Khertek Amyrbitovna Anchimaa-Toka (1 January 1912 – 4 November 2008) was a Tuvinian/Soviet politician She was active in the Soviet era and during the interwar and wartime period of national independence, when, as chairman of Tuva’s parliament, she became the world’s first non-royal female head of state.
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Early Life and Education
Khertek Anchimaa was born in what is now Bay-Tayginsky kozhuun of Tuva in a poor peasant family. Until 1911, Tuva, a region in Central Asia bordering Mongolia, had been under Chinese control; after the fall of the Qing dynasty and a brief period of independence, it became a Russian protectorate. After the Russian Revolution, in 1921, Tuvan Bolsheviks, led by the former Buddhist monk Donduk Kuular, again declared independence, with Soviet support, as the Tuvan People’s Republic, a Soviet satellite state.
Despite family poverty and her mother’s own illiteracy, Khertek managed to learn to write and read in Mongol language. When she was 18, she joined Revsomol, a youth organisation patterned on the Soviet Komsomol, in the same year (1930), she also mastered the new Tuvan language in the year that its written alphabet was introduced. She was charged with promoting literacy in her region.
In 1931, she became a member of the TPRP, working as a clerk and as technical secretary in a regional administration. Later that year, she was selected as one of 70 Tuvans sent to Moscow, a three-week journey from the Tuvan capital Kyzyl, to study at the Communist University of the Toilers of the East. In May 1935, she became one of only eleven Tuvans to graduate.
Upon her return to Tuva, Anchimaa was appointed head of the propaganda and agitation section of Revsomol, then active in transforming a traditionally nomadic society through collectivisation. As head of the women’s affairs section of the TPRP from 1938, she devoted herself to female education. In 1940 Anchimaa became chairman of the Presidium of the Little Khural, or parliament, and thus the world’s first female head of state of a republic. In the same year, she married Salchak Toka, who since 1932 had been Tuva’s Prime Minister.
Relations with the Soviet Union
Anchimaa’s period in office was characterised by ever closer relations with the Soviet Union. Tuva entered the Second World War on June 25, 1941, and Anchimaa devoted herself to arranging Tuvan support for the Soviet war effort. Also during her term, in 1943, the Latin-based Tuvan script was replaced by a Cyrillic-based one. Most significantly, Anchimaa worked towards the incorporation of her country into the Soviet Union, which took place, after a vote in the Little Khural, in October, 1944.
In the new Tuvan Autonomous Oblast, Anchimaa became deputy chairman of the Tuvan executive committee, a post that she would occupy until 1961, when Tuva became an autonomous republic.
She was deputy chairman of the Tuvan Council of Ministers until 1972, when she retired. She was responsible for poublic education and the development of science and culture. She was also the chair of the Tuvan branch of the Soviet-Mongolian Friendship Society, and was a delegate at the International Congress of Women.
Her husband Toka served as general-secretary of the Tuvan branch of the Soviet Communist Party until his death in 1973. She died at age 96 on 4 November 2008.