Friends of Tuva
Celebrating Richard Feynman's spirit of adventure
The Friends of Tuva newsletter
Edited by Ralph Leighton
Published by Friends of Tuva
Box 70021, Pasadena CA 91117 USA.
Hotline and Fax: (213) 221-TUVA (-8882)
(If fax doesn't turn on automatically, press 33)
e-mail on Internet c/o: email@example.com
The circle is complete: FoT Venice Chapter President Gary Wintz (center, standing)
meets Venera Khuragan-ool (seated, right) for the second time--they first met at the Kyzyl
airport, where she gave him an envelope containing X-rays of her daughter, Tanya (here,
one month after her surgery, standing next to Gary). Also in the photo are (left to
right): Phoebe Kwan (holding daughter Nicole Leighton), Steve Bacon, Ralph & Ian
Leighton, and Gordon Dressler. Photo: Ikuko Bacon
Miracle Surgery a Success
She started out with her eyes looking two different directions, unable to focus
together; her nose had two humps instead of one. Her mother was determined to find help
for her, against the odds. But in April, Tanya Khuragan-ool had surgery at the Stanford
University Medical Center that can justifiably called miraculous: her eyes were drawn
closer together so they can both look forward at the same time, her nose was remade, and
when her hair grows back, the scar that extends from ear to ear over the top of her head
will be invisible.
Thanks, first and foremost, go to the doctors and the staff at Interplast of Palo Alto.
Thanks also to the nine FoTs who contributed directly to Interplast.
Special thanks go to the host family, John & Patti Neer, as well as the wonderful
translators, Cyril & Tanya Glushkov. Special thanks also to Gordon Dressler, Harry
Saunders, Florentin Traista and Don R. Winner; thanks also to Ikuko & Steve Bacon,
Bruce T. Jones, Mark Reboul, Ginger Hwang, Michael Krieger, David Meisel, Kerry
Yackoboski, Jeanette Richstone, James Kaumeyer, Farileigh Brooks, Norman Klien, Michael
Mace, Vicor & Sara Neher, Richard Painter, Patricia Hughes, Michael Ormiston, Aislinn
Scofield, Carolyn Waite, Gail Zappa, Sarah Otley, Tom Curran, David Lee Fein, Holly Swan,
and John Looney (--and my apologies if I neglected to list you!). The total contributions
were just enough to buy the air travel for Tanya and her mother from Moscow to San
Francisco (and from Los Angeles back to Moscow), and for their train trip from San Jose to
Los Angeles on Amtrak.
Thanks also to everyone who bought Tuva pins and other items from the Tuva Trader. Your
support helps such projects continue.
Special thanks to Kongar-ool Ondar, whose cheerful personality and amazing singing
delighted everyone, especially the doctors at Stanford; and finally, thanks to Richard
Feynman for asking the question, "Whatever happened to Tannu Tuva?".
If you would like to donate to a non-profit, tax-deductible organization that has
benefitted Tanya from Tuva, here's one more chance: please send a check, payable to
Interplast, to: Any Laden, Interplast, 2458 Embarcadero Way, Palo Alto CA 94303. Please
write "For Tanya" as the memo on the check.
Frequent-Flyer Miles (on Delta) Still Needed
Although the generous contributions from the membership covered the airfares on Delta
Airlines for Tanya and her mother to come to the US, many ancillary costs connected to
hosting them were not. If you have at least 20,000 miles Delta Airlines, and would like to
contribute them to Friends of Tuva to offset the ancillary costs, please contact me at
(213) 221-8882 (phone and fax). Thank you!
President Yeltsin Visits Tuva
June brought several visitors to Tuva. First and foremost was Boris Yeltsin, the first
leader of Russia (or, for that matter, of any ruler from Moscow) to visit the republic. At
a meeting with the leaders of Tuva, Yeltsin declared, "We must not create 'standard
republics.' They are never going to be the same; they all have their own features. ...
Life in Tuva depends on its relations with the outside world. Tuva borders on Mongolia and
has contacts with China--these ties must be developed. [However,] many difficulties could
have been avoided if ties with the regions of the Russian Federation had not broken down.
