The Friends of Tuva newsletter
Fourth issue: Summer Solstice, 1992
Published by Friends of Tuva
Box 70021, Pasadena CA 91117 USA.
Fax: (213) 221-8882
Dear Friend of Tuva,
I had intended to get this issue out in early spring, so I could wish you . . .
Chadaa-bilé! (Happy "Fall," i.e. Spring!)
As you already suspected, "Spring" in Tuvan is literally
"Fall"--when the rain falls, I presume. And, in keeping with the idea of
falling, I have fallen behind in everything--which has pushed this newsletter into the
summer. Therefore, let me wish you . . .
If you were lucky enough to get this issue in June, there are some important dates
Tuvans To Tour North America
Thanks in large part to the "Kyzyl Khem" Chapter, the Canadian Friends of
Tuva (as well as anyone within striking distance of southern Canada or northern New York)
are in for a treat this summer: members of the Tuva Ensemble, featured on the recording Tuva:
Voices from the Land of the Eagles, are coming to northern North America perform at
various festivals. Here is their itinerary:
Chautauqua, New York, July 8: Introduction by Ted Levin. For ticket information, call
(716) 357-6200 or fax (716) 357-9014.
Winnipeg, Manitoba, July 9-12: Hosted by the Kyzyl Khem Chapter. For ticket
information, call (204) 231-0096 or fax (204) 231-0076.
Toronto, Ontario, July 14: Special airport concert for Friends of Tuva at 11am or so.
The throat singers will appear in today's typical Tuvan dress--bluejeans. No tickets
required; just show up at the gate for incoming flight CP 920 from Winnipeg. The acoustics
in the airport lobby should be great! After lunch (paid for by appreciative FoTs, I hope),
the Tuva Ensemble will depart for Montréal on CP 874 at 13:50.
Montreal, Québec, July 16: For venue and ticket information, call (514) 845-3949 or
(514) 285-1242; or fax (514) 289-9680.
Vancouver, BC, July 17-19. For information, call (604) 879-2931 or fax (604) 879-4315.
Second Prize: Tannu Tuva on TV
A few months ago the documentary Herders of Möngün Taiga appeared on the
Discovery Channel (on cable TV). It was produced by anthropologist Caroline Humphrey, who
had hoped to film the reindeer herders of Todja--but who instead got sent to see the yak
herders of Möngün Taiga, at the opposite end of Tuva. The documentary narration reveals
her frustration at not being able to see more--a common problem to visitors in 1988. Last
year I tried to obtain home video copies for FoT from Granada TV, but their terms were
impossibly expensive. So we'll have to write it off.
However, all is not lost: in the fall of 1989 a crew from the US was able to film
extensively in Tuva with help from our correspondent in Kyzyl, Rada Chakar. This
documentary, The Lost Land of Tannu Tuva, is excellent. (OK, so I'm biased--I made
up the title and helped write the script.) Narrated by Hal Holbrook, it features yak
herders, camel herders, throat singers, and, of course, beautiful landscapes.
Personalities include Ted Levin, Caroline Humphrey, and Rada Chakar. The program will air
three times on the Discovery Channel. Show times are set to be:
Monday, June 29, at 9pm (ET)
Thursday, July 2, at midnight (ET), and
Saturday, July 4, at 1pm (ET).
Check your local program guide, especially if you live in a zone other than Eastern
For those of you who miss(ed) the program, videocassette copies are available for $22
postpaid. See the Tuva Trader for details. If you tape the program yourself, how about
sending $5 to the Friends of Tuva for the tip?
Consolation Prize: The Mongolian Circus Act
Tuva and Mongolia have much in common, especially sports. The prelude and finale to any
Tuvan or Mongolian wrestling match is the graceful dance of the eagle. This dance can now
be seen in the USA, at the Ringling Brothers / Barnum & Bailey Circus, as the opening
to a "strong man" act. The eagle dance, performed by a beefy Mongolian, got rave
reviews in the New Yorker magazine. (Note: there are two Ringling
Brothers / Barnum & Bailey circuses, the "red" and the "blue," of
which only the "blue" one features the dance of the eagle.) Here is the
itinerary of the "blue" circus:
Phoenix, AZ: June 24 - July 5
Las Vegas, NV: July 8 - 12
San Diego, CA: July 14 - 19
Anaheim, CA: July 21 - 28
Long Beach, CA: July 30 - August 2
Los Angeles, CA: August 4 - 16
Fresno, CA: August 18 - 23
Oakland, CA: August 25 - September 1
San Francisco, CA: September 3 - 7
Sacramento, CA: September 9 - 13
Tacoma, WA: September 16 - 20
Portland, OR: September 22 - 27
Salt Lake City, UT: September 30 - October 5
Denver, CO: October 8 - 18
Minneapolis, MN: October 21-25
Milwaukee, WI: October 27 - November 1
Rosemont, IL: November 3 - 15
Chicago, IL: November 17 - 29
Dayton, OH: December 1 - 6
Check your local newspaper for details.
