Sphere

Tofalaria – the boundless taiga of the Eastern Sayan

Lost land, a village of hunters and storytellers. Places where rivers and winds of Siberia are born, mountains where the weather is created.

This Sayan taiga is inhabited by Tofalars – a small people of Turkic origin. Now there are less than eight hundred people.

Tofalaria - the boundless taiga of the Eastern Sayan

Our Ethnographic Expedition "Unexplored Russia" went to the small people living in the hard-to-reach places. One of these places was Tofalaria.

We were lucky to live in the only small hotel in the village, but in the family of a hunter. Daily stories about the taiga, walks through the wild forest, the meat of the red deer, bathing in rivers, and a real taiga bath – this was the best way to immerse in the atmosphere.

Tofalars are hunters and reindeer herders. The deer, in contrast to the horse, is less fond of the picking food, so the deer are riding in the taiga. It is because of deer tofalars led by nomadic way of life.

Lost land, a village of hunters and storytellers. Places where rivers and winds of Siberia are born, mountains where the weather is created.

This Sayan taiga is inhabited by Tofalars – a small people of Turkic origin. Now there are less than eight hundred people.

Tofalaria - the boundless taiga of the Eastern Sayan

Our Ethnographic Expedition "Unexplored Russia" went to the small people living in the hard-to-reach places. One of these places was Tofalaria.

We were lucky to live in the village, but in the family of a hunter. Daily stories about the taiga, walks through the wild forest, the meat of the red deer, bathing in rivers, and a real taiga bath – this was the best way to immerse in the atmosphere.

Tofalars are hunters and reindeer herders. The deer, in contrast to the horse, is less fond of picking food, so the deer are riding here – you can drive everywhere in the taiga. It is because of deer tofalars led by nomadic way of life.

Tofalaria - the boundless taiga of the Eastern Sayan

Now, when tofs live in villages, private deer walk around the village together with horses and cows, and the municipal herd is on a summer camp.

We lived in the village of Alygdzher. The name is translated as "Wide Valley". The village is surrounded by mountains from all sides.

There is no connection and the Internet. To get in a warm season, it’s possible only by air-helicopters. In winter they make a winter road.

People here are calm and benevolent. The village is like a taiga trail where all greet, offer help and share – stories, booty, news.

Tofalaria - the boundless taiga of the Eastern Sayan

Traditions are so closely intertwined with a simple way of life that it is difficult to distinguish.

"The quiver was loaded" – the lines that popped up in my memory. For me, very well describe the worldview. Calm with a willingness to act, but without fuss.

The first farewell at the airport. People here live in the same rhythm with nature. Therefore it is not surprising that many born here return, and did not like the noise of big cities.

Tofalaria - the boundless taiga of the Eastern Sayan

***

Earlier tofalars led a nomadic way of life, but during the Soviet era they were forcibly transferred to a settled one, they were forbidden to speak their native language, they took their shamans out, providing medicine, electricity and work in return.

Now these dubious blessings are scanty: helicopters fly is less often, many jobs are closed in the hospital, the hospital can not heal or give out medicines, but the light burns only at certain hours. But still the culture of tofs has survived – in hunting, in language, in self-awareness.

Tofalaria - the boundless taiga of the Eastern Sayan

Now there are three villages – Alygdzher, Nerja and Upper Gutara.

Mostly live here by hunting or cattle. Each hunter has his own site (in the expression of local, his own taiga), inherited, as a rule, by inheritance. There he has one or more huts. In winter, they leave for hunting for several months, contacting their families at an agreed time. Summer is hunted only if necessary. Strict laws are here: one can not hunt for entertainment, it is not customary to extract for future use. Each hunter makes a reserve of his taiga, follows the population and gives the forest a rest. The main profit is from musk deer. It gives highly valued musk. For such a hunting license is necessarily given out. How many licenses have been given – so much and you can take the booty.

Tofalaria - the boundless taiga of the Eastern Sayan

Its taiga can be a few days’ journey from the village. Arrival in the taiga for the season and the importation of products.

In general, the taiga is a rest, and the main earnings, and always the main test for men. This is not surprising, because life in constant contact with nature requires you to hear and understand every breath of the wind.

A quarter of the life, if not more, the men spend in the taiga, and women are waiting, looking at the dark forest. Despite this way of life, many have education, worked in cities. In the forest there are conversations not only about the nature and spirit of the forest, but also about corpuscular-wave dualism, philosophy and esotericism.

Lost land, a village of hunters and storytellers. Places where rivers and winds of Siberia are born, mountains where the weather is created.

This Sayan taiga is inhabited by Tofalars – a small people of Turkic origin. Now there are less than eight hundred people.

Tofalaria - the boundless taiga of the Eastern Sayan

Our Ethnographic Expedition "Unexplored Russia" went to the small people living in the hard-to-reach places. One of these places was Tofalaria.

We were lucky to live in the only small hotel in the village, but in the family of a hunter. Daily stories about the taiga, walks through the wild forest, the meat of the red deer, bathing in rivers, and a real taiga bath – this was the best way to immerse in the atmosphere.

Tofalars are hunters and reindeer herders. The deer, in contrast to the horse, is less fond of the picking food, so the deer are riding in the taiga. It is because of deer tofalars led by nomadic way of life.

Lost land, a village of hunters and storytellers. Places where rivers and winds of Siberia are born, mountains where the weather is created.

