Infobox Ethnic group
group=Tuvans Тывалар

caption= Tsengel Tuvan child and grandmother
poptime= over 220,000 ?
regions = flag|Tuva
region1 = flag|Russia
pop1 = ~200,000
region2 = flag|Mongolia
pop2 = ~20,000
region3 = flag|China
pop3 = ~2,400
rels= Predominantly Shamanism with Tibetan Buddhism ("Lamaism"). Minority Russian Orthodox.
langs=Russian, Tuvan, Mongolian
related=Tofalar, Soyots, several other Turkic and Mongolian peoples

Tuvans or Tuvinians (Tuvan: Тывалар, "Tyvalar") are a group of Mongols or Turkic people. They are historically known as Uriankhai, from the Mongolian designation. ["Uriyangqad, which is the plural form of Uriyangqan, itself originally a plural of Uriyangqai."
cite book| first=John | last=KRUEGER |year=1977|title=Tuvan Manual |pages=10 Which quotes from Henry Serruy's "The Mongols in China during the Hung-wu Period", Melanges chinois et bouddhiques, vol 11. pp. 282-283, Brussels 1959.

Tuvans have historically been cattle-breeding nomads, tending to their herds of goats, sheep, camels, reindeer, cattle and yaks for the past thousands of years. They have traditionally lived in yurts covered by felt or chums covered with birch bark or hide that they relocate seasonally as they move to newer pastures.


The Xiongnu ruled over the area of Tuva prior to 200 AD. At this time a people known to the Chinese as Dingling inhabited the region. The Chinese recorded the existence of a tribe of Dingling origin named "Dubo" in the eastern Sayans. This name is recognized as being associated with the Tuvan people and is the earliest written record of them. The Xianbei defeated the Xiongnu and they in turn were defeated by the Rouran. From around the end of the 6th century, the Göktürks held dominion over Tuva up until the 8th century when the Uyghurs took over.

Tuvans were subjects of the Uyghur Khanate during the 8th and 9th centuries. The Uyghurs established several fortifications within Tuva as a means of subduing the population. There are plans being discussed to restore the remains of one of these fortresses, Por-Bazhyn in lake Tere-Khol in the southeast of the country. [ [http://www.tuvaonline.ru/eng/?subaction=showfull&id=1169292081&archive=&start_from=&ucat=& "Ancient Uigur Fortress on a Tuvan Lake to Turn into a Recreation and Tourist Centre", by Dina Oyun] ] The memory of Uyghur occupation could still be seen up until the end of the 19th century due to the application of the name "Ondar Uyghur" for the Ondar Tuvans living near the Khemchik river in the southwest. [cite book| first=John | last=KRUEGER |year=1977|title=Tuvan Manual |pages=41
which cites from cite book|first=L.P.|last=POTAPOV|chapter=The Tuvans|title=The Peoples of Siberia|year=1964
] Uyghur dominance was broken by the Kyrgyz in 840 AD, who came from the upper reaches of the Yenisei. The Yeniseian Kyrgyz then established a small khanate that lasted until the coming of the Mongols in the 13th century.

In 1207, Turkic Oirat prince Kuduka-Beki led Mongol detachments under Jochi to a tributary of the Kaa-Khem river. They encountered the Tuvan Keshdims, Baits, and Teleks. This was the beginning of Mongol suzerainty over the Tuvans. One of Genghis Khan's greatest generals, Subutai, is said to have been an Uriankhai.

Tuvans came to be ruled for most of the 17th century by Khalka Mongol leader Sholoi Ubashi's Altyn-Khan Khanate. It was at this time in 1615 that the first Russians, V. Tyumenets and I. Petrov, visited Tuva as emissaries to the Altyn-Khan. [cite book| first=John | last=KRUEGER |year=1977|title=Tuvan Manual |pages=25
which cites from an English translation of cite encyclopedia| encyclopedia = Большая Советская Энциклопедия (The Great Soviet Encyclopedia)| volume = 43| date = 1956 by William H. Dougherty.
] Russian documents from this time record information about different tribal groups that contributed to the composition of modern Tuvans. Tyumenets and Petrov describe the Maads, who became Russian subjects in 1609, living in the Bii-Khem basin, a 14 day's ride from Tomsk. The Maads travelled to the area of the Khemchik and Ulug-Khem next to the lands of the Altyn-Khan near the lake Uvs Nuur. The ambassadors also described the Sayan raising reindeer with the Tochi (Todzhi) from the Sayan to the Altai mountain ranges. The descendants of the Ak-Sayan and Kara-Sayan live mostly around Tere-Khol rayon.

