KYZYL

 

Photos by Yuriy Ogarkov
Text by Emre Akan

Our next stop was Kyzyl, the capital of the Republic of Tuva. The city has 116.000 inhabitants on the area of 97,41 square kilometers. It is situated in the georaphical center of Asia and is located on the conjunction of Large Yenisei River and Little Yenisei River.

 The Republic of Tuva, Russia (google maps)

The Republic of Tuva, Russia (google maps)

 
 Kyzyl, Republic of Tuva

Kyzyl, Republic of Tuva

 Kyzyl, Tuva

Kyzyl, Tuva

 The first two nights in Kyzyl we have stayed in an old soviet style building from the 70's where you could smell the heavy air of dust just by stepping into it. Around the place you could see the tension of problematic neighborhoods. Statistically Kyzyl is Russia’s most criminal city.

The first two nights in Kyzyl we have stayed in an old soviet style building from the 70's where you could smell the heavy air of dust just by stepping into it. Around the place you could see the tension of problematic neighborhoods. Statistically Kyzyl is Russia’s most criminal city.

 Our apartment

Our apartment

 Many Post-Soviet states have spooky looking playgrounds for children. There is a lot photo material on the internet to this topic and now we saw it with our own eyes.

Many Post-Soviet states have spooky looking playgrounds for children. There is a lot photo material on the internet to this topic and now we saw it with our own eyes.

 A children playground in Kyzyl

A children playground in Kyzyl

Center of Asia. A unique architectural master piece. Geographically it is really the center of Asia. A wide open space on the coast of the River Yenisei, just where Small Yenisei (Ka-Khem) and Big Yenisei (Biy-Khem) flow into Yenisei River, that is 7th longest river in the world.

 Entrance to the Center of Asia

Entrance to the Center of Asia

 Geographical midpoint of Asia. Kyzyl, Tuva

Geographical midpoint of Asia. Kyzyl, Tuva

 Sculptures made by a russian sculptur  Dashi Namdakov . Look at his astonishing works:  http://www.dashi-art.com/

Sculptures made by a russian sculptur Dashi Namdakov. Look at his astonishing works: http://www.dashi-art.com/

 Sculptures by Dashi Namdakov

Sculptures by Dashi Namdakov

 Obelisk "Center of Asia"

Obelisk "Center of Asia"

 Tourists posing in the traditional clothes of Tuva

Tourists posing in the traditional clothes of Tuva


Our first meeting in Kyzyl was with shaman Elena Huler-Oolovna. We could get to know Elena through a good friend from Tuva who lives in Moscow recently. Thanks to her we met with Ellada who knew Elena. Luckily Ellada could speak fluent Turkish so we could do the interview Tuvan to Turkish. What a beautifully sounding language! By the way, Tuvan language is quite similar to Turkish and I could understand many common words during the conversation, because I was born and raised in Istanbul.  Elena was a little bit diffeerent from the rest of the shamans we have met on the way. Most of them rejected Buddhism except Elena. She adopted some Buddhist practices into her shamanic lifestyle. 

 Emre gives сastanets to Elena

Emre gives сastanets to Elena

During our conversation, a Russian speaking girl named Olga approached us and asked if she could listen to our interview. Yuriy said: “Yes, but it’s in Turkish”. What a surprise, she could also speak Turkish as she was a Turkish teacher. Olga was guiding a Norwegian friend Adam. On his journey, he hoped to meet a shaman for his mercury poisoning issue due to tooth fillings. Looks like his problem is a big national scandal in Norway and many people of his age face similar situation today. Adam has been visiting all kind of modern and alternative medicine to solve his health problem and his last option was visiting a shaman. Adam lives close by the Sami people in Norway which is not far from the shamanic/Buddhist practice. Along the way he was looking for the one shaman, the right one for him. Till his penultimate day he was not that lucky to meet him/her. Until this very precise moment of deciding to have a meal at the Center of Asia, at exactly the same time as our interview with Elena took place. Olga translated Adam’s request to Elena and arranged an appointment for the next day, just before Adam was going to leave Kyzyl and go back home. Elena was kind to accept his request for a meeting to fill Adam’s expectations. 
 

