Revive Altai cultural/environmental sustainability

by Altai Mir University
Svetlana and the sacred kedr trees we planted
Svetlana and the sacred kedr trees we planted
Svetlana writes to Carol Hiltner, president of Altai Mir University, from Gorno-Altaisk, Siberia:

Dear friends,

For almost two years I have been working on the project "Dyadagan"---the ancient and sacred musical instrument that was discovered in the archives of the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. The instrument has been restored and reproduced, but our work with it closes, then opens again.
At the beginning of the new year, I sat down again for the project. And quite by accident, perhaps not by chance,  I stumbled on a new musical artifact called the yatga, found in 2008 in Mongolia, in a spur of the Altai Mountains, during the excavation of burial mounds Mongolian-German archaeologists. The artifact is very similar to the Altai version.
When I looked renovated Mongolian instrument and the way he plays, I clearly understood how our Altai version is different, how to play our instrument, and how to equip it. I was overwhelmed with emotion.
The Mongols restored instrument, helped by German experts. A great ceremony of consecration of the instrument was carried out in 2014. A special group of "Altai" uses this tool in its work.
But most interesting is that this instrument is referenced in ancient Turkic legend and petroglyphs, and the instrument dates back to the age of 1400 years. Our Altai artifacts date back to VII-II centuries BC.
I clearly saw that I can continue to work on this project. The musicians you mentored---Alina Tadyrova and Victor Malchinov---will play in the future of this instrument.
Today, we went to see the little kedr trees---sacred to our people---that you helped us plant from seed almost ten years ago. They're little, but they survived and are growing. 2017 was declared the Year of Ecology, so we have many plans

But now, at the end of the year, we do a lot of presentations, master classes with sand painting. Thank you for your ongoing support. You enable us to work with children with disabilities, the poor, and those with large families. In my heart there is always sadness.

I hug you.


Concert and presentation of Altai myths
Concert and presentation of Altai myths

Our Altai project leader Svetlana Katynova continues to develop innovative ways to ensure that the ancient Altai oral history is carried forward.

For the past year, she and her team have been developing videos using a unique medium called sand-painting, by which sand is manipulated on a back-lit table to make dynamic images. She has persuaded some of Altai’s most revered throat-singers to provide music whose vibratory qualities enhance the visual image of the sand-painter.

They have been giving standing-room-only live concerts in Gorno-Altaisk while they continue to seek funds for commercial quality video recording equipment. Our intention is to create DVDs for the tourist market, sales of which will support further projects to sustain Altai’s rich cultural heritage.

Thank you for your continued support.

Altai sand-painter
Altai sand-painter

Your donations have been supporting Altai artists to create videos of Altai legends using the medium of "painting" with sand on a light table.

In an effort to improve their professionalism, they have reached out to the Carolyn Leaf of Canada, who is a pioneer in such painting. She recommended that they develop the skills, not only to make images with the sand, but to actually animate their images through manipulation of the sand. For that, our team will need better equipment as well as seed funding.

So our Altai project leaders have been not only investigating opportunities for such funding within the Altai Republic governmental ministries of culture and tourism, but also reaching out for international grants and fellowships. Here in the US, we are supporting this effort by using grant databases to search for likely funding sources. We have been encouraging them to use a business model---selling their DVDs to tourists---in addition to their philanthropic model.

This work is important because of its global implications. Many Native Americans recognize Altai as the starting point of their journey across the Bering Straits. Altai legends are therefore important not only to the indigenous peoples of Russia, but also of the Americas.

Thank you for your ongoing support. It makes a huge difference.


Goddess Umai
Goddess Umai

Our project leader Svetlana has organized an eclectic exhibition of images of the goddess Umai, who is the Queen of Heaven in Altai lore. The collection of images from different artists will be shown this month at the annual Altai cultural celebration, El Oyin.

Additionally, five stories have been recorded in Russian and Altai language and illustrated using a unique and beautiful sand-painting technique. Those five stories and five more have been translated into English and professionally edited by a native speaker of English.

The videos are being put on DVDs and will be marketed during the summer tourist season and proceeds will pay for the professional services of the artists. They will also be made available to schools, to aid in teaching English and Altai language (which was almost obliterated during Communism).

Your donations are paying for the out-of-pocket costs that have enabled the projects to move forward. Thank you for your continued support.

First public performance of Altai stories
First public performance of Altai stories

Traditional Altai stories, recovered from elders, told by Altai throat-singers, and visually depicted using exquisite sand-painting, are ready to be published on CDs in Russian and Altai. English versions are currently being translated. These CDs are a breakthrough in making sacred Altai lore accessible not only to ethnologists and visitors, but to Altai children as well. These stories are a critical link to maintaining traditional Altai culture.

"The group has worked for free for almost six months, and they would continue to work so," said project leader Svetlana Katynova. "Thank you for your contribution. It makes publication possible, so the project will be self-sustaining through sale of CDs." 

They are finishing "Wisdom of the Altai - from time immemorial." Now our group will work on a new project: "The Cradle of the Mother Umai" - "Umai-Ene Cabaye", dedicated to the patroness of women and children. "The image of this deity is very common in the Turkic world," Svetlana said, "but the Altai people have the most beautiful myths."


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Organization Information

Altai Mir University

Location: Shoreline, WA - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Carol Hiltner
Shoreline, Washington United States

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