Tuvan People's Republic

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Tuvan People's RepublicТыва Арат Республика (Tuvan)
Flag of Tannu-Tuva Flag
Emblem (1943–1944) of Tannu-Tuva Emblem
Tuvan Internationale (1921–1944)
Тыва ИнтернационалThe Taiga Filled With Pine Nuts (1944)
Тооруктуг долгай таңдым
Blue line is the early border of the TPR Red line is the Tuvan Autonomous Oblast borderBlue line is the early border of the TPR
Red line is the Tuvan Autonomous Oblast border
Location of the Tuvan People's Republic (modern-day boundaries)Location of the Tuvan People's Republic
(modern-day boundaries)
StatusSoviet satellite
51°41′53″N 94°23′24″E / 51.698°N 94.390°E / 51.698; 94.390
Common languages
GovernmentUnitary Marxist-Leninist one-party socialist republic
Party leader 
• 1921–1922 (first) Mongush Nimachap
• 1932–1944 (last) Salchak Toka
Head of state 
• 1921–1922 (first) Mongush Buyan-Badyrgy
• 1940–1944 (last) Khertek Anchimaa-Toka
Head of government 
• 1923–1924 (first) Mongush Buyan-Badyrgy
• 1941–1944 (last) Saryg-Donggak Chymba
LegislaturePeople's Khural
Historical eraInterwar period, World War II
• Independence 14 August 1921
• Absorbed by the USSR 11 October 1944
• 1931 82,200
• 1944 95,400
CurrencyTuvan akşa
Preceded by Succeeded by
Uryankhay Krai
Russian Occupation
Chinese Occupation
Tuvan AO
Today part ofRussia

The Tuvan People's Republic or TPR; known as the Tannu Tuva People's Republic (or simply Tannu Tuva) until 1926, was a partially recognized state that existed between 1921 and 1944. It was formally a socialist republic and de facto a Soviet puppet state. The TPR was located in Tuva, covering the same territory, north-west of Mongolia, as was the previous 1914–1921 Tuvan protectorate (Uryankhay Krai) of the former Russian Empire, and is now the Tuva Republic, an administrative part of Russia.

The Soviet Union and the Mongolian People's Republic were the only foreign governments to formally recognize the independence of the Tuvan state during its existence, in 1924 and 1926, respectively. After a period of increased Soviet influence, in October 1944, the polity was absorbed into the Russian SFSR (the largest constituent republic of the Soviet Union) at the request of the Tuvan parliament, ending 23 years of independence.



Since 1759, Tuva (then called Tannu Uriankhai) had been part of Mongolia, which in turn was a part of the territory of the Manchu Qing dynasty. As the Qing dynasty fell in the Xinhai Revolution of 1911, revolutions in Mongolia were also occurring, leading to the independence of both Mongolia and the Tuvan Uryankhay Republic. After a period of political uncertainty, the new republic became a protectorate of the Russian Empire in April 1914, known as Uryankhay Krai. After the fall of the Russian Empire in 1917 and the establishment of the Russian Republic, both it and Uryankhay Krai reaffirmed its status as a Russian protectorate.

During the subsequent Russian Civil War, both Russian Whites and Reds, Mongols, as well as Chinese soldiers seeking to retake Mongolia and Tuva, were engaged in combat in the region. In the 5th Congress of the Russian population in Uryankhay Krai in the summer of 1918, it was decided that the power would be transferred to the Uryankhay Regional Council of Workers, Peasants and Soldiers' Deputies, and with backing from the Russian SFSR, that a Soviet power would be established and would recognize the Tuvans and allow them to create their own national state. On 26 January 1920, Ivan Smirnov – Chairman of the Siberian Revolutionary Committee – sent an encrypted telegraph regarding Tuva to Moscow stating: "The Mongols have entered the province and ejected our peasants from the villages. These peasants fought against Kolchak and were independent of him. The Soyoty are a nomadic tribe oppressed by both Mongols and Russians. Do you consider it necessary to allow the Mongols possession of the Uryankhay region or to take it by force of arms or to organise an Uryankhay Soviet Republic on the Bashkir pattern? Let me know."

The Reds had, by December 1920, taken the capital of Khem-Beldyr and had, by March 1921, taken all of Tuva. On 14 August 1921, the "Tannu Tuvan People's Republic" ("Tannu" refers to the Tannu-Ola mountains) declared independence and the newly created Tuvan People's Revolutionary Party (TPRP) became the ruling party. The first chapter of the first constitution of the newborn country stated that "...in international affairs, the state acts under the auspices of Soviet Russia."

The first official Tuvan delegation to Moscow in June 1925, signing a “Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between Tuva and the USSR”.

Early independence

In the beginning of February 1922, the first meeting of the TPRP took place and a government was created, which began to work on 3 March the same year. The Soviet-Tuvan border was defined in January 1923 and Red Army divisions on Tuvan territory were withdrawn in accordance with an agreement from 1921. The first Great Khural (People's Congress) was held on 12 October 1923 and, in the second one, on 28 September 1924, a new constitution proclaimed that the country would develop along non-capitalist lines with the TPRP being the only party and the Tuvan section of the Communist International.

