FOBOS: Weather in Kyzyl/Tuva
Kyzyl Weather

The Friends of Tuva Newsletter
Second issue: Fall, 1991
Published by Friends of Tuva
Box 70021, Pasadena CA 91117 USA.
Fax: (213) 221-8882

Dear Friend of Tuva,

For those of you writing for the first time, congratulations! You are hereby a member in an association which traces its origin to a simple question innocently posed over dinner more than a decade ago by renown physicist, adventurer, and raconteur, Richard Feynman:
"Whatever happened to Tannu Tuva?"

During the month of August, my brother Alan and I travelled to Tuva to find out. (That accounts for any delays in correspondence you may have encountered.) For a write-up of our journey, see Yurts, Yaks, Fax Machines: Report from Tuva.

Mission Accomplished

However, I will end the suspense as far as our main goal was concerned: we succeeded in our first project, to install a memorial plaque to Richard Feynman on the left bank of the Yenisei River next to Kyzyl's monument to the "Centre of Asia."

Additional Projects

In addition, several other Friends of Tuva projects were discussed. Here is a brief report on six of them.

1.) In Kyzyl we met with K. A. Bicheldei, one of a group of progressive politicians in Tuva which is setting up a newspaper called Sodestvie (Russian for "support") independent of influence from the Communist Party. (In light of recent events, this may now be easier to accomplish than before.) Sodestvie will appear in Tuvan and in Russian, and will try to bring factual information to the people of Tuva. Mr. Bicheldei said that the salary of the newspaper's eight employees (four Tuvans and four Russians) is covered by funds (in Rubles) from the Russian Federation government of Boris Yeltsin, but that certain office supplies such as toner cartridges for their computer printer can only be bought--at high prices--with US dollars in Moscow. (Asked why Sodestvie would use computers at all when it will be typeset by hand, Mr. Bicheldei replied that by setting up the layout beforehand with a computer, adjustments do not have to be made later by hand, a time-consuming process.) Our initial contribution (see article on other side) allows Sodestvie to open a dollar account in Moscow. At my invitation, Mr. Bicheldei will soon be sending a list of maintenance items that I will try to purchase here in the US (at a price lower than in Moscow) and then send to him in Moscow, where he represents Tuva in the Russian Federation's Chamber of People's Deputies.

2.) Another way in which the Friends of Tuva can help is to supply Tuvan-language television with blank Sony Betacam cassettes, which also must be purchased with US dollars and are thus in extremely short supply in Tuva. Again, I plan to buy some cassettes here and send them over to Moscow, from where a Tuvan courier will be able to take them to Kyzyl.

In these connections, if any Friend of Tuva is travelling to Moscow and is willing to be a courier, please let me know--by fax if you like: the number is (213) 221-8882. (If the fax machine does not turn on automatically, press 33.)

3.) Another project concerning information involves our Tuvan representative in Kyzyl, Rada Chakar, who will translate newspaper and magazine articles from Western media into Tuvan and Russian. We have received assurances from Vladimir Sodunam, Vice President of the Tuvan Council of Ministers, that articles sent by the Friends of Tuva will be printed and widely distributed throughout Tuva. The articles will be on various subjects, many of them about developments in science. In this regard, if any Friends of Tuva see an article that they think would be of interest in Tuva, please feel free to send it to: Dept. N, Friends of Tuva, Box 70021, Pasadena CA 91117. And again, any FoT going to Moscow who would be willing to be a courier for such articles, please let me know (by fax, if necessary) the date of your trip.

4.) An additional idea discussed with Mr. Sodunam involves setting up a program under which visitors from the US would come to Tuva and be shown around by Tuvan students of English. Such a program would allow tourists to meet Tuvan herdsmen in their yurts, and would help Tuvan students of English practice conversation. Concrete developments of this idea will, of course, be reported in future editions of the Friends of Tuva newsletter.

