The Friends of Tuva newsletter
Premiere issue: May 11, 1991
Published by Friends of Tuva,
Box 70021, Pasadena CA 91117 USA.
Dear Friend of Tuva,
You are hereby a member in an association which traces its origin to a
simple question innocently posed over dinner more than a decade ago by renown physicist,
adventurer, and raconteur, Richard Feynman:
"Whatever happened to Tannu Tuva?"
In 25 words or less, the answer is: "Tannu Tuva was quietly absorbed into the USSR
in 1944--but may become independent again when the Soviet Union breaks up."
A significant step toward that goal occurs this summer. For the first time since its
incorporation into the USSR, Tuva is publicly celebrating its declaration of
independence--made seventy years ago on August 14, 1921. Two members of the Friends of
Tuva (my brother Alan and I) have been invited by the Tuvan Scientific Institute of
Language, Literature and History to write about Tuva today. It is a special invitation,
endorsed by Tuva's Council of Ministers. We plan to attend the independence day
celebrations (replete with native sports), and will report on our visit in the next
edition of the Friends of Tuva newsletter.
We are going along with such an official visit in order to place a memorial plaque to
Richard Feynman in Kyzyl's "Centre of Asia" monument. We have also been assured
that we will be able to travel anywhere in Tuva, but Alan and I are not harboring
Another goal of our visit will be to assess what we can do to help that isolated
country. I am thinking mostly along the lines of donating books, but to determine what our
capabilities are, I would like all interested persons to fill out the brief questionnaire
(see other side) and return it.
One enjoyable way to help Tuva might be to develop tourism. At present one can travel
through Tuva on the "Sayan loop" from Abakan with the local (Russian) branch of
the Soviet Travel company Intourist, or by going around the world with InnerAsia
Expeditions of San Francisco. However, there is as yet no program that has Tuvans as
its organizers and guides (and thus the primary economic beneficiaries). Alan and I want
to help establish such a program. We realize, however, that Tuva's charm is in large part
due to it's isolation, so we want to keep any tourism to a low profile.
We also want to bring Tuvan culture to the USA--perhaps in the form of horsemen in
Pasadena's Tournament of Roses parade on January 1, 1993, and/or a concert tour of
California (and perhaps other states) by a trio of Tuvan singers, each of whom can produce
two notes simultaneously.
Several fans of Richard Feynman have inquired about the videos "The Pleasure of
Finding Things Out" and "Last Journey of a Genius." I have been trying to
obtain non-exclusive rights for these videos (plus others of Feynman) from the BBC, which
seems to be as difficult to deal with as the Soviets were when we were trying to get to
Tuva. But suddenly I've had a flash of inspiration: to make the videos available by
loaning them for a fee--which, after handling costs, would go to a charitable cause
(perhaps something educational). I will announce the terms of the loan arrangements, if I
go ahead with the idea, in the next edition of The Friends of Tuva newsletter, which will
come out in the fall. So stay tuned.
In the meantime, there are several audio cassette
and video tapes of Richard Feynman at Esalen available.
The literary department of the FoT reports that the English translation of Reise ins
asiatische Tuwa, the book about Tuva written in 1931 by the German traveller (and
later renown scholar) Otto Mänchen-Helfen, will be published early next year--after
Alan's update about Tuva's present situation has been added. It will be published under
the title Journey to Tuva by Ethnographics Press, which is currently
publishing the Proceedings of the Soviet-American Symposia in Conjunction with the
Museum Exhibition Nomads: Masters of the Eurasian Steppe (the exhibition that Feynman,
Leighton, and Cowan brought to the US). Volume 1 is titled Ecology and Empire: Nomads
in the Cultural Evolution of the Old World; Volume 2, just published, is called Rulers
from the Steppe: State Formation on the Eurasian Periphery; and Volume 3, to be
published in 1992, will be called Evolution of Empire: Archaeological and Art
Historical Studies of Eurasian Steppe Cultures. For furthe r information on this
unique collection of scholarly articles on a fascinating subject related to Tuva, please
write to: Ethnographics Press, USC Anthropology Dept, Los Angeles CA 90089-0032.
The höömei department of FoT reports that the article by Ted Levin originally
intended for the National Geographic appears in the June issue of World Monitor
magazine, published by the Christian Science Monitor. In a related development, the entire
Melodiya album Melodii Tuvy (from which two excerpts are featured as a sound sheet
in Tuva or Bust!), will be available on tape and CD as soon as a master digital
tape can be made--by Ted Levin--in Moscow. To order Melodii Tuvy or Levin's album
(called Tuva: Voices from the Center of Asia), watch for an announcement in the
next edition of The Friends of Tuva newsletter.
[Update--February, 1994: Actually, the tape could not be located in the Melodiya
archives. But several radio recordings by the same artists were found by Professor
Shchurov of PAN records, and are available as part of PAN CD 2019 Uzlyau. See the
Tuva Trader for details.]
To continue receiving newsletters at the rate of two or three per year, please send up
to three self-addressed, stamped envelopes in a single envelope (along with your completed
questionnaire) to: Dept D, Friends of Tuva, Box 70021, Pasadena 91117.
And now for a Tuvan word: Chettirdim! (I am full [of thanks]!)
Ralph Leighton, founder
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