Who are we?--continued
As stated in the previous issue, we're from every state of the USA, as well as from
several countries overseas. We're also from a very important country "overland,"
namely . . . . Canada! This time, it's the turn of our friends to the north to see if
there is enough "critical mass" to form a local chapter--which involves throwing
a party and having a good time. Here are the postal
codes of Canadian FoTs. (Note the two from the Northwest Territories!)
If you're interested in contacting other FoTs in Canada, please fill out the coupon on
the next page. I will send your name, address, and any other material (such as an
invitation) to the people whose postal codes you list.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - The Coupon - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Your name _______________________________ Telephone (optional) ___________________ Your
address _________________________________________________________________ Postal codes you
are interested in: ________________________________________________________ Please add the
numbers (in parentheses) after the postal codes you select. The total = your fee in $US:
Send this coupon with a Canadian Postal Money Order (payable to Friends of Tuva) or cash
(in $US) to: Department C, FoT, Pasadena CA 91117. I will mail your name and address to
each FoT in the postal codes you specify.
Tuva's New Flag and Anthem
The new flag and anthem of Tuva have not yet been selected, but Tuva traveller Simon
Winchester reports that the background will be bright yellow (a Buddhist favorite), with a
horseman, probably in red, in the foreground.
FoT Delegation to Visit Tuva
On July 4, a delegation of ten led by FoTs Molly McGinn and Gary Wintz arrive in Kyzyl.
They are bringing vitamins donated by Operation USA, medicines donated by Dr. Alex Levitov
and others, and $1000 of their own money to aid in the rebuilding of Buddhist monasteries
throughout Tuva. They will also be giving Rada Chakar a practice run at entertaining small
groups from the USA, so that future tours can be accommodated smoothly.
(By the way, Molly and Gary are quite knowledgeable about Tibet--they have been there
dozens of times--and lead tours there several times a year. You can contact them through
FoT, Box 70021, Pasadena CA 91117.)
Plans to bring a contingent of höömei-singing Tuvan horsemen to Pasadena to
participate in the Rose Parade (January 1, 1993) and to give concerts in various locations
in the winter of 1992-93, have advanced further: horses with parade experience that can
pass as Tuvan horses have been located and reserved. The theme for 1993 is
"Entertainment on Parade," which means that höömei-singing horsemen
from Tuva will be perfect! The entry forms for both horses and riders have just been
submitted. The prospects of being accepted into the parade are excellent. Think about
coming to Pasadena to celebrate the New Year!
Yow! What a Contest!
The results of the membership card contest,
conducted in Issue #3, are now in: #8 (which featured the coiled panther excavated in
Tuva) came in first, followed by "NOTA"--none of the above. But since less than
50% of the membership returned their ballots, I am interpreting at least half of those
abstentions as NOTA votes. Therefore, I declare that NOTA wins. (Don't worry; the artist
for #8--yours truly--has no objection to withdrawing his entry.) Several members noted
that reference should be made to our hero, Richard Feynman, who started us off on the path
to Tuva--a point well taken. In that vein, some placed Michael Munday's fantasy Tuvan
stamp on top of the coiled panther in #8 and voilà!
With this suggestion in mind, I sent a note to Michael Munday, asking whether we can
use his fantasy stamp design in this context, since it incorporates both Feynman and Tuva
so beautifully. Mr. Munday has yet to respond, so for the moment, we are without a logo.
Another reason for delaying a decision is that Tuva's new flag will be coming out soon,
and we might want to have that in the logo somehow. So for the moment, stay tuned!
Mänchen-Helfen Translation Sent to Press
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, has gone to press, and orders
are being taken now. It will be published under the title Journey to Tuva by
Ethnographics Press at USC. See the Tuva Trader for details.
On June 6 in Pasadena, Michelle Feynman was wedded to Diego Miralles by Albert Hibbs
(who wrote the Introduction to Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!) at his home. On
June 14 in Chicago, Carl Feynman was wedded to Paula Weigensberg in a semi-traditional
Jewish ceremony at Palmer House (where yours truly was best man).
Film maker Chris Sykes reports that his new program on Richard Feynman will be edited
this fall, and will appear in the UK next spring as two programs; it will probably appear
later in the USA as one program. Unfortunately, home video rights will not be possible for
this program either, so I'll make sure to announce when it will air, so you can tape it
Meanwhile, James Gleick is finishing the manuscript of Feynman's biography, called Genius:
The Life and Science of Richard Feynman. It come out in October.
