The Republic of Tuva lies at the upper reaches of the Siberian Yenisey river, between the Altay and Sayan mountain ranges.
Of the population of approximately 310,000 people 97% are Tuvans. Other Tuvans live in Mongolia and the Peoples Republic of China. Tuvans are one of the oldest peoples to inhabit Central Asia with a unique culture. The mixture of cultural roots of ancient Tuvans, Uygurs and Kyrgyzians formed the basis of the present-day culture.
The Tuvan people speak a Turkic language.
The area which is now the Republic of Tuva borders Mongolia, and was completely incorporated into the Soviet Union as late as 1944. It was first conquered by the Turkish Khanate in the 6th c., then the Chinese and the Uygurs held the area for a century each, until the Yenisey Kyrgyz took over in the 9th c. The Mongol Golden Horde ruled the region from 1207 to 1368, after which the area was dominated by Eastern Mongolian rulers until the 16th c. The Altyn khans then held the area until around 1650, when the Dzungarians took over. They were overthrown by the Manchus in 1758, when the Chinese took control over the entire region. Russian settlers came into contact with the Tuva from around 1860, when the Treaty of Peking between China and Russia opened up the region for colonization.
As the Chinese were weakened by a revolution in 1911, Tuva declared independence from China in 1912, and in 1914, Russia took advantage of the weakened position of the Chinese to establish a protectorate over Tuva. Tuva retained a certain autonomy, based on a Sino-Russian-Tyva agreement of 1915.
During the Russian Revolution and the subsequent Civil war, Tuva changed hands many times between the Reds and the Whites. After the Civil war, Tuva was known as the Tannu-Tuva People's republic, an autonomus state under Soviet sovereignty. The autonomy was illusory, however, as the Soviet authorities already treated the region as a constituent unit of the Soviet Union and communist political oppression began
In 1921, the All Tuvan Gathering proclaimed the first sovereign Tighten Republic.
In 1944, Tuva was included into the RSFSR as the Tuva Autonomous oblast.
1961 The autonomous province received the status of Tuvan Autonomous Socialist Soviet Republic. Soviet control brought Soviet economic and cultural models. Collectivization, anti-Buddhism campaigns and strict political control caused severe hardships, but still, the Tuva population grew steadily.
The Tuva population has continued to grow, leading in turn to increasing urbanization which was further strengthened in the 1970s, when considerable asbestos deposits were discovered, and the Soviet Union launched a rapid indutrialization program to develop them. These projects caused major ecological and health problems for the Tuva.
1991 With Glasnost and the fall of the Soviet Union, Tuva nationalism has surfaced. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the sovereign Republic of Tuva within the Russian Federation was founded. Many calls for expanded Tuva-language education, for help to rebuild Buddhist monasteries, and for closer ties with Mongolia have been made. Calls for independence have also been heard.
1996 Tuva became a member of UNPO.
Sources: Norwegian Institute of International Affairs [NUPI] - Centre for Russian Studies
Tuva continues its struggle and work on the appropriate way to safeguard and develop its own identity and sovereignty through the difficult changes from a command-oriented planned economy towards an open market economy. The process of democratization of government institutions and public life goes on at a steady pace. The original culture, traditions and religion are gaining more followers. Political influence and pressure from the Russian government is clearly felt in the republic where some members of parliament try to resist the dictates of Moscow in the interest of their people.
Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO)
Photos: Oleg Kosterin, I.V. Karyakin, Erik Flesch, Sami Jansson