Report on Fieldwork in the Chuvash Autonomous Republic

Permanent International Altaistic Conference Newsletter No. 2, March 1967, pp. 15–16.

A. Róna-Tas (Budapest)

Report on Fieldwork in the Chuvash Autonomous Republic

In the autumn of 1965 I worked for several weeks in Moscow with Chuvash informants. Toward the end of September I left to do fieldwork in the Chuvash Autonomous Republic. The aim of my journey was to collect on-the-spot material for phonological, lexicographic, and dialectal purposes. Since I was especially interested in Chuvash-Mongolian, Chuvash-Turkish, and Chuvash-Hungarian parallels, I directed my work toward these features.

My Chuvash fieldwork was not the first done by a Hungarian. If we do not consider the famous journey of Father Julianus to Magna Bulgaria in the 13th Century, only five scholars can be mentioned who collected Chuvash material in the field: A. Reguly, 1343, 1845; A. Desko, 1848-1854; B. Munkácsi, 1885; J. Mószáros, 1906–1907; and J. Németh, 1913.

I arrived in Cheboksary, the Capital of the republic, together with a young Chuvash-born linguist, A. A. Alekseev, with whom I had already worked in Moscow. In Cheboksary I was received by Chuvash colleagues working at the University and the Chuvash Scientific Research Institute. During my stay in the Chuvash Autonomous Republic my work was supported with great generosity by the official institutions and my colleagues.

I had the opportunity to see several times Professor Egorov, the Nestor of Chuvash Studies, who celebrated his 85th birthday early in 1965. His recently published etymological dictionary of the Chuvash language is a milestone, not only for Chuvash, but also for Altaic studies in general.

My Chuvash colleagues are mainly interested in the following major projects: a grammar of the modern Chuvash literary language, a dialectal atlas and vocabulary, a Russian-Chuvash dictionary, and a bibliography. All these works are in advanced stages, and some are already ready for publication.

In Cheboksary I had access to the rich Archives of the Institute, where I found among other things, the original materials for Ašmarin’s famous Thesaurus, and also many unpublished collections of folklore and dialectology.

My fieldwork was mainly concentrated upon the Virjal dialect. I visited the territory near the village of Rikka and the county-center of Morgaush. For purposes of control I also collected Anatri texts, among them the entire text of Ivanov’s well-known epical work, the Narspi. Altogether, I have been able to collect on tape texts containing about 3,200 lines. In addition to this, I collected a small Virjal vocabulary of about 1,500 words, and also materials for a Virjal morphology. My friend and colleague, L. Vikár, an ethno-musicologist, recorded in 1964 a collection of Chuvash folksongs, mainly from the Virjal territory. These texts I have rechecked, and we hope to publish our materials together. Since the material of Paasonen is from Anatri – with some words of his glossary from a dialect of south Virjal – I hope that my material will complete our knowledge of this important Turkish language.

For more details consult the Bulletin of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (Magyar Tudományos Akadémia I. Osztálya Közleményei XXIII, 1966, pp. 325–334.).