The Tuva ethnic group: a secret culture behind Siberian forests

While most people focus on progress and innovation in there lives, some are still living on the same principles as they did thousands of years ago. This is the case of the Tuva group, which is a Turkic ethnic population of small dimensions who live today in the southern part of Siberia. Apart from their unique dressing code and a specific language, what makes these people so special is that they have the same lifestyle as their ancestors did.

The Tuvan families live in yurts built out of wood, bamboo, different types of fabric, with an improvised door and a high roof. Due to the fact that these groups enjoy moving often, their self-made establishments are very practical. They have a great amount of respect for their ancestors, as they strongly believe that their spirits are sacred. Even though they are still hunting wild animals – including reindeer – and spend their evenings in the light of small camp fires, Tuvans are convinced that our world is not mentally and spiritually enlightened enough. This is why they believe that there is no ‘real’ religion yet in any society.

For over five thousand years, shamans from the Tuva groups have sacrificed birds to use their feathers for headdresses – an important part of their dress code. However, women of a high rank within the group are not allowed to wear them. Each member is very keen on nature and they consider that the bond between humans and nature must be treasured, as people are its protectors. Nowadays, there are only 300 shamans left in the Tuva groups after a great amount of them were killed during WWII.

Although they are used to hunting wild animals and raising the domestic ones, the Tuva people are mostly peaceful with other human beings. The respect given to their beliefs and principles, as well as their extremely well-preserved traditions and habits turn the Tuva groups into a rare, unique organization, protected by the Siberian forests.

Tuva landscape - Siberia - Russia - Yenisey river   The republic is situated in the far south of Siberia. Its capital city of Kyzyl is located near the geographic "center of Asia". The eastern part of the republic is forested and elevated, and the west is a drier lowland. Photo by  Rita Willaert/Flickr

Tuva landscape – Siberia – Russia – Yenisey river
The republic is situated in the far south of Siberia. Its capital city of Kyzyl is located near the geographic “center of Asia”. The eastern part of the republic is forested and elevated, and the west is a drier lowland. Photo by
Rita Willaert/Flickr

Tuva Republic - Russia - Siberia   We are driving to and through Tuva across the West Sayan mountains. From the moment the bus crosses the border between Krasnoyarsk region and Tuva it's amazing to see the  the view of the changing landscapes. It seems like you are coming to another planet and another age. There are almost no signs of civilisation on the most part of Tuva territory, steppes and sharp mountains are over the hundreds kilometres. We make a stop at 22 km from the city Kyzyl, on the bank of the Biy-Khem river. (in Tuvan - Big Yenisey) Photo by  Rita Willaert/Flickr

Tuva Republic – Russia – Siberia
We are driving to and through Tuva across the West Sayan mountains. From the moment the bus crosses the border between Krasnoyarsk region and Tuva it’s amazing to see the the view of the changing landscapes. It seems like you are coming to another planet and another age. There are almost no signs of civilisation on the most part of Tuva territory, steppes and sharp mountains are over the hundreds kilometres. We make a stop at 22 km from the city Kyzyl, on the bank of the Biy-Khem river. (in Tuvan – Big Yenisey) Photo by
Rita Willaert/Flickr

Tuva landscape, Russia, Photo by rietje/Flickr

Tuva landscape, Russia, Photo by rietje/Flickr

Tuva landscape, Russia, Photo by rietje/Flickr

Tuva landscape, Russia, Photo by rietje/Flickr

"Republic of Tuva" Siberia, kamlanie, ritual, Russia, Shaman, Sjamaan, Tuva   Welcome to the shaman. Shaman - ceremony Shamans'kamlaniye - Kamlanie is a magical communication between shamans and spirits. Accompanied by the sound of drum, the shaman emits sounds resembling to voices of a crow or a cuckoo-bird. These are magical birds which empower the shaman to sing his incantations. He is sitting backwards to the fire , monotonously beats his drum and has  a conversation with his supporting spirits.  Finally he banishes evil spirits away or claims  the situation to be fatal. Whatever the outcome of the kamlanie is, the shaman makes sacrifice to his spirit-helpers with spraying milk over four directions and burning pieces of meat and bread.  This rite can be of two kinds : the one of healing and the one of worship: worship of fire, worship of sacred trees or worship of patron of a clan. The kamlanie is held according to regular and fixed scheme: purification - invocation of necessary spirits - searching for the reason of a desease or ritual consecration processing - hostile spirits exorcism - fortune-telling of the results of the kamlanie or the future of presented people. Photo by  Rita Willaert/Flickr

