Lithograph from a drawing by M. Yu. Lermontov with a tower on a rock ... It bears Lermontov's handwritten inscription: "View of the Krestovaya mountain from the ravine near Kobi." Four lithographs were made from the drawing, and this name was passed on to them, but this is not entirely correct: Lermontov in this case depicted the village of Sioni, located between Stepantsminda and Kobi (now the Kazbegi municipality in Georgia). The Watchtower and Zion Church, painted in the center on the rock, have survived to this day. Due to a mistake made when transferring the image to a lithographic stone, the landscape on the print turned out to be mirror-rotated in relation to the real landscape. Pushkin House, Saint Petersburg
In the deep gorge of Darial,
Where the Terek rummages in the darkness,
The old tower stood
Blackening on a black rock
Tamara. M. Yu. Lermontov
Where the Terek rummages in the darkness,
The old tower stood
Blackening on a black rock
Tamara. M. Yu. Lermontov
Stories about castles. It so happens that someone is afraid of the virus and sits at home, while someone goes to rest in the Caucasus, bathes there in hot springs and breathes mountain air in the foothills of Elbrus. For example, this is what my daughter did and had a good time there. And, of course, her "task", as always, included the collection of interesting information for the site "Military Review". Therefore, when she was also offered to go and see some mountain towers, she agreed without hesitation. This is how I got interesting photos, and this is how this article about “towers in the Caucasus” was born.
Even today, more than 120 of them have been identified ...
And it so happened that for some reason the local residents began to build towers in the North Caucasus a very long time ago, back in the era of megaliths. Then their construction stopped, but then resumed in the Middle Ages. And so many of them were built in the same Ingushetia that it was called "the country of towers". And today, more than 120 of them have been identified here, although, most likely, there are much more of them.
It is believed that they were built in the XIII-XIV centuries. and up to the XVII century, well, then they got a lot during the Caucasian War of 1817-1864. and during the deportation of the Ingush people in the period 1944-1957, when almost half of these towers were simply destroyed.
In any case, история the appearance of tower-like buildings in the Caucasus is lost in the darkness of the centuries, since it dates back to the XNUMXst millennium BC. e. - the period of the spread of the Koban culture.
Not just a tower, but a whole family complex!
But later in the mountains of Ingushetia in the Middle Ages, villages appeared, consisting of a kind of knightly castles. They consisted of stone towers intended for habitation, as well as semi-combat and combat towers, united into one single family complex. Many villages were surrounded by high defensive stone walls. Moreover, the battle towers were especially high and strong, differing in strict proportions and ... very thick walls, the thickness of the masonry of which at the base reached one meter!
Why the local residents built such specific residential buildings is clear as daylight: they were constantly threatened by both external aggressors and internal civil strife. Therefore, like it or not, but it was necessary to build just such fortress houses. Fortunately, there was plenty of building material around.
Each such mountain settlement, like a Western European medieval castle, was a completely self-sufficient association of neighboring relatives living side by side. The life of such a "cell of society" was led by the elders, who acted in strict accordance with the people's law - adat. That is, they were small and completely independent from each other "medieval cities", in which the interests of the community were put at the head. Accordingly, several of these settlements constituted something like a federation of town-villages. They stood on strategically important passes and in gorges - the largest point in the most important such place, it was also something like the capital of such an association.
Sleek and durable!
It is believed that the Ingush towers stand out among all other towers of neighboring peoples for their special grace and a large number of small details built into the walls and fences. These are horse feeders, stone hitching posts, and stone canopies over the windows. In addition, it is the Ingush towers that are the highest, that is, their construction required enormous labor and considerable skill from their builders.
EI Krupnov, a well-known researcher of the Caucasus of the Soviet era, wrote in his fundamental work "Medieval Ingushetia":
Ingush battle towers are in the true sense the pinnacle of architectural and construction skills of the ancient population of the region. It amazes with its simplicity of form, monumentality and strict grace. <...> The Ingush towers for their time were a true miracle of human genius, as for our century new steps of man into the sky.
Note that since there has always been a huge shortage of fertile land in these places, so that literally every piece of it was used for sowing, they tried to choose the most barren areas for the construction of tower settlements, where nothing could grow, or even built on bare stones.
We must not forget that the place where the towers were built is also located in an earthquake-prone zone: here you have to fear earthquakes, avalanches, landslides, and also floods in the gorges! Therefore, they tried to build towers where all these misfortunes did not threaten the buildings. But the local residents had no problems with drinking water, since there were many rivers and springs in the mountains. In any case, the aesthetics and order of construction of the tower structures were followed very strictly. There was no place for fantasy. Everything was supposed to be like everyone else!
The device of the Ingush combat tower. Drawing by Shcheblykin I.P. 1928
"Building a tower is tricky: first we take ..."
The construction of the Ingush towers according to the tradition, coming from the darkness of centuries, was accompanied by various rituals. The first stones were stained with the blood of a sacrificial ram. And, of course, a contract for good feeding was concluded with the foreman and workers, and they, in turn, had to work tirelessly. It is interesting that the tower was built from the inside, no scaffolding was erected for this, and there would not be as much forest here. For work, temporary flooring was installed along the perimeter of the tower. They laid out part of the walls and raised the flooring to a new height. But when it was necessary to lay out the pyramidal roof - a characteristic feature of the Ingush towers, then the master had to work outside, tied with ropes. Note that the pyramidal-stepped roof of the tower usually consisted of thirteen slate slabs, and this whole structure was crowned with a large cone-shaped stone, which was lifted up on ropes. Having installed this stone, the master went downstairs and, having received a symbolic "release plate", according to custom, left a handprint on the mortar of the masonry at the entrance or knocked out its outline with a chisel on the stone, after which the construction was considered complete. Ingush folk songs have come down to us, telling about the construction of such towers, glorifying their beauty, and also the skill and talent of the masters who built these towers. And one of them is called: "Illy on how the tower was built."
