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электронный журнал "Новые исследования Тувы"

Tuvan Spa won a Gold Medal in interregional competition

Tuvan spa Ush-Beldir (Triple confluence), located in a difficult to get to eastern taiga part of the republic, 360 km from Kyzyl, won a Gold Medal in an interregional competition “Gemma-2009”, which just took place in Novosibirsk.

Among the best products and services of Siberia, the spa exceeded the famous “Krasnoyarsk Mountains” and “Shira”.

“Especially the effectiveness of the healing was evaluated, not the material basis”, Mira Opeyen, the head doctor, explains the sensational success of the Tuvan spa.

Despite infrastructural problems, the balneologic spa, which opened in 1933 at the elevation of 1127 meters above sea level, won great popularity by its healing methods and means not only among Siberians. The spa is connected with “Greater Tuva” only by air.

Among the patients, you can meet people from Ak-Dovurak and Moscow, Kyzyl, and Krasnoyarsk, Chadan and Sankt-Peterburg.

“The Gold Medal is not just a regognition of the spa, it means recognition of entire Tuva, of its tourist and balneologic potential. I think that year 2010, as the Year of Tourism, will mean a turn-around in the fate of the spa”, says Opeyen.

As the first step on this path, a preferential airfare to the spa for citizens of Tuva has been established. A ticket on the route Kyzyl - Ush-Beldir (North Arzhaan) will cost 2192 rubles. For visitors from other regions, the round trip ticket will cost more than 10 thousand rubles.

“But that won’t stop the Siberians, - says the chief doctor of the spa. – People come more for health reasons, not just for comfort, they try to get quality natural healing, and there is no equal to our thermal springs and climate for curative properties.”

The medical profile of the spa includes diseases of musculo-skeletal system, skin diseases, diseases of the peripheral nervous system, gynecology (tubular infertility), bronchial asthma, and allergies.

The summer season in Ush-Beldir starts, as usual, on June 10. This year, serious renovation of the material basis of the spa is planned towards this date.

You can read in more detail about the spa “Ush-Beldir” in these excerpts from Nadezhda Antufyeva’s article

“Triple Confluence” in the “Center of Asia”, (No.35, 2008).

…This summer spa will not surprise you by any excess of services. However, it will astonish you by something else: untouched, primal nature, where, thank God, no railway will ever get.

And also by its unique riches – endless stores of medicinal hot underground waters, which no Roman Abramovich will ever have the nerve to export like Mezhegei coal.

What is this Tuvan taiga spa “Ush-Beldir”, where I risked to go in July of 2008?

…”Ush” in Tuvan language means three. Triple confluence – that is the name the place received because it is surrounded by three rivers which flow into one another; Shishkhid-Gol, Busiyn-Gol (Bus), and Bilin (Bellin), which carry their waters to Yenisei.

…The local population has known about the healing properties of these hot springs since ancient times, and has been traveling there on horseback, by taiga paths, for healing. The arzhaans are hot and cold springs; the region has many of them. They have long been the mainstay of Tuvan folk medicine. Feliks Kohn, the exiled Polish revolutionary, who performed an expedition to the Trans-Sayan region in 1903, wrote about the arzhaans in his report:

“ People come here for cures of various diseases. Nobody has studied, or knows exactly the properties of the waters. There are people with syphilis, rheumatism, and those with stomach problems.”

Serious study of the arzhaans did not begin until another three decades after Kohn’s expedition. In the early 30’s of 20th century, the government of Tuvinian National Republic turned to USSR with a request for help in scientific research of the region. A whole group of specialists in various disciplines was sent to Tuva, and USSR took care of the expenses for many expeditions.

Ush-Beldir, (together with the Tarys spring and the Cheder salt lake), was assigned to the chemist Vladimir Levchenko, who was the first to study and describe the arzhaan in 1932.

And already in 1933, the wild spring became a balneologic (mineral water) spa.

Of course, a very modest one: just a dormitory for the patients, a dining room, electro-station, a warehouse, a house for the doctor and a treatment building with five bathtubs.