In the summer of 1925, the Soviet Union initiated the “Agreement between the Russian SFSR and the Tannu Tuvan People’s Republic on the Establishment of Friendly Relationships”, which was signed by the two countries, strengthening their relations. The treaty stated that the Soviet government " not consider Tannu-Tuva as its territory and no views on it."

A 10 Tuvan akşa bill, the country's currency.

In 1926, the government adopted their first official flag and emblem, changed the name of its capital from "Khem-Beldyr" to "Kyzyl" (meaning "Red"), and the name of the country to simply "Tuvan People's Republic". It also signed a “Treaty of Friendship and Mutual Recognition” with the Mongolian People's Republic, another Soviet satellite state. Much of this work was done by Prime Minister Donduk Kuular, a former Lama monk with strong ties to the country's many lamas. Kuular sought to establish stronger ties with Mongolia and to make Buddhism the state religion while trying to limit Soviet influence and propaganda. The Soviet Union responded with alarm to Kuular's theocratic and nationalist leanings and policies, which were considered in opposition to the communist principles of state atheism and internationalism.


Kuular's theocratic, nationalist and anti-Soviet policies led to a Soviet-backed coup d'état in 1929. While Kuular was implementing his policies, the Soviet Union had laid foundations for a new leadership – staunchly loyal to Joseph Stalin – including the creation of the "Tuva Revolutionary Youth Union" where members received military training. Five young Tuvan graduates from the Communist University of the Toilers of the East were appointed "Extraordinary Commissioners" and overthrew the government in January 1929 during the 2nd Plenary Session of the Central Committee.

Following the coup, Kuular was removed from power and executed, and about a third to half the members of the TPRP were also purged. Kuular's policies were reverted and the country's traditionally nomadic cattle-breeders were put in collectivization programs. Similarly to the Stalinist repressions in Mongolia, Buddhist lamas, aristocrats, members of the intelligentsia and other political dissidents were purged, and Buddhist temples and monasteries were destroyed. As part of this process, the written language in Tuva was changed from the Mongolian script to the Latin-based alphabet in June 1930. Religious symbols, such as the Khorlo, were also removed from the flag and emblem. Evidence of the effect of these actions can be seen in the decline in the numbers of lamas in the country: in 1929, there were 25 lamaseries and about 4,000 lamas and shamans; in 1931, there were just one lamasery, 15 lamas, and approximately 725 shamans. The attempts at eradicating nomadic husbandry were more difficult. A census in 1931 showed that 82.2% of Tuvans still engaged in nomadic cattle breeding.

One of the five Extraordinary Commissioners, Salchak Toka, became General Secretary of the Central Committee of the TPRP in 1932 and would be the de facto leader of Tuva until his death in 1973.

A 1926 Tuvan postage stamp. Border dispute with Mongolia

In July 1932, with mediation from the Soviet Union, Tuva signed an agreement and received a substantial territorial gain from Mongolia as a fixed border was created between the two countries. Mongolia was forced to sign under Soviet pressure and did not ratify the agreement in the Mongol Great Khural. The new territory notably included Dus-Dag mountain, the only source of salt mining for Tuva. The border between Tuva and Mongolia remained controversial during the 1930s, with Mongolia referring to Qing dynasty documents to argue their ownership of the mountain.

Map of western Mongolia and part of Tannu Tuva in 1935.

The debate continued to flare up in the following years, and Mongolian leadership demanded the return of the mountain "arbitrarily captured by Tuvans", criticizing the 1932 agreement as unjust due to Soviet pressure for Mongolia to sign. Soviet authorities reiterated their official position that Mongolia had no reason to revise the 1932 agreement and did not need the salt mountain, asking Tuva not to revise the agreement. Mongolia promised not to raise the issue again, but relations between it and Tuva became very strained. The Tuvan government made concessions to avoid conflict with its neighbor, and in 1940, the two governments signed a new agreement "On the border based on historical materials and documents". However, while Tuva sought to clarify the border established in 1932, Mongolia sought to revise it completely; this led to irreconcilable positions and the ratification of the new agreement was stopped.

Both parties turned to the Soviet Union for mediation, but with the outbreak of World War II, Soviet authorities insisted on ceasing any discussion regarding the border dispute, especially in regard to Mount Dus-Dag. In 1943, the Mongolian ambassador said "The Salt Mountain has been exploited by the Tuvans for about ten years now and is also located in disputed territory, so the demand for the Tuvan government to return it is too harsh." This more or less ended the controversial issue, but some minor disputes continued until the absorption of Tuva into the Soviet Union in 1944, at which point Mongolia ratified the original 1932 agreement (and even then, border protection such as alarmed fences had to be introduced in the area in 1946).

World War II

In the 1930s, the Empire of Japan undertook several aggressive actions against China. This included the invasion of Manchuria and the creation of the Manchukuo puppet state, and culminated in a full-scale war against China in 1937. The Tuvan government undertook measures to strengthen their army, and the 11th Congress of the TPRP, held in November 1939, instructed the Central Committee to fully equip the Tuvan People's Revolutionary Army in the next two to three years and to further raise combat readiness. The Ministry of Military Affairs was created in late February 1940 and immediately started equipping the army with new weapons and equipment, as well as improving training of officers and army units. The Soviet Union assisted the Tuvans with significant assistance in materiel and technical development. The middle and high commands of the Tuvan Army were trained in Soviet military academies, including the Frunze Military Academy and the General Staff Academy.

