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Nomadic pastoralism persists at a substantial scale in Tuva and neighboring regions of Inner Asia. Tuvan pastoral lifeways reflect adaptations to both local environments and current economic realities. Much of our quantitative understanding of the economics of Tuvan nomads is derived from data collected in the first half of the 20th century. Accordingly, this paper provides an updated picture of the inner workings of nomadic households using data collected in Barun-Khemchik and Bai-Taiga provinces in 2013–2015. It analyzes herd composition and size, and compares the frequency of different animals kept today with values recorded in Tuva in 1916 and 1931. It then quantifies rates of provisioning hay and grain, and the production of meat and dairy products for consumption and sale. Finally, it characterizes typical costs of food, petrol, medicine, clothing, and school supplies faced by present-day herders. We advocate the collection of quantitative ethnographic data that can shed further light on the future of the Tuvan pastoralist niche.


This article was originally published in New Research of Tuva, volume 4, in 2020.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License