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3 Sep, 2007 03:57

Republic of Tyva: ancient palace reveals secrets

The Southern Siberian republic of Tyva is a magical and mysterious place. Its mountains and lakes conceal secrets from the past. It's a race against time for those excavating at the ancient palace of Por-Bazhyn.

The palace’s main gate looks out to Mongolia, and what was once the empire's capital. Built in the 8th century, Por-Bazhyn must now be carefully protected so as not to be destroyed by frost and snow in winter, so there's no time to lose.

Apart from some archaeological digs that were started and abandoned in the 1950s, all the work has been done in just the last three months. The dedicated crew currently digging there are trying to uncover the past, and by shifting mounds of earth hopefully to recreate it.

Some 500 volunteers from all over Russia are helping in the long-term project but lots more will be required to save the historic site from winter weather. After the tiring work they can relax in one of specially-built banyas – a ‘must have’ at any Russian campsite.

With a great deal achieved in such a short period of time, students are returning home but will no doubt be back to help uncover more secrets of Por-Bazhyn's past.

All this you can see in The Republic of Tyva feature in the Russia Close-Up series on September 4-6 on Russia Today. It's an opportunity you should not miss!