Ingushetia is a republic in Russia's North Caucasus bordering North Ossetia to the west, Chechnya to the east, and Georgia to the south. The region has a reputation for being the smallest region in Russia.
There are four main towns. Magas, the new and growing capital, will eventually become the fifth:
- Magas — founded from scratch in 1995 as the administrative capital of Ingushetia, now home to about 3,000
- Karabulak — city in the plains
- Malgobek — an oilfield town now housing some 20,000 Chechen refugees
- Nazran — largest city, main entry point and former capital, straddles the border with North Ossetia
- Sunzha — formerly known as stanitsa Orjonikidzevskaya - Largest rural locality in Russia
To visit anywhere outside the main towns requires a Russian Federal Security Bureau permit especially for foreigners
- Armkhi — a Soviet resort/sanatorium high in the mountains of southwestern Ingushetia
- Dariali — a high aul in Ingushetia's beautiful Dzheyrakh Region
- Guloykhi — a multi-towered Ingush aul in southern Ingushetia in the Assy Gorge
- Targim — castle in the mountains
- Erzi — castle in the mountains
- Vovnushki — castle in the mountains
- Historical and Cultural Jeyrakh-Assa Reservation — watch towers and Arm khe resort complex
- Tkhaba-Yerdy Church — ancient Ingush Christian church
- Tsori — castle in the mountains
- Olgeti — mountain village
The Ingush are relatives of the Chechens and have shared their Sunni Islamic beliefs as well as their fate in rebellion and conquest vis-à-vis the Russians. In the beginning of the 19th century, a Chechen scholar peacefully converted most Ingush into Islam. Like the Chechens, the Ingush were accused by Stalin of Nazi collaboration and were deported to Kazakhstan. When Khrushchev allowed them to return home, they found that their Orthodox Christian neighbors, the Ossetes, had settled on formerly Ingush lands, launching a violent ethnic conflict which rages on today.
Around 1929-1991, Ingushetia was merged with Chechnya to form the Chechen-Ingush ASSR, and became separated. By 1991, the first Ingush president, Ruslan Aushev attempted to help the already weak economy, and when the first Chechen war started, this created a tremendous problem for the economy. It collapsed after Aushev's success. However, he was forced to leave office when the second Chechen war started. Aushev also founded the city of Magas.
By 2002, Murat Zyazikov came into office, and since then the political and economic situation has worsened, and Zyazikov received harsh criticism for his disregard for human rights, corruption, and social and political problems. This was because of alleged abductions, illegal beatings, unlawful arrests and killings of suspects by the federal forces and local police and allied paramilitaries. By 2008, a new president, Yunus-bek Yevkurov succeeded the unpopular Zyazikov and began a campaign into improving the situation in the region.
The poor situation in the republic has made it a magnet for terrorism for Chechen and Ingush rebels, and has continued to make it more uneasy for travelers to visit. The region is desperately very poor, where only 5 in 10 are employed and a large part of the people live in severe poverty and live below $US2 a day. At present there is little prospect of this changing.
Although the majority of Ingushetia's population lives in the larger northern towns, the Ingush consider their true heritage to be tied to the ancient auls (stone mountaintop villages) in the south of Ingushetia, especially along the Assy Gorge.
A couple of trains per week connect Moscow's Kazanskiy Station with Nazran (40 h).
A daily bus leaved from Moscow (Paveletski or Kazanski railroad station) to Nazran (total trip time over 24 hours). A daily bus leaves from/to Grozny,Nalchik and Stavropol. Regular buses leaves from/to Moscow . A small buses leaves from/to Nalchik and other north-caucasians,south-russians cities(i.e.,to Vladikavkaz).
Russian is understood by all, as well as the official language, Ingush. Ingush is commonly known as ГІалгІай мотт (Ğalğaj mott). Ingush is a language related to Chechen and also other regional languages is common. English is spoken by nobody, even in the largest city, Nazran.
Dollars, euros accepted and can be exchanged for rubles. ATMs are widely available even in Dzheirakh village. Best place to buy: Central Market in Nazran.
