Ethnic Conflict in the Post-Soviet World: Case Studies and Analysis

By Leokadia Drobizheva; Rose Gottemoeller et al. | Go to book overview

SIBERIA

10.

On the Problem of Interethnic Conflict
The Republic of Tuva

ZOIA V. ANAIBAN

EDWARD W. WALKER

The first outbreak of ethnic violence in the Russian Federation (at that time the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, or RSFSR) during the Gorbachev era took place between ethnic Tuvinians and Russians in the Republic of Tuva in May 1990. Since that time, Tuva has constituted a "hot spot" of ethnic tension in Russia and a major challenge to the sovereignty and authority of Russia's federal government. In this chapter we describe ethnic tensions and ethnopolitical mobilization in Tuva, analyze their causes, and consider ways that ethnic tensions might be managed more effectively in the future.

The Republic of Tuva is a remote, mountainous area of eastern Siberia located on the basin of the Upper Yenisei River along Russia's southern border with Mongolia. It is surrounded by two mountain ranges—the Sayans to the north and the Altai to the south. Economically, the region is rich in proven reserves of coal and asbestos. It also has deposits of gold, silver, precious and semiprecious stones, nickel, and other minerals, as well as large stocks of timber, fish, and bearers of valuable furs such as ermines, sables, and silver foxes.

According to the 1989 Soviet census, Tuva's population was only 308,557. 1 Since then, its population has reportedly fallen to some 280,000. Tuva is thus the third smallest in population of Russia's twenty-one ethnically defined "republics" (after the Altai Republic and Ingushetia). 2 Territorially, however, Tuva is rather large, covering 65,830 square miles. This combination of small population and relatively large size gives it a very low population density.

By the standards of the Russian Federation, Tuva's titular nationality constitutes a large portion of its population. Ethnic Tuvinians made up 64.8 percent of the population in 1989, and Russians 32 percent. 3 This latter figure is now considerably smaller due to Russian out-migration since 1990. Only in Chuvashia does a single titular nationality make up a larger portion of the population among Russia's republics. Additionally, language saturation of ethnic Tuvinians is extremely high—99 percent considered their "mother tongue" (rodnoi iazyk) to be Tuvinian, and only 58 percent described themselves as

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