Tuva: Wikis


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Tuva Republic (English)
Респу́блика Тува́ (Russian)
Тыва Республика (Tuvan)
-  Republic  -
Map of Russia - Tuva Republic (2008-03).svg
Coordinates: 51°30′N 95°05′E / 51.5°N 95.083°E / 51.5; 95.083Coordinates: 51°30′N 95°05′E / 51.5°N 95.083°E / 51.5; 95.083
Coat of arms of Tuva.svg
Coat of arms of Tuva
Flag of Tuva.svg
Flag of Tuva
Anthem Tooruktug Dolgay Tangdym[citation needed]
Political status
Country Russia
Political status Republic
Federal district Siberian[1]
Economic region East Siberian[2]
Capital Kyzyl[citation needed]
Official languages Russian[3]; Tuvan[4]
Population (2002 Census)[5] 305,510 inhabitants
- Rank within Russia 77th
- Urban[5] 51.5%
- Rural[5] 48.5%
- Density 2 /km2 (0/sq mi)[6]
Area (as of the 2002 Census)[7] 170,500 km2 (65,830.4 sq mi)
- Rank within Russia 21st
Established October 13, 1944[citation needed]
License plates 17
ISO 3166-2:RU RU-TY
Time zone KRAT/KRAST (UTC+7/+8)
Government (as of November 2008)
Chairman of the Government[8] Sholban Kara-ool[9]
Legislature Great Khural[10]
Constitution Constitution of the Tuva Republic
Official website

Tyva Republic (Russian: Респу́блика Тува́, Respublika Tuva, pronounced [rʲɪˈspublʲɪkə tɨˈva]; Tuvan: Тыва Республика, Tuva Respublika), or Tuva (Russian: Тува́, Tuva), is a federal subject of Russia (a republic).



The Republic is situated in the far south of Siberia, with the capital city of Kyzyl being located at the geographic "center of Asia". The eastern part of the republic is forested and elevated, and the west is a drier lowland.


Biosphere reserve

Time zone


Tuva is located in the Krasnoyarsk Time Zone (KRAT/KRAST). UTC offset is +0700 (KRAT)/+0800 (KRAST).


Map of the Tyva Republic, formerly the Tuvan People's Republic

There are over 9,000 rivers in the republic. The area includes the upper course of the Yenisei River, the fifth longest river in the world. Most of the republic's rivers are Yenisei tributaries. There are also numerous mineral springs in the area.

Major rivers include:


There are numerous lakes on the republic's territory, many of which are glacial and salt lakes. Major lakes include:


The area of the republic is a mountain basin, ca. 600 m high, encircled by the Sayan and Tannu-Ola ranges. Mountains and hills cover over 80% of the republic's territory. Mount Mongun-Tayga 'Silver Mountain' (3,970 m) is the highest point in Siberia and is named from its glacier.

Natural resources

Major natural mineral resources of Tuva include coal, iron ore, gold, and cobalt. Asbestos was formerly important. Wildlife is varied: wolves and bears, snow leopards, ground squirrels, flying foxes, eagles, and fish - some very large.


  • Average January temperature: −32 °C (−25.6 °F)
  • Average July temperature: +18 °C (64.4 °F)
  • Average annual precipitation: 150 mm (6 in) (plains) to 1,000 mm (39 in) (mountains)
  • Much of the country is affected by permafrost


Probably the most spectacular Scythian finds known to archaeologists have been discovered in northern Tyva near Arzhaan. Dating from the 7th and 6th centuries BC they are also among the earliest known, as well as the easternmost. Following restoration in St Petersburg, the sumptuous gold treasure hoard is now on display in the new National Museum in Kyzyl. [1]

The historic region of Tannu Uriankhai, which Tuva is part of, was controlled by the Mongols from 1207 to 1757, when it was brought under Manchu rule (Qing Dynasty, the last dynasty of China) until 1911.

During the 19th century, Russians began to settle in Tuva, resulting in an 1860 Chinese-Russian treaty, in which the Qing Dynasty allowed Russians to settle providing that they lived in boats or tents. In 1881 Russians were allowed to live in permanent buildings. By that time a sizeable Russian community had been established, whose affairs were managed by an official in Russia. (These officials also settled disputes and checked on Tuvan chiefs.) Russian interests in Tuva continued into the twentieth century.

During the 1911 revolution in China, tsarist Russia formed a separatist movement among the Tuvans. Tsar Nicholas II ordered Russian troops into Tuva in 1912, as Russian settlers were allegedly being attacked[citation needed]. Tuva became nominally independent as the Urjanchai Republic before being brought under Russian protectorate as Uryankhay Kray under Tsar Nicholas II on 17 April 1914. This move was apparently requested by a number of prominent Tuvans, including the High Lama, although it is possible they were actually acting under the coercion of Russian soldiers[citation needed]. A Tuvan capital was established, called Belotsarsk (Белоца́рск; literally, "Town of White Tsar"). Meanwhile, in 1911, Mongolia became independent, though under Russian protection.

