Vovnushki, Russia


Vovnushki (from Ingush. Vӏovnashke - place of defensive towers) is a medieval complex of Ingush defense and watchtowers. It is a unique monument of Ingush architecture, included in the Dzheyrakh-Assinsky State Historical, Architectural and Natural Museum-Reserve. Located in the high-mountainous Dzheyrakhsky region of modern Ingushetia. The Vovnushki towers are also traditionally referred to as the ancestral towers of the Ingush teip “Ozdoi”. The first reliable descriptions of Vovnushki date back to the beginning of the 18th century.

Vovnushki is one of the brightest and most exotic tower complexes among the defensive structures of ancient Ingushetia. The Vovnushka monument consists of three main towers, two of which stand on the top of one rock and one on the opposite rock. The towers of the complex attract attention from afar, although they are located in the picturesque gorge of the Guloikhi River against the backdrop of the impressive cliffs and ridges of the Caucasus. The towers are built of stone and look like a natural continuation of the rocks on the tops of which they were built. They are four-storey buildings of a truncated pyramidal shape with flat roofs and narrow loophole windows. The protective walls blocking access to the towers are organically inscribed in the natural relief of the inaccessible rocks.



In 2008, the Vovnushki tower complex became a finalist in the Seven Wonders of Russia competition project organized by the Izvestia newspaper, the Rossiya TV channel and the Mayak radio station.

In 2009, the image of the Vovnushki tower complex appeared on the stamp of the Russian Post "Republic of Ingushetia" in the "Regions" series.

In 2010, the Bank of Russia issued a silver coin with a print run of 10,000 copies of one of the watchtowers of the Vovnushki complex with a face value of 3 rubles and a weight of 31.1 grams in the “Architectural Monuments” series of commemorative coins of Russia.


Interesting Facts

Very little is known about the time of the construction of the towers of the Vovnushka complex, but we can confidently assume that each of the towers was built within one year, like other ancestral towers of the Vainakhs. It was considered obligatory to meet the construction of the tower within 365 days. If it was not possible to complete the construction of the tower within a year, then it was not completed, but dismantled into stones or left abandoned. The very fact was a weak spot on the teip who was building the tower.

Many legends are associated with the Vovnushki, but one of them looks like a true story: once, during the siege of the towers, a Vainakh woman saved many babies. When one of the towers was set on fire, she dragged the cradles with the kids, miraculously managing to run several times along the rope left over from the suspension bridge between the two Vovnushki towers destroyed by the enemies.

In 2008, the Vovnushki tower complex became a finalist of the competition project Seven Wonders of Russia, organized by the Izvestia newspaper, the Rossiya TV channel and the Mayak radio station.

In 2009, the image of the Vovnushki tower complex appeared on the Russian Post stamp “Republic of Ingushetia” in the “Regions” series.

In 2010, the Bank of Russia in the series “Architectural Monuments” of commemorative coins of Russia issued 10,000 copies of a silver coin depicting one of the watchtowers of the “Vovnushki” complex with a denomination of 3 rubles and a weight of 31.1 grams.


Vovnushek history

The first reliable descriptions of Vovnushki date back to the beginning of the 18th century. At that time, the Ozdoev family castle played an important strategic role. The fact is that the neighboring Assinsky Gorge was then the only direct and relatively convenient passage through the Caucasus Range. Caravans constantly went along this route, which were raided by robbers. Vovnushki served as a refuge and protection for travelers (as well as a number of other neighboring castles, a single ensemble included in the group of the Dzheyrakh-Assinsky Museum-Reserve).
From time to time, raids threatened the castle, not to mention local conflicts. But it was built in such a good place that it could withstand the longest siege. Mountain slopes were reliably protected from uninvited guests.

If an ignorant person is shown a photo of the castle and asked what kind of place it is, he will probably name some European country without hesitation. “A typical building for the late Middle Ages,” historians say. Strange, but none of them can name the exact period of the castle's creation. Presumably this is the XVII-XVIII centuries, but possibly earlier. Most likely, when the castle was being built, Christians still lived on the territory of Ingushetia. Islam began to spread among the local population in the 18th century and had not yet had time to leave an imprint on the appearance of local buildings.


Stone cult

The cult of stone - this is how you can briefly characterize the very essence of this structure. Surprisingly, two massive battle towers were erected without any foundation. In fact, they stand on slate rocks. Quite a common building technology of that time: milk was poured onto the proposed construction site, on the ground. All the soil through which it seeped was removed and poured further - until the milk ceased to be absorbed. After that, the first stones of huge sizes, larger than human growth, were placed, which ensured the stability of the structure. “With amazing harmony, proportionality and rather high height, they are stable and durable,” wrote the artist Shcheblykin about the Ingush military towers, who left a lot of research on this place and sketches of local structures. When transporting stones, a special gate was used to lift them. And in the Caucasian legends there is a mention that the stones for the foundation of the tower were pulled by nine pairs of bulls, and twelve horses could not budge.

Before the construction of a castle or tower began, a sacrifice was made. The place of the future building was sprinkled with the blood of the sacrificial ram, and only after that it was possible to start work.

In addition to the method of construction, the technology of preparing a mortar for bonding stones together on the upper tiers of the tower is also surprising. One of its main components, judging by the results of laboratory studies, is casein (a protein that is formed during the souring of milk). In fact, the solution is a mixture of lime, sand and milk. He still holds the masonry "tightly".

It is not surprising that the skill of handling stone was highly valued in those days. From generation to generation, the practice of building stone castles was passed down for centuries, and all prominent masters in this business were known by name. For the successors of traditions, it was a matter of honor not only the quality of construction, but also the observance of construction deadlines. The master was given exactly a year, and if for some reason he did not meet the deadlines, a shameful stain fell on his entire family, and the tower itself was dismantled to the ground and the order was given to others. As a rule, the masters had time. In any case, Vovnushka's castle is a clear evidence of the skill and punctuality of its creators.

The Ingush believed that all troubles were caused by hunger. Therefore, the responsibilities of the customer included a daily dense diet for builders and masons. If the master fell from the tower from dizziness, the owner was accused of greed and expelled from the village.


Life and customs of the inhabitants of the castle

Previously, the two towers were connected by a suspension bridge, and in the event of a siege, women, old people and children moved to a safer tower. If we talk about height, then we can draw a parallel with a seven-story building (architects of that time, as a rule, did not build combat towers higher than 30 meters).

People got inside only through the second floor, it was there that the front door was: this made it impossible for the enemies to use a ram during the siege. The ground floor, without windows and doors, served both as a place to store food and as a basement for prisoners. On the second floor there was usually the most valuable thing that the inhabitants of military towers possessed: a fraternal cauldron - a large container on a thick chain. The cauldron was credited with magical properties and was worshiped as a shrine (it was believed that the souls of the dead hovered over it). If the blood lover, fleeing from persecution, managed to run inside the tower and touch the sacred cauldron, they did not touch him until he was far enough away from the shrine.

The upper floors were inhabited. Between the floors, the inhabitants of the towers moved along ladders. And the topmost was used as an attic, where weapons, building materials and necessary household utensils were stored.


Features of the burials of the Ingush warriors

Crypt structures were usually built not far from the battle castles. Vovnushki is no exception: if you climb a little up the gorge, you can find an ancient crypt and mausoleum, which has a very curious shape of a cannonball. In the Middle Ages, above-ground crypts were often erected in Ingushetia, where the dead were placed in several rows on the shelves, and their bodies were subjected to the so-called "natural mummification".