Travellers to Tuva
Simon Winchester reports that he entered Tuva with a visa that only specified
Moscow--and was allowed to stay after paying a "fine" of 50 Rubles. He was able
to pay for his hotel (the one on the banks of the Yenisei) in Rubles as well. Belgian film
maker Dirk Dumon went to Tuva in May to investigate the reappearance of shamanism. He was
able to find several "shamans," including our 45-snowy-I friend (now nearly 60),
Dave Lorentz, a travel agent, is thinking of organizing a tour to native areas of
Eastern Siberia (including Tuva) in the summer or fall of 1993. Please contact him if
interested. His address is: 507 Philadelphia Ave, Takoma Park, MD 20912.
Tuvan Traders Go Bust in Tampa
Tuvan "businessman" Vladimir Orus-ool and his associate Albert Kaplak sold
very few Tuvan stone carvings and other native Tuvan crafts at--where else?--the Florida
State Fair in Tampa. However, Tampa FoTs Steve & Viki Smith cheered them up with
visits. I was able to communicate with Orus-ool several times by fax while he was in
Florida; he has agreed to buy a Tuvan yurt and have it shipped to California for the
parade appearance and concert tour by the Tuvan "throat-singing cowboys." We'll
keep our fingers crossed.
Melodii Tuvy Search Also Goes Bust
PAN records in the Netherlands reports that the master tape of Melodii Tuvy, the
album from which the sound sheet selections in Tuva or Bust! were taken, probably
no longer exists. (The Russian who made the original recording now works for PAN, but even
he could not locate it!) But some of the tracks have been found on some Russian radio
tapes, so some of them will be incorporated into a CD (and cassette) about throat singing,
Tuvan and otherwise. If you know of any recordings from anywhere in the world that feature
throat singing, please send information to FoT HQ for possible inclusion.
[Update--February, 1994: the aforementioned CD has been released. It is called Uzlyau:
Gutteral singing of the peoples of the Sayan, Altai, and Ural Mountains, and is
available from the Tuva Trader.]
Other Tuva Music News
FoT Pat Conte, curator of the Secret Museum (oops--did I spill the beans?), reports
that singing cowboy Arthur Miles performed throat singing in two versions of "The
Lonely Cowboy," in the 1920s! Any Arthur Miles experts out there who can elaborate on
FoT John Fisher reports that the line "Tell all the folks in Russia and Tannu,
too. . ." appears in a song by the O'Jays (circa 1972). Does anyone have a recording
Maxim Munzuk Stars Again
This time it is in the film (seen by several FoTs in Washington DC in May) called Myest
(Revenge) by Kazakh director Yermak Shinarbayev. The screenplay is by Anatoly Kim; the
story takes place in Korea. (There is a large and active population of Koreans in
Kazakhstan (remember Nellie Kim from the 1972 Olympics?) as well as a scattered population
across Siberia--a rival candidate to Boris Yeltsin was a Korean businessman from Irkutsk.
Koreans in Tuva are typically vegetable farmers and traders; cosmetics from South Korea
are sold in Kyzyl.
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: 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.) Izig Baiyrlig!
Report from Tuva--April, 1992
by Francis Greene
British traveller and FoT F. C. B. Greene wrote up a short report on his recent visit
to Tuva. Here are some excerpts:
I had planned to fly to Kyzyl from Moscow (there is a twice weekly scheduled service
now), but travel in Russia has a disarmingly aleatory quality, and when I got there I was
a day late and arrived from the wrong direction in the cockpit of a Yak 40. The pilot in
charge was hugely impressed by the Defense Mapping Agency Operational Navigation Chart
procured from the Friends of Tuva--his own was post war and, until very recently,
classified. But my problems getting into Tuva were nothing to those I met trying to get
Kyzyl is indeed unimpressive, with the exception of the rather battered Centre of Asia
monument on a splendid site overlooking the frozen Yenisei. There is not a trace of the
Feynman plaque. . . .
Tuvans show a propensity to crowd presumed Russians off pavements, and countryside
travel is said to need a gun. A few well-to-do and elegant Tuvan women made a striking
spectacle, with high papakhas [tall, cylindrical fur hats--favored by White
generals in years past] and long pigtails. In the bookshop only a couple of very minor
paperbacks are in Tuvan, and many public buildings (which is a grandiose description, they
are largely one story wooden log cabins) have only Russian name plates. In contrast, one
of the most striking buildings, red and white stucco in a curious spiky style and crowned
with radio antennae, is the KGB headquarters and faces the hotel where I set up my base.
