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Zinaida Semis-ool: “Listen to the music of the mountains”

Bai-Taiga entered Charash Dash into the “Tos Ertine” (Nine Treasures) contest.

It is a natural wonder, something unusual, supernatural, as if created by a divine power, it is something astonishing, surprising in its originality. There is a small river, taking its origin in a waterfall. There, under water and on the shore, are scattered multicolored stones and pebbles which look like a woman, milking a cow; like a good man – Tuvan, riding a horse; like many tools and utensils of daily use among the arats – nomads, and like animals.

The natural wonder was reported by a 10th grader from Teeli intermediate school, Chayana Lama, 7th grader from Barlyk school Avtyl Apyn-ool, teacher of Russian language and literature of Teeli intermediate school Oshku-Saar Serenmayevna Salchak and a guide, Zinaida Shyyrapovna Semis-ool.

Zinaida Semis-ool, a participant in the “Tos Ertine” project speaks about the perspectives of development of tourism in the district in an interview in  “Tuvinskaya Pravda” magazine.

The “Shui ring” or “White Fortress”  is a name Russian alpinists gave to the more than 200 mountain  peaks of the Kyzyl-Khaya, Tsagan-Shibetu and Shapshal ridges which encircle the basin of the river Shui; they come every year to this place to develop their mastery of the sport. Alpinists of Siberia consider this massiv their best base. And Shivilig, the famous mineral spring, is a place of pilgrimage for many residents of Tuva and neighboring regions. This has already become one of the real tourist centers.  But what does the population get out of it?

– How does the population of your district participate in alpinist activities?

– Unfortunately, it does not participate at all. The alpinists act for themselves in our district, sometimes they do not even notify the local administration, even though sometimes there may be 300 people. Last year, guys from our village offered them services as guides or porters, but it did not work out; they could not agree on the price. Then we wanted to meet them in our way: to build yurts, to feed them our national food, but our cars could not get to their location, from where they can already continue on foot. This year there is a lot of snow everywhere, the streams turned into roaring rivers, and even the strong vehicles of our guests got into unpleasant situations. We planned to offer other types of services, but it did not work out. Nevertheless, we are not losing hope. I have gone to Krasnoyarsk this spring, and met with the leadership of the city federation of alpinists, we exchanged opinions about very many matters.  And now we will put together an agreement about joint activities; the Krasnoyarsk people are waiting for our proposals.  There is a necessity for some type of regulation of this stream of mountain tourists, first of all, because after they leave, there is a lot of significant damage to the unique nature of our district, which was chosen by the snow leopards as their habitat, caused by the detritus of their existence. After these alpinist meets, we try to do a clean-up of their base camps, but there are few volunteers. What we need to strive for is that they would at least bring bags for their garbage with them, like it is done in other countries. There is the same problem at our famous arzhaan “Dustug-Khem”. The recreants are supposed to collect the garbage, but they refuse, saying that there is money assigned for that. And it does not upset them that they are destroying nature.  For that reason, I wrote a poetical plea, I would like everybody who ever spends time in nature.  It contains this appeal: “Open your eyes and ears, listen to the music of the mountains…” I hope that something will happen after we conclude the agreement. Co-ordination of work is necessary in the local administration and the government of the republic. Now that the decision has been made to establish the nature park “Shui” on the territory of the habitat of the snow leopard, the flag animal of the WWF, the situation should radically change. The agreement has been signed by the ministry of natural utilization of RF and the WWF.

– You took part in the work-up of this project, it is a tremendous piece of work. Congratulations. Could you tell us in some detail about the association “Bai-Ovaa”, which you recently founded. What is its purpose?

– Ecological tourism in Western Tuva. We already have several trails worked out, now we have to realize them. One of the main ones is “In the footprints of the snow leopard.” It encompasses the Bai-Taiga and Mongun-Taiga districts. When we are working out the trails, we take into account the opinions of local population, and think about ways to bring them into the work. The possibilities are unlimited! Beside the fact that our districts are  still blank spots in archeologists’ maps, and to some extent even geologists’, the residents themselves can point us to unique natural monuments. In particular, what we reported as an entry into the “Nine Treasures” contest – “Charash-dash”, that means “Beautiful stones”. By the way, it is remarkable that sucha project was initiated in our republic. There are great possibilities for every district. The villagers can help the tourists take a look into our natural home culture, with its preserved nomadic animal herding. They can show Tuvan horses and the unique sheep of the Mongun-Taiga breed.

The tourists are attracted also to the preserved sources of the mystery of shamanism – rituals of sanctification of water springs, of mountains. And the sarlyks (Tuvan yaks), and products made of their wool? Our villagers are seeking ways to make money.

