Kyzyl is the capital of the Republic of Tuva. It owes its fame to a peculiarity: its location corresponds to the geographical centre of Asia, marked by one of the most famous monuments in Siberia, consisting of an obelisk and a globe (on the banks of the Ulukh-Khem River, at the entrance to Komsomolskaya Street). Capital of a formerly nomadic people, Kyzyl proudly displays its pastoral roots: the Arat-Kadarchi monument (12 km from the centre, Kyzyl-Erzin road), Arat (Shepherd's) Square and other representations of horsemen. A little far from the Trans-Siberian Railway, but not so inaccessible, the city of the steppe is really worth the detour. If only for its landscapes and its atmosphere, which are so exotic...


They are the descendants of nomadic herders (reindeer, horses, cattle, camels), most of whom were settled in the Soviet era. Kyzyl 2020, 117,904 inhabitants (about 53% of the total population of the republic), includes nearly 80% of Tuvas. This identity, as well as the institutionalized shamanism, are ardently claimed! In addition to these statues of horsemen, archers, shepherds, omnipresent, you will notice that here, in spite of the overwhelming majority of Buddhists, the shamans officiate numerous. They consult at home or in centres with a street corner. Among the most famous: the Adyg-Eeren clinic (with its yurt-hotel) and the Düngur association.


First invaded by the Huns, the Tuva territory fell under Chinese domination and then Manchu from the 2nd century AD. From there, a succession of vicissitudes: Turkish yokes (6th-8th century), Kyrgyz (who imported their talents as goldsmiths and ironworkers) then Manchu (the Jürcen, barbarian masters). In 1207, Genghis Khan comes in. He is followed in the 13th century by the Yuan dynasty, very favourable to Buddhism. In the 17th century, the Manchus take over and create the Qing dynasty. This long series of subjugation was not without revolts and violent anarchy. All the more so as the authorities pursued a policy of sedentarisation and demarcation of grazing areas. In 1883-1885 the movement for the liberation of the arats (nomadic shepherds) raged, the largest conflict in Tuva history, leading to the expulsion of the Manchus.

Soviet system

Founded in 1914, Belotarsk became Khem-Beldyr, capital of the People's Republic of Tuva, created in 1922, then Kyzyl in 1926. Its economy (agriculture, industry, trade) develops from 1924, with the creation of the central cooperative. Although the feudal system of land use continued to exist more everywhere else in Siberia, from 1931, the Soviets launched a policy of confiscation of private property (land, livestock). The sedentarisation of the populations accelerated, exacerbated by the introduction of Latin and then Cyrillic alphabets (1941). The purges and the collectivization policy ended up affecting the Tuva cultural identity: extermination/deportation of the religious (Buddhist and shamanic) and local princes, prohibition of worship, development of industrial agriculture, forced sedentarization (through tax benefits and timber allocations). In 1993, the Republic of Tuva, with its own constitution, was born. The first shamanic association of Kyzyl, Düngur, dates from this period. Its founder, Kenin Lopsan, a historian, discreetly collected, under the guise of scientific study, the testimonies, rituals and care techniques of the officials who had escaped from the Gulag.

Geography and climate

Located at the confluence of the Bii-Khem and Ka-Khem rivers (which form the Ulukh-Khem, the upper Yenissei), Kyzyl is surrounded by relief. Including Mount Dohe (1,002 m), a natural site of cultural importance: climbing it (pilgrimage is popular) would allow you to purify your soul and body. The republic in general is a land of relief, since it is surrounded by the western and eastern Saïan Mountains (up to 3,500 m), part of which, wild, virgin and rugged, is only accessible by plane. Touva is also characterized by two environments: the low-lying steppe, immense and picturesque meadows, and the forest steppe, covered with larch, cedar and birch trees. It has the same latitude as London, yet the climate is much harsher, dry continental. Winter: long, cold (frost from October to April; average -26.6°C in January), very little snow. Fortunately, little or no wind. Summer: short, hot (+20.4 °C on average in July) and ... humid, with risks of sandstorms.

Time zone

UTC+7 = Paris +6h.

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