Ingushetia is a semi-autonomous republic in the North Caucasus and the home of the Ingush people. It used to be part of the Checheno-Ingushetian republic, which was divided in 1992 into Chechnya and the Ingushetia Republic. It has a population of around 467,000 and was the home of refugees fleeing trubles in Chechnya and North Ossetia. In recent decades the region has seen its share of violence on par with that in Dagestan but less than Chechnya. Ingushetiya Republic Tourism Committee Website: www.ingtourism.ru
Ingushetia’s formal relationship with Russian dates to August 22, 1810 when, representatives of six Ingush clans signed an “oath of allegiance to the Ingush families of Russia.” in the village of Angusht. The name Ingushetia comes adding the Georgian suffix “-eti” to Angusht, which means “the place where the Ingush live.” The ethnonym has spread since the 18th century. The Ingush call themselves the Gulga. Ingush writing was first in Arabi, then Latin, and finally Cyrillic (now).
Ingushetia is famous its towers and castles. Powerful and well-preserved castle complexes can be found in Targim, Egikal, Hamhi, Erzi, Vovnushki in the North Caucasus. The most t ancient stone structures — “cyclopean buildings” — date back to the 2nd millennium B.C. The towers were key defensive structures against brigands, rival clans and raiders and are now viewed as a symbol of Ingush pride, strength, steadfastness and unwavering spirit and a memory of their heroic past.
In northern Ingushetia are parts of the Sunzhen and Alkhanchurt valleys. In the central part f the region are the valleys of the Sunzha and Assa rivers. The southern part of the republic is occupied by the Caucasus Mountains . The highest point is Mount Shan (4451 meters). Other major mountain peaks are: Zeil (3171 meters), Hahalgi (3031 meters), Tsori-scrap (3000 meters).
Warning: According to the U.S. State Department: North Caucasus (including Chechnya and Mount Elbrus) – Level 4: Do Not Travel: Terrorist attacks and risk of civil unrest continue throughout the North Caucasus region including in Chechnya, North Ossetia, Ingushetia, Dagestan, Stavropol, Karachayevo-Cherkessiya, and Kabardino-Balkariya. Local gangs have kidnapped U.S. citizens and other foreigners for ransom. There have been credible reports of arrest, torture, and extrajudicial killing of LGBTI persons in Chechnya allegedly conducted by Chechen regional authorities. Do not attempt to climb Mount Elbrus, as travelers must pass close to volatile and insecure areas of the North Caucasus region. The U.S. government is unable to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens traveling in the North Caucasus region, including Mount Elbrus, as U.S. government employees are prohibited from traveling to the region.
Republic of Ingushetia
Republic of Ingushetia is one of the smaller Russian political entities (81st smallest out of 85). It covers 3,000 square kilometers (1,000 square miles), is home to about 413,000 people and has a population density of 140 people per square kilometer. About 61 percent of the population live in rural areas. Magas is the capital and has about 2,500 people. Nearby Nazran is the largest city with about 93,000. The populatiom is 94 percent Ingush; 4.6 percent are Chechens; less than one percent are Russian.
Ingushetia is a semi-autonomous republic in the North Caucasus and the home of the Ingush people. It used to be part of the Checheno-Ingushetian republic, which was divided in 1992 into Chechnya and the Ingushetia republic. It has a population of around 467,000 and was the home of refugees fleeing trubles in Chechnya and North Ossetia. Located In the center of the North Caucasus, the Republic of Ingushetia is one of the youngest constituent entities of the Russian Federation. It was formed on June 4, 1992 when it and Chechnya were divided. The flag of the republic is a red circle outline symbolizing the sun with three rays extending from it, each of which ends with an incomplete circle outline. The Republic of Ingushetia is 144 kilometers long from north to south and 72 kilometers wide from east to west. The attractions including ancient towers, mosques, churches temples and sanctuaries. The scenery and landscapes of the Greater Caucasus Mountains, Dzheyrakhsky Gorge and the ancient towers of the Galgai (ancestors of Ingush) are all awesome. There are also
mineral springs and high-mountain resorts and villages. On the day of the summer solstice, thousands of local residents and visitors meet the sunrise on the top of the sacred mountain of Myat Loam, a tradition that dates back to pre-Christian and pre-Islamic times.
