Tuva Explained

Englishname:Tuva Republic
Russianname:Республика Тыва
Localname1:Тыва Республика
Coatofarmslink:Coat of arms of Tuva
Flaglink:Flag of Tuva
Anthem:Tooruktug Dolgay Tangdym
Dateestablished:October 13, 1944
Politicalstatuslink:Republics of Russia
Economicregion:East Siberian
Officiallanguages:Russian, Tuvan
Governmentasof:November 2008
Headtitle:Chairman of the Government
Headname:Sholban Kara-ool
Legislature:Great Khural
Basiclawtitle:Constitution of the Tuva Republic

Tyva Republic (Russian: Респу́блика Тыва́, Respublika Tyva, ; Tuvinian: Тыва Республика, Tyva Respublika), or Tuva (Russian: Тува́, Tuva), is a federal subject of Russia (a republic).


The Republic is situated in extreme southern 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).


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.



Probably the most spectacular Scythian finds known to archaeologist 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. http://en.tuvaonline.ru/2008/11/29/5505_scythian.html

The historic region of Tannu Uriankhai (Chinese: 唐努乌梁海), 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. 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. 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.

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 Tibetan-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.[6]

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.[7]

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).

The Republic of China (Taiwan) has never officially recognized the Russian claim, and maps made in Taiwan have often included Tuva (along with Outer Mongolia) as part of China. This claim, along with the Taiwanese claim to mainland China, has been largely ignored since the early 1990s.


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.http://en.tuvaonline.ru/2007/04/04/sholban.html Sholban's candidacy was approved by the Khural on April 9, 2007.[8]


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.


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

There are three roads leading to Tyva, 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 busses and private minibus services, and busses 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 Tyva) 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 their 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 Tyvan 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, Tyva was administered as part of Outer Mongolia, and the language difference was a determining factor in Tyva 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.[9] [10] On September 20, he blessed and consecrated the new yellow-blue-white flag of Tuva, which had just been officially adopted three days previously.[11]

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.[12] 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 revived somewhat since the early 1990s.[13]


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

Administrative divisions

See main article: Administrative divisions of Tuva.


For the first half of 2008, the birth rate was 24.8 and death rate was 11.7 http://www.tuvastat.ru/digital/region1/2007/1.1.htm

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 census1970 census1979 census1989 census2002 census
Tuvans97,996 (57.0%)135,306 (58.6%)161,888 (60.5%)198,448 (64.3%)235,313 (77.0%)
Russians68,924 (40.1%)88,385 (38.3%)96,793 (36.2%)98,831 (32.0%)61,442 (20.1%)
Khakas1,726 (1.0%)2,120 (0.9%)2,193 (0.8%)2,258 (0.7%)1,219 (0.4%)
Others3,282 (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 an increase of 20% of the population being Tyvans, and a corresponding decrease in the percentage of Russians.

Official languages are Tuvan (turkic) and Russian (slavic). Outside Kyzyl, settlements have few if any Russian inhabitants and in general Tyvans use their language as their first language.

Tyvans are closely related ethnically and linguistically to the Khakass 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.


See also


Sources and external links

Notes and References

  1. Constitution, Article 5.1
  2. Constitution, Article 10.3
  3. Official website of the Government of the Tyva Republic. Sholban Valeryevich Kara-ool
  4. Constitution, Article 10.2
  5. Web site: Top Attractions of Russia. 2008-02-05.
  6. http://www.fotuva.org/misc/mcmullen.html Tuva: Russia's Tibet or the Next Lithuania?
  7. Web site: Tuva and Sayan Mountains. Geographic Bureau — Siberia and Pacific. 2006-10-26.
  8. http://en.tuvaonline.ru/2007/04/09/sholban.html Tuva on-line
  9. http://www.avantart.com/tuva/dalailama.html Dalai Lama
  10. http://www.fotuva.org/travel/bbc.html Fotuva
  11. The World Encyclopedia of Flags, ISBN 1840384158.
  12. http://www.kommersant.com/tree.asp?rubric=5&node=451&doc_id=-110 Kommersant
  13. http://worldheritage.heindorffhus.dk/frame-RussiaUvsNuur.htm World Heritage
  14. http://www.tuvastat.ru/digital/region1/2007/1.1.htm
  15. http://macroevolution.narod.ru/zaharov_indians.htm "Central Asian Origins of the Ancestor of First Americans", by I. Zakharov