KILELLE. TOWARDS HOME

I was born and raised in a Chuvash family in Cheboksary, the capital of the Chuvash Republic located in the European part of Russia. At an early age, however, I left my homeland and moved to Moscow. I didn’t know much about Chuvash traditions and what kind of people we really are. In my family, few people speak the Chuvash language. Those who do are mostly distant relatives from the villages. I could hardly understand them talking when the whole family did occasionally get together. Living outside the republic and not knowing the history of my ancestors as well as the language, I began to lose my national identity and as a teenager I considered myself to be of Russian nationality. In search of my true national code, I decided to go to Chuvashia to rediscover this land and its people. 

The Chuvash are a people belonging to the Turkic language family and are one of the representatives of the indigenous peoples of the Russian Federation numbering 1.5 million people. Until 1551, the Chuvash were part of the Kazan Khanate, and after, by conquest, they became part of the Russian state. Before the forced Christianization carried out by the Russian government after the annexation, the Chuvash adhered to a pagan faith. Their worldview was formed from a reverence for their environment, nature and an agrarian cult. As for any small nation, the issue of preserving national identity has always been relevant for the Chuvash. Having lived for centuries as part of the Russian imperial state, these people are part of Russia but still want to preserve their distinct culture — not simply dissolve and disappear as a nation. To study this culture and remind myself of who I am, I headed towards home.