Unknown Asian Russia: Nomadic, Turkic-speaking, Buddhist Tuva Facing Modern Challenges | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online


The article discusses the research issues related to Tuva, the region with a unique Asian culture. It has been a Soviet-Russian territory since 1944. The “maternal” ethnic group of the Tuvans, the majority of the Republic’s population lives here. In Tuvan studies, the difference of research views and scholars’ affiliation to different traditions of the world’s schools of thought is very clearly noted. Researchers from different countries consider its legal status as a territory of Russia in different ways. One point of view is that the incorporation of Tuva into the USSR should be regarded as an annexation (it is a viewpoint shared by many researchers from Western Europe and the USA; after the 1990s some authors from the former territories of the USSR started to share it as well). The second point of view is common among Russian and Tuvan historians: the integration of Tuva was a natural result of the rapprochement of the Tuvan and Russian peoples. Researchers into the history of Asian countries, including China and Mongolia, express the third point of view: Tuva was a part of the Outer Mongolia and was taken away by Russia, but it must be returned. The geopolitical conundrum has identified the issue of different terminology used for designation of Tuva, as well as the assessment of the origin and idiosyncrasy of Tuvan culture. Today we can consider Tuva as a separate territory, an “unknown part” of Russia, and it is undiscovered even for many Russians. It is interesting as a limitrophe zone between civilizations. There is an issue of defining Tuva in the general zoning in Asian studies. But in any case, being a Russian region in a political sense and close to Mongolia in terms of culture and religion Tuva is an idiosyncratic local cultural world of Turkic-speaking nomads.


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