FOBOS: Weather in Kyzyl/Tuva
Kyzyl Weather

The Friends of Tuva newsletter.

Eighth issue: Fall, 1993
Published by Friends of Tuva
Box 70021, Pasadena CA 91117 USA.
Fax: (213) 221-8882

The Adventure Continues

"Whatever happened to Tannu Tuva?" The question, posed in 1977 by Richard Feynman, continues to be timely. First, there is political news: despite having a rabidly anti-Yeltsin Representative in the Parliament (see previous issue), the government of Tuva is siding with Boris Yeltsin--at least as of this writing, on September 27. There is also exciting artistic news: the music for one of the biggest movies of the holiday season is in large part Tuvan! No, the movie is not about Tuva; it is about Geronimo, the last American Indian to be captured by the US Army.

The music for the film was scored by Ry Cooder, a guitarist--if you haven't heard of him already--whose music and life is usually described with terms such as "respect," "down-to-earth," and "unpretentious." For many guitar players, he is an incarnation of god.

Ry introduced himself to the Tuvans in February at their last concert, and later contacted me about having them play music for Geronimo. (For the next four paragraphs I draw on some passages I have written for a possible article to be available--if I'm able to finish it--from the Tuva Trader, which will appear in November:

Then Ry began talking about the music. In most major films, orchestral music was used to represent Indians--French horns and such. One might think the obvious thing to do in this movie would be to use Apache music, but Ry reasoned that so much of it is gone, and what's left of it is so irritating to white people, that you can't use if for an hour and a half in a film. But the music of the Tuvans, with its pure harmonics and its firm connection to wide open spaces, seems to be well suited for the film.

I hesitated. I've prided myself on cooking up some pretty wild schemes, but Tuvan music to describe American Indians? "What'll the Indians think?" I asked, cautiously.

"I think I can handle it," Ry replied. He went into some explanations of the politics of making movies about Indians, mentioning the name of American Indian Movement (AIM) co-founder Dennis Banks as someone he was working with, but it was all over my head. "I've been playing the Tuvans' stuff in one of the trailers out there in Moab, Utah, where they're shooting the scenes now," he said. "Everybody, including the director, has been stopping in and saying, `What is that stuff--it's great!' "

I wasn't going to argue. "It's true that Tuvans and Indians have a lot in common, culturally," I said, "especially shamanism. And a friend of Tuva once sent in a reference describing a Sioux chief singing in two voices." (It is an intriguing reference that I've since misplaced. Whoever sent it to me, if you're reading this, could you please send it to me again? Thanks!)

Anyway, the director ended up liking Kaigal-ool Khovalyg's rendition of Lament Over a Lost Friend so much that he asked him to sing it again for the final scene. Thus Tuvan music will be the last sounds that people hear in the movie, as the final credits roll, and will no doubt be reverberating in their heads as they wipe their eyes and leave the theater. There is a chance, if the Geronimo is a big enough hit, that Tuvan music will thus enter the American cultural mainstream. With this in mind, I hope to persuade the powers that be to put a credit in at the end of the film:

Special thanks to Richard Feynman.
Long live the Chief!

Throat-singing Tutorial

FoT Paul Pena of San Francisco has developed a throat-singing tutorial on cassette. Anyone interested in receiving it should send $12 (cash or check made out to Paul Pena) and an address label (important!--Mr. Pena is blind) to: Paul Pena, 1212 Willard St. # 1, San Francisco CA 94117. I find his observations, delivered in a deep, "cool jazz" voice, highly entertaining. Listening to his cassette prompted me to take the leap into kargyraa, the deep, "rattling style" of throat-singing, which I find to be the most fun.

Sainkho to Tour the US

Sainkho Namchylak, a female vocalist from Tuva, will be touring the US with saxophonist Ned Rothenberg in October and November. Sainkho will not be singing traditional Tuvan songs; rather she will be singing and vocalizing an extremely wide range of sounds, some of them hard to believe that a human voice can make, interacting with the saxophone, bass clarinet, and other instruments played by Ned. Some call it "new music," but it is really in a category all its own.

