Introduction / History
Tuvinians in Mongoloia inhabit a harsh mountainous region in the northern part of the country, near the border of Russia. There, the summers are hot and dry, while the winters are bitterly cold. Still, this region can have as many as 300 sunny days a year, and the extremely dry air helps people to withstand the cold winters and the hot summers.
Because Tuvinians, like other Russian settlers, left their home territories in the Soviet Union many years ago and immigrated to Mongolia; their present "national" status is disputed. Some Tuvinian clans in Mongolia have maintained their native language, ethnic background, and traditional culture. Other Tuvinian clans have been absorbed by the Mongolian culture. Their original language, Tuvin, contains many Mongolian words and uses the Cyrillic script. Most Mongolian Tuvinians also speak Halh, the national language of Mongolia.
What are their lives like?
Most Tuvinians raise livestock for a living. They also hunt and do a limited amount of farming. Oats, barley, wheat, and millet, are the principal crops raised. Recently, farmers from northern China have introduced Tuvinians to vegetable farming.
Many Tuvinians still live as nomadic shepherds, migrating seasonally with their herds. Those who inhabit the plains traditionally live in large felt tents called gers or yurts. Those in Siberia usually live in round tents made from bark.
The main industrial activity in the Tuvinian Republic is mining, especially for asbestos, cobalt, coal, gold, and uranium. Other industries include processing food, crafting leather or wood items, and manufacturing building materials.
The Tuvinian diet primarily consists of meat (mutton, beef, horse, goat, camel, reindeer, and wild game), fish, roots, cedar nuts, and dairy products. Tuvinians enjoy drinking airag (fermented milk) on special occasions.
In times past, Tuvinian marriages were arranged by the parents, and couples married when they reached the age of 12 or 13. Today, the minimum age for marriage is 18 and parental consent is no longer necessary. A young bride formerly lived with the husband's family, but today the couple's home is determined by their economic conditions. Divorce is common among Tuvinians and abortion is often used as a form of birth control.
The Tuvinian culture is noted for its rich, oral epic poetry and its music. Tuvinians use more than fifty different musical instruments, and traveling ensembles often perform outdoors.
What are their beliefs?
Tuvinians were traditionally shamanists (believed in an unseen world of gods, demons, and ancestral spirits) and Tibetan Buddhists. Today, one third of the Tuvinians are Buddhists, one third are shamanists, and the remaining one third are non-religious.
Tibetan Buddhism was first embraced by the Tuvinians in the 1700s. In the 1930s, the Soviets destroyed nearly all of the Buddhist monasteries, and all the monks were dispersed; some were even shot. Recently, however, a Buddhist community was officially registered in the Tuvinian Republic, and efforts are underway to rebuild a great monastery.
The influence of shamanism is still obvious among Tuvinians. Ceremonies are held on the seventh and forty-ninth days after someone's death. The soul is believed to remain in the body of the deceased for seven days, then depart for the "kingdom of the dead," reaching its ultimate destination on the forty-ninth day.
Tuvinians believe that all natural elements contain spirits that must be appeased with offerings. The people are dependent on shamans (medicine men) to cure the sick by magic and communicate with the spirits.
What are their needs?
Until Tuva become a part of Russia, very few of the Tuvinian men and none of the women could read. Perhaps Christian teachers will have open doors to work among the Tuvinians.
* Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to Russia and share Christ with Tuvinians.
* Ask God to use Tuvinian believers to share the love of Jesus with their own people.
* Pray that Christian radio and television broadcasts will be made available to Tuvinians.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of Tuvinians toward Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
* Pray that God will open the hearts of Russia's governmental leaders to the Gospel.
* Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among Tuvinians.