Chuvashiya

   / Chuvash Republic
   An ethnic republic of the Russian Federation. Chuvashiya is a densely populated republic covering 18,300 square kilometers of the heart of European Russia. It is part of the Volga Federal District and the Volga-Vyatka Economic Region. Encompassing part of the Volga valley, the Chuvash plateau is defined by wooded steppe, low hills, and ravines. The Chuvash Republic is crisscrossed by the Volga, Sura, and Tsivil rivers, while also possessing more than 400 lakes.
   The region is both well situated and economically well developed, being a major center for electricity generation, natural gas refining, metalworking, and chemical manufacturing, as well as agricultural output, particularly hops production for the country’s beer-making industry. It is bordered by the ethnic republics of Tatarstan, Mari El, and Mordoviya, as well as the Nizhny Novgorod and Ulyanovsk oblasts. The capital, Cheboksary (pop. 450,000), is situated in the extreme north of the republic, on the right bank of the Volga. Chuvashiya has one of Russia’s highest population densities, ranking fourth among the regions. Out of a population of approximately 1.3 million, the titular majority, the Chuvash, account for 68 percent, while ethnic Russians are about 27 percent of the population; Tatars are the third-largest ethnic group in the republic. Rare among titular nationalities, Chuvash are demographically dominant in nearly every part of their republic, the exceptions being the Alatyr and Porets districts. Nikolay Fyodorov is the republic’s president; he took office in 1994 and was reelected in 1997 and 2001. He has promoted market reforms and entrepreneurial activity, as well as encouraging foreign trade. The economic fortunes of the republic suffered greatly from the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Competition with foreign producers doomed the local tractor factory, and the region’s cotton mills lay fallow without imports of Uzbek cotton. The Khimprom installation, which produced half of the Soviet Union’s chemical weapons, was forced to retool for a post–Cold War world.
   A lawyer by training and a former member of Russia’s Ministry of Justice, Fyodorov left Boris Yeltsin’s administration in protest over the coming constitutional crisis of 1993. An ethnic Chuvash, the president has made ethnic harmony a keystone of his governance, while supporting a resurgence of the Russian Orthodox Church. He gained popularity among ethnic Russians in the region by promising not to pursue the “Tatarstan model” for the republic. While generally maintaining good relations with Moscow, the president clashed with Yeltsin in 1995 over the participation of Chuvash soldiers’ service in Chechnya and served as spokesman for the six republican presidents who opposed the Kremlin’s policy toward the breakaway region. Despite such independent-mindedness, Fyodorov was clearly the establishment candidate in the 1997 elections; federal-level support for his reelection was given by Yury Luzhkov and Aleksandr Lebed among others, helping him beat back a wave of Communist and radical Chuvash nationalist antipathy. In recent years, Fyodorov has begun to tout his region’s morality, spirituality, and healthy living as a solution to the social problems facing 21st-century Russia.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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