Sainkho is very independent, and has made her own way in the world, now living in Vienna. Her music is very adventurous -- not for people with preconceived notions of what a Tuvan woman should be singing. (Yes, she does perform throat-singing -- normally the province of men -- fleetingly here and there, but does not make a big deal about it.) The World Music Institute of New York writes: "She is part of an important development in World Music -- artists with a unique cultural heritage making aesthetic connections with the West on their own terms. Her work is an unprecedented combination of the ancient and the cutting edge. . . . This unique cross-cultural duo breaks new ground, forging unimaginable connections between New York's urban vanguard and Tuvan folk wisdom."

Here are places and dates:

  • Allentown PA Sunday Oct 24: (215) 820-9017
  • Burlington VT Monday Oct 25: (802) 863-8778
  • SUNY, New Paltz NY Tuesday Oct 26: (914) 257-3880
  • New York NY Thursday Oct 28, 8pm at The Kitchen, 512 W. 19th St: (212) 255-5793
  • Seattle WA Friday Oct 29: (206) 328-7155
  • Eugene OR Saturday Oct 30: (503) 895-2965
  • Los Angeles CA Sunday Oct 31: (310) 305-8010
  • San Francisco Tuesday Nov 2: (415) 626-5416
  • Telluride CO Thursday Nov 4: (303) 728-4402
  • Santa Fe NM Saturday Nov 6: (505) 982-1338
  • Taos Pueblo NM Monday Nov 8: (505) 982-1338
  • Oberlin OH Thursday Nov 11: (216) 775-8200
  • New York NY at Washington Square Church, Friday Nov 12: (212) 545-7536
  • Minneapolis Saturday Nov 13: (612) 375-7600
  • Milwaukee WI Sunday Nov 14: (414) 263-5001

Tuvans to Tour in January

For those desiring a more traditional rendition of Tuvan music than what Sainkho will deliver--but still with some modern influences such as mellow guitar playing, the group Kungurtug will be touring the US in January, 1994. Headed by Kaigal-ool Khovalyg, the group consists of Anatoly Kuular, Sayan Bappa, and Alexander Bappa. (Unfortunately, personality and artistic conflicts have made it impossible for Kongar-ool Ondar to perform with the group. I am working to bring Ondar to the US with other Tuvan musicians some time in the future.)

A CD of music by Kungurtug (minus Kuular, but with the very interesting voice of one Alexander Kovezin) will be released by Shanachie Records late this fall. It will, of course, be available in the Tuva Trader as soon as it is released, as will the soundtrack CD of Geronimo.

Here are the places and dates of the performances. Unfortunately, contact numbers were not available at press time, so please call (213) 221-8882 at the beginning of January if you haven't seen an advertisement by then.

  • San Diego CA UCSD: Thursday Jan 6
  • San Luis Obispo CA Cal Poly: Friday Jan 7
  • Stanford CA: Saturday Jan 8
  • Ashland OR Sunday Jan 9
  • Portland OR tentative Jan 10 or 11
  • Seattle WA tentative Jan 12 or 13
  • Minneapolis MN Cedar Cultural Center: Friday Jan 14
  • Chicago IL Park West: Saturday Jan 15
  • Springfield OH Wittenberg U: Thurs Jan 20
  • Columbus OH OSU: Friday Jan 21
  • Philadelphia PA Folklife Center: Sat Jan 22
  • Washington DC Smithsonian: Sunday Jan 23
  • Durham NC Duke University: Monday Jan 24
  • Somerville MA Somerville Theatre: Fri Jan 28
  • New York NY: Saturday Jan 29

Recent Travellers

Travel to Tuva is steadily increasing to the point where I can't keep track of it all (a good sign!). Shep Kopp, who engineered a resolution by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors proclaiming February 6, 1993, Republic of Tuva Day there, travelled around the country by mountain bike with several friends. They also crossed into Mongolia, where material life is much worse than in Tuva, but where hospitality is just as warm. An entertaining description, complete with photographs, by Rita Koselka of the Mongolian part of the journey can be found on pp 238-242 in the September 13th issue of Forbes Magazine. (I will try to coax Shep into writing a report for the newsletter when he returns--he is still in Central Asia!)

