Ingushetia is the tiniest of the Russian Caucasus republics, sandwiched inbetween North Ossetia und Chechnya. The two places of interest in its capital Magras are the local museum in a watch-tower-replica and the memorial guiding through the history of the Ingush people. On my trip through Ingushetia I travelled with a couple of people, we started off in nearby Vladikavkaz/North Ossetia and continued to Grozny/Chechnya. Magras was my only stop in this tiny republic which has certainly a lot more to offer, especially a lot of nature and ancient watch towers.
About 400.000 people inhabit the small stretch that can be cross from west to east in half an hour. What puzzled me most was that such a tiny republic is building a new capital, Magras, only two kilometer from the old capital Nasran. Naturally, I asked why it needs a new capital, the answer was rather evasive: lack of infrastructure. Later some Ossetians told me it was a matter of prestige, the government aims to create an important city, similar to the ancient capital of the Ingush. With a city being built and under construction the focus of my visit the memorial and the museum.
The memorial basically sums up the history of the Ingush people, with a strong focus on whatthe European Parliament classified as the “Ingush Genocide”.How did this happen? During the World War II, when German forced reached the North Caucasus, Russian propaganda portrayed Chechens and Ingush as “traitors”, cooperating with the Nazi. As a consequence the entire Ingush and Chechnyan was deported to Kazakhstan on the orders of Joseph Stalin.In February 1944 the dictatorhad 600.000 deported to Kazakhstan in cattle trains. Even the 21000 Ingush people who served in WW2 were sent back and deported.
The trip took 3 weeks and many of them did not survive it. In Kazakhstan they were not welcomed either and in order to make it through the harsh winter they built igloos. More than 100.000 Chechnian and 23 000 Ingush people died. After 13 years of exile, in 1957, after Stalin’s death the Ingush were allowed to return. The returning Ingush were forced to buy their homes back from the Ossetians and Russians who had moved in. These hardships and injustices led to a peaceful Ingush protest in Grozny on 16 January 1973, which was crushed by the Soviet troops. In 1989, the Ingush were officially rehabilitated.
The country was also affected by the war in Chechnya in the 90s when refugees poured into their territory.
Our small group was led through the memorial compound by a local guide, who came across as extremely bias. It was not so much that we questioned the suffering of the Ingush, but the wording he chose was rather irritating. As it turned out his family was among those departed and only returned in the 60s. They had managed to establish a decent living in Kazakhstan, but eventually chose to return.
Museum of National Lore
In the middle of tiny Magras sits a fake brand-new watch-tower, which houses this museum. From the basement a walkway winds its way up to the very top, which is really a long climb, but worthwhile, because from up there I could see how little Magras really was and how close the old capital Nasran was
Unfortunately I did not get to see the spectacular countryside of Ingushetia and its famous watch-tower, since we moved on to Chechnya