Monday, May 24, 2021

Shoygu’s Military Investment in Tyva Only Source of Stability There, Residents Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 22 – Tyva is one of the poorest regions in the Russian Federation and has deteriorated significantly over the last several years. According to local people, the only thing giving them hope for the future are the military investments Sergey Shoygu, the Russian defense minister of Tuvan background, has been making in the republic.

            A third of the republic’s people live under the poverty line, and last year during the pandemic, a quarter of the total registered as unemployed, Tatyana Vasilchuk and Vlad Lokshin of Novaya gazeta report on the basis of a recent visit to the Buddhist enclave (

            They suggest that Tyva has all the problems of other parts of Russia, including the dominance of clans, spreading unemployment, and leaders who run the place for their own benefit instead of that of the population. But in addition, it has others that make these problems deeper and more intractable.

            The journalists report that it has “the worst indicators” on quality of life of any federal subject, but its leaders ensure that it delivers the vote the way the Kremlin wants. It trails only Chechnya in voting for whatever the center wants. And it survives only on subsidies from Moscow. In 2019, 76 percent of its budget came from there; in 2020, 84 percent did.

            Kyzyl, the capital of Tyva, was the only city in Russia to introduce a dry law during the May holidays, but the only effect, the journalists suggest, is that Tuvans took to drinking samogon and surrogates like perfume and cleaning supplies. Many Tuvans out of desperation are turning to shamans or even seeking to become shamans themselves.

            The central shaman office, Vasilchuk and Lokshin say, is like a government office. There are pictures of Putin, Shoygu, and the Kyzyl mayor on the wall with a blank space left for whoever assumes the top job in Tyva now that the 14-year occupant of that position has been ousted.

            Ethnic Russians continue to flee. They formed only 16 percent of the population in 2010, and their numbers now are certainly much lower. Tuvans who can go elsewhere are also leaving because of soaring housing prices and the absence of work; and the republic’s population is likely to be lower in the upcoming census than it has been in decades.

            There is only one hopeful sign, the two Moscow journalists say local people report, military spending. The Russian military now provides “the only stable work and money” for the population, and most Tuvans credit Shoygu with providing this help, a local hero who has not forgotten his roots.

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