Buddhism in Tuva

by Gary Wintz

Exactly two weeks after my recent return from Tuva in September, I was invited to the Regent Beverly Hills Wilshire Hotel to attend a dinner in honor of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama of Tibet. Amidst a sea of movie stars and politicians this god-king in burgundy robes who calls himself "just a simple monk" was enchanting his receptive audience with humorous one-liners. On a deeper level, however, he was also touching souls with his unmistakable warmth and kindness of spirit.

In speaking about the cultural and spiritual gifts which Tibet has shared with the world, the Dalai Lama managed to also educate this worldly audience about "the three Buddhist Republics of the Russian Federation: Kalmykia, Buryatia, and Tuva."

When His Holiness mentioned the word "Tuva," I immediately flashed back to my good friends whom I had just seen there: how pleased they would be to know that the Dalai Lama was honoring them and remembering them from half a world away.

Just one year earlier, in September, 1992, the Dalai Lama had made the first visit of any Dalai Lama in history. On that occasion, before many tens of thousands of Tuvans in the central square of Kyzyl, the President of the Republic of Tuva, Mr. S. D. Oorzhak, welcomes His Holiness by saying, "No greater honor has ever been paid our ancient land."

The speech continued with similar superlatives. It was also evident on the countenances of those thousands of people who came from the farthest-flung parts of Tuva that this was indeed the holiest day in the history of their spiritual nation.

Children raced up to the Dalai Lama to shower him with flowers. The elderly were in tears of joy as they prayed their lamaist rosaries, which they had to bury during the Stalinist repressions. Last year my wife Molly and I met Tuvans who showed us old Tibetan tangkas and other works of religious art, which their grandparents had hidden in caves during the decades of communist persecution.

One middle-aged man told us a story about his grandfather. One day during the Brezhnev era the old man took his grandson high into the mountains to a remote cave, wherein he led him to the family's buried religious treasures. He swore his grandson to secrecy, and then said, "Someday within your lifetime, freedom will again come to our holy land of Tuva. And when it does, you must come to retrieve these treasures and return them to a rebuilt temple."

Today in Kyzyl-Dag, a small town at the end of the road in the far west of Tuva, these relics once again rest on an altar in the beautiful, newly built lamasery there.

The Gelugpa sect, also known as the Yellow Hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism--the new Tuvan flag, which the Dalai Lama blessed contains the color yellow to honor this tradition--came to Tuva from Tibet in the 1700s. The earlier shamanist practices sometimes merged with Buddhist teachings, and many temples and monasteries graced many regions of Tuva until they were all destroyed in the Stalinist purges of 1936 and '37. Seven years later, in 1944, Tuva's tenuous political independence was extinguished altogether. [For more information, see Alan Leighton's translation of Otto Mänchen-Helfen's 1929 eye-witness account, Journey to Tuva, available from The Tuva Trader.]

Today a tremendous Buddhist revival is sweeping Tuva. Many temples are being rebuilt on their historical sites, while others are being built where none had existed before. Just north of Kyzyl, on a new site near the confluence of the two main branches of the Yenisei, a Buddhist group has just completed building a small complex of temple shrines and halls, whose foundations the Dalai Lama blessed last year.

This year I interviewed a number of Tuvans about the impact of the Dalai Lama's visit on religious developments in their country. Without exception their response was strongly affirmative.

Marina Kenin-Lopsang, a journalist, said, "The authorities were afraid there would be a big increase in crime during the Dalai Lama's visit, with so many people leaving their homes in the countryside and coming to the capital, Kyzyl. But remarkably, the police reported there was not one incident of crime during all the days His Holiness was with us.