This Sayan taiga is inhabited by Tofalars – a small people of Turkic origin. Now there are less than eight hundred people.

Tofalaria - the boundless taiga of the Eastern Sayan

Our Ethnographic Expedition "Unexplored Russia" went to the small people living in the hard-to-reach places. One of these places was Tofalaria.

We were lucky to live in the village, but in the family of a hunter. Daily stories about the taiga, walks through the wild forest, the meat of the red deer, bathing in rivers, and a real taiga bath – this was the best way to immerse in the atmosphere.

Tofalars are hunters and reindeer herders. The deer, in contrast to the horse, is less fond of picking food, so the deer are riding here – you can drive everywhere in the taiga. It is because of deer tofalars led by nomadic way of life.

Tofalaria - the boundless taiga of the Eastern Sayan

Now, when tofs live in villages, private deer walk around the village together with horses and cows, and the municipal herd is on a summer camp.

We lived in the village of Alygdzher. The name is translated as "Wide Valley". The village is surrounded by mountains from all sides.

There is no connection and the Internet. To get in a warm season, it’s possible only by air-helicopters. In winter they make a winter road.

People here are calm and benevolent. The village is like a taiga trail where all greet, offer help and share – stories, booty, news.

Tofalaria - the boundless taiga of the Eastern Sayan

Traditions are so closely intertwined with a simple way of life that it is difficult to distinguish.

"The quiver was loaded" – the lines that popped up in my memory. For me, very well describe the worldview. Calm with a willingness to act, but without fuss.

The first farewell at the airport. People here live in the same rhythm with nature. Therefore it is not surprising that many born here return, and did not like the noise of big cities.

Tofalaria - the boundless taiga of the Eastern Sayan

***

Earlier tofalars led a nomadic way of life, but during the Soviet era they were forcibly transferred to a settled one, they were forbidden to speak their native language, they took their shamans out, providing medicine, electricity and work in return.

Now these dubious blessings are scanty: helicopters fly is less often, many jobs are closed in the hospital, the hospital can not heal or give out medicines, but the light burns only at certain hours. But still the culture of tofs has survived – in hunting, in language, in self-awareness.

Tofalaria - the boundless taiga of the Eastern Sayan

Now there are three villages – Alygdzher, Nerja and Upper Gutara.

Mostly live here by hunting or cattle. Each hunter has his own site (in the expression of local, his own taiga), inherited, as a rule, by inheritance. There he has one or more huts. In winter, they leave for hunting for several months, contacting their families at an agreed time. Summer is hunted only if necessary. Strict laws are here: one can not hunt for entertainment, it is not customary to extract for future use. Each hunter makes a reserve of his taiga, follows the population and gives the forest a rest. The main profit is from musk deer. It gives highly valued musk. For such a hunting license is necessarily given out. How many licenses have been given – so much and you can take the booty.

Tofalaria - the boundless taiga of the Eastern Sayan

Its taiga can be a few days’ journey from the village. Arrival in the taiga for the season and the importation of products.

In general, the taiga is a rest, and the main earnings, and always the main test for men. This is not surprising, because life in constant contact with nature requires you to hear and understand every breath of the wind.

A quarter of the life, if not more, the men spend in the taiga, and women are waiting, looking at the dark forest. Despite this way of life, many have education, worked in cities. In the forest there are conversations not only about the nature and spirit of the forest, but also about corpuscular-wave dualism, philosophy and esotericism.

***

I want to say that this place is closer than it might seem. To get here, you need to come to Nizhneudinsk – by car, train or bus. Then get on a scheduled helicopter to Alygger, Nerkh or Upper Gutaru. This is the most difficult: there are your schemes, you need to register in advance have priority when selling tickets. The tickets from the "Tofalar Manor" helped us with tickets. Two or three flights a week in good weather, and in the helicopter there are 22 places, which want a lot, so it’s better to prepare in advance.

Tofalaria - the boundless taiga of the Eastern Sayan

The helicopter is a local tram, only with some of the best helicopter pilots in the country. Here it is not a curiosity or an attraction. And they fly here with bags, bags, trunks, bread stores and cigarette blocks.

If the weather spoils, you need to be ready for wait. Vysotsky, they say, tried to fly away, but did not wait for the weather …

In Tofalaria a lot of amazing places, where you can go with someone from the local. One must be prepared for the fact that this will not be a prepared excursion – this hunter takes you to the taiga – without trails, without memorized texts, but who knows how to listen .

You can live in a single hotel in Alygdzhera. But where is is more interesting to fit in with someone from the local. We were very lucky to live with my family. It was priceless to see life, communicate late, look at the preparation of local dishes.

Tofalaria - the boundless taiga of the Eastern Sayan

The weather on the day of departure was badly spoiled – waking up in the morning, under the thud of a downpour, we were already sure that we were staying, but soon we heard the noise of a helicopter. Rosstat employees who came to count deer. We were to fly the next flight, which was the weather was canceled. Miraculously our friends inscribed us on this board and we flew out a few hours earlier than we should have. This was both disappointing and frustrating: we did not have time to see a few good people.

Tofalaria - the boundless taiga of the Eastern Sayan

In general for us this place is special. It was with Tofalaria that the whole project of the expedition began "Unexplored Russia". We tried to get here, so much was done for this, so much effort, so much coordination … To land on the helicopter pad, just breathe in this air, leave the phone and live a few days without time.

More travel notes about the expedition are here, and you can support the project here.

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