 The next morning Adam and Olga came to pick us up from the place we were staying and together we went to a small village near Kyzyl where Elena had her yurta and a house. She used to manage a shaman community in the past.

The next morning Adam and Olga came to pick us up from the place we were staying and together we went to a small village near Kyzyl where Elena had her yurta and a house. She used to manage a shaman community in the past.

 We sat in Elena's summer house. It was hot, silent and fresh summer wind came in from time to time touching our skins.

We sat in Elena's summer house. It was hot, silent and fresh summer wind came in from time to time touching our skins.

 Elena's shaman dress

Elena's shaman dress

 Adam was calm and patient. Elena took her stones out and started to look into Adam's soul. Elena divined Adam from the past and the future. Told Adam that the year 2017 will be good and stable for him. But the next year he should pay a visit to Elena. From the colored threads she did a doll and put it in a small yellow handmade bag. Now Adam has a protector and he also can ask the doll for the wishes to come true. But the doll need energy from nature. So Adam must take her out from time to time and point the doll towards the sun, skies and the forest in order to fill it with energy from nature. Elena also told Adam to spend more time with his family and… to avoid drinking boiled water.

Adam was calm and patient. Elena took her stones out and started to look into Adam's soul. Elena divined Adam from the past and the future. Told Adam that the year 2017 will be good and stable for him. But the next year he should pay a visit to Elena. From the colored threads she did a doll and put it in a small yellow handmade bag. Now Adam has a protector and he also can ask the doll for the wishes to come true. But the doll need energy from nature. So Adam must take her out from time to time and point the doll towards the sun, skies and the forest in order to fill it with energy from nature. Elena also told Adam to spend more time with his family and… to avoid drinking boiled water.

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 After the session we asked Adam about Elena’s predictions. He was very surprised and happy. He said it was worth to wait for Elena until the last minute. He knew he would find her and he said he would come to meet her again. After giving Elena some presents, we went back to Kyzyl and Adam and Olga took the way to Krasnoyarsk for Adam to take a flight home.

After the session we asked Adam about Elena’s predictions. He was very surprised and happy. He said it was worth to wait for Elena until the last minute. He knew he would find her and he said he would come to meet her again. After giving Elena some presents, we went back to Kyzyl and Adam and Olga took the way to Krasnoyarsk for Adam to take a flight home.

As we went back to our apartment, better to say «to our dirty hole», Yuriy started his routine of backing up the photos. Suddenly his memory card has disappeared. We spent three hours searching it in every corner, checking every single item and even (the next information is not for the apartment owner) cut the couches with the knife to see if the card felt down into the trenches. No positive result and we had to move. The Supreme Shaman of Tuva was waiting for us.

On our third day in Kyzyl, we went to meet Dopchun-ool Kara-ool Tulushevich, The Supreme Shaman of Tuva, the mighty leader of the shaman community Adyg-Eeren („Spirit of Bear“). So the next days we would share the bread with shamans, take part in rituals, hear incredible stories and even see some magic.

 Stuffed black grouse in the yard of Adyg-Eeren

Stuffed black grouse in the yard of Adyg-Eeren

 Adyg-Eeren is shaman's community with around 15 people, among which are shamans, workers, servants, visitors and Kara-ool Tulushevich's relatives. The area is situated in the eastern part of Kyzyl. It is a place with about 1000 square meters and a few village buildings. In the main house, where Karaool and his wife are living, there are also four cabinets where shamans are working. In each cabinet there are stuffed animals all over the place. Bones, dolls and other shaman’s attributes.

Adyg-Eeren is shaman's community with around 15 people, among which are shamans, workers, servants, visitors and Kara-ool Tulushevich's relatives. The area is situated in the eastern part of Kyzyl. It is a place with about 1000 square meters and a few village buildings. In the main house, where Karaool and his wife are living, there are also four cabinets where shamans are working. In each cabinet there are stuffed animals all over the place. Bones, dolls and other shaman’s attributes.

