Chuvashia (Russian: Чува́шская Респу́блика choo-VAHSH-skuh-yuh rees-POOB-lee-kuh or Чува́шия choo-VAHSH-ee-yuh) is a sovereign republic in the Upper Volga, bordering Mordovia to the southwest, Nizhny Novgorod Oblast to the west, Mari El to the north, Tatarstan to the east, and Ulyanovsk Oblast to the south.
Chuvashia is located in the center of the European part of Russia. The republic is not large, at 18,000 square kilometers, but is one of the most densely populated regions in the Russian Federation, with a total population of 1.4 million people. It is bordered to the north and west by the Volga river and its capital, the city of Cheboksary, situated on the banks of the Volga river, approximately 650 km east of Moscow.
Within Chuvashia, the Chuvash and Russian nationalities make up about 67 and 27 percent of the population, respectively, giving the region a rich multi-ethnic character. The Chuvash are descendants of the Bulgars who migrated to this region and are Orthodox Christian; they are very closely related with their Muslim Tatar neighbors.
Russian is the language of business and the lingua franca among all residents—you will have no problem getting around if you speak Russian. The Chuvash language, however, is spoken by many, especially in the country. The Chuvash language belongs to the Oghur subgroup of the Turkic language group.
There is also a resurgence of native Chuvash pride and many people are looking back to their Chuvash roots, exploring the culture and heritage and relearning the language. Most building signs, road signs, and announcements are in both Russian and Chuvash language.
Cheboksary airport receives both cargo and passenger aircraft. There are regularly scheduled flights to Moscow and other destinations. Cheboksary is also about a two-hour drive from Nizhny Novgorod, a city with international air connections through Lufthansa.
The railway network is developed and accessible all year. One of the largest railway junctions of Russia, Kanash, is in the center of the Republic. Via Kanash, the rail system connects the major towns in Chuvashia with the major industrial centers of Eastern Siberia, the Urals, and Moscow. Express trains present a low-cost, comfortable way to travel. Express trains to and from Moscow are available everyday, and the easy overnight journey is approximately 14 hours each way.
Autos, trucks, and buses carry the majority of transportation, as the Republic ranks forth in highway density in all of Russia. Cheboksary is situated on one of the main highways of the Russian Federation leading from Moscow to the industrial areas of Tartarstan, the Southern Urals, and Siberia. Furthermore, a recently completed bridge across the Volga to the north connects the republic to the developed Ural-Provolzhye and Kirov Oblast regions. To the south, highways connect Chuvashia with Saratov and Volgograd.
With the Volga and Sura Rivers, Chuvashia is connected to a national and international water network. To the south, Volgograd, Rostov-on-Don, Astrakhan, the Caspian Sea, and Black Sea are directly reachable. To the west, the Volga river connects Cheboksary with Nizhny Novgorod, Yaroslavl, Moscow, and the northern regions of Russia. By using river-sea vessels, it is possible to get from Chuvash riverports all the way to Saint Petersburg, Novorossiysk (on the Black Sea), Astrakhan, and ports situated on the Danube river. However, the river is frozen from December through April.
Extensive public and private bus systems connect all towns within the republic with each other and with surrounding regions.
Cheboksary is covered by an extensive system of trolleybuses, autobuses, and minibuses. There are several official taxi agencies, but also many so-called "gipsy" taxis, which are privately owned. The latter can be a convenient way of getting around, but also potentially dangerous and thus not recommended. Official taxis cost less than two dollars for travel between most points within the city.
Cheboksary is a frequent stop on many boat tours that travel up and down the Volga. A boat tour to the major cities along the Volga is highly recommended.
Ask someone in Russia about Chuvashia and they will likely respond with a comment about beer, as the republic has been a center of hops growing and beer brewing for hundreds of years. There are two beer manufacturers in Cheboksary, Buket Chuvashi and Yantar, as well as Russia's only beer museum.