... The [Russian Federation] must have a single economic space and a single body of
On the economic situation in Tuva, Yeltsin said, "It would be unfair to tell [the
Tuvans] to live by their won means. ... We must help the republic do enough to bring the
standard of living of its people up to the standard of living of people throughout
Yeltsin announced a big aid package that includes a sheepskin factory and support for
water transport. [The Yenisey has been dammed at Shushenskoye, and the lake extends up
into Tuva to Shagonar.] Yeltsin declared, "We will give as much money as you can
assimilate," which brought applause in the hall of the Supreme Hural [Legislature].
Some estimates put the amount of aid at 40 billion Rubles, or about $100 per person in
Yeltsin also declared that the "former mistrust between Moscow and the Tuva
leadership has disappeared," and "the strained atmosphere among nationalities
two years ago no longer exists."
According to an analysis in the Moscow newspaper Izvestia, "[Yeltsin] prefers to
pay off Kyzyl with money rather than have political problems. As we know, the republic has
adopted a constitution which opens up an opportunity for Tuva to leave Russia. Local
nationalists are exploiting this subject, although they have no real support among the
people." [Remember, this analysis came from Moscow. For more on this subject, see the
Tuva Trader, item 2N.]
Serenading President Yeltsin was Kongar-ool Ondar, just back from accompanying Tanya
Khuragan-ool and her mother to California for Tanya's surgery.
President Yeltsin was not the only visitor to Tuva in June. There was also the first
American tourists of 1994, Terry and Mady Langdon--See article, page 4.
The summer festival according to the lunar calendar is called Naadym in Tuva, where its
date has been shifted to fit in with the politically significant date of August 14--the
day in 1921 when an independent Tuva was proclaimed.
This year August 14 falls on a Sunday ("Big Day" in Tuvan), a perfect day to
celebrate. I hope those of you who receive this mailing in time will see fit to observe
this special date as well--besides, it will be the 13th anniversary of the inadvertent
founding of Friends of Tuva!
Tuva T-Shirt Sighted at the Races
You never know where you'll run into another FoT: John Felix of southern California was
wearing his Whatever-Happened-to-Tannu-Tuva? T-shirt at the Laguna Seca Raceway (near
Monterey) for the World Sportscar Championship Races, held on the weekend of July 23-24.
The distinctive shirt was spotted by FoT Pat Barthelow, who seems to have antennas for
such things. (See PB's article on p.3.)
For those not wishing to depend on such luck to meet other FoTs, another means of
finding fellow Feynman fans and Tuva aficionados is in order--a directory. There are
several members with ham radio call signs, and other members with e-mail addresses--in
addition to the increasingly mundane fax machines, not to mention telephones and
mailboxes. Please note the green insert with this mailing, and fill if out if you're so
inclined. It will help in future projects, such as helping some avid Tuvan cyclists pedal
from Kyzyl to Atlanta in 1996!
Tuvans Tour in May a Hit
A group of Tuvan throat-singers under the name of Ai Kherel (Moonlight), headed by
Gennadi Tumat (who, along with Huun-Huur-Tu leader Kaigal-ool Khovalyg, was chosen to
serenade the Dalai Lama in Kyzyl in 1992), toured across Canada in May, making a brief
appearance in Southern California-- where they were joined by Kongar-ool Ondar on May 10
(at Caltech) and May 11 (at the Bowers Museum) to commemorate the 76th birthday of Richard
Feynman. Ondar had accom-panied Tanya Khuragan-ool and her mother to San Francisco for
Tanya's surgery. While in SF Ondar teamed up with bluesman Paul Pena--formerly with the
Steve Miller Band, among many other groups--to record TUVA MEETS THE BLUES, which is
currently being shopped around the record industry. Anyone with connections or leads,
please contact Ralph Leighton on the Friends of Tuva hotline (213) 221-TUVA (221-8882),
which is also a fax number.
Here is a review sent in by Canadian FoTs Lynne & Greg Wilson:
The ensemble Ai Kherel performed here in Toronto on May 15, and we were lucky enough to
get tickets. When we say lucky, we mean lucky: we arrived about 30 minutes prior to the
start and the concert was already sold out, and people were taking numbers for standing
room tickets. An article had appeared in the local entertainment tabloid with headlines
like "Tuvan Throat-singing Taking North America by Storm" and "This Year's
Flavour in World Music," so it was no wonder the concert sold out. [You must be glad
you knew about the tour far in advance by reading the FoT newsletter!--RL.]