"In the past year there has been tremendous growth in Buddhist organizations. The Tibetan government-in-exile has provided scholarships for young student monks to go to Dharamsala, in India, to further their studies at lamaseries there. In July and in August of this year, His Holiness sent his personal representative, Lama Tinley, to visit us. It was very good for us, and it was very good for him, too. All of this I have seen with my own eyes," Marina said proudly.

She continued, "We have been receiving many Buddhist books published in Moscow and in St. Petersburg [where there is a lamasery]. All of this has produced a revival in Buddhism in our republic."

There is a wonderful old museum in downtown Kyzyl. When I visited it this year, I saw the interesting new exhibit on shamanism that was organized in conjunction with the conference on shamanism held in Tuva's capital two months before. To my surprise there was an even larger exhibit, occupying a whole room of the museum, commemorating the historical visit of His Holiness to Tuva last year. Besides photographs with white ceremonial scarves (Tuv. khatas) gracing the frames, there stands also the large throne upon which the Dalai Lama presided during the ceremonies in the central square.

It is clear that the people of Tuva are not going to easily forget the Dalai Lama's visit to their beloved country.

And from what His Holiness said at that Beverly Hills fundraiser, the Dalai Lama is not about to forget his visit to Tuva, either.

--Gary Wintz is a lecturer on Tibetan Buddhist affairs. Along with his wife, Molly McGinn, who is finishing her PhD in anthropology at UCLA, he has a particular fascination with the historical spread of Tibetan Buddhism into the Buddhist areas of present-day Russia: Kalmykia, Buryatia, and Tuva.

He will be presenting lectures at the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena on October 24, and at Yale on November 16. He will be in the Midwest during the third week of October, and in New England in the third week of November.

Correspondence and lecture invitations are welcome. Please contact Gary Wintz at InterNet / Tibet, 1341 Ocean Ave. # 232, Santa Monica CA 90401-1066.

[A 2 1/2 hour video of the Dalai Lama's historic visit to Tuva is available from The Tuva Trader, to be published next in November.]

Scouting in Tuva?

FoT Chris Fitch is writing a Master's thesis on the rebirth of Scouting in the former Soviet Union, and is working on helping Tuva organize a Scout Association. Contact has been established with the Baikalskii Soyuz Skautov in Irkutsk, and the Mongolyn Skautyn Kholboo in Ulan Bataar. If you would be interested in helping to bring the Scouting movement to Tuva, please send a SASE to Chris at 1430 Columbine Rd, Colorado Springs CO 80907-4708 or on e-mail at Men and women are welcome to inquire, as Russia and Mongolia have co-ed Scouts, unlike the United States.


Loren Chan passed along the following report from the Free China Journal, published by the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan (which still officially claims Tuva, last I heard): "Chang Chun-yi, Chairman of the Mongolian and Tibet Affairs Commission, left August 1 for a visit to Tuba [sic], Buryat, and Kalmyk, at the invitation of the Elista [capital of Kalmyk] Chapter of the World Mongolian Association. Chang is the first ROC official to visit the Russian republics." Mr. Chan reports that the ROC has been on friendly terms with the post-communist governments of Russia and Mongolia.

Flag Update

Gary Wintz passes along further news about the new flag from its author, Oyun-ool Sat.

(Scan in flag here)

The stripes on the flag represent the confluence of the Bii-Khem and the Kaa-Khem at Kyzyl, forming the Ulug Khem (Yenisei). White suggests silver, cleanness of thoughts; white is the color of the silk streamers draped over the arms of a hostess when receiving guests and serving them süttüg shai--tea with milk--which is also white. Yellow suggests gold, symbol of riches; also Buddhism, the religion of Tuva. Light-blue represents the firmness and courage of the herdsmen who take care of their animals, raising them in weather which can be severely hot or cold, so they can grow "healthy and satisfied." [What about the sky, which is so big and blue in Tuva?]

