Rulers of the Steppe

Peter Oud
58 minutes


A film about the people of Tuva, one of the republics of the Russian Federation.

Tuva is a very special part of Russia, as it formally joined the Soviet Union less than 60 years ago and its original inhabitants, the Tuvans, continue to form the vast majority of the population. The film explores how the people of Tuva reacted to the relative freedom during the 1990s, after the Soviet Union ceased to exist. It is a film about shifts in the balance of power and their effect on everyday life, obvious in some realms of society, subtle in other ones. The questions raised refer to highly diverse issues of self-rule, such as the control over the land and natural resources favouring Tuva's own economic development, freedom of culture and religion, lan-guage and education, the right to make one's own laws and how contradic-tions with federal laws are dealt with.

It is still an open question whether modern industrial enterprises will succeed in complementing ancient nomadic practices as a basis for the country's economic survival. Difficult choices have to be made, for instance between the development of large scale mining and upholding the values of traditional cosmo-vision, emphasized by Tuvan shamans. By exploring the decisions people in Tuva have made - or failed to make - during the first decade after perestroika, the film aims at identifying a number of basic dilemmas, which many indigenous peoples have to face when trying to achieve a certain level of autonomy within the context of a larger state.


Peter Oud