The Friends of Tuva newsletter
Seventh issue: Summer, 1993
Published by Friends of Tuva
Box 70021, Pasadena CA 91117 USA.
Fax: (213) 221-8882
Richard Feynman Remembered
May 11 was the 75th birthday of our hero, Richard Feynman, who asked the
fateful question that eventually led to--among other things--your reading this newsletter:
"Whatever happened to Tannu Tuva?"
Although the "Chief" has been dead more than five years now, his spirit lives
on in more and more people. By the time the requisite ten year period passes for a US
postage stamp to appear in his honor, Friends of Tuva will have marshalled the forces to
make it happen. Who knows--perhaps the US will issue a triangular stamp in Feynman's
honor! Or, how about a simultaneous issue by the US and Tuva?
In the meantime, Richard Feynman's 75th birthday is being observed at a conference in
Kyzyl at the end of June:
Shamanism Conference in Kyzyl
A conference on shamanism is being held in Kyzyl at the end of June and in early July.
Participants from the US include several persons affiliated with the Foundation for
Shamanic Studies, founded by Michael Harner, author of The Way of the Shaman (1980,
1990 Harper & Row). Richard Feynman's birthday will be observed in a special ceremony.
Several "Feyn-monk" posters (see the final page in Tuva or Bust!) will
probably festoon the conference hall and adorn the apartments and yurts of several Tuvans
After the conference an expedition will foray into the countryside of Tuva, in search
of shamans and perhaps their trance enhancers (see map, next page). A report about the
expedition is possible in an upcoming edition of the Friends of Tuva newsletter.
Richard Feynman Remembered, Part II
Another event took place around May 11 to commemorate Richard Feynman's 75th
birthday--the publication of a new book about our hero. "Most of the Good Stuff"
is a collection of essays compiled by Laurie M. Brown and John S. Rigden. It is published
by the American Institute of Physics.
The title comes from a phrase uttered by Feynman near the end of his life--you'll have
to read the book to understand the context. Many of the essays (some technical, for once!)
appeared in the February 1989 issue of Physics Today, with additional reminiscences
by Hans Bethe, Marvin Goldberger, Michael Cohen, Laurie Brown, John Rigden, and--last and
perhaps best--Joan Feynman.
This book, difficult to find in bookstores, can be ordered from the American Institute
of Physics (800 488-BOOK), or through the Tuva Trader. Sorry, but it's $35 (plus shipping,
if ordered through AIP).
Tuva in the News
I have so far been unsuccessful in getting direct reports from Tuva on the rapidly
changing situation there. I suppose Tuva's leaders are too busy determining Tuva's future
to write about it. However, a great deal of information can be found on computer networks
such as Nexis, and snippets of information about Tuva have even appeared several times in
the major media. On the right, and Associated Press photo in the New York Times shows Yuri
Slobodkin, a Communist deputy from Tuva, being removed, kicking and screaming, from the
recent constitutional conference in Moscow after trying to make his way to the podium
shouting insults at Boris Yeltsin.
And from the Los Angeles Times, we find substantiation for the stories that shamans
have been known to throw a certain kind of "weed" on the fire to aid in their
journey to the spirit world. (I suppose this aid works best when the shaman and spectators
are all inside a yurt whose smoke hole has been covered.)
Tuva Leaning Towards Independence
Mike Fern (KJ6DK) reports the following news, dated May 17, quoted in the FBIS
(Foreign Broadcast Information Service) for Central Eurasia, issued by the CIA
(available at some major university libraries):
"The Republic of Tuva is a sovereign state of the people, which is part of the
Russian Federation. It has the right to self-determination and to secession from the
Russian Federation if this is decided by a national referendum"--this phrasing of
Article 64 of the republic's constitution was adopted by the 19th extraordinary session of
the Tuvan parliament. Article 65 stipulates "the territorial integrity of the
republic," adding that the territory "is inviolable and may not be changed
without the consent of the people." In effect, this amounts to legally establishing
the possibility of recreating an independent state of Tuva, which was abolished in 1944
when Tuva joined the RSFSR [Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic] as an autonomous
republic [actually, oblast; it was upgraded to an ASSR later].
Separatist sentiment has recently been gaining ground in Tuva, intensifying especially
after the breakup of the USSR. Consequently, "big brother" is blamed for all
Tuva's woes. Russia is more and more often blamed for "the exploitation of natural
riches" and "the subjugation of the people." The thesis that the situation
in the center is unstable and messy and, therefore, it is essential to carry out a more
independent economic policy, is gaining popularity.
The People's Party of Sovereign Tuva and the People's Front "Free Tuva" are
the most active proponents of independence. Tuva's top leaders appear to share this
sentiment. They make a point of distancing themselves from the center, although it is
officially declared that "independent and sovereign Tuva is an inalienable part of
Russia." Mr. Bicheldei, chairman of the Tuvan parliament, openly argues in the press
for quick secession.
So far, only one third of the deputy corps supports the idea of holding a referendum on
state independence. Nonetheless, political parties and deputies factions easily find
common language on the subject. At the 19th . . . [extraordinary] session [of the Tuvan
parliament] "decisions on self-determination" were supported by both the
communists and members of the Democratic Russia faction.
According to local observers, "the opinion is expressed more and more distinctly
in society that the development of events will proceed along the path of the attainment of
independence." If existing trends continue, the cessation of payments to the federal
budget, the conversion to a bilateral relationship with Russia, and, finally, Tuva's
withdrawal from the [Russian] Federation Treaty appear a fairly real possibility.
Lost Land Returns!
The Lost Land of Tannu Tuva, an excellent documentary that features yurts, yaks,
throat singers, and more, will be seen twice on the Discovery Channel on Thursday evening,
September 16 (see your local listings to confirm the exact hour). The documentary is
narrated by "deep throat" himself, Hal Holbrook (see All the President's Men).
If you don't subscribe to the Discovery Channel (it's a cable TV service), you can obtain
a copy of the Lost Land of Tannu Tuva in VHS format (with no commercials!) for $20
from the Tuva Trader.
Ondar Daryma Returns!
"45-Snowy-I" penpal Ondar Daryma, the only person with enough courage and
initiative back in the Brezhnev era to respond to our appeals for correspondence with
someone in Tuva, has reappeared--this time in a documentary (produced by the Flemish
Section of Belgian TV) called "They Who Know: The Shamans of Tuva."
Unlikely to be seen on TV in the US (unfortunately), this excellent documentary has
been made available to the Friends of Tuva through the generosity of the producer, Dirk
Dumon, and Belgian TV, whose royalties will go to translating a book about the shamanism
in Tuva by Mongush Kenin-Lopsang, Tuva's foremost authority on the subject. To order,
please see the Tuva Trader.
Free Concert in New York!
If you live anywhere near New York City, here's a concert you must not miss:
July 8th, at 8 pm, at the World Financial Center's Winter Court. (Let's hope the Winter
Court is true to its name and air conditioned, so the Tuvans don't melt wearing their fur
caps!) Kaigal-ool Khovalyg, Anatoly Kuular, and Kongar-ool Ondar will be assisted by
Radomir Mongush and the Bappa brothers, Sasha and Sayan. They are developing an exciting
repertoire of old favorites and new hits. Best of all, the concert is free,
courtesy of Olympia & York. Ted Levin will probably be on hand to introduce the
singers and describe the music from an ethnomusicologist's point of view.
Other Concerts this Summer
Here is the final itinerary of Khovalyg and company this summer:
- Ann Arbor, Michigan, July 6 and 7:
- Celebration of Voices Festival. Will appear with the Persuasions and Inuit Throat
Singers (who are really bizarre!). Call (313) 747-2278 for information and tickets.
Introduced by Ted Levin.
- New York, NY, July 8, 8pm,
- Winter Court, World Financial Center, in Battery Park (across from the World Trade
Center). Seating is limited; first-come, first-served. Arrive early! Call (212) 945-0505
for more information.
- Winnipeg, Manitoba, July 9-11.
- Call (204) 231-0646 for information and tickets.
- Quebec City, Canada. July 13?
- Call (418) 692-5200 for information and tickets. They greet you in French, but they also
- Vancouver, BC, July 16-18.
- Call (604) 879-2931 for information and tickets. See also August 5-6, below.
- Calgary, Alberta, July 24.
- Call (403) 225-5256 for information and tickets.
- Canmore, Alberta, August 2.
- Call (403) 678-2524 for information and tickets.
- Vancouver, BC, August 5-6.
- Call (213) 221-8882 for information. See also July 16-18, above.
- Edmonton, Alberta, August 7-8.
- Call (403) 429-1999 for information and tickets.
- Pasadena, California, August 14, Tuvan Independence Day!
- Call (213) 221-8882 for exact location (to be arranged) after July 21.
On their recent tour of the US, the Tuvans sang with several prominent musicians,
including Frank Zappa, the Kronos Quartet, and Mickey Hart. There are plans underway for
them to sing with Native Americans in the soundtrack for the upcoming film Geronimo,
under the musical direction of Ry Cooder.
But these are not the first collaborations by Tuvans with prominent musicians in the
West. If you look carefully on the liner notes of Book of Roses, by Andreas
Vollenweider (Columbia), you will see the name of Sainkho Namchylak, an amazing female
vocalist from Tuva, who sings on four selections.
A European label (Crammed Disc) has just released a CD by Sainkho. Even though it has
only a few seconds of throat-singing (and not by her, though she can do it), it offers an
exciting trip into the Tuvan soundscape. Sainkho's style is at times reminiscent of the
Bulgarian women, at times like Mongolian and Chinese singers, yet she is more--as only
listening to the disc can demonstrate. This disc is available through the Tuva Trader.
Tannu Tuva Stamps for Sale
Alan Leighton, translator of Otto Mänchen-Helfen's eye-witness account of Tuva in
1929, and Tuva stamp collector par-excellence, has assembled several packets of Tuvan
stamps (mostly from the 1930s) for sale in the Tuva Trader. The packets consist of
a "grab bag" of four stamps (at least one of them triangular) for $10. Up to six
packets can be ordered without duplication of any stamp design. If you're looking to have
some of the famous triangular stamps from Tannu Tuva (and you don't care which ones),
here's your chance. And if you're a serious collector, see the announcement on the
following page. [Update--February, 1994: the sets of four stamps each have been replaced
by other sets. See the Tuva Trader for details.]
