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Assessment for Ingush in Russia

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 31 December 2003
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Assessment for Ingush in Russia, 31 December 2003, available at: [accessed 23 October 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
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. There is little reason to expect this to change in the short run, for the policy of the Ingush leadership has been consistently accommodating to Moscow. However, like many of the "mountain people" of the Caucasus, the Ingush have a strong warrior tradition, and the many economic and social pressures facing the group certainly have the potential to lead to violence as this century unfolds. The violence in Chechnya sometimes spills over the border into Ingushetia; however, the enormous burden placed on the local government by Chechen refugees has largely passed.

There are several factors mitigating the chances of Ingush rebellion in the near future. As was mentioned above, the Ingush leadership has chosen a conciliatory strategy with Moscow. In addition, the Ingush seem satisfied with their local government, which is a more-or-less stable, functioning democracy. Lastly, the region has attracted a large amount of international attention and support for a peace settlement, and the Ingush have indicated a willingness to negotiate when problems arise.

The outlook for the Ingushetia-North Ossetia problem is quite different. As long as the ultimate disposition of the 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. The renewal of fighting in Chechnya has distracted the rest of the world (and especially Moscow) from the Prigorodny problem, which has been left to fester, maintaining its position as the main grievance of the Ingush people. Tensions remain high, and low-level violence between the two groups is a common occurrence. If the North Ossetians, whose population is shrinking (while the Ingush are experiencing one of the highest birthrates in Russia), begin to feel insecure and try to reassert their authority in the region, another armed conflict is especially likely.

Analytic Summary

The Ingush are an Islamic people of the northern Caucasus whose territories are adjacent to those of the Chechens, to whom they are closely related ethnically, linguistically, and culturally (BELIEF = 3). 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 (TRADITN = 1).

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 (COHESX9 = 5) 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 have not asserted their independence from Moscow in the 1990s and have therefore managed to avoid the warfare that has 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 (Orthodoxy) 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.

Secondly, the strategies chosen by the leaders of the two groups 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 do not face the same levels of discrimination as the Chechens (POLDIS03 = 0, ECDIS03 = 0). 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. 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 yet to engulf the republic. Up to 200,000 Chechens fled into Ingushetia to avoid the Russian onslaught, which placed enormous strains on the already-impoverished region. While many refugees have now returned, thousands of displaced persons remain scattered across Ingushetia in various states of discomfort in an archipelago of refugee camps.

The Ingush have also clashed repeatedly with their neighbors to the west in North Ossetia. The Ingush were not allowed to return to all of their traditional lands after the deportation. In 1944, as part of his punitive measures against Chechen-Ingushetia, Stalin separated Prigorodny from Ingushetia proper and placed it under the jurisdiction of North Ossetia. 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. While many have subsequently returned to their homes, Ingush refugees returning to North Ossetia continue to face risks of violence (CULGR503 = 1). The only recent protest by the Ingush was on this issue in 2001 (PROT01 = 3): protesters numbered between 5,000 and 10,000, organized by the Ingush group Voskhod, and attended by Ingush refugees currently residing in Ingushetia, who have been living in exile for 10 years; they called on Putin to allow them to return to their homes in North Ossetia.

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, however, were vague. 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.



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