The town was the most run down regional centre I had seen in Russia. It was the capital of a republic yet was in dreary shape. You could kind of see why from the combination of two things, the combination of a tendency towards alcoholism that I found quite alarming, and the obvious lack of employment there.
Looking around the town there were dozens and dozens of abandoned soviet era factories. The soviets had clearly invested a unusually huge amount of effort and money to modernise and industrialise Kyzyl, so the collapse of the Soviet Union would have hit here even more dramatically than in other parts of Russia where factories were not so heavily subsidised. There was no reason for the soviets to locate factories in such an out of the way (and uneconomical) place, apart from to improve the lives of the people. It was subsidising Tuva, heavily. Like Mongolia, the place had obviously become completely dependent on soviet subsidies.
Mongolia when I first rode across the place in 1994, was similarly alcoholic and gloomy, following the Soviet collapse. Up to 3/4 of the Mongolian economy had been soviet subsidies, but recent mineral finds have changed the picture incredibly. Mongolia is now a booming mineral hub with billions of dollars pouring in from western, Russian and Chinese mining companies each year. Tuva clearly has found no replacement yet for the soviet subsidies that ended almost 20 years ago.
Here is one abandoned factory, emblazoned as many are, with "Slava Trudu" a soviet kind of equivalent of 'arbeit macht frei' to encourage labor. Work is glorious it means. Yeah, rock on ...
After Kyzyl, its not so interesting. Just a federal asphalt highway north to Abakan in Khakassia, and on to Krasnoyarsk.
A final view of Tuva from the highway: