This article is from the Tuva FAQ, by Kerry Yackoboski firstname.lastname@example.org with numerous contributions by Bernard Greenberg, Bernard Dubriel, Alan Shrives, Kevin Williams, Albert Kuvezin, Dr Oliver Corff, Mike Vande Bunt, Ralph Leighton, Masahiko Todoriki, Alan Leighton, Ken Simon, and Sami Jansson.
Several Mongolians and the band Ozum were asked about the word "Tannu";
they did not know the word or its source. Mongolians and Tuvans both
answered "it may not be Tannu, it must be Tangdy". They opined that it must
be a Tuvan term; it is certainly not Mongolian. Their guess is that Tangdy
is the word printed on some maps as "Tannu-Ola" (in Tuvan dictionaries this
appears as "Tangdy cyny" or "Tangdy-Uula"). As you may know, tangdy
(ta"ng"dy) means "high mountain" or "taiga surrounded by high mountain" in
Here is some supporting information, mainly from a book by S. A. Shoizhelov
(Matson), Tuvinskaya Noonday Republican, Moscow 1930. (Written in Oct.
Tuva was indeed called "Tang-nu Wulianghai". The Czarist Russians called
Tuva "Uryanhai". P. 29-30 of the above mentioned book talks about a
"Russo-Uryanhai regional meeting", in which, of course, a resolution was
passed. This meeting was after, and supposedly in response to, the February
Revolution of 1917. The meeting was held in Byelotsarsk, and was convened
by the Immigrants' Administration (Pereselencheskogo Upravleniya). Kyzyl
was called Byelotsarsk ("White Tsar Town") from 1914 until 1918, then was
known as Khem-Beldyr until 1926, and has been called Kyzyl since then.
Article One of this resolution refers to "Tannu-Uryanh[a]i", obviously a
corruption or Russianization of "Tang-nu Wulianghai".
Once the Russians decided to call the Tuvans "Tuvans" and not "Uryanhais",
then it was a natural step for them to quit calling the place
"Tannu-Uryanhai" and call it "Tannu-Tuva" instead.
In his discussion of the first meeting of the Party in Tuva, Natsov refers
to the "Tannu-Tuva", but then afterwards it is always simply "Tuva". At the
founding of the nominally independent state, it was called the Tannu-Tuvan
People's Republic, but that soon afterward, in just a few years, the
"Tannu" was dropped.
As we all know, the first Tuvan postage stamps, issued in 1926, have "Ta
Ty" for Tangdy Tyva on them. The next issue, from 1927, has just "Tyva".
Baylan Cannol, a systems engineer from Teeli, Tuva, confirms that yes,
"Tannu" is a corrupted form of "Tangdy". During the era of the Tannu-Tyva
Arat Republic (TAR) there was a division of Tuvan people into several
parts, depending on where the Tuvan lived. The distinct divisions included
the "Tangdy Tyvazy" (those living in Tuva) and the "Kalga Tyvazy" (Tuvans
living in Mongolia). In those times, Tuvans living in different areas had
more relations with each other as one people. Since the union of Tannu
Tuva with Russia, Tannu Tuva has almost forgotten the Kalga Tyvazy and
Baylan also confirms that 'Tangdy Tyva' doesn't correspond with 'Tangdy
Uula', and 'Tangdy Uula' is just a mountain in the south. The word "tangdy"
means the same as the word "taiga" (subarctic coniferous forests, which are
mainly in Tannu Tuva, not in Mongolia, China etc.).
[Heroic answers provided by Masahiko Todoriki and Alan Leighton with
addition commentary from Baylan Cannol.]