Chechnya is landlocked Muslim territory in southern Russia on the north side of the Caucasus Mountains about 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) south of Moscow. Home to about 1.4 million people, most of them ethnic Chechens, it is separated from the west side of Caspian Sea by the Dagestan. In the Soviet era, Chechnya, was an autonomous region within the Soviet Union. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, the Russians hoped that Chechnya would retain its status as a state within Russia but the Chechens had other ideas. The result was a pair of bloody, destructive wars in the 1990s that left tens of thousands dead and obliterated the main city Grozny Website: Chechen Republic tourist portal: www.chechentourism.ru/
The Chechen Republic is one of the youngest constituent entities of the Russian Federation. It was given its present status in June 1993 about a year after it and Ingushetia were divided. The Chechen Republic covers only 17,300 square kilometers (7,400 squares miles), making it only slightly larger than Connecticut or about half the size of Belgium. It has a population density of 84 people per square kilometer. About 68 percent of the population live in rural areas. Grozny is the capital and largest city, with about 1.45 million people. The Chechen Republic is bordered by Dagestan to the northeast, Ingushetia and North Ossetia–Alania to the west, Stavropol Krai to the northwest and the country of Georgia (Kakheti and Mtskheta-Mtianeti) to the south.
The traditional territory of the Chechens lies on and to the east of the principal road crossing the Caucasus: leading to the Darial Pass and the Georgian Military Highway. The Republic of Chechnya extends from the area just north of the Terek River on the southern part of the North Caucasus plains to the snow line. The landscape ranges from steppes and rolling foothills in the north to Alpine terrain in the south in the Caucasus Mountains. The northern lowlands enjoy rich soil, plenty of precipitation and a long growing season, The mountain valleys also often have good soil and ample amounts of precipitation.
The climate is continental, with cold but not harsh winters and hot, often humid, summers. The average high temperature in Grozny in August is 33 degrees C, dropping to 20 degrees C at night. In December, the average high temperature is 5 degrees C and just below zero at night. In the mountains, the climate is cooler-colder with more abrupt temperature changes.
Much of the land is heavily forested. Alpine conditions are found in the upper elevation. There has been a lot of clearing in the lowlands to make room for agricultural land. Among the attractions are ancient ruined towns and fortresses, ancestral towers, deep gorges, alpine meadows, beautiful waterfalls and dense forest. Lake Kezenoyam, the deepest lake in the North Caucasus. Grozny has gone fair quickly from being a bombed-out shell to a rapidly developing city under the Putin-friendly government. When traveling in Chechnya you need to be respectful of Muslim traditions and customs. This means men should not wear short pants and women should dress modestly no cleavage, belly buttons or short skirts, and a head covering would be nice. shorts (the latter applies to men).
Getting There: By Plane: : A) direct flights from Moscow: 2 hours 10 minutes from Domodedovo Airport and to 2 hours 40 minutes from Vnukovo Airport. The cost of tickets depends on the season, but generally ranges from 4,000 to 6,000 rubles; B) from St. Petersburg: 3 hours 5 minutes. Ticket price from 4,000 to 8,000 rubles. C) From Surgut: 4 hours 20 minutes. Ticket price from 7,000 to 20,000 rubles. By Train: from Moscow, from the Kazan station 22 hours on the road: reserved seat: 2814 rubles; berth in a compartment: 5782 rubles. Trains also connect Grozny with Sochi, Anapa, Astrakhan and Volgograd. By Bus: Bus service connects the Chechen Republic with the Caucasus regions. Local Transport: Prices are moderate: Buses and minibuses, leave from the “Central” and “Western” bus stations. For trips to the highlands, it is better to use a local tour operators or hire a car with an experienced driver and guide.
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.
Chechens and Ingush
The Chechens are a North Caucasus ethnic group closely related to the Ingush. There are about 1.3 million Chechens in Chechnya, and 450,000 Ingush in Ingushetia and an equal number outside Ingushetia. Together the two groups make up the largest ethnic group in the North Caucasus and occupy the most territory there. There are also Chechen communities in Jordan, Syria and Turkey, Many of them are descendants of immigrants who left the Caucasus after the Caucasus Wars in the 19th century.