The crowd seemed to be an eclectic group, and though it is dangerous to "judge a
book by its cover," it seemed the spectators fell into several groups: the science
set, the avant garde art set, and the musician set. All were intrigued by "the
creation of a high overtone and a primary drone simultaneously from one voice."
Performers included Gennadi Tumat, Vladimir Soyan, Orlan Chdekpen, and Leonid Oorzhak.
Rada Chakar provided some "liner notes" on what was to come.
The first set featured several songs and games. We got to watch a "game with sheep
bones," which seemed to resemble jacks, and another game which might be described as
Tuvan hackey sack. It appears that male bravado is universal, for although translation was
not provided, the conversation must have gone something like this:
"I can kick the little sack in the air four times in a row."
"Only four? What a wimp! My grandmother can do four!"
"Well, your grandmother might, but I doubt you could!"
"OK, let's see--if you're not afraid of looking like a fool."
"Watch and learn: one, two, three, four, five, six!" (The little sack hits
the floor after six kicks by the same foot.)
"Anybody can do six that way; I meant the way real men do it, alternating
--And so on. Then came some tongue twisters and displays of various Tuvan jaw harps
(khomus), some love songs, a shaman ritual, [and a scene in which a fellow smokes too much
of the local Tuvan weed and hallucinates--such that a small fur turns into a large animal
and terrorizes him.--RL.] The performers were impressive! They produced an incredible
range of notes, and they seemed to do it so effortlessly. Also, you had to look hard to
see who was singing. There would be one guy who seemed to be whistling, singing, and
playing an instrument, all at the same time. Much stomping of feet and clapping prompted
the group out for an encore.
Stamps, Stamps, Stamps
Several people have inquired about the availability of rubber stamps that make
impressions of the Tuvan horseman and the Feynman fantasy stamp (both of which I try to
put on each envelope that goes out from FoT HQ). The best price I can find for these
custom rubber stamps is about $25. I would prefer that a volunteer (are you in the
printing business?) take on this task so I could refer interested persons to a good
source. Another idea would be to provide artwork--which I'll put in the next issue if
there is enough space, and if no one has come forward with a cheaper source for rubber
stamps by then.
Esoterica, Part I
What Tibetan symbol of power resembles the Feynman diagram held by our hero in the
poster shown at the end of Tuva of Bust!? (Answer in next issue.)
FoTs Visit Tuva-USA (West) Radio Site
by Pat Barthelow
On June 3, FOT Pat Barthelow proudly showed Ralph Leighton and his brother, Alan,
around the site of the (hopefully) near-future radio link to Tuva. A project long in the
works, it now looks like it will become reality! Pat, a ham radio operator (callsign
AA6EG) is close to acquiring the abandoned military radio communications site located at
the recently-closed Fort Ord Army base, near Monterey, California. Pat had recently saved
the three- acre site--complete with sophisticated radio shacks and antennas--from the
bulldozer. He is presently arranging its management to be taken over by a local school
district for educational purposes--and for use as a dream amateur radio station. The site
will someday allow FOT members to speak directly, over High Frequency Radio links, to
Tuvan ham operators and to Lyceum of Tuva students in Kyzyl. Ultimately, ham satellite
links will also be implemented. Pat encourages FoTs around the country to be on the
lookout for other military base closures which could yield similar treasures.