Following the Russian Revolution of 1917 which ended the imperial autocracy, most of Tuva was occupied from 5 July 1918 to 15 July 1919 by Aleksandr Kolchak's "White" Russian troops. Pyotr Ivanovich Turchaninov was named governor of the territory. In the autumn of 1918 the southwestern part was occupied by Chinese troops and the southern part by Mongol troops led by Khatanbaatar Magsarjav.[citation needed]

From July 1919 to February 1920 the communist Red Army controlled Tuva, but from 19 February 1920 to June 1921 it was occupied by China (governor was Yan Shichao [traditional, Wade-Giles transliteration: Yan Shi-chao]). On August 14, 1921 the Bolsheviks (supported by Russia) established a Tuvan People's Republic, popularly called Tannu-Tuva. In 1926, the capital (Belotsarsk; Khem-Beldyr since 1918) was renamed Kyzyl, meaning "Red"). Tuva was de jure an independent state between the World Wars.

The state's first ruler, Prime Minister Donduk, sought to strengthen ties with Mongolia and establish Buddhism as the state religion. This unsettled the Kremlin, which orchestrated a coup carried out in 1929 by five young Tuvan graduates of Moscow's Communist University of the Toilers of the East. In 1930 the pro-Soviet region discarded the state's Mongol script in favor of a Latin alphabet designed for Tuva by Russian linguists, and in 1943 Cyrillic script replaced the Latin. Under the leadership of Party Secretary Salchak Toka, ethnic Russians were granted full citizenship rights and Buddhist and Mongol influences on the Tuvan state and society were systematically reduced.[12]

The Soviet Union annexed Tuva outright in 1944, apparently with the approval of Tuva's Little Khural (parliament), though there was no Tuva-wide vote on the issue. The exact circumstances surrounding Tannu-Tuva's incorporation into the USSR in 1944 remain obscure. Salchak Toka, the leader of Tuvan communists, was given the title of First Secretary of the Tuvan Communist Party, and became the de-facto ruler of Tuva until his death in 1973. Tuva was made the Tuvan Autonomous Oblast and then became the Tuva ASSR on October 10, 1961. The Soviet Union kept Tuva closed to the outside world for nearly fifty years.

In February 1990, the Tuvan Democratic Movement was founded by Kaadyr-ool Bicheldei, a philologist at Kyzyl University. The party aimed to provide jobs and housing (both were in short supply), and also to improve the status of Tuvan language and culture. Later on in the year there was a wave of attacks against Tuva's sizeable Russian community, resulting in 88 deaths. Russian troops eventually were called in. Many Russians moved out of the republic during this period. To this day, Tuva remains remote and difficult to access.[13]

Tuva was a signatory to the March 31, 1992 treaty that created the Russian Federation. A new constitution for the republic was drawn up on October 22, 1993. This created a 32-member parliament (Supreme Khural) and a Grand Khural, which is responsible for foreign policy and any possible changes to the constitution, and ensures that Tuvan law is given precedence. The constitution also allowed for a referendum if Tuva ever sought independence. This constitution was passed by 62.2% of Tuvans in a referendum on December 12, 1993. At the same time the official name was changed from Tuva (Тува) to Tyva (Тыва). However, the Constitution of the Russian Federation is legally the primary law for every federal subject, therefore following the text and the spirit of the Federal Constitution any reference to "sovereignty" or "foreign policy" or any other attribute of an independent state in the Tyvan Constitution is illegal and practically meaningless.


The head of the government in Tuva is the Chairman of the Government, who is elected for a four-year term. The first Chairman of the Government was Sherig-ool Oorzhak. As of 2007, the Chairman of the Government is Sholban Kara-ool. Tuva's legislature, the Great Khural, has 162 seats; each deputy is elected to serve a four-year term.

The present flag of Tuva — yellow for prosperity, blue for courage and strength, white for purity — was adopted on September 17, 1992. See below under Religion.

The republic's Constitution was adopted on October 23, 1993.

On April 3, 2007, Russian president Vladimir Putin nominated Sholban Kara-ool, 40, a former champion wrestler, as the Chairman of the Government of Tuva.[2] Sholban's candidacy was approved by the Khural on April 9, 2007.[14]


Tuva has a developing mining industry (coal, cobalt, gold, and more). Food processing, timber, and metal working industries are also well-developed. Most of the industrial production is concentrated in the capital Kyzyl and in Ak-Dovurak.


Tuva has as yet no railway - although (in)famous postage stamps, designed in Moscow during the time of Tuvan independence, mistakenly depict locomotives as demonstrating soviet-inspired progress there.