The Chechens and Ingush are relatively tall people with fair skin and a variety of hair colors, including black and blond. Reddish shade are quite common. The two groups tend to characterize themselves as being thin and long limbed and proud of the fact the have thick hair and few men go bald.
Both the Chechens and the Ingush remain strongly attached to clan and tribal relations as the structure of their societies. Primary use of their respective North Caucasian languages has remained above 95 percent, despite the long period that the two groups spent in exile. Chechnya was fully converted to Islam by the seventeenth century, Ingushetia only in the nineteenth century. But the region has a two-century history of holy war against Russian authority. When the indigenous populations were exiled in 1944, Soviet authorities attempted to expunge Islam entirely from the region by closing all mosques. Although the mosques remained closed when the Chechens and Ingush returned, clandestine religious organizations spread rapidly. [Source: Library of Congress, July 1996 *]
Chechnya and Ingushetia
The Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Oblast was established in 1934 by combining two separate oblasts that had existed since the early 1920s. In 1936 the oblast was redesignated an autonomous republic, but both ethnic groups were exiled to Central Asia in 1944 for alleged collaboration with the invading Germans. [Source: Library of Congress, July 1996 *]
The republic was reinstated in 1957. In the three decades following their return, the Chechen and Ingush populations recovered rapidly, accounting in 1989 for 66 percent of the population of their shared republic. At that time, the Chechen population was about 760,000, the Ingush about 170,000. This proportion reflects approximately the relative size of the two regions after they split into separate republics in 1992. (Ingushetia occupies a sliver of land between Chechnya and North Ossetia; in 1995 its population was estimated at 254,100.) In 1989 Russians constituted about 23 percent of the combined population of Chechnya and Ingushetia, their numbers having declined steadily for decades.
The most important product of what now is known as the Chechen Republic is refined petroleum. The capital, Groznyy, was one of the most important refining centers in southern Russia prior to its virtual annihilation in the conflict of 1995-96. Several major pipelines connect Grozny refineries with the Caspian Sea, the Black Sea, and Russian industrial centers to the north. The republic's other important industries are petrochemical and machinery manufacturing and food processing. When the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Republic split in June 1992, Chechnya retained most of the industrial base.
Despite the close ethnic relationship of the Ingush and Chechen peoples, the Ingush opted to remain within the Russian Federation after Chechnya initially declared its sovereignty in 1991. In June 1992, Ingushetia declared itself a sovereign republic within the Russian Federation. At that time, Ingushetia claimed part of neighboring North Ossetia as well. When hostilities arose between the Chechens and the Ingush following their split, Russian troops were deployed between the two ethnic territories. Ingushetia opposed Russia's occupation of Chechnya, but it supported the regime of President Boris N. Yeltsin on other issues in the mid-1990s. The capital of Ingushetia is Nazran.
Grozny is the capital and largest city of the Chechen Republic. Located near the Khankala Gorge river on the Sunzha River, which floods in the spring and sometimes in the autumn but is generally dry, the city began as a Russian military fort and was once home to 400,000 Chechens. It used to be a major oil refining city. Many people worked in the huge petrochemical plants located there. Now the population is about 145,000.
Grozny was founded in 1818 and received city status in 1869. In 1816, the head of the Russian Caucasus Army, A.P. Yermolov decided the construction of the fortress. The first stone was laid June 1818 at the highest point of the shore of the Sunzha River. Four months later construction was finished. in October of the same year. Local say the fortress was built of four Chechen demolished villages, where more than 1,000 people lived.
The fortress has the form of a regular hexagon, it was surrounded by a deep moat. The first inhabitants of the fortress were soldiers. As soldiers got married and traders moved in, it didn’t take long for the local population to outgrow the fortress and areas adjacent to it. The French writer Alexandre Dumas visited Chechnya in 1858 and called the Chechens the French of the Caucasus. He traveled with an armed escort and wrote “Voyage au Caucase”, a still untranslated travel classic .
Accommodation: In Grozny-city, as well as in the historical center of the city there are many hotels with the cost of standard double room ranging from 2500 to 7500 rubles. There is a reasonable selection of budget options-hostels, guest houses with prices staring at 1500 rubles.