Getting There: By Plane: A flight to Magas airport from Moscow costs from 3598 rubles; from Surgut, from 9640 rubles; from St. Petersburg, from 8620 rubles. The airport is located 30 kilometers from Magas and Nazran. By Train: The Moscow-Nazran train costs from 3828 rubles. By Bus or Care: you reach Ingushetia on the P217 “Caucasus” highway.
Ingush Ethnic Group
The Ingush (Ingushetians) are ethnic kin of the Chechens. They live in the Northeast Caucasus and speak a Nakh-Vaynakh language. There are about 200,000 of them. Ingush have a repudiation or being wealthier than the Chechens. They too are mostly Muslims and follow blood feud traditions. Their language is nearly identical to that of the Chechens. Both the Ingush and Chechens were accused together of cooperating with the Nazis in World War II and deported to Central Asia. What was left of the original population was allowed to return in 1957.
The Chechens and Ingush belong to ancient Caucasian peoples, mainly Muslim, who have lived in the same region in the northern Caucasus Mountains since prehistoric times. The two groups speak similar languages but have different historical backgrounds.
Nazran (50 kilometers west of Grozny, Chenya and 50 kilometers north of the border with Georgia) is the largest cities in the Republic of Ingushetia, with about 93,000 people. It is nine kilometers away from Magas, the capital of Ingushetia, with 2,500 people, Nazran was the capital until 2000.
Nazran is known for its grandiose Memorial of Fame and Glory dedicated to victims of political repression, a monument to the founder of the city of Kartskhal, the Erzi ice arena, the barrow of the ancestors of Abi Guv and a number of archaeological sites in the vicinity.
Memorial complex to the victims of repression (MCVR)– was founded on 23 February 1997, at the anniversary of the deportation of the Ingush to Kazakhstan and Central Asia. Designed by Merad Polonkoev, the complex is a combined nine Ingush battle towers, which entangled with barbed wire, symbolizing the nine deported peoples. The central Tower have 4 floors, the height – 25 meters. Each of the towers reflects the architecture of different historical eras of the Ingush people. In the halls of the memorial complex to victims of repression presented photographs, materials, paintings, household items on various historical periods of life of the Ingush people: mass deportation of the Ingush people in February 1944,
Magas (nine kilometers from Nazran) is the capital of the Republic of Ingushetia. Located on the banks of the Sunzha River in what amounts to a suburb of Nazran, it was founded in 1994 and built from scratch on the site of the ancient city of the same name, which was located at the intersection of trade routes and was an important Alan city.. Magas means “city of the sun”.. It has a few modern buildings and residential areas but little more than that..
The oldest archaeological layers of old Magas are dated from the 3rd millennium B.C. to the 13th-14th century B.C. Archaeological finds indicate the development of crafts such as pottery, iron, jewelry, weaving, tanning, as well as agriculture, cattle breeding. During the excavation of the cultural layer ranged from 0.8 to 2.4 meters ash.
The first mention of city of Magas was in "Murudzh al-Dhahabi" (Golden origins) by a 10th century Arabic writer. According to the 13th century Persian historian Juvayni, In the winter of 1238-1239 the Alan capital of Magas was besieged by the Mongols and 270,000 people were killed in the assault. The Mongols did not spare even women and children, the city was burned to the ground. The only thing left of the once large and prosperous city ofwas the name: Magas. Of all the conquered and subjugated cities in Eastern Europe, Mongolian and Chinese chronicles mentioned only Kiev and Magas. A thick layer of burnt material dated ot the time of the Mongols has been found by archaeologists at Magas
Pay-Kash Mausoleum (five kilometers northeast of Nazran) is a white-stone mausoleum with a square base and a semicircular dome located on the hilly left bank of the Sunzhi river, next to the village of Plievo in Nazran region. Its southern side contains a lancet arch -crowning a low entrance. Above the entrance you see three plates covered in Arabic script. They tell you that the mausoleum was built in the 808 AH (July 29, 1405-June 17, 1406) as the burial place for “Bek-Sultan, son of Khudainad”.
However, in the subterranean entombment under the mausoleum building, travelers in the 18th-19th centuries observed a great number of mummified corpses in expensive clothes. Therefore the tomb, intended for one individual, has become a collective one with the passing of time. The local Ingush population -calls this mausoleum “Borga-Kesh”, meaning “The Tomb of Borgan”.