Ralph took stereo photos of the site, eminently suited to such views in light of the
huge antenna farm and spectacular terrain on Ft. Ord. [Sorry, we could only show a 2-D
picture here--RL.] Everyone marveled at the natural attributes of the site, with Alan
pointing out the hundreds of ant lion traps all around the sandy, manzanita-filled
One of the antennas at the Fort Ord Site
Photo: Pat Barthelow
Pat is looking to equip the site (and the Lyceum in Kyzyl) with donated amateur radio
equipment--the only missing pieces at the communications site, as existing radio
transceivers were relocated to other, active military communications sites. Any FoTs who
are also hams are invited to assist Pat in this Tuva communications project. You can catch
him on Amateur Packet: AA6EG@K6LY.#nocal.ca.usa.na Or on Internet: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pat has also located Sovamteleport, a telecommunications provider who specializes in
the Commonwealth of Independent States (former USSR). Work is progressing towards
providing Internet access to the Lyceum of Tuva. Currently the nearest nodes exist at a
university in Novosibirsk, 500 miles distant. Fellow FoT Kerry Yackoboski is going to
Kyzyl this summer, bringing with him communications software and a modem to help the
Lyceum get on-line. Service and telephone charges (between Kyzyl and Novosibirsk) and for
Internet, while reasonable, are not insignificant on the Tuvan economy, so FoT will
contribute to this great leap of connectivity as soon as it is set up. Pat has had
Internet exchanges with persons in Moscow, and finds that e-mail transit times can be as
little as two hours, terminal to terminal.
Internet and Tuva
If FoT Kerry Yackoboski is successful at getting Kyzyl on the Internet, you can be sure
it will be announced in the next newsletter, and on the Internet itself on
In the meantime, FoT Tom Phelps announces: A World Wide Web (WWW) site for Tuva and
Feynman materials, including digitized photos and a sample of hoomei, is accessible via a
WWW client such as Mosaic at the following address:
In addition, FoT Jeff Cook has put on a Quicktime movie for "anyone with ftp
capability and a Mac." For detailed instructions on how to access the movie over the
Internet, find alt.culture.tuva. This group on UseNet is the best place to check out the
latest news electronically.
Around the World in 80 Years (minus a few)
How's this for a journey: a Tuvan shaman's words, spoken in 1929, are translated from
Tuvan into Russian by one of Otto nchen-Helfen's guides (so that M-H can understand), then
into German by M-H (so his readers can understand), then into English by Alan Leighton (so
we can understand), and then back into Russian and Tuvan by Dina Oyun and her colleagues
at the Humanitarian Centre in Kyzyl (so people in Tuva can again learn what their shamans
used to say). The words (in English, Russian, and Tuvan) appear in "Shamans,"
which includes Chapter 19 of Journey to Tuva. Copies of this handsomely-illustrated
booklet are available from the Tuva Trader. (See item 2M.)
Let's Speak Tuvan!
FoT Kira Van Deusen, the storyteller whose Tales of Tuva are available in the Tuva
Trader, recorded native speakers reading the text of K. A. Bicheldei's book, Let's Speak
Tuvan. Her husband, Murray Pleasance, is editing the tapes, leaving space for the learner
to repeat the Tuvan phrases. Meanwhile, FoT Dave Tappan has arranged for the twenty
lessons ( which not only cover everyday expressions, but also introduce the basics of
Tuvan grammar) to be translated into English. After he adds some helpful notes, the course
will be available to the membership--see Tuva Trader item 2L.
Esoterica, Part II
The Georgian in this photograph (supposedly taken in 1944, to commemorate Tuva's
annexation by the USSR) is infamous enough, but this photograph is virtually unknown, even
in Tuva. The particular stance of the knife is significant: it is in fighting mode.
A Report on the First Foreign Amateur Radio Operation from Tuva
by Terry Langdon
Santa Monica CA 90406
My wife, Mady, and I travelled to Tuva in June 1994. We had little or no information
about Tuva before we started our journey, and we had heard only vaguely of FoT. On our
return, I was put in touch with Ralph Leighton, and he asked me to prepare a brief report.
At that time I discovered there are many people who seem to be quite knowledgeable about
Tuvan affairs. So perhaps this report should address the simple question: "Is it
possible for someone to travel to Tuva as a tourist having made almost no arrangements in
advance?" The answer is "Yes!" How did we do it? Read on . . .
Stamps and Ham Radio
My interest in Tuva dates back inevitably to the exotic stamps which were available in
my school days. But there was also a second reason--because of my fascination with amateur
radio. In the 1930s, as it became easier for ham radio operators to contact foreign
countries, the globe was divided literally into forty different zones and competition
developed to make contact with each separate zone. Tuva was combined with Mongolia,
western China and Tibet to become Zone 23, the rarest zone of all.
After the Second World War, some adjustments to the zone boundaries were made around
Sakhalin Island and Karelia, but Tuva was overlooked and remained as a small part of the
Soviet Union in Zone 23.