 Kara-ool Tulushevich is a strong man in his middle fifties and is huge like a bear. He sees the bear as his protector animal. His cabinet is full of stuffed animals and evil eyed totems are staring from the walls. It is dark inside. The smoke of his cigarettes is all over the place and is illuminated by the dim light that comes through the single window near Kara-ool's working table. "You see this talons?", asksTulushevich and shows us his thick fingers, "Those are the talons of Satan! They can pull out every demon out of anyone's body", he says. In that moment we both feel a cold wave of goosebumps and our mouths become dry like desert.

Kara-ool Tulushevich is a strong man in his middle fifties and is huge like a bear. He sees the bear as his protector animal. His cabinet is full of stuffed animals and evil eyed totems are staring from the walls. It is dark inside. The smoke of his cigarettes is all over the place and is illuminated by the dim light that comes through the single window near Kara-ool's working table. "You see this talons?", asksTulushevich and shows us his thick fingers, "Those are the talons of Satan! They can pull out every demon out of anyone's body", he says. In that moment we both feel a cold wave of goosebumps and our mouths become dry like desert.

 Skull of a bear on the working table of Kara-ool

Skull of a bear on the working table of Kara-ool

 Dopchun-ool Kara-ool Tulushevich in his cabinet

Dopchun-ool Kara-ool Tulushevich in his cabinet

 Kara-ool shows his verification document that proves his legitimacy as the Supreme Shaman of Tuva signed by  Mongush Kenin-Lopsan

Kara-ool shows his verification document that proves his legitimacy as the Supreme Shaman of Tuva signed by Mongush Kenin-Lopsan

 Kara-ool Tuluchevich

Kara-ool Tuluchevich

 The car is a present from the authorities of Khakassia to Kara-ool, as he says

The car is a present from the authorities of Khakassia to Kara-ool, as he says

 A woman does a ritual of honour to the spirits of the ancestors by walking three times clockwise around the circle made of the tombstones, called  Kurgan

A woman does a ritual of honour to the spirits of the ancestors by walking three times clockwise around the circle made of the tombstones, called Kurgan

 Sacred place Mongun-Bulak near the water brook Serebryanka

Sacred place Mongun-Bulak near the water brook Serebryanka

 Probably the most common ritual that shamans are asked to do is the ritual of "Opening the Way". Usually it is done to a group of people, family, can be also applied to a single person. The essence of the ritual is to ask the spirits for the help, to let the family have enough harvest, more productivity in work, stable health to their children etc. The ritual should be done once in a year in order to please the spirits, so they can provide their protection for the family in the next year as well.

Probably the most common ritual that shamans are asked to do is the ritual of "Opening the Way". Usually it is done to a group of people, family, can be also applied to a single person. The essence of the ritual is to ask the spirits for the help, to let the family have enough harvest, more productivity in work, stable health to their children etc. The ritual should be done once in a year in order to please the spirits, so they can provide their protection for the family in the next year as well.

 Kara-ool Tuluchevich and his tambourine

Kara-ool Tuluchevich and his tambourine

 After the ritual

After the ritual

Beside us in Adyg-Eeren there were two other visitors. A 38 old female named Caren from Austria, who usually works as a teacher with refugees and used to practice black magic in her home land. She traveled East from February this year till September and spontaneously visited Tulushevich.
Alexei from Buryatia, who is the same age as Caren, traveled to Adyg-Eeren from China, where he works as a tester of electronic devices.
Both of them came to Kara-ool Tulushevich to become shamans. By them we were told, that for about 1000-1200€ you can get diploma in 10-14 days and become an official representative of shamans of Tuva all around the world.
During this two weeks of studying, students were practicing fortune telling by the stones or just watching the shamans around to create their own shamanic items, making the shaman dress and collecting animal bones from a special shamanic shop in the center of Kyzyl that is ran by a local hunter, a friend of Sergey.

 Caren hugs her teacher Kara-ool after receiving the certificate

Caren hugs her teacher Kara-ool after receiving the certificate

 Caren's certificate. Now she is officially a representative of the shaman's community Adyg-Eeren in the whole world

Caren's certificate. Now she is officially a representative of the shaman's community Adyg-Eeren in the whole world

 Sergey «The Wild Shaman» is the right hand of Kara-ool Tulushevich. He is a skinny man, mid-fifties, who was born and raised in  Taiga . In his surrounding you feel peace and harmony. A man of nature, a man with lovely heart.