The state of the Altyn-Khan disappeared due to constant warring between the Oirats and the Khalka of Jasaghtu Khan Aimak. The Tuvans became part of the Dzungarian state ruled by the Oirats. The Dzungars ruled over all of the Sayano-Altay Plateau until 1755. It was during this time of Dzungarian rule that many tribes and clans broke up, moved around, and intermingled. Groups of Altayan Telengits settled in western Tuva on the Khemchik and Barlyk rivers and in the region of Bai-Taiga. Some Todzhans, Sayans, and Mingats ended up in the Altay. Other Tuvans migrated north across the Sayan range and became known as Beltirs (Dag-Kakpyn, Sug-Kakpyn, Ak-Chystar, Kara-Chystar). The languages of the Beltirs and Tuvans still contain common words not found in the language of the other Khakas (Kachins or Sagays). [cite book| first=John | last=KRUEGER |year=1977|title=Tuvan Manual |pages=42
which cites from cite book|first=L.P.|last=POTAPOV|chapter=The Tuvans|title=The Peoples of Siberia|year=1964
] Other Russian documents mention Yeniseian Kyrgyz (Saryglar and Kyrgyz), Orchaks (Oorzhaks) and Kuchugets (Kuzhugets) moving into Tuva from the north.

Besides the Turkic tribes mentioned above, there is indication that modern Tuvans are descended also from Mongolic, Samoyedic, and Kettic groups of peoples. Of the extinct Southern Samoyed groups, Mator, Koibal, Kamas, and Karagas were assimilated mostly into the eastern Tuvans such as the Todzhins, Tofalars, Soyots, and Dukha. The Irgit tribe is also suggested as being from Samoyedic ancestors. [cite journal |quotes= |last=DERENKO |first=M.V. |coauthors=et al |year=2002 |month=March |title=Polymorphism of the Y-Chromosome Diallelic Loci in Ethnic Groups of the Altai-Sayan Region |journal=Russian Journal of Genetics |volume=38 |issue=3 |pages=309–314 |url=http://dienekes.50webs.com/blog/archives/000210.html |accessdate=2007-02-05 |doi=10.1023/A:1014863020171
Mentions that "some authors" suggest this idea.
] The Tuvan name for the Yenisei river may stem from an ancient Samoyedic name. [cite journal |quotes= |last=VÁSÁRY |first=I. |authorlink= |coauthors= |year=1971 |month= |title=Käm: an Early Samoyed Name of Yenisei |journal=Studia Turcica |volume= |issue= |pages=469–482 |id= |url= |accessdate= ] Tribes such as Tumat, Mingat, Mongush, and Salchak are recognized as having a Mongolic origin. [cite journal |quotes= |last=DERENKO |first=M.V. |coauthors=et al |year=2002 |month=March |title=Polymorphism of the Y-Chromosome Diallelic Loci in Ethnic Groups of the Altai-Sayan Region |journal=Russian Journal of Genetics |volume=38 |issue=3 |pages=309–314 |url=http://dienekes.50webs.com/blog/archives/000210.html |accessdate=2007-02-05 |doi=10.1023/A:1014863020171
Mentions only Mongush and Salchak tribes.

