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This article continues our series of “Travel Notes” by the folk musician and journalist Maria Kirilova. Maria kindly suggested writing travel notes for tyva.me during a trip to Tuva this year for the celebration of Shagaa – the Tuvan New Year. Maria will share her insights about the sternly beautiful winter of Tuva, how the Tuvinians survive in the -40 degree frosts, how the Shagaa is celebrated, and what is sung in the winter folk songs.

Author: Maria Kirilova

I was inspired by the feedback that my travel notes were too optimistic and selling. Perhaps I was overly emotional about some positive things, such as the beauty of nature, and other such. Of course, we saw soot, poverty and rudeness. I like to remember the good, not devoid of reality, but devoid of vulgarity. I think that a lot depends on what expectations are set up initially, which events you visit and who you spend time with. On the streets of Kyzyl I found interesting and hospitable Tuvans. Since I did not live here, I didn’t have the opportunity to completely immerse myself in local realities, but I could communicate with people. Many locals made me really proud. We, the inhabitants of megacities or more developed regions, often complain about the conditions of life and we say that we do not like Moscow.
In spite of hardships, Tuvans love their land. Yes, many Tuvans emigrate, but those who remain speak so sincerely of their love towards their home, that they cannot be not believed. I wish for Tuva to find a path of development, which would alleviate the condition of the people and also preserve their culture and traditions.

As for today, it began with a visit to a shaman yurt in Dalniy Kaa-Khem. The driver could not find the address we needed for a long time, after driving through the whole village. When we found the place, we were invited into a yurt standing proudly in the courtyard of a home. We were told the Shaman was currently out, at a government meeting, and would be with us soon. While we were talking with the host, we were offered tea with milk, boorzak (fried dough pieces) and traditional cake. During our tea drinking, we learnt that one should never pour tea in the direction of the door, lest all the good that is in the house leaves it, but is rather stored and accumulated. Talking with a shaman is always a unique event. Our quiet conversation flowed effortlessly. Hanging on the opposite wall, the sacrifices for Shagaa were already prepared. We also brought cookies, sweets and milk, because it refers to sacred white food. I think I will dedicate a separate article about this Shaman when I can, perhaps when I get back home. For now I just want to say thank you to everyone who helped organise this meeting, who was in this yurt and personally Elena Khuler-Oolovna Otsur for her attention and detailed answers.

After lunch, we planned a visit to the National Museum. At the time when we left a shaman house, there was only an hour left before closing, and we decided to postpone it the next day, which promises to be one of the most saturated. We went for a walk that day instead of rushing to the museum. Now, since Shagaa is tomorrow, further notes will likely have to wait a little while.

Always with you,


Written by airamo