Tower as a criterion of "strength"
Again, according to custom, the tower should have been built in exactly one year (365 days). Because otherwise, everyone began to consider this genus weak. It happened that the tower collapsed, but it was the family that was blamed for this first of all: they say, the poor were poor and the builders were poorly fed. But even with those whose towers cracked or even collapsed, they tried not to conclude contracts. And, of course, the craft of a tower builder in Ingushetia was in great esteem, and a master who built many strong and beautiful towers was considered a very respected person.
And this is the Vovnushka tower with a flat roof with a parapet for shooters! Photo "public domain" from Internet resources
It is interesting that there was a division according to separate "specialties": there were miners of building stone, stone cutters, hired carriers, stone cutters and actually builders-masons. Of course, every physically healthy man could build a barn from stones that lie literally underfoot in this country, or, say, a corral for cattle. But to fold the high tower - this already required great skill. It is not for nothing that the people's memory has preserved the names of their builders to this day.
Vovnushki, east wing. Photo "public domain" from Internet resources
The highlanders' towers were divided into three types
The first type is residential towers, in fact, just stone residential buildings of two or three floors with an average height of 10-12 meters and an area from 5 × 6 to 10 × 12 m at the base. The walls narrowed upward, which was a characteristic feature of the architecture of the Ingush of the Middle Ages.
The towers in Gornaya Ingushetia were built on mortar, the walls were covered with a thick layer of yellow or yellow-white plaster, and inside the masonry seams were covered with mortar. According to legend, milk or whey and chicken egg protein were added to its composition.
Vovnushki against the background of the Rocky Ridge. Try to reach their inhabitants! Photo "public domain" from Internet resources
A feature of the structure was an internal support pillar, on which all the beams of the interfloor floors rested. On top of these beams, brushwood was laid, on which clay was then poured and carefully tamped. The roof was made in the same way.
The height of the ceiling in the living room, where the family stayed most of the time, was 3-4 m. On the third floor there was a warehouse, and there could also be a guest room and a balcony. There were many loopholes within the walls, so this dwelling could well serve as a fortress. By the way, there were also slave cages here ...
The semi-combat towers were built in 3-4 floors. They were almost square and smaller than residential ones. Height - 12-16 m. The main thing that made them different from residential towers was the absence of a central support pillar. But on them there were balconies-mashikuli, like those of combat towers, but the entrance was arranged in the same way as in the residential ones, that is, on the first floor. Semi-combat towers, for which the entrance was located on the second floor, like in combat ones, are quite rare. Everything here was thought out to the smallest detail. Each floor was designed for a specific need. So, on the first, prisoners were usually kept, on the second there were guards, on the third and fourth there lived the defenders (garrison) of the tower and the families that lived in it, on the fifth there were family members and sentinels.
The entrance to such a tower was usually at the level of the second floor, so there was no point in using a battering ram to knock out the door. Only a few of the towers, built in the wildest and most inaccessible places, had an entrance on the first floor.
Neither set on fire nor capture!
And if the ceilings in the residential towers were made of wood and clay, then the ceiling was laid out in the battle in the form of a false vault of lancet outlines. It was impossible to set such a vault on fire from below, and it was also impossible to climb up without a ladder. And being below (if the enemies managed to enter the first floor) is also not an option, since loopholes for shooting were provided in the floor.
Again, starting from the second floor, each of them had skylights, loopholes and viewing slots, completely invisible from the outside. Moreover, the loopholes were located so that there was no impenetrable space around the tower.
Besides stocks weapons, on the fifth-sixth floors, stocks of stones were also stored to be dropped on the besiegers. Moreover, due to the slope of the walls, and it reached 10-11 degrees on the battle towers, and in the battle tower of the village of Upper Leymi it was 14 degrees at all, stones were not thrown, but simply rolled down the wall. That is why they tried to stockpile "sharp" stones, which from hitting the rocky base of the tower scattered to pieces in all directions.
That is, even coming close to the walls of the tower, the enemy could achieve little, since a hail of stones immediately fell on him from above. And moving away from the tower, he came under shots from the upper floors!
The five-story towers reached a height of 20-25 meters, while the six-story towers were already 26-30 meters high.
"Lights on the towers: the enemies are coming!"
Ingush settlements were located at a distance of 500 meters to one kilometer from each other. So the towers were clearly visible and could also be used as signal towers: an alarm transmitted from tower to tower in a matter of minutes passed many kilometers from one village to another.
But down there, life is in full swing today. Mansions, cars, and the "memory of ancestors" remained high in the mountains!
The towers of Ingushetia, like the towers in the cities of Italy, are a vivid manifestation of the ancient national culture that has survived to this day, unique in all respects. Moreover, the Ingush are still mentally connected with their tower culture and are proud of its traditions. For them, it is a symbol of respect for their home as a family sanctuary, and family and clan for a highlander is still the most important thing in life!
PS All photographs (except for those signed accordingly) belong to S. Zolotareva.