One of Russia’s oldest indigenous peoples, the Chuvash, live in the Volga region, in the Chuvash Republic. Prior to the forced Christianization and Russification of the Chauvish in the 17th century at the hands of the Russian state, the Chuvash adhered to a traditional pagan faith. Christianization took many forms for the Chuvash. The civil rights of unbaptized Chuvash were reduced and those who performed pagan rituals were subject to legal punishment. Some of the Chuvash retained their faith by leaving their ancestral lands, hiding from oppression in remote towns and villages. One of the regions where the Chuvash people migrated was the Samara region; in particular the village of Starogankino. Starogankino has a population of 715 according to a recent census. Of these, 50-60 people remain who follow the traditional Chuvash faith. Over time, there are even fewer of them, and the younger generation leaves these places and moves to the cities. Unbaptized Chuvash people do not have their own religious books and written commandments. These prayers and rituals are kept only in their memory, passing in oral tradition on to the next generations by word of mouth.

The supreme god of the unbaptized Chuvash is Tura, meaning “Great, Big God”, and his younger brother Shuittan, a Satan-esque figure who opposes him. Besides these two, there are many other gods and spirits. The Chuvash believed that all life in this world has its own spirit, gathered in sacred places for collective prayers for rain and harvest. Over time, some of the rituals and religious holidays of the Chuvash pagans in Starogankino have disappeared to the annals of time. Gradually some Chuvash were baptized while another small part of the population converted to Islam. But despite the processes that influenced the preservation of the traditional Chuvash faith, the remaining unbaptized Chuvash of Starogankino continue to carry out burial rites and commemoration of their ancestors. Traces of the ancient faith are present in everyday life in the form of rites and beliefs, such as the ‘evil eye’  or warding against disease.