The Tuvan Society in Moscow is a young NGO and yet it is an exemplar of the ‘civil society’ we are used to hearing so much about. Russia unites almost two hundred peoples and many of them set up societies in the various regions of Russia to which they move. The Tuvan Society in Moscow is interesting as an example because of its fast growth and far reaching plans. It is only three years old, at first starting as a university society, only then moving into registering itself as a full NGO. Its mission is to bring all things Tuvan and more generally far eastern to light. To find out more we asked its director – Lodoi Homushku.
About the Society’s foundation and current activities
Could you please give a brief history of you NGO?
The society existed as a university student-led organisation for a while until we matured enough to reach out beyond student life. Similar societies of other regions of Russia exist alongside us too. In 2015, we decided to register as a full NGO and grow out our society outside university. Everything started with the concentrated effort of a small group of individuals. Two years later we were already in good relations with the government of Tuva and the government of Russia as a whole, and hosting increasingly large-scale events. Gathering hundreds of attendees considering there are only a thousand Tuvan students is Moscow is pretty good going in my opinion.
What do your day to day activities entail?
We spend most of our time planning and organising cultural events. We raise awareness of Tuva and Tuvan issues on social media and try to raise the profile of the Russian Far East as a whole too. Beyond these ‘soft’ activities, we organise seminars and lectures aimed at educating our listeners and giving them new ideas, but these initiatives are still young. We also run a song and dance ensemble called “Tandy-Uula”, which constantly tours various cultural events.
What are your plans going forward?
We get a lot of demand for Tuvan language professors. I think that will be our next service – a ‘Tuvan corner’ if you will. Eventually we will provide Tuvan music classes, which will work well with the rest of what we do.
What is your mission as a society, any political goals?
Not really political, but our mission is something we crave to publicise – that Tuva is a land of opportunity! Let me explain. We have a problem in Tuva that many talented young people don’t see their future in their homeland and move out. They often think that there is not much to do in Tuva. That is not the case. Those who want to go back often don’t know where to start either. [The same I guess goes for foreigners – Ed.] Our society acts as a bridge. We are close to the inner workings of Tuva and essentially make the endless opportunity of our native land known. Why is Tuva the land of opportunity? Well, in Moscow and other commercial centres the competition even for menial jobs is huge and the market is oversaturated. In Tuva, a young professional who studied well will be worth more than his weight in gold. Secondly, Tuva is rapidly developing and as in all ‘Wild West’ cases, there is a serious first mover advantage to be gained. We are about to get a huge infrastructure boost, a railroad is being built, more flights to the airport being scheduled etc. Russia is slowly turning East, and with this rotation, Tuva is about to get a whole lot more attention. So I think you’re either there or you’re square! And also, all that aside, look at five photos of Tuva and they will be beautiful enough to capture you forever! Where else can you find such natural beauty?
About interest towards the Society
Who usually comes to your events?
There isn’t really an answer I can give here. Our audience really depends on the nature of the event at hand. Usually young Tuvans come to the events. But over time we notice that we get more and more diverse support and interest. People from different parts of the country increasingly come to our events. We closely cooperate with other similar Societies and often pool resources together. Thus, we share our audience with say the Buryatian Society.
Do you find that foreigners ever visit?
A BBC crew came to film our dance ensemble for their upcoming film about Russia, being prepared for the world cup. Watch out for our wonderful dancers when the documentary comes out!
Could you give me a few returnee success stories?
Many former exec of the Society have found themselves growing rapidly in the Tuvinian hierarchy. The first director of the Society – Artysh Minchei, got the post of Junior Minister for Young People in Tuva. Ayas Ondar – a graduate of a Moscow medical school was briefly in the exec and then moved back to run his own medical centre. There is a myriad of examples. I shouldn’t monopolise our interview with a list, as it goes on and on! But I should add that our society gives everyone a chance to grow their personal potential, and these efforts, as we see, do not go to waste!
The example of Lodoi and his Tuvan Society gives us a broader picture of success in an area which is still a kind of terra incognita. The Society, in turn, fulfils the important function of a bridge across various regions of our huge country. It rightfully promotes the uniqueness of Tuva. Often, we think of a region as quite empty not because it is empty but because there isn’t enough coverage of it in daily media. NGOs such as the Tuvan Society work to fill this vacuum. Their rapid growth is a testament to their activities being demanded and going down the right path. We wish every success to Lodoi and his team!