A travel guide to Ingushetia, in the Russian Caucasus

A travel guide to Ingushetia, in the Russian Caucasus

Ingushetia travel guide

Last updated : 22/11/2022

Ingushetia (Ингушетия in Russian) is the smallest republic of the Russia Federation, and it keeps getting smaller even nowadays, its territory being given away to the neighboring republics.

For decades the Ingush have been in conflict with North Ossetia, but Ingushetia is hidding some treasures in its mountains : the oldest church in Russia and an insane amount of historical Galgai towers !

Ingush culture is fascinating and their stone towers are representing all their history. Despite being in the shade of their Chechen brothers and having a bad reputation, the republic of Ingushetia and its people are a hidden gem to discover in the middle of the Caucasus.

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General informations

  • Capital : Magas (Магас)
  • Population : between 420 000 and 474 000 inhabitants, depending on sources
  • Languages : Ingush and Russian
  • Religion : Sunni Islam & some traces of pagan heritage
  • Dress code : None but Ingush people are practicing Muslims. Even though nothing nor no one will seem very rigorous to you, make sure to dress appropriate. Guys, no above knee shorts and ladies leave the mini skirts in Moscow. You will be able to visit the mosques, won’t offend anyone nor attract unecessary bad attention.
  • Visa : The Republic of Ingushetia is part of the Russian Federation so you will need a Russian visa if necessary depending your nationality.
  • Money : If you have Euros or US Dollars to change, just so you know in Ingushetia like in the rest of the North Caucasus you change your currencies in the market. Ask in the market (Рынок) in Nazran (Назрань). It’s illegal but you will get a much better rate than in the banks and these guys are usually well known around, they won’t rip you off.
  • Border : There is no legal border crossing point between Ingushetia and Georgia. You’ll have to go through North Ossetia and cross at the Verkhni Lars border.

Police posts on the roads : There are check posts on the main highway at the border of Chechnya and North Ossetia. You aren’t meant to register at these posts, but if they require you to do so, there might be security problems in the area, so ask them.

They stop vehicules for regular documents and car checks, but they can also shut the roads between the republics for security purpose.

Deportation : Ingush people have been accused of collaboration with the Nazis during World War II. With their Chechen brothers they have been deported in February 1944 by the orders of Stalin and Beria.

The entire population of Ingushetia got deported to Siberia and the steppes of Kazakhstan. Many lost their lives on the way. Within a few days of ethnic cleansing, the name of the Chechen Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was wiped off the map like it never existed.

The Ingush territory was splitted between Georgia, Dagestan and Ossetia. In 1956 Khrushchev and its politics of De-Stalinisation of the USSR allowed the rehabilitation of the punished people. Only in 1957 they were allowed to return to their homeland. Unfortunetely their territory has been reduced by half, never returned by North Ossetia, which led to decades of conflict between them two.

Where to sleep

There are little accomodation in Nazran and Magas. Most of the tourists choose to stay in Vladikavkaz, only 30 kilometers drive from there.
I still recommend you to stay in Nazran, at least for a night. Beyni Guesthouse is great, Nazir and his lovely mom open the guesthouse in the family home.

Transport

Magas is 1500 kilometers away from Moscow. About 30 hours by train from Moscow. You can book on the official website (might not work without a VPN) if you own a russian bank card considering Visa and Mastercard aren’t operating in the country anymore.

There are also daily two and a half hours daily flights.

Within the Republic you can travel by marshrutkas (local mini bus) between the cities, including Grozny, Vladikavkaz etc and villages. Pay attention, sometimes there is only one per day. Better ask the locals on the spot.

Hitchhiking works pretty well outside the Erzi Nature Reserve (avoid Fridays), but with a bit of patience it’s totally doable.

Safety

You have probably read online that Ingushetia is a “war zone”. It is not. I have spent quite a bit of time in Ingushetia in 2019 and never heard about any danger for foreigners. For locals, it can be different …

The Ossetian – Ingush conflit has been going on for decades following the split of the Ingush terrority during their deportation by Stalin, half of Ingushetia has never been given back by Ossetia. An inter-ethnic conflit that never ceased since then.

There are still violences between the two neighbors sometimes and civil unrest due to political decisions to reduce once more the territory, given to their Chechen neighbors (2018).
The situation can change quickly like it did at the end of 2018 and beginning of 2019 during mass protests against the decision of giving away some land to Chechnya. The Kremlin sent troups from Vladikavkaz tocalm down the civilians protests … See for yourself here. They didn’t enter the city in the end.

If you’re aware of the current situation, no worries to have, and troubles would be happening in either Nazran or Magas, the cities, not in the middle of nowhere in the mountains where you should definitely go !

Must read & watch to learn more

Here’s a list of books to read and documentaries you might find interesting to learn more about Ingushetia and its people.

  • If you guys know French, I recommend you to read the books of Mariel Tsaroeiva, she is an ethnologist, researcher in history of religions and specialist of the Caucasus, a French woman with Ingush roots. She wrote about mythology, legends and old prayers of the Ingush and Chechen people .Unfortunetly all her books seems to be written in French or Russian.
  • The Human Rights Watch report in 1996 “The Ingush – Ossetian conflict in the Prigorodnyu region
  • The excellent short documentary by Fatima Mutsolgova “Legends of Ingushetia
  • The other excellent documentary about Beslan from 2019, it has english and spanish subtitiles.
  • The Punished people, by Alexandr Nekrich about the deportation of Caucasian people and others during World world two.
  • The youtube videos of Bald and bankrupt, a British bald middle aged man travelling to random and off he beaten track corners the former Soviet Union, including Ingushetia, but it only shows the “violent” side of Nazran in my opinion.

If you know any other good books and movies/documentaries about Ingushetia, please feel free to share in the comment section !

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