As Germany and other Axis powers launched their invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, the 10th Great Khural of Tuva declared that "The Tuvan people, led by the entire revolutionary party and government, not sparing their lives, are ready by any means to participate in the struggle of the Soviet Union against the fascist aggressor until their final victory over it." It has sometimes been stated that Tuva declared war on Germany on 25 June 1941, but the sources are dubious.

Nevertheless, Tuva helped the Soviet Union in substantial ways, transferring its entire gold reserve of ~20,000,000 Rbls to the Soviet Union, with additional extracted Tuvan gold worth around 10,000,000 Rbls annually. Between June 1941 and October 1944, Tuva supplied the Soviet Red Army with 700,000 livestock, of which almost 650,000 were donated. In addition, 50,000 war horses, 52,000 pairs of skis, 10,000 winter coats, 19,000 pairs of gloves, 16,000 boots and 67,000 tons of sheep wool as well as several hundreds tons of meats, grain, carts, sledges, horse tacks and other goods totaling 66,500,000 Rbls were sent. Up to 90% were donated.

In March 1943, 10 Yakovlev Yak-7 fighters were built with funds raised by the Tuvans and placed at the disposal of the Soviet Air Forces. Also during 1943, Tuva mustered 11 volunteer tankers and 208 volunteer cavalrymen. The tankers and 177 of the cavalrymen were assigned to the Red Army and served on the Eastern Front from early 1944, especially around Ukraine.

Absorption into the USSR

Decree "On the Admission of the Tuvan People's Republic to the USSR", issued on 11 October 1944.

Tuvan orientation towards Moscow intensified during the war. In September 1943, the written language was again changed, this time from the Latin to the Cyrillic script, the standard alphabet in the Soviet Union. By 1941, the national symbols, such as the flag and emblem, had been changed to the same style as various Soviet regions. Tuvan underwent intense Russification of social and economic practices, and virtually all remaining opposition to Stalinist policy was eradicated. The Soviets desired the mineral resources of the republic and a permanent end to Mongolian-Chinese geopolitical intrigues in the region. This process culminated in the absorption of Tuva in 1944, under the rule of General Secretary Salchak Toka and his wife, Head of State Khertek Anchimaa-Toka.

On 7 August 1944, the Central Committee of the TPRP decided to subsume Tuva into the Soviet Union. This was supported on 15 August by the 9th Plenary Session. On 17 August, the 7th Extraordinary Session of the Little Khural created a "Declaration of the Accession of the Tuvan People's Republic to the Soviet Union". Finally, on 11 October 1944, at a meeting of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, Khertek Anchimaa-Toka read out the declaration detailing the desire for Tuva to join the USSR, which was accepted. The decision went into effect on 1 November 1944, and the Tuvan People's Republic thus became the Tuvan Autonomous Oblast, a part of the Russian SFSR (the largest constituent republic of the Soviet Union).

Salchak Toka's position changed from "General Secretary of the TPRP" to "First Secretary of the Oblast Committee of the CPSU of the Tuvan Autonomous Oblast" (changed to "Republican Committee" in 1961) and continued his rule of the region until his death in 1973.

On 10 October 1961, the Tuvan Autonomous Oblast became the Tuvan ASSR, still within the Russian SFSR, and remained so until 1992. The area that was the Tuvan People's Republic is now known as the Tuva Republic within the Russian Federation.


Population of Tuva
1918 1931 1944 1958
Tuvans 48,000 64,900 81,100 98,000
Russians and other 12,000 17,300 14,300a 73,900
Total 60,000 82,200 95,400 171,900

a. Russian population declined due to the Red Army conscription during World War II.

See also


  1. ^ Tuvan: Тыва Арат Республик, romanized: Tywa Arat Respublik; Yanalif: Tьʙа Arat Respuʙlik, IPA: ); the name was sometimes partially translated as the Tuvan Arat Republic (or Tuva/Tuvinian Arat Republic; Russian: Тувинская Аратская Республика) and abbreviated TAR.


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  3. ^ "О министерстве" (in Russian).
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  5. ^ a b V.A.Grebneva "Geography of Tuva". Kyzyl, 1968 (in Russian)
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  7. ^ Otto Maenchen-Helfen. Journey to Tuva. Ethnographics Press, University of Southern California, 1992. ISBN 9781878986047 "Tuvan+Arat+Republic" p. 242
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  9. ^ Л. Спаткай. Гербы и флаги стран мира. Европа. Часть II. Litres, 2018. ISBN 9785040353170
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  35. ^ Президиум Верховного Совета СССР. Указ от 11 октября 1944 г «О принятии Тувинской Народной Республики в состав Союза Советских Социалистических Республик». (Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. Decree of 11 October 1944 On the admission of the Tuvan People's Republic to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. ).

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