Making radio contact with Zone 23, and especially with Tuva, was always difficult.
During more than twenty years of intermittent operating, I had never even heard a station
from Tuva. But one night in January of 1989, when I returned home from teaching an evening
class and looked through Mady's radio logbook to see what she had contacted that evening,
I found a station from Tuva--UA0YAG, operator Mike, giving a P. O. Box address in Kyzyl!
This seemed an excellent opportunity for me to contact Tuva, so Mady sent an air mail
letter to Mike, explained my interest, and suggested a radio contact about eight weeks
later on the same day of the week and at the same time. Needless to say, we waited
anxiously at the appointed time, and we were especially pleased when we found ourselves in
contact with another Tuvan station (Alex, UA0YO, also in Kyzyl) who explained that Mike
was working but had asked him to come up on the air.
That year I had an invitation to a scientific institute in Ufa (in the Ural Mountains)
and we seriously considered extending our visit to Tuva--but Tuva appeared to be closed to
foreigners, and so we went instead to Tashkent and Samarkand. A repeat visit to Ufa in
1990 gave another possibility, but by then I was keen to visit a scientific colleague in
Alma Ata so we elected instead for a trip through Kazakhstan. Then in 1994 there was a big
international conference in Moscow and it was necessary also for me to make scientific
visits to Nizhny Novgorod, Ufa, and Tomsk-- and so, with news reports of airline
connections between Vladivostok and Anchorage, we thought of attempting a cross-country
trip and including Tuva along the way.
Our Plans Develop
Prior to departure from California, I purchased airline tickets from Los Angeles to
Moscow (via London) and two one-way tickets (to the surprise of the Alaska Airlines
clerk!) from Vladivostok to Anchorage and Los Angeles. We would enter Russia in early May
and depart about five weeks later. I sent copies of our radio licenses to a ham friend in
Ufa and asked him to get licenses for us in Tuva. I tried also using e-mail to find out
information about Tuva from my Russian scientist friends--but to no avail, as they knew
nothing about conditions in Tuva or how to get there. In fact, we were strongly advised to
avoid Tuva because of the (unspecified) "dangerous situation"!
At about this time, I was asked by the institute in Ufa for the names of the cities we
would be visiting for their official invitation, and I made a point of including Kyzyl on
my list. Shortly afterwards, the invitations were received and we had the Russian visas in
hand. We now had official documents to cover a visit to Tuva but we had no information on
how to arrange the transportation. Undaunted, we left Los Angeles in an optimistic mood!
Moscow to Tuva
Our stay in Moscow brought good news. We discovered there were daily flights to Kyzyl
from Novosibirsk and Krasnoyarsk. We would be going to Novosibirsk on our way to and from
Tomsk so this would provide a simple method of reaching Tuva. But arrival in Ufa brought
bad news, as our ham friend had received no response from the Kyzyl Radio Club in his
attempts to obtain our ham licenses.
The round-trip air tickets to Kyzyl were purchased in Novosibirsk en route to my
scientific meeting in Tomsk. Taking advantage of a free afternoon, we did some operating
from the radio club station at Tomsk State University and this gave an opportunity to make
inquiries about locating some ham radio operators in Kyzyl. The only information we
received was that there were two new operators--Ivan, UA0YAV, and Alex, UA0YAW--but there
was no obvious way to make contact with them.
Later, we returned to Novosibirsk and caught the small plane for Kyzyl-- only to
discover during the journey that Alex, UA0YAW, was sitting in the seat behind us! Needless
to say, this solved an immediate problem as we had made no hotel reservation to cover out
stay in Tuva.
Sightseeing and Ham Radio
We quickly became settled on the top floor of the dgen Hotel in Kyzyl with a marvellous
view over the Yenisei River. A walk around the town showed us the main attractions,
including the Drama Theater and the Center of Asia Monument. And within two days we had
met the local ham radio operators, including Mike (UA0YAG) and Alex (UA0YO), our contacts
from California in 1989.
The reception from the ham radio community was quite overwhelming. We were, they told
us, the very first foreign hams to visit Tuva, and they were delighted to meet us. They
were even more delighted to discover that we wanted to operate on the radio from Tuva.