We also continued working on a map of the mountaintops of the ridges, many of them have only unofficial names given to them by the alpinists. Last year, for example, they named one of them after Sergei Shoigu. There is no complete map with names, even though the work was started  by the first wave of alpinists in the 70’s, led by Yakov Krom. The names of the mountaintops need to be given official status, which is to be done, on our request, by the staff of Republican Children’s tourist center. We can’t even enumerate everything…

– Ecological tourism is so far the most realistic thing we can offer without the infrastructure necessary for the business, isn’t it?

– That is so. Isn’t it aimed at those who like primal, unspoiled nature, value it, and for that reason are not afraid of some discomfort. In the project associated with snow leopards, we find our clients in other regions as well. We have already concluded an agreement with a tou company “Sablan” from Sayanogorsk, we get many calls from other regions of Russia. Unfortunately, we can’t find a common language with companies registered and active in Tuva. We often find foreign tourist in our restricted areas, but it does not do anything for the improvement of the economic prosperity of local population. To bring in clients, we travel to expositions, fairs, we network, talk to people, hand out brochures. So we are expecting a lot of visitors this summer season.

– What should be done so that tourism would not be so wild and unruly?

– It helps that now, according to rules of stay in border territories, they have to get a permit. Beside that, it was decided that the tour companies have to report their their activities to local administration of the territories, which fall into the zone of their interests. And that demands an accurately planned itinerary, and there are other requirements, which work for us. Well and there are masses of other solutions, which will show up in time, I am certain.  Before, none of the local officials paid any attention to organized tourism. Now that we have the “Year of Tourism”, all the municipalities are required to do this work.

Of course, it is complicated, suitable legislation is needed, for example it is not clear who will be registering the designed tourist itineraries, who will be issuing the licenses for this type of activity. But we have to start somewhere.


About Charash-dash

Lama Chayana – member of “Young Reader” club, 10 “B” grade, TOU Teeli intermediate school of Bai-Taiga kozhuun.


There are many legends about Charash-dash. This is one of them: “Long time ago, the Spirit “Master” of the place fell in love with a beautiful girl. However, the girl’s parents took her and went back to their native place, to Mongun-Taiga. The “Master”, deeply in love, made these stones as presents for his beloved.  He lived inside the mountain Kara-Khaya. He waited for her for a long time, and his tears of yearning turned into a small river. Sometimes he brought the stones outside, hoping that his beloved girl will notice his creations. At times he went away hunting, and then would notice that some of the stones were missing. Then the “Master” would punish those who took the stones away.”

He, the “Master” of Charash-dash, waited in vain for his beloved. He grew old and turned into a stone statue. But his soul still sometimes appears, here and there, in the form of the “master of the Taiga”, Bear, who guards all this beauty: the amazing mountains with their changing colors, - now blue, now black, now glittering with silver; the river valleys; the waterfall strives forward in its freedom-loving haste,; then again, he appears in human form, and stares exhorting us to love and treasure the beauty, the riches of our native contry. He gave his tremendous pure love to all the living creatures of the Earth, of the Universe. His all-encompassing, bright love turned into the churning, joyful golden splashes of the waterfall. Whoever sees this wonder even once, his heart will forever fill with love for beauty, and there will be no room for envy or evil. The original local people know that it is not allowed to take the stones away, it is dangerous to life to bother them.


Apyn-ool Avtyl Naadymovich, pupil of 7th grade MOY COSh, village Barlyk.

According to folk belief, this place is sacred, and its spirit masters are mountain goats. They appear at certain time of the year. After the snow thaws by the water spring, something like boiling mud shows up, and the splashes solidify in layers, forming various shapes of stone of various hues. Among them it is possible to see silhouettes of various animals, objects, ornaments, etc.


About the project “Nine Treasures”

The first stage, collection of entries, was completed on March 15. 239 entries were submitted, and the Expert Council selected 110 during the second stage. They are now placed on the site.

3rd stage: from May1 to August 20, 2010. contests for the best community action to set up the reported noteworthy objects ( with preliminary notification to organizing committee); for the best story, photograph, video recording, TV theme, radio program, about the entered objects and the actions associated with them; and the best thematic trail that includes the reported objects.

4th stage. Until September 5, submission of contest materials from journalists, schoolchildren, regional experts, initiative groups for arrangement of the tourist objects, tour companies, and regional knowledge clubs.

5th stage. September 5 – 15, 2010. National voting. SMS and internet at the official site of the special project.

6th stage. October – November. Presentation of “Nine Treasures of Tuva”. Awards to laureates of the projects in various categories. Memorial souvenirs for first 30 participants.  Active participants of voting noted.

7th stage. December. Culmination of the Year of Tourism, presentation of the illustrated collection “Nine Treasures of Tuva”, including the mosy interesting journalistic material about the noteworthy objects of the republic, touristic maps of the objects, DVD album with the best contest video-materials of the tourist attractions of Tuva.

Contacts:  Russia 667000 Tuva, Kyzyl, ul. Chulduma, 18,  cabinet 324 and 419. e-mail, phone/fax +7(39422)21227, 21119.

Natalia Bogdanovskaya,, translated by Heda Jindrak
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