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The Tyva

The TyvaThe Tyva live in the Republic of Tyva.
There are two groups: the Western Tyva (majority) and Eastern Tyva (also called Todja)
Language: Tyva, belons to Turkish group
Religion: Lama-buddhism, Shamanism
Diaspora: Mongolia, China

The Tyva come from a mixture of Turkic, Mongol, Samoyedic and Kettic peoples. The Turkic and Mongol groups became western Tyva, while the Samoyedic peoples became part of both western and eastern Tyva, and the Kettic groups became the eastern Tyva. Most of these groups lived in the steppe and mountain-steppe regions of Tyva and had had a long history of conflict with one another. But they spoke similar versions of Turkic languages, and the geography of the area kept them largely isolated from outside influence, so gradually, by the early 18th century, they emerged as one identifiable cultural group.

The area that is now the republic of Tyva, sits on the border of Mongolia, and was completely incorporated into the Soviet Union as late as 1944. Up through history, the area has had shifting rulers. It was first conquered by the Turkish Khanate in the 6th century, then the Chinese and the Uygurs held the area for a century each, until the Yenisey Kyrgyz took over in the 9th century. The Mongol Golden Horde ruled the region from 1207 to 1368, after which the area was dominated by Eastern Mongolian rulers until the 16th century. The Altyn khans then held the area until around 1650, when the Dzungarians took over. They were overthrown by the Manchus in 1758, when the Chinese took control over the entire region. Russian settlers came into contact with the Tyva from around 1860, when the Treaty of Peking between China and Russia opened up for trade relations in the region.

The Chinese were weakened by a revolution in 1911. Tyva declared independence from China in 1912, and in 1914, Russia took advantage of the weakened position of the Chinese to establish a protectorate over Tyva. Tyva retained a certain autonomy, based on a Sino-Russian-Tyva agreement of 1915.

During the Russian Revolution and the subsequent Civil war, Tyva changed hands many times between the Reds and the Whites. After the Civil war, Tyva was known as the Tannu-Tuva People's republic, an autonomus state under Soviet sovereignty. The autonomy was illusory, however, as the Soviet authorities already treated the region as a constituent unit of the Soviet Union. Fearing Japanese and Mongolian ambitions in the area, Stalin wished to establish permanent control. In 1944, he felt strong enough, and included the area into the RSFSR as the Tuva Autonomous oblast. In 1961, it became the Tuva ASSR.

Soviet control brought Soviet economic and cultural models. Collectivisation, anti-Buddhism campaigns and strict political control caused severe hardships, but still, the Tyva population grew steadily in the Stalin era.
Tyva population has continued to grow, leading in turn to increasing urbanisation that was further strengthened in the 1970s, when huge asbestos deposits were discovered, and the Soviet Union launched a rapid indutrialisation program to develop them. These projects caused major ecological and health problems for the Tyva.

With Glasnost and the fall of the Soviet Union, Tyva nationalism has surfaced. Many call for expanded Tyva-language education, for help to rebuild Buddhist monasteries, and for closer ties with Mongolia. Calls for independence have also been heard.

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