This article is from the Tuva FAQ, by Kerry Yackoboski email@example.com 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.
The Republic of Tuva is the former Tannu Tuva, a country in south
Siberia absorbed by the former USSR in 1944. Tuva was at one time an oblast
of Russia, and then the Tuvinskaya ASSR, and is now a member of the Russian
Tuva is arguably in the centre of Asia, nestled just north of Mongolia
between the Sayan mountains in the north and the Tannu Ola mountains in the
south, with an area of 171,300 square kilometres, somewhat larger than
England and Wales. Tuva lies between 89 degrees and 100 degrees east
longitude, and 49 and 53 degrees north latitude.
Tuva's population is 308,000 (about 64 percent Tuvan and about 32 percent
Russian). The capital city of Kyzyl (pronounced stressing the second
syllable) (population 75,000) lies at the confluence of two major forks of
the Yenisei River.
Tuva was known under its Mongol name of Uriankhai until 1922 and deserves
interest for the fact that it was twice annexed by Russia within 30 years
without the world paying the slightest attention. The first annexation came
in 1914 when Russia proclaimed Tuva a protectorate of Russia, and the
second time was in 1944 when the People's Republic of Tuva was transformed
into an administrative unit of the USSR.
Since 1992 the Republic of Tuva has been a member of the Russian
Federation, but this does not imply a large degree of independence from
Russia. As one would expect of a Russian republic, the working language in
the capital and other larger centres is Russian, but in the countryside and
in less formal situations the working language is Tuvan. The Tuvan language
is closely related to certain ancient languages (Old Oghuz and Old Uighur)
and modern ones (Karagas and Yakut). Tuvan belongs to the Uighur group of
Turkic languages, forming a special Old Oghuz subgroup with Old Oghuz, Old
Uighur, and Karagas.
The ethnic composition of the Tuvan people is complex, comprising several
Turkic groups, as well as Mongol, Samoyed, and Ket elements, assimilated in
a Turkic-speaking element. These ethnic traits (Mongol, Samoyed, Ket
elements) also apply to the language. There are many Mongol loan words in
Tuvan, and many words having to do with modern Western culture has been
borrowed from Russian. The Turkic elements are common to the Tuvan, Altai,
Khakas, and Karagas peoples.