To reach the homeland of the Tsengel Tuvans one has to travel to the furthest western
corner of Mongolia, to the
High Altai mountains to a province the size of the
Netherlands, bordering China. More than 90%
of the population of the area are Kazakh
Muslims, the remaining 10% are Khalkh,
Urinakhai, Khoshuud and Tuvans.
The Tuvans are a Turkic-speaking people (i.e. their spoken language belongs to the Turkic family; other Turkic speaking countries include Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and, of course, Turkey). Today, about 4,000 of Mongolia's approx 2.3 million population identify themselves as Tuvan. Tschinag writes in The Caravan that the Mongolian majority's regard for the Tuvans brings to mind the Chinese's regard for the Tibetans or the Russians for Chechnya. While an additional 200,000 Tuvans live in China, the vast majority, more than 300,000, live in the Republic of Tywa (also known as Tuva) in Southern Siberia. Tuva is one of the 20+ Republics forming the Russian Federation.
Since 1993 Tuva's official English name has been the Tyva Republic but it's more commonly known as Tuva. The eastern part is forested and mountainous, the west is drier lowland; there are more than 8,000 rivers running through the republic and numerous lakes, many of which are glacial, salt lakes. Summertime temperatures can rise to +18°C (64°F), in winter they can fall to -32°C (-26°F) Natural resources include coal, iron ore, gold and timber.
The prominent religion is Tibetan Buddhism, combined with native shamanism (Tuva is apparently the only country in the world to have shamanism as an official religion). Well known Tuvans include the singers Sainkho Namtchylak and Kongar-ool Ondar, and Galsan Tschinag.
Did you know:
This article was originally published in December 2006, and has been updated for the
November 2007 paperback release.
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