Dondi-Yurt open air museum, Chechnya

Dondi Yurt open air Museum beautiful Chechnya north Caucasus

Dondi-Yurt open air museum of Urus-Martan, Chechnya, is a private museum built by Adam Satuyev, ex-Chechen athlete.

Mister Satuyev, who had been collecting Chechen artifacts for years, decided to exhibit his collection in an open-air museum. Satuyev himself reenacted typical Chechen dwelling (residential) towers on his property in which he exposed his collection. The museum visit is free of charge.

Targim, Ingushetia

Targim is a XII century fortified village situated in Assa gorge – an economic and cultural center of the Vainakh in the medieval ages. The gorge is filled with fortified Nakh settlements, crypts and towers.

The towers carry pagan symbols with Christian influences as the Vainakh (Ingush and Chechens) were partly converted to Christianity by Georgian missionaries.

Assa gorge - Map of Vainakh settlements (Targim circled in blue)

Assa gorge – Map of Vainakh settlements (Targim circled in blue)

Not far from Targim are ruins of ancient churches from this period, one recently discovered in december 2013 – Ancient Christian Church Found in Ingushetia (the most intact christian church is Tkhaba-Erdy).


The Mongol invasion of the XIII century brought an end to Christianity.


3D reenactment of Targim village


Cheberloy “land of mountain-dwellers” Chechnya

Cheberloy region is situated around Kazenoyam lake, near Cheberloyevsky canyon; it was inhabited by Cheberloy teip, who lived in more than a dozen settlements. After the 1944 deportation of the entire Chechen population, the settlements were destroyed by the Soviets. In present day, only one village (Makazhoy) is inhabited by a handful of residents.

The traditional occupation of Cheberloy people was cattle breeding and bee-keeping – the latter is still practiced by the few residents left.

Most of the settlements belong to the Argun Museum Reserve.

To read a full article on the Cheberloy people, scroll down to the bottom of the page.

Cheberloyevsky canyon (click photo to view gallery)

Cheberloyevsky canyon Chechnya North Caucasus mountains

A few km past Kazenoy-am lake is the ancient Khoi village, dating back to the 9th century. Khoi had 7 towers and 350 homes – residential , military and guard towers; religious monuments, mosques , residential buildings, numerous domestic buildings and a cemetery. The village was destroyed by the Soviets, the only structure left almost intact was the cattle/ poultry dwelling.


Caucasus mountains Khoi settlement Chechnya

Khoi village ruins Chechnya Caucasus mountains

North Caucasus Khoi village Chechnya Caucasus mountains

Makazhoy Chechnya North Caucasus 3

Khoi cemetery chechen village Chechnya Chaberloi North Caucasus 1

Caucasus mountains Khoi village Chechnya landscapes

Khoi acient settlement Chechnya Caucasus mountains

Pagan sanctuary

Khoi settlement inscriptions Chechnya Caucasus mountains

North Caucasus Khoi Chechnya Caucasus mountains

Khoi settlement ruins Chechnya Caucasus mountains

North Caucasus Khoi ruins Chechnya Caucasus mountains

North Caucasus Khoi ancient village Chechnya Caucasus mountains

North Caucasus Khoi old house Chechnya Caucasus mountains

North Caucasus Khoi construction Chechnya

inscriptios Khoi settlement Chechnya Caucasus mountains

Makazhoy Chechnya North Caucasus

ancient cattle/ poultry dwellings

ancient cattle/ poultry dwellings

cattle dwellings in Khoi

ancient cattle/ poultry dwellings in Khoi

cattle poultry dwellings Khoi village Chechnya Caucasus mountains

cattle poultry dwellings Khoi Chechnya Caucasus mountains

Khoy dwellings ancient chechen village Chechnya Chaberloi clan

Caucasus mountains ancient Khoi Chechnya

Makazhoy settlement (only structure still standing is one 7 stories-high tower)