The national emblem, designed by Ivan Salchak (pictured on page 158 of Tuva or Bust!) and Oleg Lazeev, is depicted on page 8.

Report from Canada-July 28

Along with newsletters (seventh issue) sent out before July 14, an announcement was included inviting FoTs to send a birthday card to my wife, Phoebe Kwan, to await her at the Chateau Lake Louise. Here is a report, excerpted from a possible article I am preparing for the Tuva Trader, which will appear in November.

The next day was July 28th--Phoebe's birthday. Originally I had planned to spend this day with the family, finishing up the day at the Chateau Lake Louise, where I had reserved a room in her name. But as fate would have it, I had to drive Kongar-ool to the airport in Calgary--there was an opportunity that had just come up for him to be photographed for an ad by AT&T in New York (see the full-page, pull-out spread in the October issue of Mix magazine at the largest newsstand you can find)--and now, because the studio I had chosen sight unseen was so poor, I had to try to find another place to record.

On the way to the airport Kongar-ool described his problems with Sasha. It was already clear that Sasha disdained Kongar-ool, but from the latter's descriptions, Sasha was someone with friends who could make life difficult for you back in Tuva. I could see how affected Kongar-ool was: the normally ebullient man said, with tears welling up in his eyes, that he would not be able to take part in a future tour if Sasha was part of it.

Trying to converse in Tuvan and find the Calgary Airport proved too difficult for me to do simultaneously, so we stopped talking long enough for me to drop Kongar-ool off in the nick of time to catch his flight--we had to act like con men to avoid the long lines to the metal detectors.

I then proceeded to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation studio, reputed to be the best in Calgary, but soon found out that it, too, would not do--it was used mainly for recording dramas and other radio "programmes." A kind man there told me to check out a new studio that had just been built by a Canadian who had worked in Los Angeles for several years in the recording industry.

When I stepped into the control room, I thought I had found it at last: the equipment was just like I had seen at Skywalker Ranch, the high-tech studio north of San Francisco where the Tuvans recorded with the Kronos Quartet in February. It was true that the room itself was nowhere near as large as at Skywalker; in fact, despite a 16-foot-high ceiling, it didn't reverberate at all. And then it hit me: a woman was sitting on a tall stool, reading from a script. What was being recorded at this newest and best studio in Calgary? Ry's admonishment rang in my head: "The studios up there are probably made for nothin' but radio jingles." This was not the first time that Ry's observations about the music scene would be proven right.

By now it was four in the afternoon, and the day I had hoped to spend with Phoebe and the children was slipping away. I had a tight feeling in my chest all the way back to Canmore, thinking, "When people have heart attacks, they deny it. Maybe I should think this is a heart attack so it won't be."

Phoebe was forgiving, and before we all packed up to go to Lake Louise, I collapsed into a chair to rest a bit. The Tuvans were outdoors somewhere, but Ry was inside, playing some soulful, bluesy notes on his guitar. I looked over at Phoebe, who was appreciating the music, and quietly said to her, "Happy Birthday, darling."

Ry's meditative strains made the frustrations of the day fade away, and I gathered the resolve to make the best of what was left. Soon we were all driving north, past Banff to Lake Louise. We arrived in the evening, around eight, with two more hours of soft northern daylight left. The Tuvans shared a room for six in the Lake Louise International Hostel, but Ry couldn't stand the "jail house beds" there--"it's that Germanic, Aryan mentality," he said--and went to a nearby hotel populated by European tourists. (He did, however, find that the food there was clearly superior to that at the hotel; the setting among the trees and the low-budget, younger clientele reminded him of the brief time he had spent at Reed College in the sixties.)

By the time I got the family to Chateau Lake Louise, it was eight-thirty. Valets parked the car as I approached the registration desk. I announced to the receptionist that Phoebe Kwan had arrived.

