The Friends of Tuva Newsletter
Fifth issue: Fall, 1992
Published by Friends of Tuva
Box 70021, Pasadena CA 91117 USA.
Fax: (213) 221-8882
Dear Friend of Tuva,
If this is the first newsletter you have received, then welcome! You have
joined over two thousand people who would like to know:
"Whatever happened to Tannu Tuva?"
This question, posed by Richard Feynman--physicist, adventurer, raconteur--over dinner
more than ten years ago, still causes ripples of delight in the world.
FoT Delegations Meet President Bicheldei
A nine-member delegation, led by Molly McGinn and Gary Wintz, met with President
(actually, Chairman of the Tuvan Parliament) Kadyr-ool A. Bicheldei in July. The
delegation presented the Tuvan leader several boxes of medicines and vitamins from
Operation USA, as well as a bronze plaque of Richard Feynman and a photograph of the Dalai
Lama. The meeting was auspicious, to say the least: two months later, the Dalai Lama
visited Tuva; the historic visit was reported to millions of listeners around the world by
BBC Moscow correspondent Tim Whewell (pronounced "Hue-well"), who was
inspired to visit Tuva after reading the story of Richard Feynman's last journey in Tuva
"Tuva" Heard Round the World
Unfortunately, there is not enough room in this issue to print all the BBC coverage of
Tuva, but transcripts and tape recordings of all three of Mr. Whewell's reports are
available for a modest fee through the Tuva Trader. Here are some highlights:
The Dalai Lama's first visit to Tuva, a mountainous region on the Mongolian border, was
celebrated with music, dancing, and religious rituals that many local people had never
seen before. . .
Local politicians welcomed the Dalai Lama enthusiastically. Partly, perhaps, because
this is a reminder to Moscow and the rest of the world of their regions' separate ethnic
identity. In Tuva, which was an independent state between the two world wars, the Tibetan
leader was called on to consecrate the autonomous republic's new flag in a ceremony
clearly designed to appease the strong local nationalist movement.
Richard Feynman and Tuva Featured on BBC World Service
"Surely you're joking!" you might be thinking. Well, Tim Whewell's most
extensive report on Tuva, which aired on the BBC World Service program, "From Our Own
Correspondent," contained these words:
. . . In the tiny capital Kyzyl you can see the white-columned house that served as the
Soviet legation, and the former parliament where Tuva's communist deputies voted in 1944
to request admission into the USSR.
But apart from the commemorative plaques on those buildings, virtually the only other
trace of the country's lost independence are the triangular Tuvan stamps preserved in
schoolboys' albums all over the world.
The memory of those stamps with the exotic name and pictures of camel- and yak-herders
inspired the Nobel prize-winning American physicist Richard Feynman to embark on a
ten-year struggle with Soviet bureaucracy in a bid to reach Tuva, then a region closed to
foreigners. . . .
Report from Llangollen
As reported in the fourth edition of The Friends of Tuva newsletter, Tuvans performed
at festivals across Canada, and at Chautauqua, New York. Well, they also performed at the
annual Eisteddfod in the Wales town of Llangollen (pronounced something like
"Flangofflen"), to enthralled crowds. Our Wales correspondent Jessie
My interest in Tuva was aroused when I visited this year's Llangollen International Eisteddfod
(only a few miles from my home). On the programme were two groups from Tuva. Not having
heard of this area before we speculated that it might be an isolated island in the
Pacific! [Perhaps you were thinking of Tuvalu?--ed.] When the first group, a trio,
appeared, the announcer of course told us about this central Asian state. The throat
singing of this group held everyone spellbound. [The leader of the group was Kaigal-ool
Khovalyg, who will appear in the Parade--ed.] The audience exceeded 4,000 but there was no
noise in the auditorium. The sound, to me, was as if we were listening to sounds that were
made by our earliest ancestors.
The second group was called "The Centre of Asia" and they had a shaman.
Incidentally, the Queen was to visit next day, and it was already raining. The shaman
assured everyone she would arrive in sunshine, and of course she did!
New Tuvan Flag Adopted
A new Tuvan flag, once rumored to be a red horseman galloping across a field of
Buddhist yellow, has now been officially adopted: in a special communication to the
Friends of Tuva, BBC Moscow correspondent Tim Whewell reported that the new flag consists
of a white sideways Y (-<), representing the confluence of the Yenisei River at Kyzyl, on a field of blue. A narrow strip is all that remains of the Buddhist yellow. (Oh well--with only geometrical shapes, at least the flag will be easy to make. A make-your-own-Tuvan-flag kit will appear in an upcoming edition [# 6] of The Friends of Tuva newsletter after an official
description of the flag arrives from Tuva.) Incidentally, the designer of the flag
[actually, the state seal, it turns out--see issue # 7], Ivan
Salchak, is pictured at the Centre of Asia monument with Sevyan and Alla Vainshtein in Tuva
Other News from Tuva
There is literally too much to report, now that articles on Tuva are available through
several data base computer networks, such as Mead Data's NEXIS news service. (If you have
access to such a network, try it out--you'll be astonished at the amount of information!)