Makazhoy Nakh tower Cheberloy clan Chechnya Kazenoyam North Caucasus people

Makazhoy Chechnya Kazenoyam North Caucasus



Caucasus mountains makazhoy Cheberloyevsky canyon Chechnya North Caucasus 9

Makazhoy tower Cheberloy clan Chechnya Kazenoyam

Makazhoy tower Cheberloy clan Nakh peoples Chechnya Kazenoyam north Caucasus

Makazhoy tower Nakh people Cheberloy clan Chechnya Kazenoyam 1

archeologist at Makazhoy Cheberloy clan Chechnya North Caucasus people

archeologist at Makazhoy

architecture Makazhoy Cheberloy Chechnya North Caucasus

Makazhoy Nakh people Cheberloy clan Chechnya Kazenoyam 1

ruins in Makazhoy Chechnya land of Cheberloy Chechen clans

old cemetery Makazhoy Chechnya North Caucasus land of Cheberloy Chechen clans

old cemetery in Makazhoy

old cemetery in Makazhoy Chechnya land of Cheberloy Chechen clans

Makazhoy region Chechnya land of Cheberloy Chechen clans

ruins in Makazhoy Chechnya land of Cheberloy Chechen clans

vacation homes scattered throughout Makazhoy

newly built vacation house Makazhoy Chechnya North Caucasus

The ruins of Kazenoy fortress (almost completely destroyed) are located in the vicinity of Kazenoy-am lake.

Makazhoy ruins Kazenoy fortress Chechnya North Caucasus

Kazenoy fortress

Makazhoy Kazenoy fortress ruins Chechnya North Caucasus mountain road

Chechnya Makazhoy Kazenoy fortress ruins North Caucasus

ruins Kazenoy fortress Chechnya Caucasus

Chechnya Makazhoy Kazenoy fortress ruins North Caucasus mountain road

Makazhoy Kazenoy fortress Chechnya North Caucasus

view from Kazenoy fortress towards the mountains

Chechnya Makazhoy view from Kazenoy fortress North Caucasus mountain road

view from Kazenoy fortress

view from Kazenoy fortress

road near Kazenoy fortress

aerial view of Kazenoy fortress in Makazhoy

aerial view of Kazenoy fortress

near old Makazhoy village Chechnya mountains road

Makazhoy Chechnya North Caucasus

chechen girls in Makazhoy Chechnya North Caucasus people

Local children Makazhoy

Makazhoy Chechnya bee keepers

Makazhoy traditional bee-keeprs

Local children

Local children

Cheberloy “land of mountain-dwellers”

(article from Prague Watchdog)

The history of Chechnya is inextricably linked with the mountains. Almost every Chechen knows his roots and the place from which his teyp, or clan, originates. Though they may spend long years living on the plains, many of Chechens never break their connection with the land of their fathers (Daymohk), which is situated in the mountains.

The homeland of the Cheberloy teyp, one of Chechnya’s many communities, is located in the mountainous part of the south-east of the republic, bordering on Dagestan. Of the Cheberloyans’ once densely inhabited place of residence it may be said that it has become depopulated. Cut off from the outside world, only around ten families now live here.

The road to Cheberloy begins at the village of Kharachoy, near Vedeno, and then rises sharply in a narrow serpentine coil through the mountains. After an hour of travel one is already at cloud level. On this very difficult stretch of the road there were formerly two staging posts for travellers who became waylaid. Here there were small, tent-like huts in which they could wait for bad weather to pass, or spend the night.

The road continues to the very top of the ridge, at times descending, but then once again rising steeply above the clouds. This road is the only one along which it is possible to drive by car, and it leads past Lake Kezenoy-Am, known because of its beauty and uniqueness as “the pearl of the Caucasus”.

After a drive of one and half hours along the mountain, the road diverges in different directions: one fork leads to Dagestan, the other to the neighbouring Shatoysky district. This is the birthplace of the Cheberloy teyp, which some historians consider one of the oldest in contemporary Chechnya. Incidentally, it was along this road that Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev and his forces crossed into Dagestan in 1999.


These localities are now almost empty. A dozen villages are totally deserted. Only a few people continue to live here, and only in one village, Makazhoy. The other villages – Kenkhi, Kiri, Buni, and so on, are now derelict. The mountain folk who remain socialize with residents of the border villages in Dagestan, for they are geographically closer.

The occupations of the Cheberloyans are the ones traditional among mountain-dwellers: cattle breeding and bee-keeping. Fortunately, the climatic conditions allow them. The area is located in alpine meadows. In winter the road is cut off from the outside world. The mountain folk themselves sat that this time of year is the most tedious one, for there isn’t even any one to talk to on the long winter nights. Things liven up in spring, when their relatives travel to the mountains, and there have recently been some visitors who simply want to relax and breathe fresh mountain air for a few days.