“Republic of Tuva” Siberia, kamlanie, ritual, Russia, Shaman, Sjamaan, Tuva
Welcome to the shaman. Shaman – ceremony
Shamans’kamlaniye – Kamlanie is a magical communication between shamans and spirits. Accompanied by the sound of drum, the shaman emits sounds resembling to voices of a crow or a cuckoo-bird. These are magical birds which empower the shaman to sing his incantations. He is sitting backwards to the fire , monotonously beats his drum and has a conversation with his supporting spirits.
Finally he banishes evil spirits away or claims the situation to be fatal. Whatever the outcome of the kamlanie is, the shaman makes sacrifice to his spirit-helpers with spraying milk over four directions and burning pieces of meat and bread.
This rite can be of two kinds : the one of healing and the one of worship: worship of fire, worship of sacred trees or worship of patron of a clan. The kamlanie is held according to regular and fixed scheme: purification – invocation of necessary spirits – searching for the reason of a desease or ritual consecration processing – hostile spirits exorcism – fortune-telling of the results of the kamlanie or the future of presented people. Photo by
Rita Willaert/Flickr

Welcome to the shaman - Tuva

Welcome to the shaman - Tuva

Welcome to the shaman - Tuva

Photo via rus.rus4all.ru

Photo via rus.rus4all.ru

Photo via Antufev/Flickr

Photo via Antufev/Flickr

Kyzyl - capital of Tuva - Siberia

Photo by Rita Willaert/Flickr

Photo by Rita Willaert/Flickr

Kyzyl - capital of Tuva - Siberia

Kyzyl - capital of Tuva - Siberia

Ritual at the shaman

Ritual at the shaman

Kyzyl - capital of Tuva - Siberia

A painting at a shaman's place

A painting at a shaman’s place

Kyzyl - capital of Tuva - Siberia

Ovoo --a type of shamanistic cairn found in Mongolia or nearby areas--like here in Tuva. They are religious sites often used in giving thanks to the earth--notably mountains and sky, as well as used in various Buddhist ceremonies. Travelers leave rocks, sacred ribbons with religious sayings, flowers or anything sacred to them, as they pass by and add their own prayer. Photo by  cjuel/Flickr

Ovoo –a type of shamanistic cairn found in Mongolia or nearby areas–like here in Tuva. They are religious sites often used in giving thanks to the earth–notably mountains and sky, as well as used in various Buddhist ceremonies. Travelers leave rocks, sacred ribbons with religious sayings, flowers or anything sacred to them, as they pass by and add their own prayer. Photo by
cjuel/Flickr

Tuvan throat singers Photo by  cjuel/Flickr

Tuvan throat singers Photo by
cjuel/Flickr

Nomad yurt camp "Biy-Khem" Tuva - Siberia Photo by  Rita Willaert/Flickr

Nomad yurt camp “Biy-Khem” Tuva – Siberia Photo by
Rita Willaert/Flickr

Nomads yurt Photo by Rita Willaert

Nomads yurt Photo by Rita Willaert

Kyzyl - capital of Tuva - Siberia - Russia Buddhist temple, Nine Heavens

Kyzyl – capital of Tuva – Siberia – Russia Buddhist temple, Nine Heavens

Kyzyl - capital of Tuva - Siberia - Russia Buddhist temple, Nine Heavens

Kyzyl – capital of Tuva – Siberia – Russia
Buddhist temple, Nine Heavens

Prayer wheel

Prayer wheel

Tuva - mountain Khajyrakan. mountain Khajyrakan is one of the most respected places in Tuva. In 1992 it was chosen like energetically powerful place and consecrated by Dalay Lama XIV. At least once a year local shamans come here to get energy, strenghten and purify their souls.  Photo by  Rita Willaert

Tuva – mountain Khajyrakan. mountain Khajyrakan is one of the most respected places in Tuva. In 1992 it was chosen like energetically powerful place and consecrated by Dalay Lama XIV. At least once a year local shamans come here to get energy, strenghten and purify their souls. Photo by
Rita Willaert

Tuva - mountain Khajyrakan

Tuva – mountain Khajyrakan

Tuva - mountain Khajyrakan

Tuva – mountain Khajyrakan

Syyn-Churek mountain is situated on the 150th kilometer of the route Kyzyl - Ak-Dovurak. Syyn-Churek means "a heart of a deer". The mountain reminds a pyramid.   There are more than 300 paintings on the southern and south-eastern slopes of the mountain. These paintings take a special place among all the ancient monuments of Tuva. The paintings depict tigers, horses, antelopes, goats, people and solar signs. Photo by  Rita Willaert

Syyn-Churek mountain is situated on the 150th kilometer of the route Kyzyl – Ak-Dovurak. Syyn-Churek means “a heart of a deer”. The mountain reminds a pyramid.
There are more than 300 paintings on the southern and south-eastern slopes of the mountain. These paintings take a special place among all the ancient monuments of Tuva. The paintings depict tigers, horses, antelopes, goats, people and solar signs. Photo by
Rita Willaert

Looking for the petroglyphs...

Looking for the petroglyphs…

Looking for the petroglyphs...

Looking for the petroglyphs…

Tuva landscape, Siberia, Russia Photo by Rita Willaert

Tuva landscape, Siberia, Russia Photo by Rita Willaert

Tuva landscape, Siberia, Russia Photo by Rita Willaert

Tuva landscape, Siberia, Russia Photo by Rita Willaert

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