January 01, 2022

A Treacherous Beauty

A Treacherous Beauty

It’s morning, and I’m walking along the streets of Kyzyl. Snow crunches underfoot (it’s -22° F outside). The rare passerby pays me almost no mind; however, a few peer at my face, their gaze lingering for a couple of seconds. Tourists in the Tuva Republic are few and far between, and it’s easy to spot them. According to the 2010 All-Russia Census, Tuva is one of the most monoethnic republics in Russia. Tuvans make up some 80 percent of the republic’s population. The remaining 20 percent is predominately comprised of Russians, whose numbers have fallen by half since the collapse of the Soviet Union. News from the region occasionally features stories about ethnic conflicts. Overall, the Russian media calls the area nothing less than the “most dangerous place in the country.”

The statistics back this up. According to figures from 2020, there were 26 crimes recorded for every 1,000 Tuvans. By comparison, Moscow had 11 per 1,000, and Dagestan had just 4. In fact, the republic has Russia’s highest murder rate (with domestic violence accounting for most). And Tuva also lies on the other end of the spectrum regarding quality of life in Russia, ranking last.

For anyone equipped with this information, walking the streets of Kyzyl can be a bit scary. Mind you, nothing out of the ordinary is happening nearby. Someone is taking a child to school, and a group of older guys is heatedly discussing something by the Tuvan Volunteers Monument (commemorating the Tuvans who fought alongside the Soviets against Nazi Germany when Tuva was an independent nation).

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