17 November 2010

The "clan towers" of Ingushetia

Three selections from an interesting photo gallery, discussed in English at Poemas del rio Wang: 
Clan towers – родовые башни – or, named after the people building them, Vainakh towers, combined multiple functions. They were living towers, impregnable fortifications, watchtowers dominating the valley controlled by the clan. And last but not least sacred asylums where blood-revenge was forbidden. Ismail Kadare in his Broken April tangibly describes the asylum towers that once stood all over the Albanian mountains and where men sometimes lived for years without ever coming out.

The towers have generally three to four floors. The first level – or, in four-storey towers, the first two levels – are the stall, in the latter case the second level is for the goats and sheep. The next floor is the living room, here’s the stove. The top floor serves for larder, treasure-house and armory as well as for guest accommodation, with projecting balconies for the ease of control...

The oldest surviving towers were built dry, but since the 16th and 17th century, the golden age of tower building – which was a period of turbulent external and internal wars in the Caucasus – they were reinforced with mortar. The internal structures, gates and shutters were made of oak, while the floors of pine wood. Beginning with the 16th century, loopholes became more and more frequent, which helps the researchers to reconstruct the spreading of firearms in the Caucasus...

Nowadays, most towers are uninhabited. The clan wars and external threats being over, the Ingushes went down to live in the more fertile river valleys. There are only a few old people sticking to their dwelling place or some shepherds left around to take care of them.
More information at the link.  And more photos.  I find the landscape almost as fascinating as the architecture.

Additional information about Ingushetia is contained in another post at the same blog:
Ingushetia broke away from the Chechen-Ingush Republic in 1992. This is how the Russian government wanted to isolate the more pacific part of the republic from the Chechens, at that time in war against the Russians...
During WWII the Ingush and Chechen people, following the tradition of several centuries of wars of independence, rose up against the Soviet power. This is why after the war Stalin deported both nations to Kazakstan, and settled Russians on their place. The survivors of the cruel deportation were permitted to return to their native land only by Khrushchev in the late 1950s. However, in the meantime a part of Ingushetia, including their former capital Vladikavkaz, and even the town of Ongush (in Russian Tarskoye) which had given name to the whole republic, were annexed by the Soviet authorities following the old policy of divide to the western neighbor, Northern Ossetia: this is the egg-shaped hole on the map of the republic.
More at the link, including some photos of, and observations about, Ingush weddings.


  1. From a friend who studies linguistics in the Balkans (including Albania):

    "Ah yeah, the kulla! They're really cool, and much as the article describes, although the similarities between the Vainakh towers and the Albanian kulla are coincidental. The Caucasus had no control contacts with northern, mountainous Albania, where the kulla really took root, but they clearly both served the same purpose—both areas developed elaborate honor codes and clan systems, and both had devastating blood feuds. Albania still deals with the problem of blood feuds to this day, Ingushetia probably does too.

    Incidentally, the kulla had their modern incarnation in the Communist dictator Enver Hoxha's crazy scheme to cover the entire Albanian country in cement bunkers, nearly one for every three Albanian citizens, out of some crazed delusion that Albania was going to be invaded and people could take up arms and defend the country in the bunkers. There's so many of them and they're so solidly constructed that almost none have been removed so far—it would be ruinously expensive. So pretty much anywhere in the country that you stand, you see a bunker."

  2. Thank you, nolandda.

    Kulla pic here -

    and the Albanian bunkers here -

  3. Kulla - "god of builders in the Mesopotamian mythology. He is responsible for the creation of bricks, and as a Babylonian god, restores temples."


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