He acknowledges that “until recently, the issue of regional branding in Chuvashia seemed to many as not so important.” But almost everyone in the republic has been asking how it can attract the interest and attention of the rest of the world, something Chuvash increasingly view as the precondition for their survival.
Some hope to promote Chuvash cuisine; others, national culture more generally; and still others, specific brands and economic ties with other regions and countries. But two things are obvious to all: Chuvashia has a long and great history and can provide much for reflection by others, and it is under threat.
With regard to the first, Chuvash build the states of the Huns and the Turkic kaganate. They helped form Greater Bulgaria. They are the nation that gave the world military leaders and cosmonauts, scientists and scholars. And they have a creative young people who win awards outside of the republic.
And with regard to the latter, their language is under threat of disappearing, according to UNESCO, and their powers as a people are increasingly undermined by the Moscow-centric Russian state.
For both reasons, Stepanov says, “it is extremely important to establish and bring to the target audience an image which clearly and convincingly distinguishes Chuvashia from all the remaining subjects of the Russian Federation,” a message that must be sent not only to foreign countries but to other parts of Russia as well.
“The Chuvash nation,” he concludes, “like any other world nation, has the right to independently decide the form of its own state existence, freely establish its political status and realize its own economic and cultural development.” A century ago, the Chuvash demonstrated this capacity.
“But today, this statehood is under question. And a positive answer must be our global recognition,” Stepanov says. In doing so, he speaks not only for the Chuvash but for all non-Russian republics and many predominantly Russian oblasts and krays.