Historical and Cultural Jeyrakh-Assa Reservation, Russia

Historical and Cultural Jeyrakh-Assa Reservation

The Jeyrakh-Assа State Historical, Architectural and Natural Museum-Reserve is a cultural and historical landscape of all-Russian significance in Ingushetia, consisting of a number of reserves and auls. On the territory of 64 thousand hectares there are about five hundred complexes of stone architecture: burial crypts, pagan and Christian sanctuaries and temples, and one of the main attractions of the region - the Ingush towers. The first towers date back to the middle of the 2nd millennium BC.


Islam in Ingushetia was finally established only in the 19th century. The distant ancestors of the Ingush were pagans. According to the descriptions of ancient Arab historians, it was a conclave of tribes called "dzurdzuki" and lived on the territory of present-day Ingushetia and Ossetia. The association consisted of societies (viars), which, in turn, were divided into teips. This multi-tribal state did not have a capital, and power belonged to the council of elders.

Since the 12th century, Christianity came to these lands from Georgia, as evidenced by the numerous images of crosses and temples, including the famous Tkhab-Yerdy temple in the vicinity of Targim. However, the state structure of the Ingush has hardly changed. Each village lived independently, and only important decisions were made at general councils. The spirit of this independence is felt here today. The division into teips among the Ingush (as well as among other Caucasian peoples) has also survived to this day.

Legends say that the Ingush architects chose the place for the construction of the tower by pouring milk on the ground. It was possible to build only where milk was not absorbed into the ground, which meant that rock would be found under the foundation.

The tower had to be built in 365 days. If the builders did not have time to do it or the masonry collapsed, the construction was stopped - and this was a severe blow to the family, because in this case the teip was considered “weak”. This tradition is still alive to some extent in the Caucasus, and they try to complete any important construction here in a year.

Time has spared the creation of the Ingush more than the French castles of the same era. What a traveler can see today is amazing: among the mountains, alpine meadows, pine groves and waterfalls in several abandoned mountain towns, hundreds of slender and thin towers, reaching 28 meters in height, rise. Other towers are built on the tops of the surrounding mountains. Many are destroyed, but some have survived almost in their original form. From a distance, this "tower landscape" reminds of the works of the fantasy genre and, perhaps, will make the hearts of Tolkien's fans beat faster.

But the real stories and ancient legends that surround these buildings are no less interesting. Modern Ingush families remember many generations of their ancestors and consider this or that tower the property of their teip. The tallest towers stand in direct line of sight from each other, so that signals about the enemy's approach can be sent along a chain. But it was these graceful strongholds, built in the XIV-XVI centuries, that became the last such structures in the mountains of Ingushetia: the era of hot weapons was approaching, in front of which towers and fortresses were powerless.

The Great Silk Road passed through in the Middle Ages. The caravans went along the Assinsky Gorge to the northern slopes of the Greater Caucasus Range and along the valley of the Sunzha River went to Magas - the "City of the Sun".

Nowadays the mountaineers have long gone down to the plains. Less than 2,000 people live in mountain villages, who in their free time guard and restore some towers, as well as guard the "solar crypts" - numerous stone mausoleums where the remains of the great warriors and builders of mountain Ingushetia have been buried for centuries. It is here, according to legend, that the founder of the Barkine family and teip Barkinkhoy rests, whose tiny army fought Timur's troops for many days in a row, forcing the great conqueror to lose hundreds of his best warriors on the slopes of the Dzheirakh mountains.

The Dzheyrakh region of Ingushetia has less than 2,000 residents, but sometimes events are held here, which attract tens of thousands of guests from all over Russia. For example, in June 2012, the M-1 Challenge 33 mixed martial arts tournament with the participation of the best Russian wrestlers was held here in the open air, which was broadcast by leading TV channels throughout the country. Moreover, more than 20,000 spectators sat on the mountain slopes as in the stands.

What you need to see in Assa-Jeyrakh:
Targim is an abandoned village located in the picturesque Targim depression, on the banks of the mountain river Assa. This is one of the oldest settlements in mountainous Ingushetia (the first buildings date back to around the 12th century). Four battle towers and many "residential" ones form a compact city, as if descended from an old lithography. Most of the towers are perfectly preserved. On the outskirts of the village there is a necropolis of the 15th - 17th centuries, where the remains of the rulers of these places are buried in the "solar crypts" (their bones are still visible in the gap between the stones). At 300 meters from the village there is a 12th century Christian temple Tkhaba-yerdy, where you can see ancient bas-reliefs. Now, very close to the village is an automobile road, which makes it easy to get to these places.

Many ancient crypts in the Dzheyrakh region date back to the pagan period and were built of rough boulders, each weighing over 10 tons.


Egikal is an ancient city that stands slightly higher, above the Assa River valley, on the southern slope of Tsui Loam Mountain. Once it was the largest settlement in mountainous Ingushetia, and it is from here that many teips originated. This is evidenced by the huge number of "sun crypts" that are found in the city center and on its outskirts.

The city was empty already in the 20th century, after the sad events associated with the deportation of the Ingush in 1944. People never came back here. That is why a person who has entered Egikal feels as if in a mysterious dream: there is a feeling that it is enough to blink, and soldiers and artisans, blacksmiths and gunsmiths, jewelers and healers, for whom medieval Egikal was famous, will appear on the streets. The streets are wide enough for a mountain city - some of them can even be reached by car. Several dozen towers of the XIV-XVI centuries have survived here, four of them are combat ones, and one looks almost the same as it did five centuries ago. The restorers, who recently started work here, hardly had to restore it. The only modern addition is the iron staircase leading to the upper floors of the tower. It was built especially for tourists.

The air and water of the Dzheyrakh valley have long been considered healing. In Soviet times, the famous sanatorium "Sun Valley Armkhi" operated here. In 1999, the resort was rebuilt, and now on the slopes of the mountains is a luxurious health complex, including a sauna, swimming pool, sports fields and a fitness center. Mountain excursions in medieval towns are more convenient to make from here.

In the village of Erzi (which means "eagle") there are 9 battle towers and 22 residential towers, mostly made of river boulders. It is interesting that even the roof has been preserved on many towers. This is, perhaps, the most complete collection of samples of architecture of ancient Ingush architects.

The Vovnushki castle complex perched alone on the top of a cliff, over the gorge of the Guloi-khi river. However, it is not so lonely - it consists of two castles that were once connected by an air bridge. The complex was built in the XIV century, not least in order to protect the caravans on the Great Silk Road from robbers, and maybe collect tribute from them. It is not easy to approach this ancient fortress even today: you will have to wander along the mountain paths for a long time. The picturesqueness of this stronghold is so impressive that in 2008 it reached the final of the Seven Wonders of Russia competition, organized by the Izvestia newspaper, the Rossiya TV channel and the Mayak radio station.