The epic hero Shunu rescued the Altai people from a dungeon by playing the 7-stringed dyadagan---a musical instrument out legends. Remnants of the instrument, unearthed from a kurgan in 1939, were recently rediscovered at the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg. A local Altai artisan of traditional instruments attempted a reconstruction of the 2500-year-old instrument, but the sound quality falls short.
As part of Altai Mir University's ongoing efforts to revive the venerable Altai culture, our Altai project leader Svetlana Katynova is organizing a research project to analyze the fragments, in hopes of reconstruction an instrument worthy of the legends. The dyadagan was hollowed out from a piece of solid wood, was wrapped with a thin piece of skin.
A legend tells of a Khan of Altai who had seven sons. When an invasion wiped out all of his people, he made his seven sons into a musical instrument and hid it in the cleft of the mountains. The instrument absorbed all the sounds of nature and could play by itself, emitting marvelous melodies. There are many related legends from Altai oral history, including one about a constellation of seven "men of power." Recently, I was sent a video shot next door to Altai in Mongolia where the music is in the same tradition. The video is in Dutch, but the music is fabulous, showing the richness and the international impact of the musical renaissance we are fostering in the Altai Mountains. The link is attached.
Thank you for your continuing support for such valuable projects.
After the children stranded in Gorno-Altaisk because of washed-out roads were able to get home, project leader Svetlana Katynova made the grueling two-day trip to Tyungur Village at the base of Mount Belukha. With your donations for materials, she had built a free children's camp there over the past several years, to immerse local children in their native culture and to teach them their language and heritage.
The camp was completely destroyed by the flooded Katun River, which rose in June to thirty feet above normal spring highs. What remained is a tangle of tree trunks and brush. Svetlana made the best of it: "At least we won't lack for firewood this winter."
However, because Tyungur Village was completely flooded and the villagers are essentially on their own, the kids' camp was needed more than ever -- if only to free the adults to rebuild their homes. Svetlana arranged for the camp to be moved to the Ust Kan district, which was not affected by the flooding. She sends her deepest gratitude for your donations that enabled the camp to continue.
Then she and her husband Sasha -- both senior citizens now -- returned to Tyungur to help with the clean-up. The villagers may have plenty of wood, but their subsistence gardens were all washed away. So your autumn donations will help provide for winter food, which is essential for cultural sustainability. Thank you for your interest and support.
Altai Republic is under water and bridges have been swept away. Because the villages are all on riverbanks, most of the housing for 200,000 people has been flooded. Help is needed. Here is the letter from Svetlana Katynova, who implements all our humanitarian projects there.
Both the immediate and longer-term problems are food, water, shelter, and water-borne disease. Any help you can give at this time will be used for these most basic needs.
An ongoing problem in Altai Republic is the disrespecting of sites that are sacred to the Altai people. This takes many forms, but the garbage left on sacred Mount Belukha by tourists and climbers has been particularly egregious. The mountain is both a Russian national park and and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
However, our Altai partner Svetlana Katynova knows how to "make lemonaid from the lemons." She's using the 100th anniversary of the first ascent of Mount Belukha (altitude 14,783 feet) as impetus for the first-ever major clean-up of the complex of trails around the mountain. In 2006, an Altai Mir University expedition did a clean-up at the base of the mountain, but this project is much more ambitious.
The clean-up is co-organized with Igor Saylankin (Director of National Nature Park “Belukha”) and supported by the Altai Republic Ministry of Tourism, Ust Koksa District Administration, owners of local tourist facilities, and local individuals involved in tourism. 100 kilometers of trails will be divided into sections for which groups from different cities are being invited to take responsibility.
Svetlana and I -- and the Altai people -- thank you for your ongoing support, which makes projects like this possible.
Two years ago, our intrepid Altai project leader Svetlana Katynova completed a five-year research project to document the wisdom of elders in the Ust Koksa district of Altai. This project prevented the loss of cultural history, which is critical for the recovery of Altai culture. Although Svetlana has had a successful professional career doing similar work, she did this project as a volunteer. Her out-of-pocket costs were funded in part by your contributions.
One year ago, Svetlana completed the compilation of all this data into book form, including an article by me giving a foreigner's perspective on the unique Ust Koksa area. Her goal is to have the book published in Russian, Altaian, English, and German. In one of the most impoverished regions of Russia, finding fundors for such an ambitions project has been a major effort.
We are pleased to announce that the Altai Republic Ministry of Tourism stepped forward to publish and distribute the Russian version of the book. Svetlana is still working away on publication of the translations.
Wholeheartedly, I invite you to support this project.
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