Costs are generally higher than in much of Russia and are comparable to those in Moscow.
- "Assa" — restaurant,located in Nazran
Due to rising anti-Russian sentiments the shops selling alcohol are the prime targets for the Muslim rebels. It is recommended to stay away from these shops. The attacks are frequent, though usually without harm to the shoppers.
"Assa" Hotel-located in Nazran
- Ingush State University
There is at least 50% unemployment in Ingushetia. The oil industry is slowly deteriorating. Best place to work for a foreigner is the international human relief organizations, and medicine.
Advice from a Westerner who actually traveled to Ingushetia more than five times:
At present, Ingushetia should be considered a war zone. Like in the Soviet times both Ingushetia and Chechnya are considered foreign visitors' restricted areas.
When you are in Ingushetia you have to register with the local branch of the Russian Federal Security Bureau (FSB) to avoid any trouble. If you are a foreigner your presence in Ingushetia is tightly monitored by the FSB. Your cell phone is tapped and location is detected at all times via GPS tracking. Due to mistrust of the local police force there are many Russian FSB agents and Russian troops from different parts of Russia in Ingushetia. The troops are there on a temporary basis. Be prepared to pay them bribes, it is a common practice in Russia especially at the police checkpoints on the roads, to avoid detention which can substantially slow you down. It is better to have an Ingush local to negotiate, because you do not know the rates of the bribes in different situations. Do not show large sums of money (more than $100) to the troops: they might confiscate them, and you will never recover them. Foreign documents must not be shown in public either. If you are a male visitor, do not grow a beard, as you might be taken for an Ingush rebel and accidentally detained at best. Do not speak foreign language, let the local do the talking. For most troops if you are a citizen of a Western country, you are most likely suspected of spying. Be aware of this and act respectfully. Do not provoke the soldiers by taking pictures near the checkpoints even if they are located in beautiful areas. Journalists who have the FSB permit to report in Ingushetia should always ask Russian troops' permission to take pictures near the checkpoints. Do not display American/British/Georgian flags or any other American/British/Georgian attributes to the Russian troops; it will only provoke them. Most of the "Assa" hotel staff and the local inhabitants are very well aware of the situation in the republic, and are likely to offer you a lot of help, especially if you are a foreigner in need. It is unwise to take a stroll alone by yourself at night. Though no attack of the Ingush rebels on the foreign visitors were ever recorded, people do disappear after the FSB raids. Generally, most staff from hotels will accompany you to avoid any trouble. Remember, you are prohibited from going to the mountains in Ingushetia by the FSB. You need to have a permit to go there even if you are a Russian citizen.
A tight security situation is present, and at all checkpoints, they are likely to pull you over if you drive in a vehicle with darkened windows. It is illegal to have darkened windows in Ingushetia due to the war zone situation. Security will search your vehicle for suspicious items (large sums of money, large amounts of alcohol, drugs, weapons, explosives, etc.)
Do not drink tap water. The Coca-cola and Pepsi products can be fake, and unhealthy. Use the water from multiple wells such as one of the good ones near the village of Barsuki on the road.
Ingushetia is an Islamic society, and therefore visitors are required to behave properly. Ingushetia is somewhat a traditionally conservative region with Islamic customs. Even though the region is predominantly Islamic, there is no dress code in effect and most of the locals, even the women are highly westernized. However, some women prefer to wear a veil, but it doesn't really apply to female visitors.
In general, locals are interested in getting to know about foreigners, and are generally helpful to visitors around this volatile region. Ingush locals treat visitors like guests, and don't throw this opportunity away. Always keep political opinions to yourself to avoid any danger.
In Ingushetia there are three federal GSM operators (MTS, Beeline, Megafon) and they often have offers that give you a SIM card for free or at least very cheap. If you are planning to stay a while and to keep in touch with Ingushetian and other North-Caucasus people, then you should consider buying a local SIM card instead of going on roaming. To buy a SIM card from a shop you'll need your passport for identification. It only takes five minutes to do the paperwork and it will cost less than $10.