Sergey «The Wild Shaman» is the right hand of Kara-ool Tulushevich. He is a skinny man, mid-fifties, who was born and raised in Taiga. In his surrounding you feel peace and harmony. A man of nature, a man with lovely heart.

 Shaman Stanislava from  Krasnoyarsk . She was also living in Adyg-Eeren as we were there. Her goal of visiting the community was to figure out her strength and better understand her spiritual world

Shaman Stanislava from Krasnoyarsk. She was also living in Adyg-Eeren as we were there. Her goal of visiting the community was to figure out her strength and better understand her spiritual world

 Sergey

Sergey

But what about the magic?
Yuriy told Sergey about his lost memory card. "Don't worry," -Sergey said, -"we will find your card". One early morning we woke up in yurta, where we were sleeping three nights (me, Yuriy and Sergey). Yuriy brought some woods, Sergey started the fire in the oven for the breakfast. They both sat on each bed. "Yuriy," - Sergey said, - "do you have scissors for me? I need to cut my nails". Yuriy took his travel scissors out of his bag, passed them to Sergey, turned towards his bed and shouted: !Ah! It is there! It is right there! My card! My card is there!" Sergey laughed wisely and gave the scissors back to Yuriy and said: "I had no need in the scissors. Just wanted you to find your card. While you were sleeping, I was flying around and saw where the card was". We are still wondering how it could be possible. Magic…

 Sergey in his cabinet

Sergey in his cabinet

 A bear's paw, that symbolises power,  a present to the students from Sergey and Kara-ool

A bear's paw, that symbolises power,  a present to the students from Sergey and Kara-ool

 Sergey told us, animal bones give strength and specially if it’s a paw of a bear. Shamans use it in their rituals to defeat the bad spirits. They have explained us that the fat of the bear's paw helps against bronchitis. It is quite similar to the  shark finning  stories. We believe animals are our soul protectors and we also kill them to protect our bodies. Aren’t they more beautiful and protective when they are alive? Looks like it is a complicated question for us human, when it comes to contradiction between our will and our faith, as shamanic believes normally tell you to live in harmony with nature. We heard stories, where a small baby black cat can contain bad spirits, because, according to the beliefs, witches operate through the black cats to bring bad luck into someone's house. So the only way to clean it from the bad spirits is to kill the animal. 

Sergey told us, animal bones give strength and specially if it’s a paw of a bear. Shamans use it in their rituals to defeat the bad spirits. They have explained us that the fat of the bear's paw helps against bronchitis. It is quite similar to the shark finning stories. We believe animals are our soul protectors and we also kill them to protect our bodies. Aren’t they more beautiful and protective when they are alive? Looks like it is a complicated question for us human, when it comes to contradiction between our will and our faith, as shamanic believes normally tell you to live in harmony with nature. We heard stories, where a small baby black cat can contain bad spirits, because, according to the beliefs, witches operate through the black cats to bring bad luck into someone's house. So the only way to clean it from the bad spirits is to kill the animal. 

 Ram's horns macerate in a solute. After they will be cut off and can be used as a decoration

Ram's horns macerate in a solute. After they will be cut off and can be used as a decoration

Together with Kara-ool and Sergey we have been to two rituals. One of them together with a Russian shaman Stanislava from Krasnoyarsk who just started her shamanic path. During those two rituals, the first thing to do was to burn junipers, in order to send away the evil, prepare the offerings for the spirits and light up the fire. After that shamans would spin around, sing songs, prayers and hit the tambourine. All this is done to call the spirits, communicate with them and ask for protection.
After the ritual is done, shamans usualy have a big feast with the family. Most food in Tuva and Khakassia consists of meat and milk. Every day we ate meat with meat. It was so much of it, that Yuriy, after coming back from the journey, started a vegetarian diet that he still continues to keep.

 A kid in the  Saryg-Sep  village

A kid in the Saryg-Sep village

 Cooking of the ram that was slaughtered for the ritual just a few hours ago.

Cooking of the ram that was slaughtered for the ritual just a few hours ago.

