Staunton, March 23 – Sholban Kara-ool, the leader of Tuva, yesterday opened a representation office of his republic in Ulan Bator, an event that he said was “long awaited” and that will allow the two republics to deepen their “traditional contacts” in trade and economic cooperation, cultural and educational exchanges, and scientific cooperation.
The product of an agreement between Kyzyl and Moscow last December, the new office will represent the Tuvin counterpart to the Mongolian consulate general in Tuva, which has functioned for ten years and which annually provides visas to more than 5,000 Tuvans who wish to visit Mongolia (www.tuva.asia/news/asia/6068-ulan-bator.html).
Like the permanent representations of the union republics in Moscow during Soviet times, this Tuvan office represents a kind of proto-embassy both practically in terms of what it can do for Tuvans visiting Mongolia and symbolically in terms of what it means to Tuva and its past status as a quasi-independent state that famously issued its own stamps.
At its opening, Sholban Kara-ool said that the new office could promote the use of the new border crossing between Tuva and Russia as part of a larger “transportation corridor between Europe and Asia.” And he urged Mongolian airlines to develop routes between Kyzyl and other cities of Siberia such as Irkutsk and Ulan Ude.
The new representation office, he continued, “could become a good place for the organization of continuing contacts between Mongolian and Tuvan businessmen,” especially in agriculture and cross-border trade. And he suggested that it opens “enormous possibilities” for tourism in both directions.
Sholban Kara-ool said that the Ulan Bator office could be especially helpful for the 44 Tuvan students now enrolled in Mongolian higher educational institutions. Indeed, he said, they will be able to view it as “a little part of [their] Motherland.” And at the same time, Mongolian students can find out about schools in Tuva in which they might enroll.
Also speaking at the opening was Viktor Samoylenko, the Russian Federation’s ambassador to Ulan Bator. He stressed “the important and timeliness of the opening of the representation” and suggested it would only intensify the already close ties between Tuva and Mongolia.
An increasing number of the non-Russian republics of the Russian Federation are opening such offices in foreign capitals as are many predominantly Russian oblasts and krays. Most are essentially extensions of the Russian embassies in these countries, but those like the new Tuvan one in places with deep historical ties may play a far larger role.
That is because they serve as a reminder to both Tuvans and the countries in which they are located that such republics are not just part of the Russian Federation but something more, a reminder that will only serve to encourage the Tuvans and their partners to think more expansively about what the future may hold.