Destruction of Grozny During the Chechen Wars
Grozny was the first large city in Russia to be destroyed since World War II. After the First Chechen War (December 1994- August 1996), Grozny looked like Dresden at the end of World War II. After the battle phase of Second Chechen War (August 1999 -April 2000) , it looked like Stalingrad or even Hiroshima. Grozny means "terrifying" in Russian.
After the first war finished the devastation was localized. After the second war the entire city was leveled. Mile and after mile not a single building was complete. Less than 5,000 people remained. At that stage "Nothing worked. There was no proper sewage system, no working medical service, no tax-funded functioning local government. Awash with arms, unemployed former fighters and downright bandits, the place was paralyzed by crime. trauma and the sheer task of rebuilding itself."
Twelve-story apartment blocks were reduced to one or two stories. Neighborhoods of have became jungles of overgrown vines and bushes. The central square of the city, where the parliament building, Presidential Palace and other government buildings once stood, was a wasteland. Pyotr Zakharov Fine Arts Museum was a decent regional museum with 3,200 works of art and ancient artifacts. The museum was badly damaged in the fighting. There were accusations that the Chechen fighters used it as a redoubt on purpose and that the Russians bombed it more than was necessary. One of the museum’s greatest treasures “The Capture of Shamul” by Franz Rubo disappeared.
Sights in Grozny
Sights in Grozny include: Akhmad Kadyrov ( "Heart of Chechnya") Mosque, VV Putin, Glory Memorial, A.A. Kadyrov Stadium Complex, Grozny City, National Museum of Chechnya, the National Library of Chechnya, M.Y. Lermontov Russian Drama Theater and the Monument of the Friendship of Peoples.
Grozny-City (on Kadyrov Avenue) is a complex of skyscrapers on the banks of the Sunzha river. The tallest building — the 145-meter-high Phoenix — has 40 floors is the third highest residential building in Russia outside Moscow and Yekaterinburg.. There are plans to build even taller skyscrapers in Grozny. Total area of of the complex is 4.5 hectares. There are seven high-rise buildings:(residential buildings, a hotel and a business center. From the observation deck in the business center, there are great views of the city and city’s surroundings.
Grozny Sea in a tourist complex with a giant light and music fountain. It was biggest and only one of its kind in the world when it was launched. The one-piece water-immersed fountain is 300 meters long and 40 meters wide. The height of the jet reaches 100 meters, surpassing the famous Dubai Fountain.
Journalists Square opened in 2007 to honor the journalists who died covering the war and hostilities in Chechnya. There are about 500 trees, and almost all of which have nesting boxes. The park also has evergreen shrubs and flowers, 22 benches and nine flower beds. In the center is a marble fountain, with eagles and colored lighting. A memorial stele made of granite slabs at the entrance to the park is engraved with the inscription "The journalists who died for the freedom of speech."
National Museum of the Chechen Republic was founded in 1924 and contained 230,000 objects before the outbreak of war. During the war in 1994-1996. historic building was virtually destroyed, and the museum has lost as much as 90 percent of its assets. In 2012, a new building for the National Museum of the Chechen Republic opened.
Akhmat-Hadji Kadyrov Mosque
Akhmat-Hadji Kadyrov Mosque(90 Hussein Isaev Avenue) is a giant mosque that opened in 2008 in the center of Grozny and has become a symbol of the rebuilt capital. The main building is 32 meters high, and is crowned by a cascade of domes. On the perimeter are four towering 63-meter-high minarets. The total area of the mosque is 5000 square meters, large enough to hold more than 10,000 people. The interior is made of marble brought from Turkey. Many objects sparkle with gold. The floors are covered with long-pile carpets.
Akhmat Kadyrov Mosque is named after the first President of the Chechen Republic, who was assassinated in 2004. Known as “the Heart of Chechnya,” it was built by Turkish artisans and is surrounded by manicured gardens and fountains decorated with colored lights. The paintings in the Mosque were completed by the best Turkish artists. The patterned decorations were painted using a special blend of synthetic and natural ingredients that, according to specialists, will preserve the original color range for the next 50 years. The patterns and the inscriptions of Quranic verses were done using a technique of coating with gold of the highest purity.
The 36 majestic chandeliers are made with Swarowski crystal, bronze and gold. They are designed to the resemble the three holy places of Islam: 27 of the chandeliers imitate the shape of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, eight have been made in the shape of the Al-Masjid an-Nabawi Mosque in Medina, and the largest eight-meter chandelier represents the Kaaba in Mecca.