I will pass on only the observation that the Russian reports about Tuva are rather gloomy.
However, BBC Moscow correspondent Tim Whewell wrote: "I think Tuva must be the
most extraordinary--and friendly--place I have visited in three years of travelling around
the former Soviet Union, and I am determined to return there as soon as possible. . .
More Visitors to Tuva
A second delegation visited Tuva in August, and presented President Bicheldei a large
glass cup, created by Seattle artist Richard Samuel, bearing various pictures and words
relating to Tuva and Richard Feynman. The group also video-recorded President Bicheldei's
New Year's greetings, in the hope that they will be broadcast to the world when . . .
Tuvans Will Ride In Tournament of Roses Parade
Yes, it's official! Three throat-singing Tuvan cowboys, along with our own Kyzyl
correspondent, Rada Chakar, will ride horses down Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena,
California, on New Year's Day, and will give several performances in Pasadena and
elsewhere. There will be a New Year's Eve breakfast at 9 am for all FoTs at the ranch
of Jirayr Zorthian to celebrate the New Year when it arrives in Tuva (10 am in
California). RSVP at (213) 221-8882 by December 25. (Directions: go all the way to the
top of Fair Oaks Avenue in Altadena; park before the road narrows to one lane, and walk
the rest of the way. Bring $10 to cover the cost of the breakfast.)
Most accommodations around Pasadena have been booked for months, so I appeal to all
Southern California FoTs to think about hosting one or more FoTs from out of town from
December 30 thru January 4, so they can see the Parade. If you're interested, please call
(213) 221-8882 and leave a message that includes: 1) your name; 2) your telephone number;
3) How many beds you have for guests; and 4) any other pertinent details.
Prospective hosts: please call before November 30. Prospective guests: please call
after December 1.
For parade seats, call Sharp Seating, at (818) 795-4171. Tickets cost about $30. Make
sure you sit on the south side of the street--the sun will be at your back. Better yet,
bring a step stool or a small step ladder and watch the parade for free!
Tuvans in Concert
There probably will not be time to issue another edition of the Friends of Tuva
newsletter before the Tuvans arrive, so here is a tentative schedule of their
December 27, Los Angeles: Santa Anita Race Track, Arcadia. Between afternoon races.
January 1, Pasadena: Tournament of Roses Parade, Colorado Blvd. 8am - 12 noon.
January 2-4, Pasadena: in front of Beckman Auditorium at Caltech. Enter from Del Mar &
Mar Vista Streets. All afternoon, and Monday evening. (818) 356-6163.
January 6, UCSB. (805) 893-8411.
January 8, UCLA. (310) 206-1096.
January 9, Los Angeles: To be arranged. (213) 221-8882.
January 10, Santa Ana: Bowers Museum, Santa Ana. (714) 567-3679.
January 12-14, Seattle: University of Washington. (206) 543-9681.
January 16, New York City: Washington Square Church, 135 W. 4th St. (in Greenwich Village)
at 8pm. Tickets $12. (212) 545-7536.
January 17, New York City: Uris Auditorium, Met. Museum of Art, 5th Ave. & 81st St.,
at 2:30 pm. Tickets $10; $7 students & seniors. Info: (212) 545-7536.
January 18-20: MIT. (617) 253-0621.
January 21: Middletown CT. Wesleyan Univ. Music Dept. (203) 347-9411 x. 2335.
January 22: Saratoga Springs NY. Skidmore College, (518) 587-6103.
January 23: Concert at Paine Hall, Harvard Univ., Cambridge MA. (617) 876-4275.
January 27-28: Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire. (603) 646-1393.
January 30: San Francisco. (800) 777-8183.
February 2: Monterey Institute for International Studies. (408) 647-4154.
February 3: UC Santa Cruz. (408) 459-2857.
For those interested in meeting other U.K. FoTs, please contact: Peter Wraith, 24
Ancaster Road, Backenham, Kent BR3 4DY.
Feynman Biography Published
The long-awaited biography of Richard Feynman, by Chaos author James Gleick, has
been published by Pantheon Books. In the words of John Gribbin in the Sunday Times
of London (October 18), "Gleick's thorough and meticulously re-searched book manages
to be both essential reading and, ultimately, a disappointment.
"The disappointment lies in its lack of passion. The one thing that is clear above
all else in Feynman's character, from his own work and from conversations with friends who
knew him, is passion. . . ."
Many fans of Richard Feynman have asked whether the programs about Richard Feynman seen
on NOVA are available on home video. After years of appealing to the BBC, I finally
received official word: "Although appreciating your interest in this series, it was
felt that the programmes' specialist nature rather limited their appeal for Home
Video." Case closed.
However, I have found a source--the Association for Cultural Evolution--where the videos can be rented by mail (USA only, for the moment).
You Helped Make It Happen!
Watch the Tournament of Roses on New Year's Day. About one-third of the way into the
parade, the Tuvans will appear. You can then proudly proclaim to everyone within earshot
(even if it's just yourself): "I helped bring the Tuvans to Pasadena!"
And we can all proclaim, "Feynman lives!" For it was his fateful question,
innocently yet mischievously asked more than fifteen years ago by our hero, that began the