The Borga-Kesh Mausoleum is steeped in legend. According to one story, the origin of the mausoleum is connected to a beautiful woman by the name of Suv, who had the tomb erected over the grave of her lover, Bogdan Beksultanovich. Another legend says that here lie the remains of the legendary Narts, who were incorruptible for thousands of years. Archaeologists have a great deal of work ahead of them to uncover the mysteries of this monument. Throughout its existence, the mausoleum has been robbed several times, because of a legend about ancient treasure buried there. Nowadays, the inhabitants of surrounding villages take care of the monument. The Borga-Kash mausoleum is recognized as a monument of history and culture of national importance and is under the protection of the government.
Malgobek (30 kilometers north of Nazran) is the administrative center of the Malgobek district of Ingushetia. It is the second largest city in Ingushetia Republic in terms of population and area. Malgobek was founded in 1933 as an “oil town” when the Malgobek oilfield was discovered 65 kilometers northwest of Magas (Republic's center city), in the Alhanchurtskaya Valley, on the southern slopes of the Tersky Ridge. Malgobek bears the honorary title of the City of Military Glory. Tourist Information center of the Republic of Ingushetia /www.ingtourism.ru
“Vouv” battle towers are the pinnacle of the Ingush's architecture. They are always high — at least 25 meters — and narrow: remember the spiral staircases of medieval castle in Europe, they also leave no room for maneuvers, and it plays more into the hands of the defenders than the enemies.
Battle towers were placed in strategic locations – at crossroads or entrances to gorges. By custom, before laying the towers foundation builders poured milk on the ground. If it did not seep in, the site was deemed suitable for construction. And if the milk did seep into the ground, they dug deeper, to the bedrock, or even went looking for a new place.
Vouv tower always has only one entrance. It leads directly to the first and second floors. A ladder, which could be easily picked up at any time, was used to access the tower. Classical Ingush battle tower has four, sometimes five floors and a stepped pyramidal roof. Tapered capstone crowns the pyramid. Some towers have flat roofs. The most famous example is the tower complex of Vovnushki.
During clashes and sieges, ground floor was reserved for prisoners, and there was a special grain storage compartment there. First floor was occupied by heavily armed soldiers; belongings of the defenders were also kept there. Families of the defenders lodged on the second floor, further tiers were for defenders and observers only. Provided they had enough food, water and weapons, people in the towers could endure a siege of many months. Even if one storey of the tower was captured, its defenders went higher and barricaded there.
Gagievs Towers (30 kilometers south of Nazran) are located in the Assinskiy gorge. According to legend, under the Gagievs towers were the site of a ferocious battle with foreign invaders in the Middle Ages. Ingush folklore preserved the name of one of the leaders, Gagiev Talevr, who led a fierce resistance against the enemy and died valiantly. The Ingush still like to tell the story about the circumstances of Talevr’s death.
The Mongols made several attempts to invade into the Ingush mountains, but were always unsuccessful. According to legend, the route into the mountains taken by the Mongol army, was blocked in Assinsky gorge by 40 daredevils headed by Talevr. When the Mongols came close to the Gagievs towers, the bloody battle is began. Sending messengers for the help, Targa Talevr led his small force against the enemy. When help finally arrived from Targimskaya gorge, all the defenders, including Talevr, were dead. The reinforcement managed to repel the Mongol attack. The valor of Talevr and his soldiers remain etched forever in the memory of the Ingush.
Dzheyrakh-Assinsky Historical Area
Dzheyrakh-Assinsky historical-architectural and natural museum-reserve (near the border of Georgia) is main and most famous architectural monuments area of Ingushetia. Located in the mountainous part of the republic, it contains more than two thousand places of interest. Three hotels with prices ranging from 1900 to 2500 rubles per night are located in the Armhi resort in Dzheyrakhsky district
Dzheirakh village is located on the right bank of the river Armkhi five kilometers from its confluence with the Terek. Of the architectural monuments in Dzheyrahe just one battle tower rising in the center of the village remains. According to historians, the name "Dzheirakh" is associated with Jarrah ibn Abd al-Al-Hakami, an Arab commander and governor of the Arabian caliph in Armenia and northern Iran, Jarrahand from A.D. 724 for 730 controlled the Daryal Gorge in the Northern Caucasus, an important passage on the Silk Road trade routes. Dzheirakh village itself is located on the right bank of the Terek River near its confluence with the Armkhi River and a strategic high plateau and the main road connecting Eastern Europe with the countries of Persia and the Middle East. .