There are three roads leading to Tuva, a dirt track over the mountains from Khakassia to Ak Dovurak, and an asphalt road over the passes between Khakassia (Abakan) and Kyzyl: both of these are cut off by snowfall and avalanches from time to time in winter. The third road goes south, turning into a track before entering Mongolia. The only external bus and taxi services are between Khakassia (Abakan) and Kyzyl.

Kyzyl has both large public buses and private minibus services, and buses and taxis also connect Kyzyl with the larger settlements.

Passenger ferries ply the Greater Yenisei (Bii-Khem) between Kyzyl and Toora-Khem in Todzha (Upper Tuva) when there is neither too little nor too much water over the rapids.

There is a small airfield in Kyzyl with intermittent flights.


The Tuvan people are famous for Tuvan throat singing.

Khuresh, the Tuvan form of wrestling, is a very popular sport. Competitions are held at the annual Naadym festival at Tos-Bulak.

Sainkho Namtchylak is one of the few singers from Tuva to have an international following. She is also very involved with Tuvan culture. Every year she invites Western musicians to perform in Kyzyl and to learn about the country, its culture and its music. In recent years Kongar-ool Ondar has become well-known in the West as well, in large part because of the film Genghis Blues featuring Ondar and American blues singer Paul Pena. Huun-Huur-Tu has been one of the most well known Tuvan music ensembles since the late 1990s, while the Alash ensemble came to prominence in the early 2000s.

The Tuvan language is Turkic, although with many loan-words from Mongolian. It is currently written with a modified Cyrillic alphabet, previously used Turkic runes, later Mongolian, then Latin alphabets. When part of China, Tuva was administered as part of Outer Mongolia, and the language difference was a determining factor in Tuva seeking full independence following the collapse of the Chinese Empire.

Oral traditions

The Tuvan people have a rich tradition of orally transmitted folklore, including many genres, ranging from very brief riddles and aphorisms, to tongue twisters, magical tales, hero tales, scary stories, and epics that would take many hours to recite. A few examples and excerpts of the epic genres, such as Boktu-Kirish, Bora-Sheelei have been published. This art form is now endangered as the traditional tale-tellers grow old and are not replaced by younger practitioners.


Three religions are widespread among the people of Tuva: Tibetan Buddhism, Orthodox Christianity and shamanism. Tibetan Buddhism's present-day spiritual leader is Tenzin Gyatso, the fourteenth Dalai Lama. In September 1992, the fourteenth Dalai Lama visited Tuva for three days.[15][16] On September 20, he blessed and consecrated the new yellow-blue-white flag of Tuva, which had just been officially adopted three days previously.[17]

The Tuvan people - along with the Yellow Uyghurs in China - are one of the only two Turkic groups who are mainly adherents to Tibetan Buddhism, combined with native Shamanism.[18] During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries Tibetan Buddhism gained increasing popularity in Tuva. An increasing number of new and restored temples is coming into use, as well as novices being trained as monks and lamas.

Religious practice declined under the restrictive policies of the Soviet period but is now flourishing.[19][20]


The most important facilities of higher education include the Tuvan State University and the Tuvan Institute of Humanities, both located in the capital Kyzyl.

Administrative divisions


Tuvan family in traditional clothing
  • Population: 305,510 (2002)(comparable to Iceland)
    • Urban: 157,299 (51.5%)
    • Rural: 148,211 (48.5%)
    • Male: 144,961 (47.4%)
    • Female: 160,549 (52.6%)
  • Females per 1000 males: 1,108
  • Average age: 25.5 years
    • Urban: 26.4 years
    • Rural: 24.5 years
    • Male: 25.2 years
    • Female: 27.6 years
  • Number of households: 82,882 (with 299,510 people)
    • Urban: 47,073 (with 152,542 people)
    • Rural: 35,809 (with 146,968 people)
  • Vital statistics
Source: Russian Federal State Statistics Service
Births Deaths Birth rate Death rate
1970 6,559 1,938 28.2 8.3
1975 6,950 2,306 27.5 9.1
1980 7,133 2,748 26.2 10.1
1985 8,110 2,624 28.3 9.1
1990 8,116 2,664 26.3 8.6
1991 7,271 2,873 23.9 9.5
1992 6,545 3,006 21.6 9.9
1993 6,130 3,480 20.3 11.5
1994 6,076 4,086 20.1 13.5
1995 6,172 4,010 20.3 13.2
1996 5,705 4,110 18.7 13.5
1997 4,908 3,954 16.1 12.9
1998 5,267 3,631 17.2 11.9
1999 4,894 4,142 16.0 13.5
2000 4,871 4,170 15.9 13.6
2001 4,992 4,165 16.3 13.6
2002 5,727 4,576 18.8 15.0
2003 6,276 4,633 20.5 15.1
2004 6,127 4,090 20.0 13.3
2005 5,979 4,326 19.4 14.0
2006 5,950 3,802 19.3 12.3
2007 7,568 3,687 24.4 11.9
2008 7,874 3,526 25.2 11.3
    • Average life expectancy: Tyva: 56.5 (average male and female, UNDP data); Russia: (UN data) Male 59 (world rank 166); Female 73 (127)

Ethnic groups

According to the 2002 Census, Tuvans, a Turkic people, make up 77.0% of the republic's population. Other groups include Russians (20.1%), Komi (1,404, or 0.5%), and a host of smaller groups, each accounting for less than 0.5% of the total population.

