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Kyzyl Weather

The Friends of Tuva Newsletter

Third issue: Shagaa (February 3-4), 1992
Published by Friends of Tuva
Box 70021, Pasadena CA 91117 USA.
Fax: (213) 221-TUVA

Dear Friend of Tuva,


Happy Lunar New Year!

For those of you writing for the first time, congratulations! You are hereby a member in an association (now more than one thousand strong) 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?"

Although "the Chief" is no longer with us, the adventure he set in motion continues. The little lost country locked away in the (incorrectly calculated) center of Asia is becoming more accessible to explorers, travellers, and even tourists. It is also becoming possible for Tuvans to visit us. The latest news on both these fronts will be described in more detail later in this newsletter, under the headings of "Travel" and "Parade Plans".


Because of the erratic nature of the incoming mail to FoT (in numbers--not necessarily in content), it is often impossible for me to answer detailed inquiries personally. Some of your questions I will try to answer in a subsequent issue of our newsletter.

Who are we?

We're from every state of the USA, as well as from several countries overseas. Check out the list of zip codes on the back of this page. As you can see, there are several areas where there is enough "critical mass" to form a local chapter--which involves throwing a party and having a good time. Several people have inquired about contacting other Friends of Tuva (FoTs) in their local area. I think I've found a way to accomplish this without giving out confidential personal information: if you're interested in contacting other FoTs in your area, then fill out the coupon below.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - The Coupon - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Your name _______________________________ Telephone no (optional) _________________
Your address _________________________________________________________________
Zip codes you are interested in: ________________________________________________________

Add the numbers (in parentheses) after the zip codes. The total = your fee: $__________. Send this coupon along with your check (payable to Friends of Tuva) to: Department C, FoT, Pasadena CA 91117. I will mail a postcard with your name and address to each FoT in the zip codes you specify.

Get out your magnifying glasses, folks! Here are FoT zip codes in the USA

Expanded August Report from Tuva Now Available

In the second edition of the Friends of Tuva newsletter there appeared an article entitled Yurts, Yaks, Fax Machines, and Richard Feynman: Report from Tuva. The article describes the events leading up to the installation of the Feynman memorial plaque, and how the failed coup played out in Kyzyl. It has now been improved and expanded by 50% to eight pages, and might appear in an upcoming book, tentatively titled the Tourist Guide to Tuva--if I can entice a publisher. (Does anyone have a connection with an offbeat press?) In the meantime, if you would like a copy of the article, please send $1 and a self-addressed, stamped envelope to: Department Y, Friends of Tuva, Box 70021, Pasadena CA 91117.

Latest news from Kyzyl

Since the August coup, whose failure eventually ended the USSR, Tuva has seen its share of changes: President C. D. B. Ondar (who led the Feynman plaque dedication) and Communist Party chief Grigorii Shirshin have resigned. The new president, reformer K. A. Bicheldei, already knows about Richard Feynman and his love for Tuva; several years ago, Mr. Bicheldei proposed that there be a permanent exhibit on Feynman in Tuva's new national museum--whenever construction is completed. (Don't hold your breath.)

In the meantime, President Bicheldei has recommended that a new memorial plaque -- a more permanent one -- be placed at Kyzyl's monument "Centre of Asia," since the one Alan and I installed in August was vandalized a few months after we returned home. (Perhaps it was identified with the old President.)

Independence Again for Tuva?

Many of us wonder whether Tuva will become "independent" once again, as it was from 1921 to 1944. Mr. Bicheldei said in August that even the most nationalistic Tuvans recognize that it makes economic sense to remain part of Boris Yeltsin's Russian Federation. (For one thing, it will allow Tuvan products to continue to be shipped through Russia with no tariffs.) But the next few years will undoubtedly bring more changes, including more autonomy for the minority regions of the Russian Federation. All this may eventually result in Tuva enjoying more independence than it had even in the 1920s and 1930s, when, despite its nominally independent status, Moscow was pulling all the strings. In the meantime, Tuva has a new name, and will soon have a new flag and anthem.

New Name

The "Tuva Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic" is now the "Republic of Tuva." (Apparently "autonomous" was inaccurate, while "soviet" and "socialist" were undesirable forms of governance and economics.)

New Flag and Anthem

Even before the flag of Russia replaced the hammer and sickle over the Kremlin, there was a contest underway in Tuva for a new flag and anthem. The field of flag entries has been narrowed to two, and a winner will be chosen soon. As soon as the final result is in, there will be a special edition of The Friends of Tuva newsletter, complete with instructions on how to make your own Tuvan flag. (Does anyone have a connection with a flag and banner company?)

