Tuvans in Russia
Total population
c. 312,194
 Russia[1]295,384 (2021)
(7,189 Todjins)[1]
   Krasnoyarsk Krai2,719[1]
   Novosibirsk Oblast1,308[1]
 China14,456 (2021 est.)
 Mongolia2,354 (2020 est.)[2]
Predominantly Tibetan Buddhism ("Lamaism"), Tengrism
Related ethnic groups
Altaians, Chulyms, Kumandins, Shors, Teleuts, Tofalar, Dukha, Soyot and other Turkic peoples
PeopleTuvan / Tyvans
Тывалар (Tıvalar)
Тувинцы (Tuvintsy)
LanguageTuvan / Tyvan
Тыва дыл (Tyva dyl)
CountryTuva / Tyva
Тува́ (Tuvá)
Тыва (Tıva)

The Tuvans or Tyvans (Tuvan: тывалар, romanized: tıvalar; Russian: тувинцы, romanizedtuvintsy) are a Turkic ethnic group indigenous to Siberia[4] who live in Russia (Tuva), Mongolia, and China. They speak Tuvan, a Siberian Turkic language.[5] In Mongolia they are regarded as one of the Uriankhai people groups.[6]

Tuvans have historically been livestock-herding nomads, tending to 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, layered with birch bark or hide that they relocate seasonally as they move to newer pastures. Traditionally, the Tuvans were divided into nine regions called khoshuun, namely the Tozhu, Salchak, Oyunnar, Khemchik, Khaasuut, Shalyk, Nibazy, Daavan and Choodu, and Beezi. The first four were ruled by Uriankhai Mongol princes, while the rest were administered by Borjigin Mongol princes.[7]


See also: History of Tuva

Besides prehistoric rock-carvings to be found especially along the Yenisei banks, the first internationally important archaeological findings have been near Arzhan, in the north central Tuva. Here, Scythian kurgan burials are being researched, revealing the earliest (7th, 6th century BC) and easternmost remains of these people who spread from Central Asia and predate Turcomongol tribes.[citation needed] Their story and artifacts can be viewed in the National Museum in Kyzyl.

The Xiongnu ruled over the area of Tuva prior to 200 AD. At this time, a people known to the Chinese as Dingling 丁零 inhabited the region. Chinese chroniclers further associated the Dingling with the Tiele, one of whose tribes was named Dubo (都波) and was located in the eastern Sayans.[8][9][10][11][12] The word tuwa also occurs three times in the Inscription of Hüis Tolgoi. While it is not clear what it means, Dieter Maue suggested that it could be related to the tribal name "Dubo".[13] This name is recognized as being associated with the Tuvan people and is the earliest written record of them. The Xianbei 鮮卑 (descendants of the Donghu 東胡, once conquered by the Xiongnu) attacked and defeated the Xiongnu and they, in turn, were defeated by the Rouran 柔然. From around the end of the 6th century, the Göktürks held dominion over Tuvans (Doubo 都播), who constituted one of the three Wooden-Horse Turkic tribes,[14] up until the 8th century when the Uyghurs took over.

Map showing extent of Uyghur Khanate and placement of Kyrgyz in 820 AD.

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.[15] 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.[16] Uyghur dominance was broken by the Yeniseian Kyrgyz in 840 AD, who came from the upper reaches of the Yenisei.

In 1207, the Oirat prince Quduqa-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. After the collapse of the Naiman Khanate, Tuvans moved to modern Mongolia and some Naimans moved to modern Kazakhstan territory.

Tuvans came to be ruled for most of the 17th century by Khalka Mongol leader Sholoi Ubashi Altan-Khan. It was at this time in 1615 that the first Russians, Vasily Tyumenets and Ivan Petrov, visited Tuva as emissaries to the Altan-Khan.[17] Russian documents from this time record information about different 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, 14 days' ride from Tomsk. The Maads travelled to the area of the Khemchik and Ulug-Khem next to the lands of the Altan-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 Altan-Khan's control over the area lessened over time due to constant warring between the Oirat and the Khalka of Jasaghtu Khan aimag. The Tuvans then became part of the Dzungarian Empire ruled by the Oirats. The Dzungars ruled over all of the Sayano-Altay Plateau until 1755.[18] 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. The Siberians (Xianbei) established Manchu-Qing Dynasty migrated other Tuvans north across the Sayan range and they 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).[19] Other Russian documents mention Yeniseian Kyrgyz (Saryglar and Kyrgyz), Orchaks (Oorzhaks) and Kuchugets (Kuzhugets) moving into Tuva from the north.

