Staunton, June 13 – Chuvash, the state language of the Chuvash Republic and the fifth most widely spoken indigenous language in the Russian Federation, no longer plays a significant role in urban areas or in the government and is rapidly losing its rural base as fewer pupils study it and ever more local media has become bilingual or even gone over to Russian entirely.
As a result, Chuvash activist Aleksandr Blinov says, the state of the Chuvash language is anything but encouraging, although some activists are trying to replace what the state is no longer doing, cultural figures are promoting the language, and some migrants to the republic are choosing to speak the language (m.realnoevremya.ru/articles/252904-obzor-koordinatora-chuvashskoy-iniciativnoy-gruppy-haval).
The statistics he provides in support of his negative assessment are truly disturbing to anyone concerned about the survival of this Turkic language. In the 2021/22 school year, 94 percent of the young people in Chuvashia studied in Russian; only six percent studied in Chuvash. And the situation in preschool structures is even worse as far as Chuvash is concerned.
Moreover, those who do want to study Chuvash have few opportunities. In rural schools, they are now offered only three hours a week in Chuvash; in urban schools, only one hour. “There are almost no schools in the cities with Chuvash as the language of instruction.” And parents who want their children to study Chuvash are under pressure to change their requests.
Despite Chuvash being alongside with Russian the state language of the republic, all official business is done “exclusively in Russian,” Blinov says. The media in Chuvashia is increasingly either in Russian or in bilingual publications at the local level which used to have Chuvash-only newspapers.
There is no longer any sector in which those who don’t know Chuvash face difficulties, and that means that those who do speak Chuvash are not in a position to insist that others learn their language or even to believe that it is useful for them to continue to speak the language or encourage their children to learn it.
According to the activist, there are only three positive aspects to this situation. First, many people moving to Chuvashia choose to learn Chuvash and thus are becoming what local people call “the new speakers.” Second, there is numerous group of activists who are promoting the language.
And third – and this is by far the most important – intellectual, artistic and music groups are promoting Chuvash in their productions and performances, raising the status of the language even as the government does almost everything it can to reduce Chuvash to a language of the past and thus Chuvash identity to a narrowly cultural one.