1959 census 1970 census 1979 census 1989 census 2002 census
Tuvans 97,996 (57.0%) 135,306 (58.6%) 161,888 (60.5%) 198,448 (64.3%) 235,313 (77.0%)
Russians 68,924 (40.1%) 88,385 (38.3%) 96,793 (36.2%) 98,831 (32.0%) 61,442 (20.1%)
Khakas 1,726 (1.0%) 2,120 (0.9%) 2,193 (0.8%) 2,258 (0.7%) 1,219 (0.4%)
Others 3,282 (1.9%) 5,053 (2.2%) 6,725 (2.5%) 9,020 (2.9%) 7,526 (2.5%)

As can be seen above, during the period 1959-2002 there has been more than a doubling of ethnic Tuvans. The Russian population growth slowed by the 1980s and has now begun to shrink.

Official languages are Tuvan (Turkic) and Russian (Slavic). Outside Kyzyl, settlements have few if any Russian inhabitants and in general Tuvans use their original language as their first language.

Tuvans are closely related ethnically and linguistically to the Khakas to their north and the Altai to their west, but closer culturally to the Mongolians to their south and the related Buryats to their east, with whom they share their Buddhism.


Tuva Stamp from 1927
  • In the 1920s and 1930s, postage stamps from Tuva were issued. Many philatelists, including the physicist Richard Feynman, have been fascinated with Tuva because of these stamps. The stamps were issued mainly during the brief period of Tuvan independence, and had many philatelists in a furor, as they did not conform to philatelic standards. Feynman's efforts to reach Tuva are chronicled in the book Tuva or Bust! and the video 'The Quest For Tannu Tuva: Richard Feynman - The Last Journey of a Genius' (1988) which can be viewed online through Google Video.
  • Tuva was featured prominently in the award-winning documentary Genghis Blues.
  • United Nations Human Development Index: Russian Federation - Republic of Tyva, rank: 79/79.
  • Tuvan stamps are mentioned in a line of Gregory Corso's poem Marriage.
  • Tyvan Sergey Shoygu, Russia's Minister for Emergency Situations since 1994, is Russia's longest-serving minister, and a leader of Russia's governing party 'Unity'.
  • Tyvans make wishes each morning, sprinkling milk on the ground, to the north, south, east and west, with a special wooden spoon with nine small hollows for the various milk products made.
  • According to Ilya Zakharov of Moscow's Vavilov Institute of General Genetics, genetic evidence suggests that the modern Tuvan people are the closest genetic relatives to the native peoples of North and South America.[21]
  • Some Tyvans, even near Kyzyl, still live in traditional yurts, round, demountable and portable dwellings with sectional lath trellis walls, decorated pole roofs and covered with white felt and canvas, with colourful cloth lining. There is a central smoke-hole above the hearth or stove. It is used to tell the time as the sunlight moves around inside the yurt. The interior is arranged with the man's side to the left, the woman's to the right of the door facing East, with the altar cupboard facing that.
  • Tyvans, as traditional nomads, knew no fixed national borders, which has led to small numbers being in areas outside the present Republic's boundaries, including as follows.
    • China - Xinjiang: 'Tuwa' by Lake Kanas, Altay Prefecture.
    • Russia - Irkutsk Oblast: 'Tofa' adjacent to north-east Tyva; Buryatia: 'Soyot' of the Upper Oka river.
    • Mongolia - northern: 'Tsaatan'; north-western: 'Dukha/Duva'; western: 'Tsengel'.

