Photo Essays | Society | Central Asia

Welcome to the Tuva Republic

Famed for its vibrant culture around the world, the region remains among the most disconnected inside Russia.

Bradley Jardine
By Bradley Jardine and Matthew Kupfer for
Welcome to the Tuva Republic

Khuresh wrestlers in Kyzyl, the capital of the Tuva Republic, await their turn on the field of battle.

Credit: Bradley Jardine
Welcome to the Tuva Republic

Those who couldn’t make it to the Khuresh arena enjoy match highlights on Kyzyl’s town square.

Credit: Matthew Kupfer
Welcome to the Tuva Republic

Victorious, a Tuvan wrestler leaves the field.

Credit: Bradley Jardine
Welcome to the Tuva Republic

Three generations of Tuvans stand alongside one another on the sidelines of the wrestling arena.

Credit: Bradley Jardine
Welcome to the Tuva Republic

A road through Kyzyl’s outskirts leads to the Tuvan State University.

Credit: Bradley Jardine
Welcome to the Tuva Republic

A banner in front of the region’s Federal Tax service encourages Tuvans to “make your native Tuva brighter” by paying their taxes. The children’s shirts read: “I pay taxes.”

Credit: Bradley Jardine
Welcome to the Tuva Republic

A Tuvan shaman, Dugar-Syuryun Oorzhak, at home on the banks of the Yaneisi River.

Credit: Bradley Jardine
Welcome to the Tuva Republic

A buddhist stupa sits on the steppe outside Kyzyl.

Credit: Bradley Jardine
Welcome to the Tuva Republic

A Soviet built apartment block in Kyzyl.

Credit: Bradley Jardine
Welcome to the Tuva Republic

A tourist from the neighboring Buryatia Republic interacts with a statue of a ram from the Chinese Zodiac.

Credit: Bradley Jardine
Welcome to the Tuva Republic

A statue of early Tuvan statesman, Mongush Buyan-Badyrgy, sits before the planned national cultural museum. The museum’s design mirrors that of a traditional Tuvan hat.

Credit: Bradley Jardine
Welcome to the Tuva Republic

Traditional Tuvan cuisine is very meat-heavy. The local tea is consumed with milk and salt.

Credit: Bradley Jardine
Welcome to the Tuva Republic

A lone house sits in isolation on the steppe.

Credit: Bradley Jardine
Welcome to the Tuva Republic

The Tuvan national theater lit up at night. The architecture features local cultural motifs.

Credit: Matthew Kupfer
Welcome to the Tuva Republic

Wrestlers and coaches devise strategies for the matches ahead.

Credit: Bradley Jardine

Located in the deep south of Siberia, the Tuva Republic is one of Russia’s most isolated and culturally unique regions. Nominally independent between the two world wars, Tuva was one of the last territories added to the Soviet Union. Today, Tuva is a land of contradictions: famed for its throat singing and shamanism around the world, the region remains among the most disconnected inside Russia. No railroad line reaches the republic, and flights to Kyzyl, Tuva’s capital, are few and far between. The quickest way in is a five-hour taxi ride through the Sayan mountains and across the vast Siberian steppe.

Perhaps because of its isolation, Tuva remains culturally vibrant. Ethnic Tuvans make up around 80 percent of the population (a rarity in Russia’s “ethnic republics”), and Tuvan cultural practices — folk music, khuresh wrestling, and nomadism — capture the imagination of “friends of Tuva” around the world.

Bradley Jardine is a journalist and researcher from Glasgow, Scotland. He is currently based in Moscow as part of the Alfa Fellowship Program.

Matthew Kupfer is an American journalist focused on the former Soviet Union. He is currently based in Moscow as part of the Alfa Fellowship Program.