 Kara-ool Tulushevich is ready to call the spirits

Kara-ool Tulushevich is ready to call the spirits

 Sergey smokes bad spirits away from the cars

Sergey smokes bad spirits away from the cars

 Giving milk to the spirits

Giving milk to the spirits

 Kara-ool Tulushevich during the ritual

Kara-ool Tulushevich during the ritual

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After some hours of spinning around the fire and offering milk and gifts to the spirits, we went to collect Burdock Plants for Kara-ool which he uses to regulate the diabetes issue of his patients. 
While cutting the plants using my knife, Sergey (“The Wild Shaman”) saw my knife and fell in love with it. He asked me for an exchange the same night. I wouldn’t mind to do an exchange as I didn’t like to carry a knife with me apart from its use for cutting food and plants etc. When we got back home to do the exchange, first he wanted to do a fortune telling session to ask spirits if the knife exchange was the right thing to do at that moment. He asked me to hold the stones and to whisper my name and age into it. I did it and gave him back the stones. He threw them on his desk and told me that now it is not the right moment to do it. Spirits asked him to rest and to do the exchange on the next day. The next morning Sergey came to me with a protection neckless made out of the tooth and paw bones of grey wolf in exchange for my knife. After that we hugged each other, smiled and continued our lives protected by the mighty wolf which is also his soul protector too. Since that moment Sergey started proudly call me his wolf brother. I am also proud of being this very eager and helpful shaman’s wolf brother.

 Sergey washes his hands in Little Yenisei River near the village  Saryg-Sep

Sergey washes his hands in Little Yenisei River near the village Saryg-Sep

 As we went back to Kara-ool's car, two girls started to do photos with Sergey as they found out, that he is a shaman

As we went back to Kara-ool's car, two girls started to do photos with Sergey as they found out, that he is a shaman

Kara-ool and Sergey are famous people in town. One day we had a souvenir shopping tour as Sergey showed us all the good stores in Kyzyl. Random people on the street saluted him and it looked like he knows everyone. Those people also shook our hands, said "Eki" to us, what means "Hello" in Tuvan language, and were friendly and open to us. Kara-ool is not only known by every inhabitant in the city, but he is also well respected under other shamans on other continents of our Planet.

 In a souvenir shop Sergey shows us a photo book about shamanism of Tuva with him on the front page

In a souvenir shop Sergey shows us a photo book about shamanism of Tuva with him on the front page

 The National Museum of Republic of Tuva

The National Museum of Republic of Tuva

 Fountains near the National Museum of Tuva

Fountains near the National Museum of Tuva

 Shaman Tarseya in the garden of her house. She uses knowledge of the  vedas  in her spiritual practices. In the background is an old cult car  ZAZ Zaporozhets  from the Soviet Union time that mostly was built in  Zaporizhia , Ukraine

Shaman Tarseya in the garden of her house. She uses knowledge of the vedas in her spiritual practices. In the background is an old cult car ZAZ Zaporozhets from the Soviet Union time that mostly was built in Zaporizhia, Ukraine

 With Sergey we have visited a studio where masters were doing wooden sculptures and music instruments for sale

With Sergey we have visited a studio where masters were doing wooden sculptures and music instruments for sale

 A man finishes a sculpture of a  Khuresh  wrestler

A man finishes a sculpture of a Khuresh wrestler

 A dog and a head of a cow

A dog and a head of a cow

On the festival of Ustuu-Huree we met shaman Nikolay Nachin-ool. We exchanged the contacts and met again in Kyzyl. Nachin-ool lives a vagabond life. He doesn't have a regular home or a job, what doesn't make him sad at all. He enjoys every moment of life, he loves his mother nature and his father sun. From time to time Nachin-ool takes part in some rituals with the community Adyg-Eeren.
After we met Nachin-ool in Kyzyl, we went to a hill in the Kyzyl's suburbs Kaa-Hem, that is about four kilometers away from the city to salute the sunset. It was unforgettable spectacle of light, picturesque landscape and an energetic dance of the shaman.
 

 Nikolay 

Nikolay 

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 Nikolay Nachin-ool

Nikolay Nachin-ool

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 Nachin-ool salutes the sun

Nachin-ool salutes the sun

 

After a week in Kyzyl, our next destination is the Baikal Lake...



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Sharing the link to the publication is welcomed.