"Oh! Phoebe Kwan! Just a moment!" she said. A minute later the young lady returned with an armful of mail, and said, "The people in the back have been wondering for the past two weeks who Phoebe Kwan is," as the newly discovered celebrity looked at me skeptically.

You see, I am always poor at presenting cards on various holidays (the most recent disaster being Valentine's Day), so I thought I'd try to make up for it by having friends of Tuva send in birthday cards to her at the Chateau. Thanks to all of you who came through!

The mountain of mail (perhaps combined with our tardiness) had an additional effect: when I explained that the cards were in honor of my wife's birthday, the receptionist upgraded us to an executive suite--which at the Chateau consisted of three rooms, all with a stunning view of the lake, plus a bathroom with jacuzzi (great fun for the kids, it turned out) and complementary champagne (which I was unable to consume entirely by myself, much as I wanted to, so I sprayed the rest on the kids in the tub).

After dinner, Phoebe began going through the 156 cards she had received. Among them was a laminated, custom-made bookmark (Chinese New Year stamp at the top, and Feynman stamp at the bottom); a very cool "kaleido-card" with Moiré patterns; a card from Swaziland (another remote country of cattle breeders); a bright red card, its front with the visage in marbled silver of a Canadian Mountie (Rockies and the Chateau in the background), and inside a brilliant Tuvan transcription: ???; a special 15-kopeck rhomboid stamp with Phoebe's picture (from page 174 of Tuva or Bust!) replacing the airplane startling the two camels below; a giant triangular "Posta Phoebe" stamp (complete with perforations and in a giant triangular envelope); a card whose paper is home-made; a bright pink triangular Posta Touva stamp that unfolds into a rhomboid (talk about two for the price of one!); an invitation from Italy to vacation there; a five-scene episode of TUVA-T REK, with Captain Feynman, Commander Leighton, and Lieutenant Captain Phoebe (exploring S-T-R-A-N-G-E new worlds); a bright silk print (also triangular) with Phoebe's name; a pair of intricate Chinese papercuts and a hand painting of the One Pillar Pagoda in Hanoi; a large Chinese scroll painting of a horse identical to one Phoebe had once owned but had lost; a card from a lady whose birthday (and from a man whose mother's birthday) is also on July 28; and a card signed by the six touring Tuvans while in Winnipeg with the Kyzyl Khem Chapter of Friends of Tuva.

And then there was the "Happy Yurt-day" card, complete with a pop-up yurt from Yurts-R-Us of Kyzyl. Great! Thanks to all who helped make this a most pleasant and memorable birthday for my beloved wife.

Eventually I persuaded Phoebe to spread the enjoyment of opening the cards over the next several days, and to retire to bed.

Our daughter Nicole awakened us with her crying at around five in the morning. We looked out of the giant bay windows of our executive suite. Lake Louise and Victoria Glacier behind it were bathed by the eerie, ice-blue light of the northern dawn.

Tuva's National Emblem

(picture of emblem)

Here is the national emblem of Tuva. This representation was traced from a woodblock print in three colors: light blue (b), mustard yellow (y), and white (left blank). It's time to take out those felt pens again, and get to work. Have fun!

Friends of Tuva

The Friends of Tuva newsletter. Addendum (pages 7 & 8) to Eighth issue: Fall, 1993

Published by Friends of Tuva
Box 70021, Pasadena CA 91117 USA.
Fax: (213) 221-8882

Welcome, Sainkho Fans!

Sainkho Namchylak, a unique voice in the world of new music who hails from Tuva, has just finished a successful tour of the US with saxophonist Ned Rothenberg. Several present and future members of Friends of Tuva greeted her in various cities and towns, and were impressed by her courage: she has made her way on her own from Tuva to Moscow to Vienna, a city with a great Western musical heritage where Asians from more populated countries are rare, and has built a musical career on her own terms.