Gudermes (35 kilometers east of Grozny) is the second largest city in Chechnya, with about 45,000 people. Located at a railroad junction between Rostov-on-Don, Baku, Astrakhan, and Mozdok, it the home of a new gymnasium with a boxing gym and basketball courts and a US$7.8 million water theme park. Gudermes is one of the warmest places in Russia, recording one of Russia's highest temperatures ever recorded there: 44°C (111°F) in July 1999.
Aimani Kadyrova Heart of Mother Mosque (in Argun, 12 kilometers east of Grozny) was inaugurated in 2014 and is named after Aimani Kadyrova, the wife of first President of the Chechen Republic, Akhmat Kadyrov. The mosque was designed by the Turkish architect Deniz Baykan and funded by the Akhmat Kadyrov Regional Public Foundation. The Aimani Kadyrova Mosque is the first mosque in Russia to be designed in an ultramodern, hi-tech style. . During the day, depending on the weather, the cupolas of the mosque change color, from light-gray to turquoise. At night, the mosque and the surrounding territory are illuminated with multicolored LED lamps and floodlights.
The walls of the mosque are covered in marble. The oval vaulting of the main prayer hall is topped with a cupola 23 meters high and 24 meters in diameter. The central chandelier is the major decoration of the mosque's interior. It weighs eight tons and stretches 30 meters in diameter. The chandelier's thousand lamps are decorated with Quranic verses and represent a unified composition. Three minarets, each 55 meters high, surround the cupola of the mosque.
The mosque is designed to accommodate 15,000 people and has 26 entrance doors. Two rivulets inhabited by fish flow along the stairs that lead to the main entrance. The Aimani Kadyrova Mosque is located next to the Argun City 1and Argun City 2 skyscraper complex. A beautiful park surrounds the shrine. Over one hundred types of fruit trees have been planted there.
Leo Tolstoy Literary and Ethnographic Museum (80 kilometers northeast of Grozny) opened in 1980 in the village Starogladovskaya, where the writer spent several years in the 1850s. Chechens have great respect for Tolstoy. There’s even a village named after him: In 2010, the museum opened its doors in a new building. The launching ceremony was attended by Vladimir Tolstoy - the great-great-grandson of the great Russian writer and director of the museum "Yasnaya Polyana" - Leo Tolstoy in the Tula region, who took an active part in the revival of the museum in Chechnya. Next to the museum is the house place where Tolstoy lived for about three years. He wrote the novel "Childhood" here and his experience in the village can be found in well-known works such as "The Cossacks", "Raid" and "Hadji Murat".
Chechen Towers are among the most evocative monuments found in Chechnya. They are so naturally inscribed in the landscape, that it is difficult to imagine Chechnya’s mountains and gorges without them. Unfortunately, most of the tower buildings have been destroyed and damaged, and only a handful remain relatively intact.
There are essentially two types of Chechen towers — also called Vainakh towers — residential ones and defensive-battle towers. The latter were built to defend against enemies, bandits and rival clans. The residential ones have defensive features, illustrating how much warfare was part of Chechen life.
Towers still standing today were built by Chechens beginning in the 11th-12th centuries and were used for housing up to the 17th century. The battle towers were built on the plain and cities but mostly they are associated with the mountains, valleys and gorges and were often positioned at the mouth of mountain valley or gorge, protecting the villages up valley from the towers. Some were built on east-to-defend, inaccessible spurs of rock or mountains. Others were constructed in more convenient locations, close to the water — streams or springs.
Vainakh towers are typically have a rectangular plan, with walls that narrowed somewhat as the towers rose in height, making them more sustainable. Marked inclination was not created due to overhanging walls above the internal space of the building, but rather by the gradual decrease in thickness of the walls. The bases of such towers could be quite massive and this has helped enable them to survive to the present day.
