Ingushetia is a republic in Russia's North Caucasus bordering North Ossetia to the west, Chechnya to the east, and Georgia to the south. The region has a reputation for being the smallest region in Russia.
The Ingush are relatives of the Chechens and have shared their Sunni Islamic beliefs as well as their fate in rebellion and conquest vis-à-vis the Russians. In the beginning of the 19th century, a Chechen scholar peacefully converted most Ingush into Islam. Like the Chechens, the Ingush were accused by Stalin of Nazi collaboration and were deported to Kazakhstan. When Khrushchev allowed them to return home, they found that their Atheist neighbors, the Ossetes, had settled on formerly Ingush lands, launching a violent ethnic conflict which rages on today.
Between 1929 and 1991, Ingushetia was merged with Chechnya to form the Chechen-Ingush ASSR, and since became separated again. By 1991, the first Ingush president, Ruslan Aushev attempted to help the already weak economy, and when the first Chechen war started, this created a tremendous problem for the economy. It collapsed after Aushev's success. However, he was forced to leave office when the second Chechen war started. Aushev also founded the city of Magas.
By 2002, Murat Zyazikov came into office, and since then the political and economic situation worsened, and Zyazikov received harsh criticism for his disregard for human rights, corruption, and social and political problems. This was because of alleged abductions, illegal beatings, unlawful arrests and killings of suspects by the federal forces and local police and allied paramilitaries. By 2008, a new president, Yunus-bek Yevkurov succeeded the unpopular Zyazikov and began a campaign into improving the situation in the region.
The poor situation in the republic has made it a magnet for terrorism for Chechen and Ingush rebels, and has continued to make it more uneasy for travelers to visit. The region is desperately very poor, where only 5 in 10 are employed and a large part of the people live in severe poverty and live below $2 a day. The prospects of change are seriously remote at present.
Although the majority of Ingushetia's population lives in the larger northern towns, the Ingush consider their true heritage to be tied to the ancient auls (stone mountaintop villages) in the south of Ingushetia, especially along the Assy Gorge.
A train leaves from/to Moscow one time for 4 days. 487C Nazran-Moscow depart 8:10PM arrive 11:30AM (total trip time: 39 hours 20 minutes) 487E Moscow-Nazran depart 4:25PM arrive 5:40AM (total trip time: 37 hours 15 minutes)
A daily bus leaves from Moscow (Paveletski or Kazanski railroad station) to Nazran (total trip time over 24 hours). A daily bus leaves from/to Grozny,Nalchik and Stavropol. Regular buses leave from/to Moscow . Small buses leave from/to Nalchik and other north-Caucasian, south-Russian cities(i.e., to Vladikavkaz).
Russian is understood by all, as well as the official language, Ingush. Ingush is commonly known as ГІалгІай мотт (Ğalğaj mott). Ingush is a language related to Chechen and also other regional languages is common. English is spoken by nobody, even in the largest city, Nazran.
Dollars, euros accepted and can be exchanged for rubles. ATM's are widely available even in Dzheirakh village. Best place to buy: Central Market in Nazran.
Costs are generally higher than in other parts of Russia. The prices can be compared to the ones in Moscow.
Due to rising anti-Russian sentiments the shops selling alcohol are the prime targets for the Muslim rebels. It is recommended to stay away from these shops. The attacks are frequent, though usually without harm to the shoppers.
"Assa" Hotel-located in Nazran
There is at least 50% unemployment in Ingushetia. The oil industry is slowly deteriorating. Best place to work for a foreigner is the international human relief organizations, and medicine.
Advices from a Westerner who actually traveled to Ingushetia more than five times:
At present, Ingushetia should be considered a war zone. Like in the Soviet times both Ingushetia and Chechnya are considered foreign visitors' restricted areas.
When you are in Ingushetia you have to register with the local branch of the Russian Federal Security Bureau (FSB) to avoid any trouble. If you are a foreigner your presence in Ingushetia is tightly monitored by the FSB. Your cell phone is tapped and location is detected at all times via GPS tracking. Due to mistrust to the local police force there are many Russian FSB agents and Russian troops from different parts of Russia in Ingushetia. The troops are there on a temporary basis, which is why you should be prepared to pay them bribes. It is a common practice in Russia (especially on the roads and at police checkpoints) to avoid detention, which can substantially slow you down. It is better to have an Ingush local to negotiate, because you do not know the rates of the bribes in different situations.
Do not show large sums of money (more than $100) to the troops; they might confiscate them and you will never get them back. Foreign documents must not be shown in public either.
If you are a male visitor do not grow a beard; you might be taken for an Ingush rebel and accidentally detained at best. Do not speak foreign language, let the local do the talking. For most troops if you are a citizen of the West countries you are most likely suspected in spying, be aware of it and act respectively.
Do not provoke the soldiers by making pictures near the checkpoints even if they are located in beautiful areas. Journalists who have the FSB permit to report in Ingushetia should always ask Russian troops' permission to make pictures near the checkpoints. Do not display American/British/Georgian flags or any other American/British/Georgian attributes to the Russian troops; it will only provoke them.
Most of the "Assa" hotel staff, and the local inhabitants are very well aware of the situation in the republic, and are likely to offer you a lot of help, especially if you are a foreigner in need. It is unwise to take a stroll alone by yourself at night. Though no attack of the Ingush rebels on foreign visitors were ever recorded, people do disappear after FSB raids. Generally, most staff from hotels will accompany you to avoid any trouble. Remember, you are prohibited from going to the mountains in Ingushetia by the FSB. You need to have a permit even if you are a Russian citizen to go there.
A tight security situation is present, and at all checkpoints, they are likely to pull you over if you drive in a vehicle with darkened windows. It is illegal to have darkened windows in Ingushetia due to the war zone situation. The security forces will search your vehicle for suspicious items (large sums of money, large amounts of alcohol, drugs, weapons, explosives, etc.)
Do not drink pipe water. The Coca-cola and Pepsi products are fake and have different taste do not drink them either. It is unhealthy. Use the water from multiple wells one of the good ones near village of Barsuki on the road.
Ingushetia is an Islamic society, and therefore visitors are required to behave properly. Ingushetia is somewhat a traditionally conservative region with Islamic customs. Even though the region is predominantly Islamic, there is no dress code in effect and most of the locals, even the women are highly westernized. However, some women prefer to wear a veil, but it doesn't really apply to female visitors. The locals in general are interested in getting to know about foreigners, and are generally helpful to visitors around this volatile region. As said, Ingush locals treat visitors like guests, and don't throw this opportunity away. Likewise, always keep political opinions to yourself to avoid any danger.
In Ingushetia there are three federal GSM operators (MTS, Beeline, Megafon) and they often have offers that give you a SIM card for free or at least very cheap. If you are planning to stay a while and to keep in touch with Ingushetian and other North-Caucasus people, then you should consider buying a local SIM card instead of going on roaming. If you buy a SIM card from a shop you'll need your passport for identification. It only takes five minutes to do the paperwork and it will cost less than USD10.