Genetic research revealed that Tuvans are most closely related to other Turkic peoples, specifically the Altaians and the Khakas. It was found that Tuvans display differences to Mongolic peoples and are closer related to Siberian Turkic groups, but still the Tuvans have the Mongush, Kara-Mongush, Tumat, Irgit, Dongak and Salchak clans that are of Mongolian origin. The Tuvans appear to be descendants of the Turks, Mongols, and indigenous peoples of Southern Siberia.[20]

According to Ilya Zakharov of Moscow's Vavilov Institute of General Genetics, genetic evidence suggests that the Tuvan people are among the close genetic relatives to the indigenous peoples of the Americas in Eurasia.[21][22]

The name Uriankhai

Tuvan on a horse

Main article: Uriankhai

There does not 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.[23] Russian Pavel Nebol'sin documented the Urankhu clan of Volga Kalmyks in the 1850s.[24] 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.

They are two groups under the name Uriankhai: Mongol Uriankhai, Uriankhai (Tuva) of mixed Turkic-Mongol origin. All clans of the Mongol Uriankhai are Mongol, and Tuva Uriankhais have both Turkic and Mongol clans.[25][26] In the beginning of the Mongol Empire (1206–1368), the Mongol Uriankhai (Burkhan Khaldun Uriankhai) were located in central Mongolia[27] but in the mid 14th century they lived in Liaoyang province of modern China. In 1375, Naghachu, Uriankhai leader of the Mongolia-based colonial dynasty in Liaoyang province invaded Liaodong with aims of restoring the Mongols to power. Although he continued to hold southern Manchuria, Naghachu finally surrendered to the Chinese Ming dynasty in 1387–88 after successful diplomacy of the latter.[28] After the rebellion of the northern Uriankhai people, they were conquered by Dayan Khan in 1538 and mostly annexed by the northern Khalkha. Batmunkh Dayan Khan dissolved Uriankhai tumen and moved them to Altai Mountains and Khalkha land.

Currently, Tuvans form the majority of the population in Tuva Republic. According to the 2010 Russian census, there was a total of 249,299 Tuvans who resided within Tuva. This represented 82.0% of the total population of the republic. In addition, Tuvans have a much higher fertility rate than Russians and the other Slavic peoples, while the median age of the Tuvan population is much lower than Russians. This basically ensures that the Tuvan population would continue to grow during the foreseeable future.


Distribution of the Tuvans in Russia and the Dukha in neighbouring Mongolia.

There are two major groups of Tuvans in Tuva: Western or the Common 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 Okinsky District of Buryatia (autonym: 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.[29] Around 1,500 live in the Tsagaan Gol River Valley, Altai Tavan Bogd National Park, 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 ethnicity.[29] Some Tuvans reportedly live at Lake Kanas[30][31] 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 attend schools in which they use Chakhar Mongolian[32] and Mandarin Chinese.


Tuvan wrestlers
Shaman in Kyzyl, 2001. Tuvan shamanhood is being preserved and revitalized.


The famous bogtag headdress worn by women seems to have been restricted to married women of very high rank.[33]

Traditional life

The Tuvans were mainly semi-nomadic livestock herders. They raised sheep, goats, camels, horses, reindeer, cattle, and yaks. Today, some Tuvans still retain their semi-nomadic way of life. The mobile dwellings of the Tuvans were usually circular yurts used in the steppes or conical hide tents when they were near or inside a forest.[34]


Main article: Tuvan language

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). In writing, a variety of the Cyrillic script is used. A talking dictionary is produced by Living Tongues Institute.[35]


The traditional religion of Tuvans is a type of Tengriism, or Turkic animistic shamanism. During the 18th century, the Tuvans converted to Tibetan Buddhism via contact with the Mongols. However, many shamanistic elements continued to be widely practiced along with the new religion the Tuvans adopted.[36]


Main article: Music of Tuva

A unique form of music exists in Tuva – commonly known as throat singing or as khoomei. There are various techniques of khoomei, some giving the effect of multiple tones by emphasizing overtones. Some famous groups from Tuva who feature throat-singing are Yat-Kha, Huun-Huur-Tu, Chirgilchin and the Alash Ensemble.

A documentary called Genghis Blues was made in 1999 about an American blues/jazz musician, Paul Pena, who taught himself overtone singing and traveled to Tuva to compete in a throat-singing competition. This is where he also met the famous Khoomeizhi Kongar-ol Ondar one of the masters of Khoomei.[37]


The Tuvan people been skiing for thousands of years, primarily for the purpose of hunting elk. Tuvan hunters would track an elk in a heavy snow region and once they spotted an elk, they would ski downhill fast and throw a lasso to catch their game.[38][39] Although the origin of skiing is hotly debated, some experts believe that the Tuvan people in the Altay mountains may have been the earliest humans to master skiing for the purpose of hunting, due to ancient cave paintings in the region depicting ancient skiers chasing big game. However, nowadays in the same region within Xinjiang, the hunting of animals has been banned by the Chinese government, who had made the entire mountain into a conservation area.[40][41] But the Tuvan people still actively and legally engage in "catch-and-release" hunting of elk using their traditional methods.[42][43]

