About the region
Ingushetia is the smallest region in Russia with the capital of Magas founded from scratch in 1994. However, when it comes to the number of medieval buildings, Ingushetia is immense and ancient.
All the mountainous south of the republic is an enormous open-air museum with abandoned ancient towns – Ezri, Egikal, Targim, hundreds of watchtowers and solar shrines. Close to Ergikal settlement, the legendary native land of the Ingush, the Christian temple of Tkhaba-Yerdyrises, dating back to the 8th century, which makes it one of the oldest temples in Russia.

On the opposite side of the valley the pagan temple of Myat-Seli stands on the sacred Table Mountain. These days it’s not used for the acts of worship though. The last big sacrifice was made in 1925. The procession of pilgrims was headed by a husky priest in a snow-white beshmet, carrying on his shoulder the sacred pole with a white flag and bells.

In medieval times the heads of sacrificial animals were turned towards the rising sun, whereas in recent rituals – towards Mecca. That’s the impact of Islam adopted by the Ingush in the second half of the 19th century.
At that time we stumbled again on one of the trails you can’t turn from neither to the right nor to the left, and there is no getting ahead of the one walking in front of you. The squadron was stringing out, horse after horse, soldier after soldier…

… Suddenly people started stopping, backing one another. – Don’t stop there, up ahead! Walk on! – the voices from the headquarters were heard. – We can’t walk! those ahead are standing still! the road has been taken! – the soldiers spoke out from the middle of the column…

… Two shots ahead a tall square tower was seen right above the road, of a familiar construction, as we have already blew up a few of those…

The enemy is sitting firm in the tower with the road no more than twenty steps away, and shooting straight; the frontline soldier has been killed, and the two following him severely injured. If the squadron marches on under the bullets, a plethora of people will be massacred to no avail at all…

… After that the headquarters commander went to examine the tower and consult Bogdanovich. It was quite robust, stood on a separate granite rock, and totally dominated the road at the start of the descent into the valley. The doors of the tower made of thick oak planks and heaped with stones on the inside were three sazhens(6.4 m) above the ground. There was no ladder to access the doors. Narrow loopholes in all directions allowed shooting all over the place; silence reigned in the tower, interrupted by rare fire which nevertheless was not indicative of the number of people locked up inside…

… First of all, the tower was surrounded by taking over the mountains two troops of the Erivans along the way discovered by the Ossetians. The firing line was lying behind the stones and in the nearest huts, with loopholes made on the enemy’s side. Despite the long distance, the shots from the tower were so accurate that a soldier didn’t dare raise a head, an arm, or a piece of his coat for fear of being pierced by a bullet. An attempt to break inside with artillery was made, but soon it became obvious our three-pound grenades were totally useless against them. Blowing the tower up was a last resort, but another obstacle arose. The rock the tower was standing on didn’t allow for making a mine tunnel or a shaft; we were lacking time to break through the granite. In order not to lose people in vain, the only way was to make a sheltered traverse to the base of the tower, break through the wall, and lay a mine in the basement. The wood to build the sheltered passage was found in the aul, dragged with ropes over the mountains, and the work started. On the third day five poods (180 pounds) of gunpowder in a solid box coated with iron were placed in the basement despite all the enemy’s efforts to stop the work. They even broke through the vault of the basement and were shooting at the assault engineers at work.

The besieged were repeatedly offered to surrender, but every time they rejected the proposal. When everything was ready for the explosion, the kind, philanthropic baron Grigory Vladimirovich sent another word to the Galgai to take mercy upon themselves, and should they surrender, promised them life and even exchange. They agreed at last to leave the tower, asking for two hours to remove the stones blocking the entrance. At the set time all everybody gathered by the tower, one squad was ready to receive captives, the doors swung open, half a dozen of guns flew out, then two disheveled, grimy Galgais went down a rope and were standing with their arms crossed looking at us sullenly, awaiting their fate…”

F.F. Tornau “Reminiscences of Caucasian Officer”
01Towers in mountains
Watchtowers were erected throughout the Caucasus, but Ingushetia has the most towers that survived till the present day. During the Caucasian War in the middle of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century most of the Ingush maintained neutrality. So their towns and towns haven’t been afflicted greatly.

Towers can be residential, semi-military, ormilitary. The ground floor of a broad residential tower was intended for cattle. The first floor was where the hearth was installed. Pagans believed that souls of the dead dwell near the fire and often gave their ancestors treats, throwing food into the fire. That place was considered sacred. The second floor was residential.

Family was sheltering from dangers in the military tower. The only entrance was made on the first and second floor. When the enemy was approaching, the ladder was pulled up. The ground level was used to store food and water, as well as to keep captives. Above it, like in the residential tower, there was a hearth, and the top level was the domain of warriors shooting their enemies from under the cover of machicolation.
02And what's on the plains?
In the north of Ingushetia tourists usually visit the Borga-Kash Mausoleum – the only monument of burial culture in Russia dating back to the times of the Golden Horde that has been preserved in its authentic state, the mausoleums of Sufi sheikhs, and the tremendous memorial complex in homage to the victims of repressions. Next to the monument of the Savage Division (the Caucasian cavalry battling at the fronts of the First World War) there are wooden carriages to commemorate the deportation of the Ingush by Stalin.

The capital of the republic is Magas, one of the youngest cities in Russia. Magas is often featured in the news due to the high-tech experiments of the local City Hall. The city boasts heated houses for stray cats, automatic feeder for dogs, and benches equipped with free Wi-Fi. A 99-metre Ingush tower with a museum inside has been built in the center of Magas, facing the government complex.
The intensity of Ingush hospitality is exceptional, surpassing even the Caucasian standards. A hitchhiker doesn’t have to raise his arm – if you’re walking along the highway, cars stop anyway. Often people invite you over, offer money, or try to pay for your meal at cafes. This kind of treatment encourages tourists, and Ingushetia is probably the perfect choice for the first trip to the Caucasus, as it is packed with sights within a small territory and welcoming beyond belief.
useful information
The Ingush airport of Magas has flights only from Moscow. Every two days a train runs from Moscow, the journey takes 32 hours. That’s why most likely you will be getting there through Vladikavkaz. If youaim for theDzheirakh Ravine and its sights, the airport of Vladikavkaz is a more sensible choice, too. Magas and Nazran can be reached by bus from Caucasian regions.
Ingushetia is part of Russia, so a Russian visa will be enough to visit the republic. However, most of the landmarks are located in the mountains. All the highland part of Ingushetia is a border area where you will need a permit. Don’t forget to get it before you go. If you’ve bought our tour, obtaining a permit is our concern.
Tour to Ingushetia
Caucasus Explorer magazine

Go to Top