This complex in Nazran, Ingushetia was opened in 1998 as a memorial to the Ingush and Chechen victims of Stalin’s brutality:
The circle of pillars and arches ringing the interior of the memorial complex add a dramatic element and at the base of the structure are plaques honoring prominent Ingush – military heroes from different campaigns, scientists and more:
Inside the circle are monuments such as this sculpture which, I suspect, memorializes an epic World War I cavalry charge in which 500 Ingush riders attacked and annihilated a feared German “Iron Division” consisting of thousands of troops armed with heavy artillery:
This particular monument is dedicated to a contingent of heroic Ingush and Chechen fighters that, facing impossible odds and the worst the German military could throw at them, held out at the battle of Brest Fortress in Belarus (which I visited in 2009 and describe in detail here). The very last survivor/defender at Brest Fortress was an Ingush named Umatgirei Barkhanoyev:
Outside the circle of pillars and arches is a section specifically focused on the brutal deportation of the Chechens and the Ingush in 1944…
Many Ingush and Chechens fought valiantly on behalf of the Soviet Union during World War II and, in fact, in August of 1942, it was the Ingush towns of Ordzhonikidze (now named Vladikavkaz and part of North Ossetia) and Malgobek that fought the German forces to a standstill and blocked the Nazi ambitions to push farther south through the North Caucasus region.
Despite this, in February 1944 while World War II was still raging, the Chechens and Ingush were accused by Stalin of collaborating with the Nazis. Russian Army and NKVD forces were ordered into the region (under the pretext of a military exercise) and over the course of just several days rounded up the entire Ingush and Chechen populations, herding them onto railroad cars intended for cattle. The Chechens and Ingush were deported to the wilds of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Siberia where they were unceremoniously offloaded from the train cars and left to fend for themselves. It is estimated that up to half of the Ingush and Chechens died from disease, starvation and exposure to the cold during the first few years of their exile:
One of the trains that carried the Ingush and Chechens away from their homeland:
A sample of the cattle cars that the Ingush and Chechens were herded onto:
The interior of the cattle car… Conditions inside were not as comfortable as this display might imply:
In 1957, Khrushchev started to allow the Ingush and Chechens to return to their homeland as part of the movement at the time to try and undo some of the worst of Stalin’s excesses:
Ringing the entire memorial complex are these markers for Ingush paramilitary policemen killed in the past few years during the ongoing insurgency in the North Caucasus… Ingushetia is only about twice the size of New York City and so this gives a sense of the stakes:
One of the markers… Somewhere a family grieves:
No monument or memorial in Russia would be complete without military hardware present and the Nazran memorial is no exception. So, the side of the memorial complex opposite the train has a robust selection of modern Russian military equipment. This area seemed to be the most popular among the Ingush schoolchildren you can see playing on the equipment:
Behind the tank, one can see additional markers for the Ingush paramilitary police that were killed as they line this side as well:
The centerpiece of the Nazaran site is this amalgamation of watchtowers one can see below… The watchtower is an important symbol of the North Caucasus and the ruins of watchtowers (most of them were blown up by the military during the decades of Soviet rule) can be seen scattered across the region. Each watchtower is connected to a specific family or clan and individuals can trace their connection to a specific watchtower back over hundreds of years. The watchtowers were not just about defense, but also served as a mark of independence and power as not all clans had watchtowers.
The monument at Nazran – also known as the Nine Towers – is made up of multiple towers as each watchtower represents a significant clan in Ingushetia. As can be seen in this closeup of the watchtowers, the towers are symbolically wrapped in barbed wire and chains representing the injustices delivered upon the Ingush:
The back side of the watchtowers…
The headstones in the foreground of this picture were recovered from buildings and roads across Ingushetia. After they were deported, the Ossetians found the headstones of the Ingush to be a convenient size for construction materials. And so the headstones were ripped out of the cemeteries and put to use.
When the Ingush and Chechens were “rehabilitated” in 1957 and started to return, they were outraged to see the headstones of their relatives being used in this manner. The headstones were reclaimed, but it was impossible to know where they belonged as most cemeteries were destroyed. And so it is not uncommon to see old headstones arranged in patterns such as these outside of villages and, of course, at a monument of this nature:
In the basement of the amalgamated watchtowers, is a small museum dedicated to Ingush culture, the deportation and, interestingly, a room (that can be seen below) dedicated to the short-lived conflict between North Ossetia and Ingushetia in 1992:
As mentioned above, the Ingush and Chechens started to be allowed to return home in 1957. However, following the ethnic cleansing of 1944, much of Ingushetia had been settled by Ossetians, including what is now Vladikavkaz (which had been formally annexed by North Ossetia). Furthermore, the returning Ingush faced considerable hostility from the Ossetians and Russians. Some Ingush were able to buy back the homes and land that had been seized from them thirteen years earlier, but most had to start over with nothing.
When Chechnya declared independence in 1991, the Ingush chose to secede from what had been the Chechen-Ingush Republic and in 1992 joined the newly formed Russian Federation. The Ingush sought to resolve the conflict over their lost territory with North Ossetia peacefully and hoped that the Russians would return the land as a gesture of appreciation for the Ingush loyalty to Russia.
However, it was not to be. Nationalist militias in North Ossetia stirred up another bout of ethnic cleansing against the Ingush through a campaign of organized harassment, kidnapping and rape. The Russians, sharing a common cultural heritage with the Ossetians, sided with the North Ossetians. Thousands of Ingush civilians residing in North Ossetia were taken hostage by combined Russian and Ossetian forces and hundreds more were killed.
One group of hostages, mostly women and children, were held at a school in Beslan (Yes, that Beslan). The hostages were crammed into a gymnasium and deprived of food and water; at least several dozen of them were executed.
By the end of November 1992, more than 600 Ingush civilians had been killed and more than 65,000 Ingush residents of the Prigorodny district in North Ossetia had been expelled.
Pictures from the conflict line the walls of the museum:
The conflict is also known as the “East Prigorodny Conflict” for the North Ossetian district in which much of the ethnic cleansing took place:
Pictures of some of the Ingush people that were killed in the fighting or are still missing:
A map of the territory that was being fought over:
Magazine covers broadcasting news of the war:
Ingush fleeing North Ossetia:
The Prigorodny district in North Ossetia:
This display case features items that were found in burned and looted Ingush homes. It was possible to connect some of the objects to specific owners and these connections are featured below:
A closeup of the display case… These identity papers were found torn and trampled inside a burning home:
On October 18, 2008, a Russian military convoy was ambushed with heavy machine guns and RPGs near the Nazran site. Official Russian reports blamed local Muslim separatists and stated that two soldiers were killed and seven were injured. Reports from Ingush opposition sources suggested that as many as fifty Russian soldiers were killed. As with most things, the truth is probably lurking somewhere in the middle.