56-year-old Adiz has lived in Makazhoy since 1959. He returned here with his family after the authorities gave the Chechens permission to return from their exile in Kazakhstan. Recently he has been based in the village of Petropavlovskaya, but he spends each summer in Makazhoy until the onset of winter. “It used to be good. There was life here,” he says with nostalgia in his voice. “We say bad things about the Soviet times, but in those days there was a road which the services looked after. Nowadays no one wants to have anything to do with these places. In the old days there were 244 families living here. Now there’s practically no one,” Adiz says as he stirs some mutton in a saucepan on the fire.

Adiz discusses the simple concerns of everyday life, but avoids mentioning politics. Politicians he refers to contemptuously as “politickers” [politikany] . “Chechens used to be more friendly. They had respect for one another. Since 1959 there have only been three killings in our village. They were mostly the result of domestic quarrels and blood feuds. Apart from those, there haven’t been any incidents like the ones that happen almost daily down on the plains. Politics is something that should be taken care of by the ‘politickers’ – we’re just ordinary residents,” Adiz comments, sampling the gravy in the saucepan, and nodding as a sign that the mutton is ready to eat.


Three or four kilometres from Makazhoy one comes to the farm of Buni. Former residents say that the name of the locality is derived from the Arabic word bani, meaning “son of”, or “descendant”. The village is now derelict.

Dzhalavdi lived in Buni until 1992. He was the first of his four brothers to truly come down from the mountains to the plains, and he settled in the village of Petropavlovskaya, near Grozny. There were still people living there during the first war and until the outbreak of the second, but the constant “mop-ups” by Russian soldiers and the intolerable living conditions forced them all to change their place of residence.

There is not a single undamaged house in the village. They were all destroyed by explosions. This was done by the Russian soldiers who lived in the village for several years. The traces of their long presence are everywhere. In every corner of the houses there are large piles of rubbish, thousands of empty tin cans that once contained butter or canned meat, and cartridge boxes. In a corner of one house there are even two intact artillery shells, which the locals call “landmines” [fugasy].

Dzhalavdi takes a long look at what is left of his home. “If there was electricity and gas, I’d be happy to come back here. It wouldn’t be any harder to live here than going to school was when I was a boy,” says, recalling the years of his childhood, when every day he had to walk five kilometres across mountain slopes.

Near his house there is a large amount of agricultural machinery. “That’s a potato planter, and that’s a potato digger,” says, pointing to the rusty trailers for the tractors. Potato-growing is one of the most lucrative occupations in these mountains. The potatoes are exported to Russia and sold.

“The land here is fertile. If you treat it as a living being, it gives you a good return. If you put a wooden walking stick in the ground here, it will grow into a tree after a couple of years,” Dzhalavdi says jokingly about the quality of the soil.

The Polygon

In Makazhoy and the other villages there are many reminders of antiquity. It is easy enough to destroy the house of a mountain-dweller, but the soldiers have not managed to get rid of the cattle sheds, some of which are a hundred years old, or more. They could have done so with dynamite, of course, but either they grudged it or their consciences were pricked. So these sheds, which can be classed as architectural relics, still stand. They were built of unhewn blocks of stone which were fitted together so that their ceilings formed an arch. In this design is so solid that stand the roof and heavy tank and truck.

Each village has a local cemetery beside it. Many of these cemeteries are derelict. In Makazhoy an old one has survived in good condition. Some of the grave markers, which have grown crooked with age and resemble arrows stuck in the ground, are more than 150 years old. On many of them, next to the Arabic script, a Star of David can be seen. The large lumps of rock which served as gravestones were made in such a way that everything superfluous was scraped off the surface, leaving only the essential symbols and quotations from the Koran. The modern craftsmen have an easier task: they simply clean the symbols and Arabic script out of the stone.

The derelict Cheberloysky district has become a favourite haunt of the neighbouring Dagestanis. Mostly they are Andis and Avars who live in two villages, Ansalt and Rakhat. They often spend whol summers in the Chechen villages, where they graze their cattle and keep bees..The Cheberloyans take a cautious view this of this quiet expansion by their neighbours. After all, a neighbour is closer than a distant relative. So unless one doesn’t show them that there are owners of this land, they may come and live here permanently, they reason.

