Sunday, October 28, 2018

A Disturbing Straw in the Wind: Chuvash Symbols Being Removed from Signs in That Middle Volga Republic

Paul Goble

Staunton, October 28 -- Russia’s salvation, it is sometimes said, is that officials don’t enforce the horrific laws and decrees Moscow promulgates. But at the same time, other equally serious problems may occur when officials try to read between the lines of such laws and decrees and overfulfill the plan, going further than Moscow intended or at least wanted to declare. 

An example of the latter that should be of concern to all those concerned about the situation the non-Russian peoples now face in Putin’s Russia comes from Chuvashia, a Christian Turkic republic in the Middle Volga, where Chuvash symbols are disappearing from the streets and roads of that land (

The portal of Irekle Samakh (Chuvash for “Free Word”) provides before and after photographs showing how statues and signs looked before and after these desecrations, steps almost certainly taken by local officials confident that they know which way the political winds are now blowing.

One reason Chuvash activists are so focused on this is that they have faced similar problems in the past. Several years ago, officials painted trash heaps the colors of the republic flag; and on another occasion, they replaced a genuine Chuvash flag with one that had been distorted to meaninglessness.

The 1.2 million-strong population of Chuvashia often finds itself in a complicated position politically. On the one hand, precisely because it is both Christian and Turkic, Moscow views it as a bridge over which ethno-nationalist ideas may pass and thus often takes steps there that foretell similar moves elsewhere.

And on the other, because of that mixture, the Chuvash often find themselves unable to get the kind of fraternal support from other republics in the Middle Volga, with the Turkic ones viewing it as different because of religion and the Orthodox Christian ones as an outlier because of its Turkic population and language. 

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