As for the new anthem, I will try to have the melody and lyrics (in Tuvan and translated) available in time for the Independence Day edition (August 14) this summer.

New Tuvan Stamps?

So far, Tuva has no plans to issue new postage stamps. (Isn't that the real reason why many of us want to see Tuva "independent" again?) But the Friends of Tuva can't wait: enclosed with this newsletter is a fantasy stamp designed by British artist Michael Munday. He has generously allowed it to be used as a fundraiser for FoT. Full sheets of 22 stamps are available for purchase. (Details in this edition's Tuva Trader, on page 7.)

Tuva Projects

In the second edition of The Friends of Tuva newsletter, various projects were discussed. Events have overtaken several of them, so there is not a whole lot to report. Nevertheless, an update follow on the next page.

1.) The independent newspaper Sodeistvie, the brainchild of (now President) Bicheldei, has not yet made a request to FoT for computer equipment. Its main problem so far has been in obtaining newsprint. (The post of President is apparently not an all-powerful one.) Sodeistvie has not been able to put out an edition in January. It's rival, Tuvinskaya Pravda, is still publishing, but less frequently--only three times per week.

2. ) Responding to the news in the Fall edition of The Friends of Tuva newsletter, David Hobbs of Dallas, Texas, came up with several dozen Sony Betacam cassettes, for use by Tuvan-language television in Kyzyl.

Dale Archibald of the Oregon Historical Society volunteered to carry the Betacam cassettes to Irkutsk. In fact, he made it all the way to Kyzyl, and has brought back several hundred pins to be sold in the Tuva Trader.

3.) Mr. Archibald also took several articles for our Tuvan representative in Kyzyl, Rada Chakar, to translate into Tuvan and Russian and place in the Tuvan media. (If you find an article you feel might be of interest in Tuva, please send it to the FoT.)

4.) So far there has been no Tuvan response to my idea of setting up a program under which visitors from the US would come to Tuva and be shown around by Tuvan students of English. Such a program would allow tourists to meet Tuvan herdsmen in their yurts, and would help Tuvan students of English practice conversation. In the meantime, Rada Chakar stands ready to assist prospective travellers to Tuva. (For details, please see the Travel section.)

5.) There have been several generous offers by FoTs to contribute to a scholarship at USC as a living memorial to Richard Feynman. The scholarship would enable a Tuvan student of anthropology to enter USC's two-year M.A. program in visual anthropology. After the first year at USC, the student would return to Tuva--probably accompanied by a USC professor or graduate student--to document native Tuvan culture on film or on video, and then come back to Los Angeles to edit the material and write a Master's thesis. If you have not already indicated your interest in this idea, please do so soon--we have not yet reached the level of commitment required to set up the scholarship.

Parade Plans

6.) Plans to bring three höömei-singing Tuvan horsemen to Pasadena to participate in the Rose Parade (January 1, 1993) and to give concerts in various locations around the US in the winter of 1992-93, is proceeding nicely. The Chairman of the Equestrian Committee has given his personal support to the idea. However, we will know only in the summer of 1992 if the entire committee has agreed to the idea. There is also the possibility that some höömei singers will appear at July festivals in Chautauqua NY, and Winnipeg, Canada. Details in the next edition of the Friends of Tuva newsletter!

Yow! A Contest!

It's time to vote on your favorite entry to the membership card design competition--or for "NOTA" (none of the above), an option that should be available in any democratic election! (If NOTA wins, or none of the contestants get a majority, then new candidates are allowed to join the top vote-getters in a new election.) There is a ballot enclosed with this newsletter, with pictures of the candidates. Please postmark your vote by March 1.

Throat Singing on CD and Cassette

Negotiations for Melodii Tuvy have been turned over to PAN records, producers of the CD Tuva: Voices from the Land of the Eagles--a member of the PAN staff is a Russian émigré musicologist. PAN's CD of the Tuva Ensemble is now available on cassette! Ted Levin's project (Tuva: Voices from the Center of Asia), which recorded singers on location in Tuva, is still available in CD and cassette. (See the Tuva Trader for details.)

Let's Learn Tuvan!

Professor John Krueger, author of the Tuvan Manual, generously offers to have his book Xeroxed for those interested in learning about Tuvan language and culture. For a copy of the Tuvan Manual, send $20 to: Mongolia Society Publications, Goodbody Hall 321-322, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405-2401.

Aid to Tuva?

As you can see in the recent article from the Los Angeles Times (above), trying to send aid to people in the former Soviet Union has many risks. Thus FoT will try to have travellers deliver medicinal and other needed supplies themselves. If you are planning to visit Tuva, please let me know!