This separation from her homeland has engendered a new artistic project, called Letters, which should be available on CD through the Tuva Trader in January. In the meantime, you can order Out of Tuva (see Tuva Trader item M), a collection of traditional songs--some arranged in a new context. While not as adventuresome as the avant-guard explorations she did with Rothenberg, Sainkho's voice is nevertheless haunting and captivating on this CD produced by Hector Zazou & Vincent Kenis.

(I will try to get a complete list of Sainkho's CDs, with addresses, so that interested persons can write for them directly if I do not have the capacity to carry them myself.)

Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? She's in Tuva!

Rob "The Tuvan Hillbilly" reports over Internet's Alt.Culture.Tuva that Tuva was featured on the November 7 (re?)broadcast of the PBS childrens' geography show, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?. The question was something like, "In what Central Asian country do people sing two notes at the same time, like this?"--as a clip was shown from the documentary Lost Land of Tannu Tuva (item G in the Tuva Trader). Best of all, all three contestants got the answer right! This segment, along with similar unique moments of Tuva on American TV, may appear in Jeff Cook's informal documentary The Tuvans Invade America! (Tuva Trader item B).

Huu in the World is Huun-Huur-Tu?

Here is the final itinerary, with contact telephone numbers, for the tour by Kaigal-ool Khovalyg, Anatoly Kuular, and the Bappa brothers--Sayan and Sasha. They will be travelling under the name of Huun-Huur-Tu, the same as on their album just released by Shanachie Records. (Both CD & cassette are available from the Tuva Trader--see item J.) Kongar-ool Ondar, who by some accounts is the most charismatic of the trio who toured last January, will not be able to participate.

  • San Diego CA: Thurs, Jan 6. Contact (619) 534-4119.
  • San Luis Obispo CA: Friday, Jan 7. (805) 756-7111.
  • Stanford CA: Saturday, January 8. (415) 723-2551.
  • Ashland OR Sunday, January 9. (503) 552-6461.
  • Seattle WA Wednesday, Jan 12. (206) 789-9491.
  • Minneapolis MN: Friday, Jan 14. (612) 338-2674.
  • Chicago IL: Saturday, January 15. (312) 525-7793.
  • Springfield OH: Thursday, Jan 20. (513) 327-7815.
  • Columbus OH: Friday, January 21. (614) 292-5785.
  • Philadelphia PA: Saturday, Jan 22. (215) 387-5125.
  • Washington DC: Sunday, Jan 23. (202) 357-4157.
  • Durham NC: Monday, January 24. (919) 684-6654.
  • Somerville MA: Friday, January 28. (617) 876-4275.
  • New York NY: Saturday, Jan 29. (212) 545-7536.

Smelling Like a (Burnt?) Rose

The Los Angeles suburb of Altadena (where yours truly grew up) was in the news prominently in October because of the fires that caused more damage than the Los Angeles civil unrest of 1992 (which erupted when four police officers were acquitted in the beating of Rodney King, an Altadena resident).

Another famous Altadenan, Jirayr Zorthian, whose ranch was the site of last summer's Tuvan Independence Day celebrations, has come out of the fires "smelling like a rose": the fires burnt down the brush all over his ranch, but--due to a last-minute shift in the winds--left all his structures intact. Despite the lower fire danger now, Zorthian is building a concrete bunker for his artwork.

Wanted: Hosts for Tuvan Students

Where: Boston area--near Wellesley

When: Two weeks in late July and early August

Why: Two students from the Lyceum of Tuva have been invited to the Exploration Camp in Wellesley. The camp has offered day participation free of charge. If someone who lives in the area can offer accommodation and perhaps transportation, it would be greatly appreciated! Please contact me if you can help.

Other possible exchanges may take place in California, Minnesota, and in South Carolina.

Tuvan Flag Update

The Tuvan flag, as portrayed on page 4 of Issue 8, follows the orientation of the flag pin sold in Tuva: the triangle is on the right so the confluence of the Yesnisey will be depicted with north at the top. However, when flags are drawn, the flagpole is assumed to be at the left, unless explicitly shown. The triangle on the Tuvan flag borders the flagpole, so please draw in the flagpole on the right on page 4.