Residential towers often blend in with surrounding mountain landscape and they often have the same color as nearby rocks because they were often built of nearby rocks. The walls of the towers were built using a unique technique of well-fitted stones. In some buildings the stones fastened with small amounts of clay or lime mortar. The base of the towers was generally built on hard rock and massive stones were brought to the tower site using ox-driven sleds. Layout and Features of Chechen Towers
Typically, residential towers had two or three floors and were 12 meters high. To construct the internal intermediate floors special projections were placed in the stone walls along with and sockets into which the beams could be placed. The towers had a central pillar made of stone blocks that supported the ceiling rafters. Purlines rested on pilasters or cornerstones, and common rafters, in their turn, rested on the purlines. The upper floors consisted of wood sticks resting on the rafters, coated with punned clay. The ground floor was paved with boards or stone slabs.
The roof of the residential towers was flat. Roof was comprised of logs coated brushwood. On top of which was placed rammed earth. To do this, special cylindrical rollers of durable stone were used. Each floor of the residential tower had separates door. To get to the second or third floors one had to climb a ladder. Door and window openings are usually semicircular arches. They were made of carved stones and massive stones pushed up against each other. Arched stone often decorated with carved petroglyphs. Some arches were composed of several stome bloack with a primitive canted keystone in the center. With these, if one a stone was taken out there was risk the whole structure could fall apart. Sometimes arches of different kinds were used in the same tower to spice up the tower’s appearance. Above the doors and windows of some towers are arrangements like eaves of a roof.
On the inner side of the door and window openings were expanded according to the type of false lancet arches made. In the winter and at night the doors and windows were covered with plank boards that rotate in special retianers. The first floor usually had no windows for ventilation, which was provided by small air holes. The door had a lock bolt. The "key" to get in was angular stick with stumps of branches or special notches. The first floor of the tower was where people slept, ate and relaxed. The upper floors is where stocks were kept. Ladders and special hatches in the floors were used to get from the lower rooms to the upper rooms.
Stone buildings generally stayed cool in the summer. Fireplaces provided heat in the winter. Shelves for different things. were often placed in rounded shape constructions. Cooking was done in a hearth with chain to suspend the cooking pot over the fire. The center of life was the hearth or fireplace. Around it were wooden benches covered with carvings. The best positions were usually reserved for older men and guests.
Interior residential towers was spacious enough. Felt wall hangings were sometime hung from the walls, Felt carpets covered the floors. Clothes were hung on poles and ropes stretched along the walls. Utensils and crockery were stored in many niches. People slept in folded bedding on bunks on a wide platform. On pegs driven into between stones, hung weapons — bows, guns, swords.
Argun Gorge is the land of towers and the cradle of the Nakhs. The home of the famous ancient Ushkoloy twin towers, it is one of the largest and longest gorges of the Caucasus. Almost the whole territory of the gorge is part of the Argun State Historical, Architectural and Natural Museum Reserve, formed in 1988 “in order to preserve unique monuments of history and architecture, maintain the compensatory possibilities of nature, and also to preserve and reproduce endangered rare species of fauna and flora. “
Argun Gorge stretches for almost 120 kilometers. There are more than 600 monuments of history, culture, archaeology, architecture and nature. The monuments include grottos, settlements, burial-vaults, underground burial grounds, underground and overground, family vaults, military and residential towers and castle complexes that date from the second millennium B.C. to the 19th century.
To fully explore the region is best to go with a hired car with an experienced driver and guide. To get there from Grozny take Kadyrov Avenue which becomes route P305. If you want to drive all the way to top of the gorge and visit the ancient City of the Dead at Tsoi-Pede, you need to get a permit in advance as it is very close to the border with Georgia. If you have a Russian passport, the permit is issued on the spot, at the border post in Utum-Kalinsky district (there is a pointer). Prior to the outbreak of hostilities, tours around the reserve were offered on horseback.
Argun Architectural and Nature Reserve is located on the highest, most mountainous and most inaccessible part of the Chechen Republic and covers 2,400 square kilometers. The reserve embraces all of the territories of the Itum-Kala and Sharoi districts and parts of the Achkhoi-Martanovsky (Galanchozh, Yalhara, Akki and Khaybakh), Vedensky (Kezenoy, Khoy and Makazhoy) and Shatoi (Borzoy, Tumsa, Kharseni). The Argun Reserve was founded to based on a series of historical and natural monuments of Chanty-Argun and Sharo-Argun canyons, which are interrelated through their history, ethnicity, and landscape.