Candidate of Medical science, Aleksandr Blyumenfeld, in his book “Kurortniye bogatstva Tuvy” ( The spa riches of Tuva), which was published in Kyzyl in 1957, explains: at that time, the patients would undergo a special medical-spa committee evaluation, and then would travel to the settlement Belbei in Kaa-Khem district. And from there, with the doctor and an experienced guide, they would travel on horseback to the spa.

It would take 14-15 days to get there by deserted, impassable paths. Yes, the first organized trip to healing was not easy. It is no surprise that this medical establishment was closed after three years. Ush-Beldir became wild again.

And only in the summer of 1957 the spa started to function again. Every year in the summer months. And the patients are admitted in groups of 125-150 four times in the season.

…What is this local underground water, which was classified by specialists as a unique Ush-Beldir type?

To determine the reserves of the thermal underground waters, survey soundings were drilled in 1863-1966. It became clear that the reserves were, de facto, endless. And they have not decreased to this day.

In 2006, specialists from Tomsk Science and Research institute of spa science and physiotherapy performed a study and came to a conclusion that no decrease in the thermal waters can be documented.

And this is even when the waters are not used just for medical purposes – baths and showers, but also for regular bathing, and for heating the buildings. The mineral waters are used for washing dishes in the cafeteria and even for laundry.

The quality of the waters also remains unchanged: alkaline, slightly mineralized, siliceous, hydrosulphuric, phtotic, containing sodium and calcium. Very soft. With a strong smell of hydrogen sulphide.

The taste of the water is unpleasant. In fact, it is not potable at all, because of high content of fluorine.

The temperature of the water, in geysers and springs, which you can see here in the most unexpected places, is from 55 to 85 degrees centigrade.

…Water is classified as thermal when the temperature exceeds 20 degrees centigrade.

So, the data of Ush-Beldir, according to the tables made by that same Aleksandr Blyumenfeld, whose work appears to be excellent material for researchers of balneology in Tuva to this day, exceed all the famous hot springs of the West.

The maximum temperature is 85 degrees centigrade!

In the famous German spa Baden-Baden, where all the Russian aristocracy used to go in the 19th century, and where Gogol, Tolstoy, Turgenev and Dostoyevsky got their inspiration, the temperature is only 63 degrees centigrade.

…All the cures here consist of water. After breakfast, the people start to trickle to the treatment building: a strong, cement building filled with steam and smell of hydrogen sulphide.

Rooms with bathtubs are located around the perimeter; in the center are different types of showers, where up to five people can go at the same time.

There are four types of showers. At first, an ordinary one – water pours from top to bottom. Then a circular one, where thin sharp streams stab your body. Next is an ascending one, where the water sprays from below, and you are expected to sit on it. And for the dessert, there is the Sharko shower: a nurse stands on a pedestal and aims a waterhose at you, with a mighty stream hitting all your body parts.

The water comes directly from underground geysers, very hot. At first it seems impossible to tolerate. But it is OK, everybody tolerates it. And even gets pleasure out of it.

After procedures like this, especially during the first few days until you get used to it, complete exhaustion sets in: you can barely creep back to your bed to lie down. But it is a very pleasant tiredness, very relaxing and calming.

You feel relaxed throughout the rest of the day. You simply do not feel like growling and complaining and cursing at anybody. So everybody at this spa is very polite and filled with well-being.

There is also a very picturesque place here, arzhaan “Kuzel”, which is considered to be wild. But it is set up in a very cozy way; a tiny, clean low wooden house behind a small stream, with a small pit which performs the function of a tub. This is where the spring water collects. It is very hot, from 56 to 81 degrees centigrade, depending on the time of the day.

Many people choose to come here early in the morning and late at night for supplementary independent cure. Older people especially like to soothe their painful joints here.

The doctors can’t forbid the folk healing, but they can give a strong warning: wild baths should not be taken for more than one to three minutes, and no more than once a day. It is a very strong load on the heart.

Thermal water is also in the regular bath. In that way, even when you simply go to wash up, you are receiving a treatment.

As a matter of fact, there is some important information for women; do not bother to bring any skin crèmes to the spa. This water is so soft that your face and entire body becomes delicate and silky without any cosmetics at all.

Dina Oyun, translated by Heda Jindrak
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