Dr. Whitney Smith, who alerted me to the conventions of portraying flags, informed me also that Flag Bulletin #100 (published in 1983) contains a nine-page article on the flags of Tuva, with four pages devoted to line drawings--with the flagpoles explicitly drawn. The issue, which contains twelve other articles on assorted topics, can be obtained for $12 from: The Flag Research Center, Box 580, Winchester MA 01890.

I have finally received a copy (in Russian) of the official law defining Tuva's flag, and plan to have it translated for the Shagaa issue (#9) of the Friends of Tuva newsletter. A special article, with color plates, about the flags of Tuva (based on Flag Bulletin # 100) will be available sometime next year from the Tuva Trader.

New Constitution Adopted in Tuva

October 22 is now Constitution Day in Tuva. The legislative assembly is again called by its Tuvan name--Khural--and has been reduced in size from Soviet days, when legislative membership was a reward for Communist Party hacks. Eventually I hope to obtain a copy of the new Tuvan Constitution and have it translated into English. In the meantime, one provision of interest that may be a result of the recent conflict between President Yeltsin and the Russian Parliament--which resulted in bloodshed in early October in Moscow--states that in the event of a political crisis in the Russian Federation (i.e. Moscow), Tuva will adopt a stance of positive neutrality, with power devolving to the Tuva Republic. In other words, if Moscow can't get its act together, Tuva will take over its own affairs.

You Say Tuva; I say Tyvá?

Another report about the Constitution says the country is now officially called the "Republic of Tyva." I do not know whether this transliteration was done by the Republic or the reporter--I'll check into the matter further. However, I recently received a letter from Tuva, written in Tuvan, but in the Latin alphabet--not the Soviet-imposed Cyrillic. The author transliterated the three specifically Tuvan letters--, , and --as ö, ü, and ng, respectively. B was transliterated as p rather than b, and h as j rather than ch. As there were several inconsistencies in transliteration, writing in the Latin alphabet is probably a grass-roots phenomenon. But given that the Republic of Turkey is expanding contacts with all the Turkic-speaking republics of the former Soviet Union, including Tuva, it is reasonable to assume that Tuvan will once again officially be written in a Latin alphabet, as it was briefly in the 1930s. (For more information on the Latin alphabet in Tuva, see Journey to Tuva--item O in the Tuva Trader.) Al-ready several students from the Lyceum of Tuva have travelled to Turkey and briefly studied there, and Turkish is one of the languages taught at the Lyceum.

Interested readers are welcome to send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to FoT HQ (Box 70021, Pasadena CA 91117) for a copy of the letter.

October is Ondar Month

October is the tenth month of the year, a number quite appropriate for Kongar-ool Ondar (whose last name means "tens" in Tuvan) to visit the US and Canada. Officially appearing in New York to represent AT&T and its new DISQ recording system at the Audio Engineering Society convention, Ondar and his 9-year-old student from the Lyceum of Tuva, Bady-Dorzhu Ondar (no relation), also found time to appear on the Chevy Chase Show (no, they were not the reason for the show's demise!), and to sing in a benefit concert for Tibet that featured Tibetan monks and Kitaro. (That program was broadcast in Japan, and the Ondars' appearance may form another segment in The Tuvans Invade America--see item B in the Tuva Trader--if logistics can be overcome.)

The Ondars also appeared at the Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto for a CBC Radio documentary, to be aired on "Ideas" next year. The Toronto Globe & Mail wrote, "[The Ondars' performance] lifted the enthusiastic audience our of western notions of what constitutes `beautiful singing.' It gave an intriguing glimpse into a rich central Asian culture that has managed to survive industrialization, Stalinism, and so far, westernization."

When the Ondars returned to Tuva, they took with them two shortwave radios donated by a ham radio club headed by Patrick Barthelow. Don't worry: MTV is already in Tuva, so the shortwave radios will do little damage by comparison!