chuvashskoy Respublike [Research of the Language Situation in the Republic of Chuvashia]. Cheboksary: Chuvash state Institute of Humanities, 2015.

Alòs i Font, H. (2016). The Chuvash Language in the Chuvash Republic: An Example of the Rapid Decline of One of Russia’s Major Languages. In: Sloboda, M., Laihonen, P., Zabrodskaja, A. (Eds.), Sociolinguistic Transition in Former Eastern Bloc Countries: Two Decades after the Regime Change, Prague Papers on Language, Society and Interaction / Prager Arbeiten Zur Sprache, Gesellschaft Und Interaktion. Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main, pp. 51–73.

Работы по этнологии

Etnografiya chuvashskogo naroda [Ethnography of the Chuvash people] / ed. V. P. Ivanov. Chuvash publishing company, 2017.


Yagafova E. A. Chuvashi Uralo-Povolzh'ya: istoriya i kul'tura etnoterritorial'nykh grupp (XVII — nachalo XX vv.) [Chuvash People of the Ural-Volga region: history and culture of ethnoterritorial groups (XVII — beginning of XX) ]. Cheboksary, 2007.


Corpora and text collections

Bilingual corpus of Chuvash

The corpus is organized for achieving two goals: the first one is to create the corpus of the Chuvash language, the second one is to prepare Chuvash-Russian parallel texts.

Other electronic resources

Electronic dictionaries of Chuvash

The dictionaries are organized in the form of a database with a search option.

Data for this page kindly provided by

Alexander V. Savelyev, PhD in Linguistics, researcher at the Department of Ural-Altaic Languages of the Institute of Linguistics of the Russian Academy of Sciences.