FOBOS: Weather in Kyzyl/Tuva
Kyzyl Weather

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:


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 legislation."

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 Russia."

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 Tuva.

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.)

FoT Directory

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!"

"Sez you."

"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 feet!"

--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 terrain.

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: Or on Internet:


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 alt.culture.tuva.

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.

Kyzyl Calling!

A Report on the First Foreign Amateur Radio Operation from Tuva

by Terry Langdon
Box 1489
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

in honor of Tuvan Independence Day (August 14, 1921),

in honor of Tuvan New Year (February 10, 1994),


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.


Profession (optional)

Interests (optional)

(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:

*** 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!