The Tuvans
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The Tuvans

The People of the Forest

The People of the Forest

The Tuvans are a group of native people of southern Siberia, inhabiting the Tuvan Republic of the Russian Federation, western Mongolia and Western China. Their origins are a mixture of Turkic-, Mongol-, Ket-, and Samoyedic-speaking tribes.


  • Region is Northern Asia

  • Climate here is Continental

  • The challenge here is Medium

  • This trip has been rated 5 by other travelers



Most Tuvans are traditionally nomads and raise cattle, horses, sheep, yaks, and goats, while some communities in the mountainous forests of Northern and Eastern Tuva bred reindeer. Men practice hunting of wild animals such as bears or squirrels. They harvest millet, barley, oats, and wheat in the river valleys.


The traditional house of the Tuvans is the “ög”, or yurt, covered with felt cloth and sustained with a wooden skeleton. The structure of this tent is perfect for the nomadic Tuvans since its lightweight and easily to displace. At the centre there is an iron stove used to cook and warm the living space. Transport is provided by reindeers and horses.


Social Structure

Family, community and clans are the focal points in the their life. Most communities still follow the traditional social organization based on a system of clans. Since 1944, the Tuva Republic is their recognized land and it is one of the independent republic of the Russian Federation.


Depending on the region, the Tuvans still follow the traditional Tengriism, or Turkic animistic shamanism, where they believe that all natural elements have a spirit, as well as Tibetan Buddhism.


The Tuvan folklore is extremely rich in fairy-tales, stories about animals, riddles, songs, folk sayings, dances and long epic tales.

They are best known for their music and special type of singing called khöömei, known as "throat," or "harmonic" singing, given by the vibrations produced in the throat and mouth. This is part or the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

They also have some taboos and superstitions regarding the handling of milk; it is forbidden to spill milk on the ground, take it outside after dark, or take someone’s milk away from their house.

Traditional dresses are used in the daily life in the countryside, and it is worn on holidays and other festive occasions by both rural and urban Tuvans.


The Tuvans speak Tuvan language, which belongs to the Siberian branch of the Turkic language family. The language has different dialects depending on the region and country.

Photo Tuva village

Photo Tuvan man riding a reindeer

Photo Little Tuvans Boy

Photo Tuvan man axing firewood

Photo Herd of musk oxen

Photo Buddhist religious building KISELEV


An important artistic production is stone carving, done on a stone from the region similar to soapstone. They usually carve chess pieces and small sculptures of wild and domesticated animals, or every days’ life scenes.


The most important Tuvan holiday is Shagaa, or New Year's, celebrated in February. The festival is accompanied by feasting, wrestling matches, archery contests, and horse racing.

They also held Sangalyr purification rituals and families execute spring cleaning, visit relatives and go to temple rituals.
Further knowledge

Further knowledge

The biggest challenge of visiting the Tuvans is dealing with the harsh weather conditions.

Some of the issues modern Tuvans are facing are the ecological ones, the ecosystem of their territories has been extremely damaged by economic projects.