Places in the Argun Gorge
The road to the Itum-Kale district has many archaeological and historical sites. In the village Bashin-Calais, on a steep cliff, you can see the old hard-tower decorated with recessed T-shaped signs. In the village is a stone in the Nehalem River, which is connected with a legend about stone woman. The landscape is a mix of alpine pastures and meadows and forests. There magnificent views and nice places to relax.
Ushkaloi Twin Towers were built in the 11th-12th centuries into a rock vault. Located between the villages of Guchum-Kale and Ushkaloi in the Itum-Kali district on the right bank of the Chanti-Argun river, t he towers have four tiers and are about 12 meters high. The Grozny-Itum-Kale road passes near the tower. The powerful flow of the Chanti-Argun river separates the towers from the road. This is one of the narrowest places on the road through the gorge.
The Ushkaloi towers are located under the huge canopy of Celine-Lam rock. Nearby there is the base of another tower destroyed in 1944. The architecture of the towers is peculiar. They have three walls, and the rock serves as the fourth wall. The towers are built out of stone that has been processed with mortar.
Towers built into rocky niches belong to the most ancient type of buildings. In mountainous Chechnya, such buildings were located in rocky cliffs, on steep river banks, sometimes at very high altitudes. Rock crevices or rock caves were laid with stones from the outside, arranging door and window openings, loopholes, and observation slits like in a conventional tower.
According to legend, these towers housed the Council of Wise Men, where highlanders of all ethnic communities came searching for truth and justice. The tower is considered to be a watchtower. The fact that in olden days the road in this place came along the right river bank, not the left as it does now, is a confirmation of this. Not far from the tower there was a stone arch bridge. Guards in the tower controlled the road and the bridge. Only elements of the bridge have survived to the present time. In 2011, the towers were restored.
Shatoysky Battle Tower stands on the left bank of the River Chant-Argun, opposite the village of Chatou. The Five-story tower is 21 meters high and has a pyramid-stepped roof. The monument is interesting as an example of defensive structures of the Middle Ages.
Shrine Ziyart Hedi is dedicated to the devoted mother and the great Sufi spiritual master Kunta-Haji Kishiev. It is one of the most admired and visited holy places in the Chechen Republic. Every year it is visited by tens of thousands of pilgrims. In 2009, the shrine was restored.
Motsaroy Tower Complex is one of the most beautiful tower complexes of Terloy. Located in the abandoned aul of the same name, populated until 1944. Consisting of one combat and several residential towers, the complex is located on a hill with two small rivers — Nicaroy-Erk and Barai-Erk — merging underneath it Before the adoption of Islam, Motsaroy was a pagan center as evidenced by a large number of location names associated with pagan cults.
Lake Kezenoy Am
Kezenoy Am (110 kilometers from Grozny on the border with Dagestan) is the largest natural body of water in the North Caucasus. Located, at the foot of the Andean ridge at an altitude of 1800 meters above sea level, it offers good trout fishing, and the presence of mineral salts gives fresh water an azure-emerald hue. The way from Grozny to lake Kezenoy Am is first along a flat highway for about 90 kilometers through Shali and Vedeno. The last 20 kilometers is on a twisting mountain round
At the lake there is a fitness center as well as a rope town, a climbing wall and a children's playground with slides. You can rent a gazebo with barbecue. You can also go horseback riding or try zip lining. In the winter, the ski season opens. Skis, snowboards and sleds are available for rent.
The lake was created after a major landslide that occurred approximately 600-700 years ago on the southern slope of the Kashkerlam Ridge and blocked the valley of the Ansalta River. The lake water is crystal-clear, and the depth of the reservoir in its deepest point reaches 70 meters. Even in the summer, the temperature of the water does not exceed 10°C. During the Soviet period, the training base of the U.S.S.R. Olympic rowing team was located on the shores of the lake.
Accommodation: There is a hotel on the lake shore. A standard double room with two beds costs you 2500 rubles. You can stay in wooden houses at a distance from the main complex. The house with kitchen can accommodate up to 4 people. The cost is 5,000 rubles per day.
Archaeological Site sin the Vedensky District
Vedensky District is located in the southeast of the republic. The area of the district is 956 square kilometers (369 square miles). There are some interesting archaeological and historical sites here as well as about 38,000 people, many of them very poor.
