Abstract

Youth of ethnic Tuvan heritage within the Tuvan Republic (part of the Russian Federation) aged 6 to 24 represent a dynamic force which has been shaped by two factors. One is the ancient Turkic heritage of Tuvan culture. Contemporary Tuvans, including youth, display both Russian and Tuvan nationalist feelings, admire martial culture and explore their cultural uniqueness. They hold in high esteem contact sports, especially martial arts such as sambo or judo. Tuvan athletes successfully compete for Russia at international events, including the Olympics. The current Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation is half-Tuvan and extremely popular in the republic, where people see him as nothing short of a national hero. At the same time, young multi-lingual Tuvans, who also speak Russian, and, with access to foreign language education, Korean and English, are being influenced by mediums and through technologies that are international like never before. A special focus is made on the impact of East Asian pop-culture, specifically that of South Korea. Tuva is located in Asia’s geographical center, and is a place where for many centuries Tibetan Buddhism coexisted with Shamanism. Thus, Tuvans strongly identify themselves with Asian culture. They tend to believe in metempsychosis and often tell those who take interest in Tuvan culture that they were Tuvans in their past lives. In their view, Tuvan language has preserved the features of “original” Turkic. These and many other ideas and beliefs show that historical facts and myths are closely intertwined within Tuvan identity. Studying and speaking foreign languages helps prioritize the positive outlook in Tuvan youth, who eagerly study both English and Eastern languages.   In working with Tuvan youth, I was able to teach through games and informal conversation. I was able to meet community leaders who use language to foster lasting change in children’s perception of themselves, as an attempt to spread culture globally and to increase opportunities for the future of Tuvan youth. All my field work was conducted through informal interviews with students through VK messaging and in person during Access Summer Camp of June 2015 and a language study abroad trip to South Korea in July 2015.

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