Travel in Siberia

Tuva

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The following tours are provided in this region:

Tuva on the map


 

The Tyva Republic (Russian: Респу́блика Тыва́, tr. Respublika Tyva), or Tuva (Russian: Тува́), is a federal subject of Russia (a republic). It lies in the geographical centre of Asia, in Southern Siberia. The Republic borders the Altai Republic, Khakassia, Krasnoyarsk Krai, Irkutsk Oblast, and Buryatia in Russia and Mongolia to the south. Forests, mountains, and steppe make up a large part of the geography. A majority of the people are Tuvans who speak the Tuvan language, but Russian is also spoken extensively. The capital city is Kyzyl. Tuva is governed by the Great Khural which elects a chairman for a four-year term. The current chairman is Sholban Kara-ool.

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

Biosphere reserve. Ubsunur Hollow is a biosphere reserve, an environmentally protected zone and a top attraction.

There are over 8,000 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.

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

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.

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.

Culture

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.

 

Religion

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. On September 20, he blessed and consecrated the new yellow-blue-white flag of Tuva, which had just been officially adopted three days previously.

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. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries Tibetan Buddhism gained increasing popularity in Tuva. An increasing number of new and restored temples are 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.

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