5.) The Anthropology Department of the University of Southern California, which in 1989 hosted Soviet-American symposia in conjunction with the museum exhibition Nomads: Masters of the Eurasian Steppe (the exhibition that Feynman, Leighton, and Cowan brought to the US), is exploring the possibility of bringing a Tuvan student of anthropology to Los Angeles to enter its two-year M.A. program in visual anthropology. After the first year at USC, the student would return to Tuva--probably accompanied by a USC professor or graduate student--to document native Tuvan culture on film or on video, and then come back to Los Angeles to edit the material and write a Master's thesis. To finance this special program, a scholarship fund would be set up at USC as a living memorial to Richard Feynman, whose interest in Tuva and enthusiasm for so many aspects of life inspired many outside his field of physics. For further information, please write to Prof. Gary Seaman, Dept. of Anthropology, University of Southern Californi a, Los Angeles CA 90089-0032.

6.) Plans to bring three höömei-singing Tuvan horsemen to the US to participate in the Rose Parade (January 1, 1993) and to give concerts in various locations around the US in the winter of 1992-93, is proceeding nicely. At the Tuvan national horse-racing championships, held in Kyzyl on August 16, I was able to take several photographs of Tuvan horsemen in native costume--the first step in the process.

$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ ?

All of the projects discussed above require money. To make fundraising as painless as possible (perhaps even enjoyable), I am enclosing a separate sheet with a list of memorabilia from The Tuva Trader--just in time for your holiday shopping needs. (By the way, as part of our first fundraiser, Alan and I mailed off all two hundred-or-so cards received by July 26 from Kochetova on August 14; reports are coming in that the cards have begun to arrive. Thanks for participating! Your funds paid for the Feynman memorial plaque and helped cover the costs involved in getting it to Tuva.)

Yow! A Contest!

The membership department of the FoT hereby announces a membership card design competition: you are invited to create a design (business card size) and send it in by December 31. In the next issue of the Friends of Tuva newsletter (in January) I'll print all the entries so that you can vote on your favorite. The winner will receive $100. Then, for all those interested in having their membership card (provided free in the Spring issue of the Friends of Tuva newsletter) double as a business card, a $10 contribution will get you a customized camera-ready master made from the winning entry. Note that by entering, you agree to allow your artwork, should it be the winning choice, to be used in this way.

Feynman Videos

Several fans of Richard Feynman have inquired about the inspiring NOVA programs "The Pleasure of Finding Things Out" and "Last Journey of a Genius." I have been trying to obtain non-exclusive home video rights for these programs (plus the Messenger Lectures delivered by Feynman at Cornell University) from the BBC, which seems to be as difficult to deal with as the Soviets were when we were trying to get to Tuva. In the first issue of the Friends of Tuva newsletter I reported that I had a flash of inspiration: to make the programs available for viewing by loaning them for a fee--which, after handling costs, would go to a charitable cause (perhaps something educational). However, there are some developments in London that make the possibility of obtaining the rights a bit brighter, and given the logistics and possible legal difficulties of a loan service, I'm going to hold off for now. (Sorry!)

In the meantime, there are several audio cassette and video tapes of Richard Feynman at the Esalen Institute available.

1929 Journey to Tuva Delayed

The literary department of the FoT reports that the English translation of Reise ins asiatische Tuwa, the book about Tuva written in 1931 by the German traveller (and later renown scholar) Otto Mänchen-Helfen, will be published late next year--after Alan's update about Tuva's present situation has been added. It will be published under the title Journey to Tuva by Ethnographics Press at USC. Its long-awaited appearance will be announced in a future issue of the Friends of Tuva newsletter.

Throat Singing on CD and Cassette

The höömei department of FoT reports that negotiations for Melodii Tuvy are still going on with Melodiya Records, so the album whose excerpts appeared in Tuva or Bust! will not be available this Fall as hoped. But Ted Levin's project (Tuva: Voices from the Center of Asia), which recorded singers on location in Tuva, is now available from FoT, as well as a CD of three professional höömei singers called the Ensemble Tuva, recorded last winter in the Netherlands. See The Tuva Trader for details.


To continue receiving newsletters at the rate of two or three per year, please send up to three self-addressed, stamped envelopes in a single envelope to: Dept 2A, Friends of Tuva, Box 70021, Pasadena 91117.

And now for a Tuvan word: Chettirdim! (Thanks!)

(signature of Ralph

Ralph Leighton,


In case a project in the future has specific requirements, I am interested to know our members' professional skills and avocational interests. I would therefore appreciate receiving your business card--with your non-professional interests on the back--or a short description of your skills and interests. Please include your address.