Notable people

Main article: List of Tuvans

See also



  1. ^ a b c d e f "Национальный состав населения". Federal State Statistics Service. Retrieved 30 December 2022.
  2. ^ Mongolian Census 2020 Main report (in Mongolian)
  3. ^ The Tuvans of Mongolia: Peculiarities of Contemporary Ethnic Development
  4. ^ "Y-DNA haplogroups of Tuvinian tribes show little effect of the Mongol expansion". Indo-European.eu. 12 August 2018. Retrieved 15 July 2020.
  5. ^ "CNBC Asia-Pacific: Network Schedule". Advameg, Inc. everyculture.com.
  6. ^ "Uriyangqad, which is the plural form of Uriyangqan, itself originally a plural of Uriyangqai."
    KRUEGER, John (1977). Tuvan Manual. p. 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.
  7. ^ The Uralic and Altaic Series By Denis Sinor, John R. Krueger, Jüri Kurman, Larry Moses, Robert Arthur Rupen, Vasilij Vasilevič Radlov, Kaare Grłnbech, George Kurman, Joshua A. Fishman, Stephen A. Halkovic, Robert W. Olson, V Diószegi, American Council of Learned Societies, Melvin J. Luthy, Luc Kwanten, Karl Nickul, A. A. Popov, Susan Hesse, Routledge, 1996.
  8. ^ Xin Tangshu vol. 217a "回紇,其先匈奴也,俗多乘高輪車,元魏時亦號高車部,或曰敕勒,訛為鐵勒。" tr: "Uyghurs, their predecessors were the Xiongnu. Because, customarily, they rode high-wheeled carts. In Yuan Wei time, they were also called Gaoju (i.e. High-Cart) tribe. Or called Chile, or mistakenly as Tiele."
  9. ^ Weishu Vol 103 Gaoche "高車,蓋古赤狄之餘種也,[...] 諸夏以為高車丁零。" tr. "Gaoche, probably the remnant stock of the ancient Red Di. [...] The various Xia (i.e. Chinese) considered them Gaoche Dingling (i.e. High-Cart Dingling)"
  10. ^ Suishu vol. 84 Tiele
  11. ^ Beishi Vol. 99
  12. ^ Cheng, Fanyi. "The Research on the Identification between the Tiele (鐵勒) and the Oğuric tribes" in Archivum Eurasiae Medii Aevi ed. Th. T. Allsen, P. B. Golden, R. K. Kovalev, A. P. Martinez. 19 (2012). Harrassowitz Verlag, Wiesbaden. p. 87
  13. ^ Alexander Vovin (2017). "Interpretation of the Hüis Tolgoi Inscription". Presented August 31, 2017 at 60th PIAC, Székesfehérvár, Hungary. p. 6.((cite web)): CS1 maint: location (link)
  14. ^ Xin Tangshu vol. 217b txt: "木馬突厥三部落,曰都播、彌列、哥餓支," tr. "The three Wooden Horse Tujue tribes, called Dou-bo, Mi-lie, [and] Ge-e-zhi"
  15. ^ "Tuva-Online: Ancient Uyghur Fortress on a Tuvan Lake to Turn into a R…". archive.is. 18 September 2012. Archived from the original on 18 September 2012.
  16. ^ KRUEGER, John (1977). Tuvan Manual. p. 41.
    which cites from POTAPOV, L.P. (1964). "The Tuvans". The Peoples of Siberia.
  17. ^ KRUEGER, John (1977). Tuvan Manual. p. 25.
    which cites from an English translation of Большая Советская Энциклопедия (The Great Soviet Encyclopedia), vol. 43, (1956), by William H. Dougherty.
  18. ^ Haines, R Spencer (2016). "The Physical Remains of the Zunghar Legacy in Central Eurasia: Some Notes from the Field". Paper Presented at the Social and Environmental Changes on the Mongolian Plateau Workshop, Canberra, ACT, Australia. The Australian National University.
  19. ^ KRUEGER, John (1977). Tuvan Manual. p. 42.
    which cites from POTAPOV, L.P. (1964). "The Tuvans". The Peoples of Siberia.