Vovnushki castle (40 kilometers south of Nazran) stands on the edge of the narrow gorge of Ozdi-Chozh on the top of the cliff. It is a ruin but its tower still stands high. Its name translates as “place of battle towers.” There is a beautiful view of the gorge and the waters of the Guloyhi River from the top of the cliff. The castle survived many battles and was a checkpoint of the Great Silk Road.
Vovnushki medieval tower complex is located among peaks of shale ridges, and consists of two separate castles, which, according to legend, used to be connected by a bridge. The combat towers are four stories high and have narrow gun slots, a high parapet, and a flat roof. The avenues approaching the towers and dwellings are protected by thick defensive walls, which, at first sight, seem to be a natural part of the mountain. The combat towers illustrate the basic stronghold concept: of placing huge stone constructions on a rocky foundation in relatively inaccessible place that defends the entrance to a gorge.
Targim Basin is regarded as the cradle of the Ingush people. There is archaeological that even in Neolithic times, a warlike tribe lived here. There are numerous tower architecture landmarks in the basin. It is where the ancient architecture styles originated and were later spread across the mountains of Ingushetia. Ancient Christian religious architectural monuments are also found here.
Targim Tower Complex (40 kilometers south of Nazran, 10 kilometers north of the Georgia border) is a large medieval tower castle settlement that lies on the right bank of Assa River in the Dzheyrakhsky district in the Targimsky valley. There are four main 30-meter-high battle towers and more than two dozens of dual-purpose, residential towers with stone outbuildings, all at different stages of decay. In the past, the village was famous for its talented battle tower builders, experienced gunsmiths and mounted warriors. On weekends, Ingush plain people come here to have a picnic near the tower of their family and tidy up the ancient stones. In the summer, wrestlers gather in the hollow for the Battle in the Mountains tournament.
Memorial Stone to Deportation Victims (near the Targim Tower Complex) is a stone boulder that keeps alive the memory of the deportation of the Ingush people. At this place in February 1944, the village was burned and many elderly and infirm people unable to vacate were burned or died. Over 65 people were killed.
Pui Castle Complex (behind Tkhaba-Yerdy Temple) is situated upstream of Assa, where a large tributary, the Guloykhi, empties into it. A prominent part of the complex is the “classic” five-storey battle tower rising for 30 meters. Time has spared this tower: its pyramidal slate roof with a keystone at the top and balconies on the top sentinel tier are still intact and barely damaged. The balconies let besieged warriors fight the enemy by throwing rocks at them and pour boiling water on their heads while staying safe.
Tkhaba-yerdy Christian Temple
Tkhaba-Yerdy Christian Temple (four kilometers from Targim) is one of the oldest Christian shrines in Russia. Dated to the 8th century, the temple stands on the right bank of the Assa river, between settlements of Khairakh and Pui. The shrine different from other shrines of the North Caucasus with its large size and rich décor.
Tkhaba-Yerdy Christian Temple was built on the place where a pagan shrine once stood that was greatly revered by the Ingush. The temple’s fence features carved pagan symbols and stones with depressions, the so-called bowl stones inserted under the fence.. Scientists believe these stones could have been used by pagan priests as a star chart or a calendar. Byzantine, Armenian and Georgian influence can be seen in the temple’s design and decorations. There are specific details peculiar to Armenian and Georgian Architecture here, and they belong to different periods. The influence of the Armenian Church can be seen on the eastern part of the wall, which bears biblical scenes. Here, above the two arches of window opening, there is a picture of 4 people, one of whom is struggling with a lion.
Byzantine missionaries came to the mountainous Ingusheita in 842 – 867, during the reign of Emperor Michael III. The missionaries were concerned about local people worshipping pagan gods in a Christian church. Gifts were offered to persuade the locals to adopt Christianity more whole-heartedly. There is written and archaeological evidence that Byzantine missionaries stayed here. Coins with the face of Byzantine Emperor Michael III on them were found near the temple of Tkhaba-Yerdy. Christianization of the mountain Ingush people is also proved by the parchment hymnals found here. Similar manuscripts were found in the Mago-Yerdy sanctuary. Influence exerted by the Georgian Church is confirmed by reliefs and floral ornament, decorations typical of 12th century Georgian Church architecture.
