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One of the 21 autonomous republics of Russia. It is in southern Siberia, on the border with Mongolia, and has an area of 170 000 km2. The capital is Kyzyl, which means 'red'; it was formerly Belotsarsk, 'white king's'.

It has also been known as Tannu Tuva, Tuva, Touva, and Tuvinia. The form Tyva (representing the Cyrillic Тыва) is the correct native form of the name, and is the one now officially used.

The Tyvans practice Tibetan Buddhism and speak a Turkic language, similiar to Uyghur. They make up about two-thirds of the population of 300 000, the remainder being Russian. They are renowned musically for their höömei or throat singing, with multiple overtones in each voice.

Tyva was part of the Mongol empire till 1757, then Chinese. With the breakup of the Chinese empire in 1911, Tyva became independent; as did Outer Mongolia, which now divides it from modern China. Tyva accepted Tsarist Russian protection in 1914 but after the Revolution its full independence was restored, though the Tannu Tuva People's Republic proclaimed in 1921 had close links with the Soviet Union. Its name became Tuvinia in 1926, and in 1944 it was merged with Russia. The territory was re-created as the Tuvinian ASSR (Russian name) or Tyva ASSR (Tyvan name) in 1961.

The lists of leaders in the independence period are incomplete: Salchak Toka was party secretary from 1932 to 1944. Presidents since the breakup of the Soviet Union have been

Kaadyr-ool Bicheldey 1991-1992
Sherig-ool Oorzhak 1992-

The modern flag is light blue with a yellow triangle in the hoist. There is a light blue Y fimbriated white dividing them. (That is, the yellow triangle and blue are divided by narrow white-blue-white V's, but the bands also go from the point of the triangle horizontally across.) It was designed by Oyun-ool Sat in 1992. the yellow represents Buddhism, and the Y is for the two rivers that join at Kyzyl to form the mighty Yenisei. Various flags were used in the old independent state of Tannu Tuva, but I've decided they're a bit too confusing to put down here.

Tannu Tuva stamps, some in unusual shapes, have introduced many people to the name, not least Richard Feynman, who developed a great interest in the place and wanted to visit. As far as I recall, he died before he had a chance to, but there is a book chronicling his preparations, Tuva or Bust.

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