See also


  1. ^ Президент Российской Федерации. Указ №849 от 13 мая 2000 г. «О полномочном представителе Президента Российской Федерации в федеральном округе». Вступил в силу 13 мая 2000 г. Опубликован: "Собрание законодательства РФ", №20, ст. 2112, 15 мая 2000 г. (President of the Russian Federation. Decree #849 of May 13, 2000 On the Plenipotentiary Representative of the President of the Russian Federation in a Federal District. Effective as of May 13, 2000).
  2. ^ Госстандарт Российской Федерации. №ОК 024-95 27 декабря 1995 г. «Общероссийский классификатор экономических регионов. 2. Экономические районы», в ред. Изменения №5/2001 ОКЭР. (Gosstandart of the Russian Federation. #OK 024-95 December 27, 1995 Russian Classification of Economic Regions. 2. Economic Regions, as amended by the Amendment #5/2001 OKER. ).
  3. ^ According to Article 68.1 of the Constitution of Russia, Russian is the official language on the whole territory of the Russian Federation. Article 68.2 further stipulates that only the republics have the right to establish official languages other than Russian.
  4. ^ Constitution, Article 5.1
  5. ^ a b c Федеральная служба государственной статистики (Federal State Statistics Service) (2004-05-21). "Численность населения России, субъектов Российской Федерации в составе федеральных округов, районов, городских поселений, сельских населённых пунктов – районных центров и сельских населённых пунктов с населением 3 тысячи и более человек (Population of Russia, its federal districts, federal subjects, districts, urban localities, rural localities—administrative centers, and rural localities with population of over 3,000)" (in Russian). Всероссийская перепись населения 2002 года (All-Russia Population Census of 2002). Federal State Statistics Service. http://perepis2002.ru/ct/html/TOM_01_04_1.htm. Retrieved 2010-03-01. 
  6. ^ The value of density was calculated automatically by dividing the 2002 Census population by the area specified in the infobox. Please note that this value may not be accurate as the area specified in the infobox is not necessarily reported for the same year as the Census (2002).
  7. ^ Федеральная служба государственной статистики (Federal State Statistics Service) (2004-05-21). "Территория, число районов, населённых пунктов и сельских администраций по субъектам Российской Федерации (Territory, Number of Districts, Inhabited Localities, and Rural Administration by Federal Subjects of the Russian Federation)" (in Russian). Всероссийская перепись населения 2002 года (All-Russia Population Census of 2002). Federal State Statistics Service. http://perepis2002.ru/ct/html/TOM_01_03.htm. Retrieved 2008-10-17. 
  8. ^ Constitution, Article 10.3
  9. ^ Official website of the Government of the Tyva Republic. Sholban Valeryevich Kara-ool (Russian)
  10. ^ Constitution, Article 10.2
  11. ^ "Top Attractions of Russia". http://www.mccme.ru/putevod/attr_en.html. Retrieved 2008-02-05. 
  12. ^ Tuva: Russia's Tibet or the Next Lithuania?
  13. ^ "Tuva and Sayan Mountains". Geographic Bureau — Siberia and Pacific. http://www.geographicbureau.com/Siberia/Tuva/sayan_mountains.htm. Retrieved 2006-10-26. 
  14. ^ Tuva on-line
  15. ^ Dalai Lama, Avant Art.
  16. ^ Fotuva.
  17. ^ The World Encyclopedia of Flags, ISBN 1840384158.
  18. ^ Kommersant.
  19. ^ World Heritage.
  20. ^ Tuvans keen to protect traditions, BBC
  21. ^ "Central Asian Origins of the Ancestor of First Americans", by I. Zakharov (Russian)


Sources and external links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

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A Tuvan Shaman dancing outside Kyzyl
A Tuvan Shaman dancing outside Kyzyl

Tuva is a region in Eastern Siberia, bordering Altai (Republic) to the west, Khakassia to the northwest, Krasnoyarsk (region) to the north, Irkutsk Oblast to the northeast, Buryatia to the east, and Mongolia to the south.

A map of Tuva
A map of Tuva
  • Ak-Dovurak
  • Chadan
  • Kyzyl
  • Shagonar
  • Erzin
  • Arzhaan Shivilig — a "medicinal" spring near many cultural monuments
  • Azas Nature Reserve
  • Uvs Nuur Lake — Unesco World Heritage Site
    • Ubsunurskaya Kotlovina Nature Reserve
    • Lake Tere-Khol


Tuva is on the border with Mongolia and shares much in common with the adjacent Mongolian regions. Tuvans comprise the largest ethnic group (over 60%) in the region and Tibetan Buddhism, mixed with indigenous Shamanism, is the predominant religion. Perhaps Tuva's greatest offering for the visitor is its musical treasure: Khoomei. Khoomei, also known as throat-singing or overtone-singing, is a method in which the singer simultaneously produces a low drone and a series of higher melodies over the drone note. This music is utterly unique and a performance is said to be a powerful experience. Tuva is of interest for its diverse and impressive wild landscapes. Tuva's topography spans desert, grassy steppe, lakes, and snow-covered mountains, many of which are dotted with cultural monuments of the Tuvan and Schithian herdsman who have nomadized across the region for millennia.