Travel to Tuva

The obstacles confronting the prospective traveller to Tuva are no longer political--but the logistical uncertainties (such as the availability of fuel for aircraft) pose their own challenges. There is also the chance that the economic situation will have become so desperate that it will not be very pleasant to travel to Tuva in the near future. Our correspondent in Kyzyl, Rada Chakar, has promised to send an update of local conditions for travellers soon. I will publish that information--as well as the latest visa requirements for the Russian Federation--in the next issue, due out in early spring. In the meantime, those seriously interested in travelling to Tuva should begin investigating ways of getting to Irkutsk, the most scenic gateway to Tuva.

The simplest way to Irkutsk is by Alaska Airlines or Aeroflot via Anchorage. A more scenic route is to Beijing by air and from Beijing to Irkutsk by train. Both of these options require buying one's ticket to Kyzyl at the Irkutsk airport--an uncertain proposition--but the workers there are relatively helpful and speak English well.

To make reservations to Irkutsk you can contact Footprint In Asia of San Francisco at (800) 777-8183 and speak to (Ms.) Tracy Borders. (Once in Kyzyl, FoT travellers would be shown around by Rada Chakar or one of her friends. Payment may include carrying medicinal and other supplies in a suitcase to Tuva. More information on all this will appear in the next issue of the Friends of Tuva newsletter.)

To book a complete tour to Tuva, you can contact InnerAsia Expeditions at (800) 777-8183 and speak to Ann Aylwin. Both of these companies are supportive of preserving indigenous cultures in Asia.

Mänchen-Helfen Translation Available in Summer

The literary department of the FoT reports that the English translation of Reise ins asiatische Tuwa, the fascinating book about Tuva written in 1931 by the German traveller (and later renown scholar) Otto Mänchen-Helfen, will be published this summer--after the final footnotes have been added. It will be published under the title Journey to Tuva by Ethnographics Press at USC. It will be available through the Tuva Trader, or from the Department of Anthropology at USC.

Where in the World is Dersu Uzala?

It appears that the movie Dersu Uzala is almost impossible to find! All the distributors I've been able to contact (including Ambrose Home Video, mentioned in the last issue) are sold out. The company holding the rights has not yet decided whether to make it available again. Therefore, I issue the following call to all FoTs: inquire at your local video rental store, and if they have Dersu Uzala, try to buy it new (for less than $25) or used (for less than $12). I will reimburse you for the cost, plus shipping, and throw in a Tuvan panther refrigerator magnet to boot! Results of the search will be announced in subsequent issues of the Friends of Tuva newsletter. [Update--February, 1994: the distributor is Kino in New York (212) 629-6880, and they want $60! So, finding a used video (or watching your cable guide) is the only cheap way to go.]

Tuvan Traders in Tampa?

There is a good chance that Tuvan businessman Vladimir Orus-ool and his associate Albert Kaplak will be selling Tuvan stone carvings and other native Tuvan crafts at--where else?--the Florida State Fair (of course!). If you are thinking of visiting the Tampa area between February 5 and 25, please call the State Fair Authority at (813) 621-7821 and check if indeed the Tuvans are there. Bring along this newsletter and show Mr. Orus-ool the heading--it should please him enough to give you a special Friends of Tuva discount.

(By the way: if the Tuvans did indeed make it to the Fair, a guarantee of financial backing--from funds raised by the Tuva Trader--helped make it possible.)

Feynman Videos

I am still trying to prod the BBC into producing the NOVA programs "The Pleasure of Finding Things Out" and "Last Journey of a Genius" on home video, or allowing me to do so. Presently the ball is in the court of Lionheart Productions, an arm of the BBC in New York. I'll report developments as they (don't) occur.

In the meantime, there are several pricey audio cassette and video tapes of Richard Feynman speaking at the Esalen Institute available.

The outlook for obtaining a video of Richard Feynman is better over the longer term: Christopher Sykes is producing a new documentary about Richard Feynman (which will contain scenes from the earlier programs); when it is eventually shown, I'll alert everyone well in advance to tape it themselves!

Let's Stay in Touch!

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 to: Dept 3A, Friends of Tuva, Box 70021, Pasadena 91117. (If the box at the beginning of this newsletter is checked, you need to send those envelopes now.)

And now for warm Tuvan goodbye:

Izig Baiyrlig!

(signature of Ralph

Ralph Leighton

P.S. In case a project in the future has specific requirements, I am interested to know our members' professional skills and avocational interests. If you haven't done so before, please send your business card--with your non-professional interests on the back--or a short description of your skills and interests. Please include your address.