The red flag, complete with Hammer and Sickle, still flies; there are old style
inspirational films showing and Lenin portraits everywhere.
With me was Irina, a researcher from Moscow Memorial (a democratic organisation devoted
to researching the history of the Gulags) and two helpers who had driven up to meet us
from Krasnoyarsk. Our hotel was classical Soviet-Provincial with a suspicious
unreconstructed dezhurnaya [a watchful floor lady]--quite nostalgic really. Russian
hotel rooms are not just used for sleeping: in them one cooks, eats, conducts business and
sings songs. We did most of these things before turning in for our first night in Kyzyl. .
On our first night something curious happened in room 310. Irina uncharacteristically
opened her door to an unidentified knock and a Caucasian' (but she afterwards described
him as a Chechen--all villains are Chechens to Russians) pushed past her, saying something
about his brother being in the next room, and left via the balcony. (This Chechen'--he
looked Russian to me--spent much of the following day patrolling in front of the hotel.)
She tremblingly closed the plywood balcony door and secured its toy lock. Next morning she
looked under her mattress (I wonder why?) and found a gun and a used cartridge. . . . Of
all the former Union, Tuva is in the first rank of places where provocations' might be
organised against members of democratic Russian organisations or foreigners deemed to be
playing to political a role, and in the morning we handed the gun into the MVD [the
ordinary police], as also our suitcases, for safe-keeping. (This is quite a normal role
for a police station to play, despite the repu ted venality of the MVD.) Thereafter we all
slept in one large suite. Later the police raided and searched Irina's former room--a case
I suppose of one hand not knowing what the other is up to. . . .
My first action on arrival had been to telephone Rada Chakar. She is a graduate of
Moscow's Institute of Foreign languages and is a very competent three-language translator.
Her first name is not Tuvan, it is in honour of the Indian musician and it makes for
hilarious difficulties with Russian introductions. On shaking hands it is usual to give
one's name, but rada means "glad". "Ivan".
"Rada". "Glad to meet you, too, but what's your name?" Her
patronymic, Sayanovna, is splendidly Tuvan.
Rada took me off to see the editor of the bilingual newspaper "Sodeistvie",
Vyacheslav Salchuk. He is a thin, sad faced Tuvan gnome (despite his Russian name) and is
a Deputy. He says that some 30% of the chamber are democratically inclined, but the
inclination seems slight. The most important measure for Tuva would be agricultural reform
and land distribution, a small degree of which is supported by 20 of the 130 [deputies].
(At the previous debate it was only 4.) The herdsmen have very little support, the
agriculture ministry spends its time renaming itself. (It has changed names five times.) I
got an admission that it is almost impossible for a citizen to buy grain. But the biggest
obstacle to private agriculture is crime (and travellers are more at risk from straight
crime than from nationalism). . . . Salchuk denied that there was any serious problem from
asbestos pollution: the spoil from the old cobalt mines is another matter. The mines
belonged to and were administered by Norilsk, a city up beyond the Arctic Circle! . . .
I am sure that Shamanism is not really dead in Tuva, and suspect that Valya, the
ethnologist-musicologist who arranged a Hoomei concert for me, is well on the way to
becoming a Shamanka. I saw her making little offerings of vodka to the four quarters of
the compass during a bonfire picnic in the woods during which we discussed animism,
ghosts, and the like. She described nights on the steppe, with stars the size of apples
which one could reach up and pluck, and how with forty-one pebbles a Shaman can track down
a lost or stolen horse. The last Shaman (he was repressed with the other religions'
priests) died on his way home from the Gulag, but appeared to his settlement as a grey
wolf and is now buried in an open grave in a place known to all. I was to see graveyards
on the steppe and to sense its other-worldly aura on a trip to a yurt encampment in the
South. . . . .
My attempts to leave Tuva were many and various--the first try by car was thwarted by
snowbound passes, and aeroplanes eluded us. In the end we made it over the pass, enduring
four breakdowns. The steppe gave way to taiga, small pink-twigged birches blending
prettily with the larches as snow took the place of sun-bleached grasses and the pastel
shaded uplands turned into whiskery greys like the hide of a mammoth. It was appropriate
that it was well to the south of the snow blizzard, of the dark primeval conifer forests,
of my first sight of a wolf, that we crossed the frontier (not of Russia proper but of
another republic, Khakassia) and left behind us Tuva, its yellow steppe and its iridescent
hills. Looking back on the frontier board one saw above it on the skyline a solitary
larch--festooned with ribbons.
The complete report (six pages, 3100
words) by Mr. Greene can be obtained by sending $1 and a self-addressed envelope to the
Friends of Tuva, Box 70021, Pasadena CA 91117.