Tuvan's suffered greatly under Soviet repression of their culture and religion, particularly at the incidents of 1929, in which shamans and Buddhist monks were ruthlessly arrested and killed in a large-scale act of cultural vandalism against the Tuvan minority. As a result, foreign tourists are likely to be greeted with an even warmer welcome than in most of Siberia, as they are seen as part of a new future for Tuva that values the region's traditions. Many of the Tuvans were forced by the Soviet government to abandon their nomadic lifestyle and to work on collective farms, but to this day Tuvan culture remains essentially rural and, to a lesser degree, nomadic. Accordingly, to experience the "real" Tuva, you will need to get out into the countryside, among the sacred peaks of the Western Sayan.


Tuvan is, along with Russian, the official language of the region and is widely and usually spoken by ethnic Tuvans. Russian, however, is understood by nearly everyone in Kyzyl and usually in towns, somewhat less in the villages in more remote areas of Tuva, where few Russians live.

Get in

Tuva is pretty well cut off from the rest of Russia by its mountainous borders and as a result, there is no rail service to Kyzyl. The new railroad is now under construction, which is scheduled to finish by 2012. The best option is to take the train from Moscow to Abakan (76 hours), with one-way fares varying from approximately 4,000 Rub (US$160) to 9,500 Rub (US$390). The price changes according to peak tourist seasons in Russia: by far the cheapest day to travel is the 1st of January, while July is the most expensive.

It is possible to take a bus from Abakan in neighboring Khakassia. While a night bus is an option, don't take it! The route meanders through the gorgeous Sayan mountain landscapes of the Ergaki region, which would be foolish to miss. The train from Moscow arrives in Abakan at 6 AM, and apart from the bus, there will be plenty of taxi drivers offering to take you to Kyzyl (approximately 420 km from Abakan) for 1,000 - 1,500 Rub (US$40-60). There is a possibility that you may have to register at the Russian-Tuvan border - just hand over your passport to the police officer, there is no fee for the service.

Kyzyl Airport is small and offers flights to and from the Siberian center of Krasnoyarsk as well as Raduzhny, Khantia-Mansia because of the number of people who work in the oil industry there. The direct flights from Moscow to Kyzyl have been resumed as of Fall 2007, the flight goes twice a week via Ufa, Bashkiria's capital, departing from Moscow on Sunday and Wednesday.

Get around

There are busses to the regional centres from the central bus station in Kyzyl. Nearby is a piece of waste land on a corner where cars and minibusses wait to fill up before departing to anywhere you want. If not a popular destination, it can take a while. It is of course possible to pay enough to take the car without filling it up, although less fun and less likely to provide you with local knowledge and even hospitality at your destination. This could also be important in making sure you can also get a ride back to Kyzyl! Remember to dress extremely warmly travelling in winter, heaters do break down and there can be a long way between stops.

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The 'Centre of Asia' monument is by the Yenisei - it's almost true

The Shaman Centres are open to all, also on the bank of the Yenisei near the city centre

Visit the traditional agalmatolite-stone carvers in the Artists Union near the centre, and buy souvenirs

Look around the central and suburban indoor and outdoor markets: fur hats

Besides the new National Museum, there is the old museum, Aldan Maadir, which is quite quaint; there is also a semi-secret Museum of Soviet Repression, but it is not often open

Visit the town park towards the eastern end of town

Go to the open air disco at the stadium

Near the park you may meet some students from the next-door university Department of foreign languages (English, French, German) who may like to practice their language skills with you in their little cafe there - your treat

Not far from the bus station is the Institute of Humanities (in the Russian Federation the difference between 'the humanities' and 'humanitarian' is not understood) where the front garden is home to some ancient turkic anthropomorphic stone sculptures, also some stones with turkic runes.

Visit one of the Buddhist temples - a nice small one is well situated on the steppe on the other side of the Yenisei, it may be seen in the distance opposite the 'C of A' monument - and give the prayer wheel on Arat Square a whirl

Attend a concert with traditional throat-singing, and dancing, and see national holiday displays in Lenin Square

Large Buddhist ceremonies open to all are held in the National Theatre

In winter, try the ice-slides, see the coloured ice sculptures and eat frosted buckthorn-berries with sugar

There is a night-club with strip-tease!

