General information about Tuva

The Republic of Tuva is the youngest republic of the Russian Federation. It’s situated in the geographical center of Asia, in the Eastern Siberia. The capital of Tuva is Kyzyl.

The population of Tuva is about 318,000 (2015), the area – 168,604 sq. km.

The Tuvans, the native inhabitants of the republic make up about 80% of the total population. The tuvan minorities also live in neighboring Mongolia and in China.  The Tuvans, one of the most ancient peoples of Central Asia, have preserved their unique culture – the culture of nomads, the lifestyle which runs the generations. The native language is Tuvan, which is Turkiс language.

The original belief system of the tuvan people is shamanism, which is combined today with Tibetan Buddhism. His holiness the Dalai Lama XIVth visited Tuva in 1992.

The Tuva Republic is administratively divided into seventeen districts and five towns. The districts are further subdivided into sumons (rural settlements).  There is a small population of Old Believers in the republic scattered in some of the most isolated areas. Before Soviet rule, there were a number of large ethnic Russian Old Believer villages, but as the atheist ideology crept in, the believers moved deeper and deeper into the Taiga in order to avoid contact with outsiders. Major Old Believer villages are Erzhei, Uzhep, Unzhei, Zhivei and Bolee Malkiye (all in the Kaa-Khemsky District). Smaller ultra-Orthodox settlements are found further upstream.

The head of the government in Tuva is the Chairman of the Government, who is elected for a four-year term. 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 17 September 1992.

Tuva has a significant tourist potential, which is determined by the great variety of natural and climatic zones (mountain tundra, taiga, steppes, and semi-deserts), the presence of picturesque landscapes, the richness of fauna and flora, unique national traditions and historical monuments.

The republic has a rich historical and cultural heritage, preserved ethnic culture: traditional dwellings of the Tuvan nomads (yurts), national cuisine, folk crafts (figurines from agalmatolite), national arts (throat singing of khoomei), national sports (“khuresh” wrestling, horse races), unique combination of traditions of shamanism and Buddhism, the life of Russian Old Believers.

There are 16 reserves, 14 nature monuments and two reserves in Tuva. One of them, the State Natural Biosphere Reserve “Ubsunur Hollow” is a monument of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage of UNESCO. This reserve is especially valuable because practically all landscapes of the temperate zone can be found on its territory: glaciers, taiga, tundra, alpine meadows, deserts, etc. There are thousands of non-scant mounds of local nomadic tribes here.