  20. ^ Damba, L. D.; Balanovskaya, Е. V.; Zhabagin, M. K.; Yusupov, Y. М.; Bogunov, Y. V.; Sabitov, Z. M.; Agdzhoyan, A. T.; Korotkova, N. A.; Lavryashina, M. B.; Mongush, B. B.; Kavai-ool, U. N.; Balanovsky, O. P. (1 August 2018). "Estimating the impact of the Mongol expansion upon the gene pool of Tuvans". Вавиловский журнал генетики и селекции. 22 (5): 611–619. doi:10.18699/VJ18.402. ISSN 2500-0462. S2CID 92784110. All the results derived – 'genetic portraits', the matrix of genetic distances, the dendrogram and the multidimensional scaling plot, which mirror the genetic connections between Tuvinian clans and populations of South Siberia and East Asia, demonstrated the prominent similarity of the Tuvinian gene pools with populations from and Khakassia and Altai. It could be therefore assumed that Tuvinian clans Mongush and Oorzhak originated from autochthonous people (supposedly, from the local Samoyed and Kets substrata). The minor component of Central Asian haplogroups in the gene pool of these clans allowed to suppose that Mongol expansion did not have a significant influence upon the Tuvinan gene pool at a whole.
  21. ^ ""Central Asian Origins of the Ancestor of First Americans", by I. Zakharov" (in Russian). Archived from the original on 10 March 2007.
  22. ^ Flegontov, Pavel; Changmai, Piya; Zidkova, Anastassiya; Logacheva, Maria D.; Altınışık, N. Ezgi; Flegontova, Olga; Gelfand, Mikhail S.; Gerasimov, Evgeny S.; Khrameeva, Ekaterina E. (11 February 2016). "Genomic study of the Ket: a Paleo-Eskimo-related ethnic group with significant ancient North Eurasian ancestry". Scientific Reports. 6: 20768. arXiv:1508.03097. Bibcode:2016NatSR...620768F. doi:10.1038/srep20768. PMC 4750364. PMID 26865217.
  23. ^ POPPE, Nicholas (1969). "Review of Menges "The Turkic Languages and Peoples"". Central Asiatic Journal. 12 (4): 330.
  24. ^ Mänchen-Helfen, Otto (1992) [1931]. Journey to Tuva. Los Angeles: Ethnographic Press University of Southern California. p. 180. ISBN 978-1-878986-04-7.
  25. ^ Б.Цэрэл. Дөрвөн Ойрад ба Ойрадын холбоонд багтах үндэстэн ястнуудын угсаа түүхийн зарим асуудал. 1997
  26. ^ B.Tserel. Tribes of the Oirat confederation. 1997
  27. ^ Crossley, Pamela Kyle (December 1985). "An Introduction to the Qing Foundation Myth". Late Imperial China. 6 (2): 13–24. doi:10.1353/late.1985.0016. S2CID 143797249.
  28. ^ Willard J. Peterson, John King Fairbank, Denis Twitchett- The Cambridge History of China, vol7, p.158
  29. ^ a b 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.
  30. ^ "Exploring the wind erosion landscapes of Xinjiang" – via www.youtube.com.
  31. ^ "Live: Explore the mysterious Tuvans and their culture in Kanas 做客喀纳斯图瓦人小木屋" – via www.youtube.com.
  32. ^ "Öbür mongγul ayalγu bol dumdadu ulus-un mongγul kelen-ü saγuri ayalγu bolqu büged dumdadu ulus-un mongγul kelen-ü barimǰiy-a abiy-a ni čaqar aman ayalγun-du saγurilaγsan bayidaγ." (Sečenbaγatur et al. 2005: 85).
  33. ^ "Mongolian Dress".
  34. ^ Winston, Robert, ed. (2004). Human: The Definitive Visual Guide. New York: Dorling Kindersley. p. 429. ISBN 0-7566-0520-2.
  35. ^ "Tuvan Talking Dictionary". tuvan.swarthmore.edu. Retrieved 28 September 2015.
  36. ^ Minahan, James; Wendel, Peter T. (2002). Encyclopedia of the Stateless Nations: S-Z. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 1937. ISBN 978-0-313-32384-3.
  37. ^ "Genghis Blues" – via www.imdb.com.
  38. ^ "Deep In China, 'Cowboys' Have Skied For Thousands Of Years". Wyoming Public Media. 15 December 2013. Retrieved 3 February 2023.
  39. ^ Diamond, Chaz (18 March 2014). "The First Skiers: Deep in Time, Deep in the Altai". SnowBrains. Retrieved 3 February 2023.
  40. ^ "On the Trail with the First Skiers". Magazine. 1 December 2013. Archived from the original on 9 February 2022. Retrieved 3 February 2023.
  41. ^ dfg.webmaster@alaska.gov. "Ski Hunters of Siberia:, Alaska Department of Fish and Game". www.adfg.alaska.gov. Retrieved 3 February 2023.
  42. ^ "Skiing's Central Asian Origins | International Skiing History Association". www.skiinghistory.org. Retrieved 3 February 2023.
  43. ^ Bancroft, Christopher. "Skunting: The Ancient Art of Hunting on Skis". www.themeateater.com. Retrieved 3 February 2023.