According to Ilya Zakharov of Moscow's Vavilov Institute of General Genetics, genetic evidence suggests that the modern Tuvan people are the closest genetic relatives to the native peoples of North and South America. [ [http://macroevolution.narod.ru/zaharov_indians.htm "Central Asian Origins of the Ancestor of First Americans", by I. Zakharov] ru icon]

The name "Uriankhai"

There doesn't seem to exist a clear ethnic delineation for the application of the name "Uriankhai". Mongols applied this name to all tribes of "Forest People". This name has historically been applied to Tuvans. In Mongolia there are peoples also known by this name. A variation of the name, "Uraŋxai", was an old name for the Sakha. [cite journal |quotes= |last=POPPE |first=Nicholas |authorlink= |coauthors= |year=1969 |month= |title=Review of Menges "The Turkic Languages and Peoples" |journal=Central Asiatic Journal |volume=12 |issue=4 |pages=330 |id= |url= |accessdate= ] Russian Pavel Nebol'sin documented the "Urankhu" clan of Volga Kalmyks in the 1850s. [cite book | last=Mänchen-Helfen | first=Otto | title=Journey to Tuva | origyear=1931 | publisher=Ethnographic Press University of Southern California | location=Los Angeles | isbn= 187898604-X | page=180] Another variant of the name, "Orangkae" (오랑캐), was traditionally used by the Koreans to refer indiscriminately to "barbarians" that inhabited the lands to their north.


There are two major groups of Tuvans in Tuva: Western Tuvans and Tuvans-Todzhins (Тувинцы-тоджинцы). The latter ones live in Todzhinsky District, Tuva Republic and constitute about 5% of all Tuvans.

A people similar by language to Tuvans live in Oka District of Buryatia (self-naming: Soyots (сойоты), sometimes referred to as Oka Tuvans).


A noticeable proportion of Tuvans lives in Mongolia. The Dukha live in Khövsgöl Aimag. The largest population of Tuvans in Mongolia are the "Tsengel Tuvans". [Mongush, M. V. "Tuvans of Mongolia and China." "International Journal of Central Asian Studies", 1 (1996), 225-243. Talat Tekin, ed. Seoul: Inst. of Asian Culture & Development.] Around 1,500 live in Tsengel Sum of Bayan-Ölgii Aimag. Other Tuvans live in Khovd Aimag and in Ubsunur Hollow.


Tuvans in China, who live mostly in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, are included under the Mongol nationality. [Mongush, M. V. "Tuvans of Mongolia and China." "International Journal of Central Asian Studies", 1 (1996), 225-243. Talat Tekin, ed. Seoul: Inst. of Asian Culture & Development.] Some Tuvans reportedly live at Lake Kanas in the northwestern part of Xinjiang in China where they are not officially recognized, are counted as a part of the local Oirat Mongol community that is counted under the general label “Mongol”. Oirat and Tuvan children visit “Mongolian” schools in which they use Chakhar Mongolian and Chinese, native languages to none of them.



The Tuvan language belongs to the Northern or Siberian branch of the Turkic language family. Four dialects are recognized: Central, Western, Southeastern and Northeastern (Todzhinian). The written language is based on the Cyrillic alphabet.


The traditional religion of Tuvans is a type of Tengriism, or Turkic animistic shamanism. The religion is still widely practiced alongside Tibetan Buddhism.


A unique form of music exists in Tuva commonly known as throat singing. A throat-singer produces multiple tones (a base tone and its overtones). A documentary called "Genghis Blues" was made in 1999 about an American blues musician, Paul Pena, who taught himself overtone singing and traveled to Tuva to compete in a throat-singing competition. [ [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0187859/ Genghis Blues (1999) ] ]

See also

* List of indigenous peoples of Russia
* List of Tuvans
* Tuva
* Tannu Uriankhai
* Por-Bazhyn



* The title means “Shamans in Eurasia”, the book is published also in German, Estonian and Finnish. [http://www.akkrt.hu/main.php?folderID=906&pn=2&cnt=31&catID=&prodID=17202&pdetails=1 Site of publisher with short description on the book (in Hungarian)] .

External links

* [http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/11/1104_041104_reindeer_people.html "Reindeer People" Resort to Eating Their Herds (about the Dukha)] with [http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/11/photogalleries/reindeer_people/ Photo gallery]
* [http://www.geographicbureau.com/Siberia/Tuva/sayan_mountains.htm Tuva and Sayan Mountains]
* [http://www.ewpnet.com/tuvados.htm Tuva - Sayan Mountains]
* [http://www.nomadom.net/russia/tuva.htm Singing Stones - The Republic of Tuva]

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