Ancient City of Hoi describes a whole scattering of buildings and “city guards”. People appeared here about 2500 years ago. The village was created in the 14th–15th centuries. Throughout its history, Hoi served as a guard post. “Ho” in Chechen means “guard” or “patrol”.There are also houses with stone arches, corrals, similar to the dungeons of castles, an ancient cemetery, where the stones are covered with signs of ancient alphabets and drawings — indicated that ancient Greek missionaries and people from of other ancient civilizations probably visited area.
Aldam-Gezy Castle dates to the 14th-16th centuries. The complex consists of a citadel located on a huge marl cliff, a group of dilapidated structures and a residential tower, which is called the tower of Daud. Like many towers, this one is a rectangular structure tapering upward. There are remains of the support pillar in the center of the tower. The entrance is on the front east side, framed by a rather primitive arched stone, placed on the side plates. There are rectangular window openings on the tower wall, and the lower part of the building is made of large stone blocks.
A trail to the citadel extends from the east, along the mentioned buildings. It winds along the ledges of marble rocks where you can see petroglyphs: a deer hunting scene and a serpentine pattern with staples. Inside the citadel, surrounded by a wall, the remains of pens for cattle and the base of the combat structure are preserved. All buildings are half-ruined.
Maista Canyon and Its Medieval Towers
Maista (near Georgia, 100 kilometers south-southwest of Grozny) is an ancient historical place situated in the highlands to the east of the Chanti-Argun River, along the border with Georgia. It is the harshest and most beautiful Chechen mountainous region. Snow-capped mountains, huge rocks, deep abysses and wild mountain rivers wonderfully combine here with thick beech and pine groves, thickets of wild fruit trees and shrubs, and a sea of flowers in the summer. And above all, ancient towers rise.
“Maista” in Chechen means “mountainous,” “high” and “edge.” The area once had a relatively high population. The villages of Vaserkel, Tsa-Kale, Puoga and Tuga stretched along the Maista River, a tributary of the Chanti-Argun. They were located in hard-to-reach, strategically important places, positioned on the gorges of Maista from all sides, castles and towers guarding the entrances from enemies and raids.
Maista was a peculiar capital of the Chechen mountains in the Middle Ages. Legend has it that the legendary Molkh lived here, the ancestor of a part of Chechens, who later moved to Nashkh. At one time, the Mekhk Khel of the Nakh country gathered in Maista to solve pressing issues and develop customary law. Maista remained a cult centre of Chechnya for a long time, and there was a zhretses caste with secret knowledge and the skills of healers.
A great number of stone buildings dating back to the 12th-14th centuries can be found in Maista. The ruins of the medieval tower village of Vaserkel, lying on a high stone cliff on the right bank of the Maistoin-Erk River, are particularly striking. The ruins of stone towers merge with gray rocks to form a bizarre castle shape. At the very top of the cliff, there is a combat tower from which the entire surrounding area can be seen, as well as the towers of Tsa-Kale and Puoga. On the western edge, the towers hang over a trail that runs along the river.
The village of Vaserkel was situated at the crossroads of the tracks from Dagestan to the Argun Gorge and from Chechnya to Georgia. It was a real medieval fortress, with combat towers and stone walls, virtually impregnable to enemies. Legend has it that it was destroyed during wars in the early Middle Ages, and no one has lived there since.
Not far from Vaserkel fortress is the largest necropolis in the Caucasus — “City of the Dead”, consisting of fifty stone vaults scattered on the slopes. They served as burial vaults for some Maista surnames. To the east of Vaserkel, the village of Tsa-Kale is located on a gentle slope. Tsa-Kale is a castle-type defensive complex, consisting of one combat tower and several residential towers. There are many petroglyphs on the walls of the towers in Tsa-Kale: in the form of spirals, solar signs and human figures, as well as a mandatory hand image on almost all towers. The most interesting, however, is the petroglyphic inscription on the wall of a dwelling tower in Vaserkel, on the edge of a high cliff. It is a peculiar document of Chechen ancient writing, yet to be deciphered by scholars. The tower settlements of Puoga and Tuga are to the west of Vaserkel and Tsa-Kale on the left bank of Maistoin-Erk
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