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February 14, 2007


Ivana Ronayeva

As a freethinker who lived in Tyva for a couple of years around the turn of the century, I am interested in your analysis of the dynamic between colonisers and colonised. It did not surprise me to learn that one of the derogatory words Tyvans use for Russians is 'weeds' - especially interesting as these were an unknown and irrelevant concept to nomadic pastoralists, becoming important only with the importation of agriculture and settled life. However, it must be recognised that the 'ordinary' Tyvan 100 years ago was at the bottom of an extraordinarily extended 'medieval' socio-economic hierarchy stretching all the way to Beijing via Mongolia. The rapid resurgence of lamaism and shamanism, the strength of popular traditional culture and the numbers of young people maintaining a life on the steppes - including in yurts - may indicate that all was not lost through sovietisation. Although brutal it was much briefer than elsewhere in the FSU. Syphilis and murder remain also as reminders of the 'good old days'. The planned railway will probably do what it also will in Tibet, finally ruin Tyvan identity.
Now I have to evaluate the basic tenets of your piece!

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