Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Ingush Indigenous Peoples of the Caucasian Mountains

The Ingush indigenous people live in the area between the middle course of the Terek River and the main Caucasian Ridge in the western part of the Chechen-Ingush Republic, and the eastern region of the North-Ossetian Republic of Russia. There is no official estimate of the Ingush people’s population, although in the 1989 Soviet census there were 238,000 counted as Ingush.

The Ingush indigenous people speak Ingush, a language that belongs to the Nakh (or Veinakh) branch of the Ibero-Caucasian family. Possessing a rich folklore, the Ingush written language dates back to the 1930s – prior to that it was based in oral traditions.

The Ingush traditionally live in the mountains in three-story stone houses. In the old vuls (villages) located on the steep slopes and in canyons, many of these stone houses have been preserved. As waves of modernization came into the Ingush traditional homeland during the sixteenth, seventeenth, and nineteenth centuries, a considerable number resettled in the plains for agricultural and trade purposes. In the 1860s, however, the Ingush indigenous people began to be pushed back into the mountains by Russian Terek Cossacks. This pushing and marginalization continued when a large wave of Muslim emigrants moved into the area during the mid-nineteenth century. During the Soviet reign, the Ingush were completely marginalized and were not recognized as an official ethnic group. After the Soviet Union dissolved, various armed conflicts erupted in the Ingush homeland as they – and other ethnic minorities – fought for recognition.

Traditionally, the Ingush economy and livelihood was based on cattle breeding and terrace agriculture in the mountains. Today, some of this traditional economy remains, but many Ingush also now work in urban industries. They continue to fight for greater recognition and self-determination as they are presented with new challenges as a result of globalizing forces. Though strongly traditional in behavior and customs, the Ingush indigenous peoples are sophisticated and well-educated participants in the modern world.

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