Tannu Tuva Collectors Society
FoT Ken Simon has founded an organization "dedicated to the study of Tuvan stamps
and postal history in a serious manner."
Celebrate Tuvan Independence In Style!
August 14 is the 72nd anniversary of Tuva's independence, gained in 1921, and perhaps
to be regained in the not-too-distant future. As it will be a Saturday this year, it will
be easy to have a party on the exact date. How about inviting some people who never heard
of Tuva, and show them some real Tuvan stamps, a video, and play them a tape or CD? It's
time to proselytize the masses!
(Bill Medeiros of Maui had an interesting idea in 1991: to visit a certain
establishment with some friends on August 14 and celebrate "Tuva and
Of course everyone should go home with a piece of Tuvanalia, especially the winners of
Tuva Trivia (see Tuva or Bust!, p. 183). How about a postcard postmarked in Kochetovo,
where independence was proclaimed 72 years ago? If we're lucky, a consignment of little
flags and little flag pins from Tuva, plus pins showing the US and Tuvan flags waving
together (made in Hong Kong, of course) should be arriving in the first week of
August--but it's not guaranteed. (I might have to issue rain checks, or you could color in
the do-it-yourself flag kit provided in the sixth issue of the Friends of Tuva newsletter
instead.) If you'd like to take a chance, see the Tuva Trader for ordering information.
After all, life is more exciting with a little uncertainty once in a while.
Also, please note the last concert on the itinerary, above. If you are anywhere near
Los Angeles on August 14, don't miss it! Please call the Tuva hotline (213) 221-TUVA
(after July 21, please) for details.
In case you missed the announcement in a previous edition of the Friends of Tuva
newsletter, I have found a source where Feynman videos can be
rented by mail (USA only, for the moment).
Tuvan Students Seek Exchange
The Lyceum of Tuva, founded in September, 1991, would like to establish ties to a
public or private school or college in the USA. The lyceum can invite small groups of
students, aged 14-17, to go on their annual three-week camping expedition in the
countryside of Tuva. They would also like to send some students from Tuva to participate
in a similar camping experience in the USA. The Tuvan government can pay the students'
airfares to New York, and perhaps to other cities (SF, Miami) served by Aeroflot.
The lyceum is also looking for foreign teachers and guest lecturers to come to Kyzyl.
There is a technical division (physics, math, computer science, and English), and a
humanities division (literature, history, philosophy, and languages). The students in the
technical division earn money for the school by assembling laboratory equipment for
several institutes in Kyzyl.
Another way of raising money is to house foreign guests in an apartment owned by the
lyceum. If you are past high school age, but would like to have some Tuvan students as
your guide, a tour of Kyzyl and perhaps even an expedition into the countryside could be
For further information, please contact me by letter or by fax.
Visa Service for Tuva
I have finally succeeded in establishing a reliable visa support service for Tuva. For
$25 per person, ($50 for stays over one month) you can receive an official invitation that
will allow you to obtain a visa at the nearest Russian consulate, and to travel around
Tuva and Russia on your own (or with Tuvans contacted by FoT).
To obtain such an invitation, I need your exact name as it appears on your passport,
your date of birth, your passport number, your intended ports and dates of entry and exit,
and a rough itinerary (cities only). You may send me the information by fax or letter.
A Little Tuvan Girl Named Tanya
In addition to putting Tuva back on the map and into the public's consciousness,
another goal of Friends of Tuva is to help people in Tuva. Last summer a group took
vitamins and medicines for distribution. Unfortunately, the need in Tuva far outweighs
what travellers can take; distribution is unreliable, and unescorted shipments are prone
The leader of last summer's tour group, Gary Wintz, brought back photos and x-rays of a
little girl named Tanya--her mother is Tuvan and her father Russian--who was born with an
unusual condition: her face grew abnormally so that it is very wide. This poses not only
physical problems--her eyes cannot both look in the same direction--but severe emotional
pain as well: other children laugh at her and tease her. Thus Tanya stays indoors most of
the time, isolated from other children.
The doctors at Children's Hospital in Los Angeles have determined that Tanya's face can
be reconstructed through surgery. The plastic surgeon has agreed to donate the surgery
free of charge. But there are many other costs, such as anesthesia, intensive care, and
hospital care. The costs, even at a 50% reduction that the hospital has agreed to, are
staggering: in the neighborhood of $30,000.
It is possible that the Women in Show Business foundation could contribute $10,000 to
the effort, but that still leaves $20,000. I simply do not have the time to research other
foundations that might be approached. Thus I appeal to readers who have some ideas on how
to raise the needed funds--and some time to make calls and write letters--to contact me.
This is a project in which most of the money will stay right here in the US, but the
effect will be enormous on the life of a little girl in faraway Tuva.
[Update--February, 1994: Interplast, Inc. of Palo Alto has agreed to do the surgery
free of charge. See issue #9 for details.]