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Minorities At Risk Project: Home    

Assessment for Ingush in Russia

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Russia Facts
Area:    17,075,200 sq. km.
Capital:    Moscow
Total Population:    146,881,000 (source: unknown, 1998, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References

Risk Assessment

The Ingush have thus far been able to avoid the disaster that has befallen their ethnic brethren to the east, although a significant minority of Chechen separatist fighters have been ethnic Ingush, and the region is increasingly violent and unstable. The continuing low-level violence in Chechnya continues to spill over the internal Russian border to Ingushetia, and this is a significant cause for concern, although the risk of an all-out civil war is low, given that the Ingush leadership has been consistently accommodating to Moscow. More broadly, there are several factors that increase the likelihood of rebellion, such as the group’s territorial concentration, high levels of poverty and unemployment, and an unsettled territorial dispute with the neighboring North Ossetian autonomous republic. The region has attracted a large amount of international attention and support, which bodes well for peace, as does an increasingly affluent Russian state, but violence continues to plague the North Caucasus, specifically Ingushgetia and its neighboring republics, and this is a troubling trend. Further, some militant organizations have been tapping into a broader Muslim identity, moving beyond parochial ethnic identities.

The outlook for the Ingushetia-North Ossetia problem continues to cause concern. As long as the ultimate disposition of the disputed Prigorodny region remains unsettled, there is a good chance of continued low-level violence between the Ingush and the North Ossetians. Thus far, despite transnational support for a settlement, no agreement has been reached, despite this being the main grievance of the Ingush people. In part, Chechnya distracted the rest of the world (and especially Moscow) from the Prigorodny problem, but there has also been a lack of political will to address this sensitive territorial dispute, where large-scale violence erupted briefly in 1992. The 2004 Beslan hostage crisis further inflamed hostility and mistrust between the two groups. Tensions remain high, and low-level violence between the two groups is common.


Analytic Summary

The Ingush are predominantly Sunni Muslims located in the northern Caucasus whose territories are adjacent to those of the Chechens, to whom they are closely related ethnically, linguistically, and culturally (BELIEF = 2). They are concentrated in their traditional homeland (GROUPCON = 3), the Republic of Ingushetia, where they settled long before the region was incorporated into the Russian empire in the 19th century. The region is extremely poor compared to the rest of the country and suffers from high levels of unemployment (ECDIS06 = 2).

The similarities between the Chechens and the Ingush were strong enough that in 1934 the two groups were administratively united under the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. Like their Chechen neighbors, the Ingush have a high degree of group cohesion and suffered enormously under both czarist and Communist regimes. Both groups were brutally deported from their homeland in the 1940s following Stalin's accusations of collaboration with the Nazis. But unlike the Chechens, the Ingush did not assert their independence from Moscow in the 1990s and therefore managed to avoid the warfare that visited their neighbor. The very different fates of these two regions can be attributed to a number of factors.

First, the historical relationship of the two groups with Moscow is similar but not identical. In the 1700s, when Russian settlers began encroaching on Ingush and Chechen territories, the Ingush were more favorably disposed towards the Russian language, culture, and religion (Christian Orthodox) than were the fiercely anti-Russian Chechens. In the mid-1800s when the Chechens waged bloody revolts, the Ingush largely declined to fight alongside their ethnic kin. Thus, the heroes, legends, and myths of protracted but ultimately doomed anti-Russian warfare had little significance for the Ingush, even as they formed a central tenet of emerging Chechen nationalism.

Second, the strategies chosen by the then-political leaders of each group have led in different directions. Presidents Aushev of Ingushetia and Dudayev of Chechnya were former general officers in the Soviet military and assumed power amid the emerging (or re-emerging) nationalist climate of the early 1990s. However, while Dudayev courted confrontation with Moscow and welcomed war, Aushev steered a far more cautious course by pursuing the familiar "sovereignty within Russia" formula, thereby reaching a modus vivendi with President Yeltsin. As a result, the Ingush did not initially face the same levels of discrimination and violence as the Chechens. Although Ingushetia and Chechnya have supported each other politically and economically, the Ingush leadership and population have largely declined to participate in the Chechen war against Russia, a situation comparable with circumstances in the 1800s, although ethnic Ingush fighters were present. Dudayev may have done much to undercut his support among the Ingush when, early in his tenure, he adopted a vision of Chechen nationalism that paid scant attention to Ingush issues.

The renewal of violence in Chechnya in August 1999 had tremendous spillover effects in Ingushetia, but up to this point has not engulfed the republic. While the war in Chechnya has largely ended, a low-level insurgency continues, and its violence has spread to neighboring republics, with militant Ingush organizations, such as the Ingush Jamaat, continuing to target the state (REB04 = 4) in what appears to be an increasingly religiously based movement. Societal discrimination against Ingush in the region remains high, as does surveillance of Muslim organizations and racial profiling across the country (POLDIS04-06 = 4; REPNVIOL04-06 = 1). This increased in 2004 when Chechen separatists (including ethnic Ingush) seized a school in North Ossetia, ending in a shoot-out that killed more than 300 civilians. Many Ingush fled their homes following the Beslan incident, fearing reprisal attacks (DISPLACE04 = 1). While the Ingush are overwhelmingly organized around peaceful political organizations (GOJPA06 = 3), the militant ones have a capacity to commit large-scale violence against the state and have demonstrated a willingness to use it (REB04 = 4; REB06 = 1).

The Ingush have also clashed repeatedly with their neighbors to the west in North Ossetia. In 1944, as part of his punitive measures against Chechen-Ingushetia, Stalin deported the Ingush to Siberia and separated the territory of Prigorodny from Ingushetia proper and placed it under the jurisdiction of North Ossetia. The Ingush people were “rehabilitated” after Stalin’s death, but Prigorodny remained part of North Ossetia, and territorial disputes over ownership have existed ever since. In 1992 a so-called "four day war" broke out in Prigorodny between Ingush and North Ossetian residents, a brief but quite bloody episode. Hundreds were killed, and thousands of Ingush fled the region during which many Ossetian state officials were seen to be complicit. While many have subsequently returned to their homes, Ingush refugees returning to North Ossetia continue to face risks of violence. Protests organized by the group are associated with settling the dispute, which recently included verbal protests, demonstrations, and a hunger strike (PROT04 = 1; PROT05 = 3; PROT06 = 2). Between five and ten thousand Ingush, organized by the group Voskhod, protested in 2001, calling on president Putin to allow them to return to their homes in North Ossetia (PROT01 = 3).

The status of Prigorodny is still unresolved and represents a major outstanding issue for both sides. Although the leaders of North Ossetia and Ingushetia signed an agreement of cooperation and good-neighborliness in 2002 claiming to "end the decade-old conflict," details were vague and the 2004 Beslan hostage incident put further progress on hold. Many Ingush continue to support the Russian government solely for the reason that they believe it is necessary so that they can one day take back Prigorodny.



Hughes, James (2007) Chechnya: From Nationalism to Jihad (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press).

Jamestown Foundation, “North Caucasus Weekly” (2004-2006) (earlier Chechnya Weekly).

Jamestown Foundation, “Eurasia Daily Monitor” (2004-2006).

King, Charles (2008) Ghost of Freedom: A History of the Caucasus (NY: University Press).

Lexis Nexis Academic Search 2001-2006.

Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty 2001-2006.

US State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Russia (2004-2006).

US State Department International Religious Freedom Report: Russia (2004-2006).

Vachagaev, Mairbek, "The Ingush Jamaat: Identity and Resistance in the North Caucasus" Jamestown Foundation Occasional Paper, Aug.2007.


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Information current as of December 31, 2006