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Introducing Tuva

Independent before WWII, fascinating Tuva (Тыва in Tuvan) is culturally similar to neighbouring Mongolia but has an international cult following all of its own. Philatelists remember Tannu Tuva's curiously shaped 1930s postage stamps. World-music aficionados are mesmerised by self-harmonising Tuvan throat-singers. And millions of armchair travellers read Ralph Leighton's Tuva or Bust!, a nontravel book telling how irrepressible Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman failed to reach Soviet-era Kyzyl despite years of trying. Now that visitors are finally allowed in, Leighton's Friends of Tuva (www.fotuva.org) organisation keeps up the inspirational work with an unsurpassed collection of Tuvan resources on its website. With forests, mountains, lakes and vast undulating waves of beautiful, barely populated steppe, Tuva's a place you'll long remember.