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The Small Air Force of the
Republic of Tuva

© Lennart Andersson

The Republic of Tuva (or Tannu-Tuva) is situated in the south of the former Soviet Union, on the border to Mongolia, and it is perhaps one of the least known nations of the world. In August 1921 the Tannu-Tuva People's Republic was established and in November 1926 its name changed to the Tuvinian People's Republic. Although formally independent, the republic was under strong influence from the Soviet Union.

During the Russian Civil War in 1918-1920 a few hundred men from Tuva fought alternately on the side of the Chinese, the Mongols, Kolchak's White army and with Red partisans. After the declaration of independence, military instruction began. Initially, this was the responsibility of the Ministry of the Interior, but in 1932 a War Department was established. By the beginning of the Second World War, the Tuvinian People's Republic had a cavalry regiment numbering about 1,500 men. In 1944 this unit became part of the Red Army, and in connection with the formal entry of the republic into the Soviet Union in October 1944 it ceased to exist.

The Tuvinian Army had only a few aircraft and until recently absolutely nothing was known about this "air force". In fact it was not even known that it had existed and it seems that it was a part of the Tuvinian Cavalry Regiment.

Some time before November 1939 the Tuvinian People's Republic had ordered spare parts and M-11 aircraft engines from the Soviet Union and it was agreed that this material was to be made ready for delivery in January and February1940. The spare parts were for a Polikarpov SP that had been delivered earlier. The SP was a "special purpose" version of the two-seat Polikarpov U-2 biplane that was normally used as a trainer. The three-seat SP was a light transport version that was used mainly by Aeroflot and by other civil aviation organisations.

On 25 November 1939 it was also decided to deliver one Polikarpov U-2 trainer with M-11 engine to the Tuvinian People's Republic via the firm Technoeksport during the first part of 1940.

Conclusion: The Tuvinian "air force" had at least one Polikarpov SP and one U-2 around 1940. Unfortunately nothing more is known about these aircraft...

Modern aviation in Tuva. A Russian-registered Mil Mi-8 helicopter of Tyva Avia.

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(c) Lennart Andersson