Around Kyzyl:

Drive across one of the bridges in Kyzyl and take the back-road to the other bridge to see many eagles in their natural environment

Across the newest bridge turn left to a popular holy spring to respectfully see the prayer flags and offerings, and taste the water; be discrete if a shamanistic ceremony is taking place

Climb the mountain overlooking the town from the north, with its huge Buddhist mantra 'Om Mani Padme Hum' written in white stones

Make a Yurt home visit, first hearing the explanation of the customs of the yurt, then tasting salt tea from a bowl, araka (alcoholic sour milk), pine-kernels and throat-singing and after dark visiting the spirit world under the guidance of a shaman, sitting around a bonfire on the steppe

Drive south to the giant Arat statue overlooking the steppe around Kyzyl and the confluence of the Yenisei headwaters

If you are lucky with the timing, August 15th, enjoy the annual Nadym national festival held nearby at Tos-Bulak, with wrestling (Khuresh), long-distance horse-racing and archery

Stay in the Yurt-hotel just north of Kyzyl along the Greater Yenisei valley (Bii-Khem)

'Clockwise' from Kyzyl:

(You can use Google Maps to find some of these places)

For informal winter sports take the M54 north, then the left fork back road through Seserlig to Taiga - bring your own gear and refreshments

Near Arzhan in the north can be seen the huge scythian burial mounds in the Valley of the Kings, whose treasure is in the National Museum

Take the ferry to Toora-Khem in Todzha to see Lake Azas and the nature reserve - this remote forested region is the home of the world's southernmost reindeer-herding nomads

To the east of Kyzyl is another 'new' bridge that has good picnic, swimming and camping places around it with pleasant views, many wild flowers and good climbing

This bridge has made it easier to visit, discretely, the simple-life villages such as Buren-Baigak, home of Russian 'Old Believers' further to the south-east of Kyzyl, along the Lesser Yenisei (Kaa-Khem). They rejected mid-17th century Russian Orthodox religious reforms, and two centuries later some settled as refugees in Tyva when it was part of China (of course not knowing that Stalin would later make it part of Russia)

In the remote south-east of Tyva is Lake Tere-Khol, with the mysterious 'Por Bazhyn' Uyghur fortress on an island near its centre

To the south of Kyzyl lies Lake Chagytay, popular for swimming (beware broken bottles) and picnics (mind the rusty tin cans), and spectacular Lake Sut-Khol is off the road to the west of Kyzyl

The village of Samagaltai was the old capital and centre for trade with Mongolia when Tyva was Chinese, and has a lovely temple.

Further to the south, through Erzin, is the track to Tsagan-Tolgoy, closest settlement to the little-used border-crossing with Mongolia

To the west of the border-crossing lies the remote Uvsnuur Basin cross-border World Heritage Site (largest on Earth) where the world's southernmost taiga meets the northernmost sand dune desert, and containing up to 40,000 archaeological sites http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/769

The Holy Mountain Khairakan is by the main road west from Kyzyl

A huge reservoir was formed on the Yenisei, just before it cuts through the Sayan mountains to the North. Villages, farmland and ancient monuments were drowned, without compensation, when the Sayansk-Shushensk hydroelectric project was completed in 1989. Unfortunately Tyva receives no power from it, so relies on its own coal.

In the far south-west is Mongun Taiga Mountain and glacier, 3970 m, (Grade 'C' climb)

If you have to go to Ak Devorak, buy face masks to protect against wind-blown asbestos dust

See prehistoric rock-art of the Sayan Canyon, along the Yenisei towards the border with Khakassia


Join the Tyvans on their summmer holiday, camping by an 'arzhaan' - restorative spring-water often near lakes where people take mud-baths

Notice the 'ovaa' in the countryside, often at passes, holy mounds of stones piled by passers-by, and poles bedecked with prayer-flags

From the desert south to the glacier peaks see the camel- and yak-herds and isolated yurts

Try river-rafting or canoeing

Remember that 'roads' marked on maps may be sandy or muddy tracks, with few or no signs

Buy maps at bookshops

Enjoy the weather: -50C to +50C!

  • Listen to famed Tuvan throat-singing, in which a singer produces a fundamental drone with multiple harmonic notes creating distinct and layered melodies and sound mimesis.
  • Attend a Tuvan wrestling match, Khuresh, in which one loses by touching the ground with a hand, knee or any other part of the body besides the feet. The victor does the 'eagle dance' around the winning post. If it's a big contest, the overall winner may go home with a new 'jeep'!
  • Horseback riding
  • Attend horse and camel races
  • Enjoy 'shagaa', the oriental lunar new year festival
  • Appreciate views unobscured by tourist kiosks
  • Ask other foreigners where the least worst WCs are, and share your own discoveries and warnings


Pine kernels: if the Tyvan stone-pine ('kedr') kernels were good enough as a snack for the Soviet cosmonauts, they'll probably be good enough for anyone.

As a guest in a village home you may be witness to the slaughtering of the sheep to be cooked in your honour. It will be killed humanely in the traditional way, as Ghengis Khan decreed: no blood must touch the Mongols' earth. The animal is calmly turned so that a small incision can be made with a very sharp knife. Immediately a careful hand is inserted, finds the heart and cuts off the blood circulation.

Absolutely all the edible parts are then prepared and cooked, to be presented in separate heaps on a large flat dish. The guest is then asked to cut a piece of each kind for each person, using the sharp knife against a wishbone-shaped 'anvil' made from the breastbone. After that everyone helps themselves with their own knife, or sharing. Food is eaten with the fingers. A clear, derived broth is served to be sipped from the bowl.