Now, this presented some logistical difficulties, as there was no single station readily
available for our use, but they set up a special station for us in an industrial part of
the town where we would have no complaints from neighbors if we engaged in late-night
operating! They also took us to the local licensing office so that we received the very
first reciprocal amateur radio licenses ever issued to foreigners in Tuva.
In addition, we were taken on a round of sight-seeing both within and outside of Kyzyl.
We visited the Tuva Republic Museum (where some original Tuvan stamps were brought from
the safe for our inspection) and two city art galleries (one of which told us we were the
first American visitors for 1994!). We travelled to the outskirts of Kyzyl to meet a
shaman, and to a typical dacha on the banks of the river. One day we drove south, into the
grasslands on dirt roads, where we saw (and even visited) isolated yurts; another day we
drove north, into the taiga region of trees and rolling hills. In the evenings we came
back to Kyzyl to operate the radio and speak to many people (including many of our
friends) around the world.
Thinking back on our trip, we recall the marvellous hospitality and the very warm
reception from everyone we met in Tuva. We departed from Los Angeles having no information
about how to reach Tuva, and carrying no radio equipment; we flew into Kyzyl without a
hotel reservation; but somehow everything fell into place and we achieved our goals of
visiting Tuva and operating on the radio. Now we are looking to the future--we must go
back to visit our new friends again!
Tuva or Bust! Goes Bust
W. W. Norton, publisher of Tuva or Bust! Richard Feynman's Last Journey ( the saga
describing how this whole adventure got started), has decided to dispose of its remaining
copies of the hardback version. If you would like to purchase a copy cheap, look for it at
your local closeout dealer, or order a copy (or two, or three) from the Tuva Trader, where
your purchases help the adventure continue.
Esoterica, Part III
What is the name of the new stage play, adapted from Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!
and What Do You Care What Other People Think?, which will premiere this fall? It was
written by--and will star--Norman Parker (best known to TV viewers from his work as
"Uncle Rob" Keaton on the classic series Family Ties, and to filmgoers from his
role as the sympathetic D.A., Richard Cappalino, in Prince of the City).
A hint is in the Tuva Trader; the answer will appear in the next issue.
Don't forget to send in for your copy of
THE TUVA TRADER
NAADYM EDITION, SUMMER 1994
in honor of Tuvan Independence Day (August 14, 1921),
SHAGAA EDITION, WINTER 1994
in honor of Tuvan New Year (February 10, 1994),
HOLIDAY EDITION, WINTER 1993-94
in honor of Winter Solstice (December 21, 1993).
Proceeds help fund Friends of Tuva projects.
Scores of Feynman and Tuva items are available
For a copy, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to: Tuva Trader Triple Edition, Box
70021, Pasadena CA 91117 USA.
Friends of Tuva Directory Information
Some may say it's unnecessary; others may say it's long overdue. Whatever the case, the
increasing proliferation of e-mail addresses and the relatively high number of ham radio
enthusiasts among FoT means I'm finally going to do it. Your participation will affect its
success, so record your vote here. The directory, such as it becomes, will be for use only
by friends of Tuva to communicate with each otherQthe list will not be made available to
any other persons or organizations.
(Interested in Tuva's stamps and/or coins? If you're not already a member, send a
self-addressed, stamped envelope to: Ken Simon, Tannu Tuva Collectors Society, 513 Sixth
Avenue South, Lake Worth FL 33460-4507.)
Mailing address (optional)
Telephone (optionalQhome, work, fax)
E-mail address and network (if applicable)
Ham radio call sign (if applicable)
Packet radio address
Ham radio interests (HF, DX, VHF, UHF, satellite, etc.)
----> Please send in this inforemation with your next mailing to: Friends of Tuva,
Box 70021, Pasadena CA 91117 USA.
For those wishing to send this information via e-mail, you may send the information
requested below to my wife, Phoebe Kwan, on the Internet: email@example.com
*** End of newsletter. To receive newsletters on paper, please send two or three
self-addressed, stamped (29 cents if in US, $1 in cash or 2 IRCs if outside US) envelope
to: Friends of Tuva, Box 70021, Pasadena CA 91117.
Long live the Chief!