While it is possible to settle most issues with the neighbouring Dagestanis, it is far more difficult to do this with the Russian soldiers. The Russian army’s top brass, having observed that few people live in the district, have decided to use it for an artillery training polygon, or target site. The fact that all around there are historic tower structures, many of which are hundreds of years old, causes them little concern.


Lake Kezenoy-Am was once famous for its unique beauty and its tourist centre at Benoy. The water in the lake is brilliantly transparent and eternally icy. The Soviet academic rowing team used to train on the lake. The fact of the matter remains unverified, but some particularly advanced mountain dwellers maintain that there are only two lakes in the world that are suitable for such training. One is in Switzerland and the other is Kezenoy-Am. The height of more than 1800 metres above sea level gives the water sufficient density to provide the rowers with increased strain during training.

There are several legends about how the lake came into being. The most common of these says that this was originally the site of a village where nearly all the inhabitants had refused an old man a bed for the night. Only one lonely old woman took him in. In the morning, when he left, the old man, who was a visionary, warned of a future flood. Thus all the villagers drowned, while the old woman managed to climb a hill and watch the village being swept away.

At present the Benoy tourist centre is in a state of complete ruin. Its restoration forms part of the plans for the development of tourism in Chechnya. The mountain dwellers hope this will happen soon. “If they make this place attractive to tourists again, it will be nice for us as well. We don’t care how they do it, as long as they restore the district to how it used to be.”

Egikal – Nakh settlements of Assa gorge (Ingushetia)

North Caucasus Ingushetia Egikal Tsey Loam Caucasus mountains Nakh Vainakh beautiful scenery

North Caucasus Ingushetia Egikal Tsey Loam Caucasus mountains Nakh

Egikal (Egik-aul) is a medieval Nakh settlement erected between the XII-XVIII centuries near Tsey Loam mountain in Assa gorge, Ingushetia.

*aul is the name given to villages/ settlements by Caucasian people

Assa gorge has numerous Nakh settlements since the region represented a political and economic center.

Map showcasing medieval settlements along Assa gorge

Map showcasing medieval settlements along Assa gorge (Egikal in the middle)

Egikal suffered great damage after the 1944 deportation of Ingush people, when its inhabitants were deported and the village was destroyed (it underwent partial recent restoration for tourism purposes).

The ruins carry pagan symbols , as the Nakh people (Chechen, Ingush) shared pagan beliefs before the conversion to Islam. There are numerous crypts and sanctuaries along the gorge.

Nakh towers, Chechnya

Historical organization of Chechen society – Chechnya (like Ingushetia) didn’t have social classes or feudalism. It was governed by council of elders and practiced a pagan religion centered around the solar cult.

Chechen Nakh towers Chechnya North Caucasus Vainakh 2


Nakh people were organized in “teips” (family clans). Each family clan had their own defensive structure, mostly represented by Nakh towers. The villages and regional subdivisions of today still hold the names of their “teip” (ex. Sharoy, Chatou etc).

In times of danger, the family clans united under a “tukum” (political-military union), lead by a chosen military chief .

The towers had different purposes (combat, residential tower etc) and were around 7 stories high.

The typical Chechen/ Ingush towers (Nakh towers) developed as response to repeated foreign invasions, especially the Mongol invasion of the XII century.

Hacharoy Chechnya tower Chechens North Caucasus Vainakh Nakh

The teip had a few common features:
* The right of communal land tenure
* Common revenge for murder of a teip member
* Exogamy (marrying a member outside the clan was mandatory)
* Election of a Council of Elders and equal right of all members
* The right of the teip to depose its representatives
* Representation of women by male relatives
* The right of the adoption of outside people
* The transfer of property of departed to members of the teips
* The teip has a defined territory and a traditional mountain
* The teip had its own Godhead (pagan beliefs before the adoption of Islam)
* The teip had specific festivities, customs, traditions and habits
* The teip had its own cemetery
* A common teip hospitality (hospitality in general is highly regarded in the Caucasus)

chenty merk Chechen Nakh tower Chechnya North Caucasus mountains


Chanty Mohk Chechnya tower Chechens North Caucasus mountains Vainakh Nakh

Here are a few of the Nakh-Chechen towers which survived the XIX century wars, the Soviet destruction and the recent Russian-Chechen conflicts.

During the 1990’s wars, dozens of ancient Chechen towers were attacked by Mi-24.