In the Middle Ages, this temple was the legislative body of the region. Certain days were dedicated to religious rituals and settlement of disputes, and on those days people from Khamkhi, Galgay, Chulkhoy, Tskhoroy and Fyappy flocked to the temple. The “Mekhkha Khel”, Court of the Land, was also located close to Tkhaba-Yerdy.
Tower Complex in Egikal Village
Ancient Egikal (five kilometers north of Targim) is the largest medieval tower complex in the mountains of Ingushetia. It was a political, administrative and cultural center of the medieval Targim basin. The castle stands on the southern slope of Mount Tsey-Loam, two kilometers from the Assa River. Hundreds of buildings that once comprised a powerful township are scattered on the hillside in the Assa gorge. High hillocks offer a good view of the picturesque Assa valley. Far away, some other tower complexes can be seen, those of the villages of Hamhi, Targim, Pui, and the millennium-old Tkhaba-Yerdy Christian temple.
Before the deportation of the Ingush in 1944 people lived in the village of Egikal. Today, Egikal is an uninhabited tower complex, open-air museum, preserved ancient city, the streets of which welcome those willing to touch the centuries-old history.
The village was famous for its artisans, who passed their craft and skills from generation to generation. There were skilled gunsmiths, blacksmiths, potters, jewelers here, as well as brave warriors and folk medicine experts. Many families and talented people known throughout Ingushetia come from Egikal, including Idris Murtuzovich Bazorkin, an esteemed writer of classic Ingush literature. He is buried here at the family cemetery.
Erzi Tower Complex
Erzi (in the Ahmi Valley, 45 kilometers south of Nazran, 10 kilometers north of Georgia border) is one of the largest medieval castle-type tower villages. Located at the extremity of a mountain range and founded in the late Middle Ages, it embraces eight battle towers, two semi-battle towers, 47 residential towers and various extensions to them in different condition. Around the complex is a long stone defensive wall with wide gates.. The battle towers are five- and six-stories high. Erzi in Ingush means “eagle”.
According to folk legend, an eagle's nest was found on the site of the settlement and since the eagle was considered a sacred bird in the past and was identified with the Sela, the deity of natural phenomena, thunder and lightning, people decided to call their village Erzi. During times of bad weather, when the whole lower part of the Armhi valley is hidden in the clouds, Erzi's towers resemble a nest accessible only to eagles.
Erzi is a patrimonial village with many well-known Ingush families, famed for their brave warriors, talented architects, blacksmiths, jewelers and gunsmiths in the past. According to legend, the first tower in the Erzi village was built by a man named Itar, the ancestor of the Evkurov family and clan. He relocated to Olgetti later. He built a tower there as well and lived in it. Itar was a famous hunter and accurate shot. There's even a saying about him: “Itar, who hits the target before you can hear the shot.”
Nij Tower Complex and Tsei-Loam Sacred Mountain
Nij Tower Complex (near Pyaling, 40 kilometers south of Nazran, 10 kilometers north of the Georgia border) lies on the southern spur of the Tsorey-Loam mountain, 5.5 kilometers east of the Assa gorge. Four tall, well-preserved battle towers with pyramidal stepped roofs are situated here. There are alsoa a number of dual-purpose, residential buildings scattered among the ruins. The top parts of the battle towers bear crosses made through removal of stones from the walls.
Assa Gorge is 17 kilometers long. Like other gorges in Ingushetia, it is always cool here, even in the summer heat. The high mountains and cliffs of the gorge prevent sunlight from penetrating into the bottom of the gorge. The gorge gets its name from that of the Assa river, which flows for 133 kilometers, the beginning part in Assa Gorge. Assa originates on the Great Caucasus Ridge and flows through the territory of Georgia before entering Ingushetia.
Tsei-Loam Sacred Mountain is 3,171 meters high. It rocky inaccessible slopes are often hidden by fog or shrouded in clouds. Variable mountain view gave it a halo of holiness and mystery in medieval Ingush people eyes. In ancient Ingush mythology, the Tsei-Loam mountain was identified with the throne of Sela, the deity natural phenomena, thunder and lightning.
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: Federal Agency for Tourism of the Russian Federation (official Russia tourism website russiatourism.ru ), Russian government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Yomiuri Shimbun and various books and other publications.
Updated in September 2020