A very traditional food, 'dalgan', can be hard to find nowadays unless you fall in love with a rural Tyvan grandmother. It is like Tibetan 'tsampa', rolled oats toasted to taste on hot sand in a pot over the fire, sieved to separate, and pounded to a coarse meal. This is then formed into a ball using salt tea or kumiss as the binder.

Pretty steamed mutton dumplings, 'booza', also fried as 'khoorshur'.

Although Tyva is literally the furthest away from the ocean it's possible to get, in English the source of a favourite winter snack or desert is called sea buckthorn. Able to survive in salty deserts, its tangy orange berries are delicous when frosted, and eaten with sugar topping. They also produce an oil, which Tyvans keep in a bottle for use as a skin ointment.

Try chili-hot Korean food at their ethnic restaurants.

  • Kumiss — the Tyvan national 'soft' drink (1-2%) of fermented (mares') milk, can be distilled into
  • Araka — the Tuvan national alcoholic drink (5-10%)
  • Salt brick tea — the Tuvan national non-alcoholic drink of herb tea, milk and salt
  • Leaf tea — without milk or salt, sweetened with wild berry preserves
  • Pine tea — strange resiny taste
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Because of the general remoteness of the region, it is hard to get out from Tuva much any way other than the way you came in. But it is possible, provided your papers are in order, to continue south from Kyzyl into just-as-remote-northwestern Mongolia to explore more of the Uvs-Nuur region.

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

Wikipedia has an article on:




Proper noun


  1. A republic of the Russian Federation.


  • Tyva

Derived terms


See also


  • Anagrams of atuv
  • vatu


Proper noun


  1. A female given name, variant of Tove.

Simple English

File:Map of Russia - Tuva Republic (2008-03).svg
Map of the Russia. Tuva in red.
File:Coat of arms of
Coat of Arms of Tuva
File:Flag of
Flag of Tuva

Tuva is part of Russia. Another way to spell it is Tyva. It is in south Siberia. During the Chinese Qing Dynasty, Tuva was part of the province of Mongolia. From 1921 to 1944, Tuva was a separate country called Tannu-Tuva. In 1944, it joined Russia.



Before they joined Russian, Tuvans were nomadic people. They traveled on horses. Therefore, horses were very important in Tuvan culture. Tuvan art often shows horses. And many Tuvan songs are about horses. Tuvans lived in yurts (round, felt covered houses that are easy to take apart and carry). Even today, a few Tuvans are nomads. Ethinically they are Mongols. However, during the Soviet period, they were washed their brain as they are different from Mongols.

Tuvans are famous for their throat singing. Throat singing is a very old art. And it is very special because a throat singer can sing two or more notes at the same time. Throat singers imitate the sounds of nature. They can sound like a bird or like the howling wind. One style of throat singing has a rhythm like a horse trotting. For many centuries only men were allowed to be throat singers. But now women are throat singers too. Singing more than one note at the same time is sometimes called overtone singing.

Tannu-Tuva was also famous for its colorful and unusual postage stamps. Some were triangles. Many showed interesting pictures of life in Tuva.


Tuvans speak their own language, which is called Tuvan. It is a Turkic language. And it is related to Turkish. Before Tuva joined Russia, the Tuvan language used the Roman alphabet, which is the same alphabet that English uses. Since Tuva joined Russia, they use the Cyrillic alphabet, which is the same alphabet that Russian uses. Because Tuva is part of Russia, Tuvans also learn to speak Russian.

Geography and Climate

Kyzyl is the capital city of Tuva. The name means red in Tuvan. Tuvans say that Kyzyl is the exact center of Asia. And there is a monument to the Center of Asia in the capital. But others think that Kyzyl is not the exact center of Asia. Nevertheless, Tuva is in Central Asia. And Tuvan culture is similar to the culture of their neighbors in other Central Asian countries.

Tuva is in a mountain basin between the Sayan Mountains and the Tannu-Ola Mountains. In the east, Tuva has forests. In the west, the land is drier.

The average temperature in January is −32 °C (−25.6 °F). The average temperature in July is +18 °C (64.4 °F).


Many Tuvans have two religions. One is Shamanism. The other is Tibetan Buddhism. Many Tuvan people believe in both.


  • Wikipedia article on Tuva
  • Nomads of Eurasia, the National History Museum of Los Angeles County and the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R., 1989
  • Where Rivers and Mountains Sing: Sound, Music, and Nomadism in Tuva and Beyond by Ted Levin, Indiana University Press, January 11, 2006
  • The Postal History and Stamps of Tuva by S. M. Blekhman. English edition published by Scientific Consulting Services International, 1997

Other websites

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