Chuvans - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. The sedentary Chuvans of the Anadyr Valley were devout Orthodox Christians and followed religious practices similar to Siberian Russian peasants and other Russian-speaking creole groups. The village of Markovo, the largest in the area, was a center of Orthodox activity. The main practitioner, the local priest, held regular services there and kept parish duties and records.

Arts. Sedentary Chuvans, like other Russian and creole residents in general, were skilled in several crafts, such as the making of decorated skin clothing, embroidered bark and and wooden boxes, and bead jewelery. They were and are famous for their unique folklore, which preserved archaic Russian songs, tales, legends, and epic stories. A modern amateur choir and dancing group of the Markovo village, established in 1955, still performs some Russian songs of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries at local and district festivals.

Medicine. Healing practices of the sedentary Chuvans developed as an amalgamation of the Siberian Russian and several local folk traditions. Folk practitioners were mostly older women; they used Russian treatments based on different "plant teas" (water boiled with local plants, tree bark, and leaves) combined with the use of animal fats and sea-mammal oil. On recovery after serious illness, the Chuvans usually changed their names, as did the Chukchee and the Siberian Eskimos.

Death and Afterlife. The same mixture of Russian peasant and local native traits was typical of burial practices (which mainly followed the Orthodox rite) and beliefs in an afterlife. Chuvans have adopted the Chukchee and Eskimo idea of reincarnation by way of newborn babies within the same family. Ascertaining the name of the "returned" (reincarnated) person was seen as essential to the newborn's survival. Any illness or early death was therefore attributed to the wrong guess.

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