The Ingush (//, Ingush: ГIалгIай, Ghalghaj, pronounced [ˈʁəlʁɑj]) are a Northeast Caucasian native ethnic group of the North Caucasus, mostly inhabiting their native Ingushetia, a federal republic of Russian Federation. The Ingush are predominantly Sunni Muslims and speak the Ingush language. The Ingush are known as the Vainakh.
The ethnonym Ingush derives from the village Angusht (Tarskoye in todays Northern-Ossetia), in which 24 elders representing several local Nakh clans took the oath to join Russia. While popular folklore claims the endonym Ghalghai comes from the Ingush word "ghala" (meaning tower/fortress), historical development indicates it is a composition of the words kha and khal, which directly means three cities. Inhabitants of the 3 settlements Targim, Khamkhi and Egikal, who operated as one, expanded their power into surrounding Nakh areas, building the grounds of what would later turn into the modern Ingush nation. This is supported by the first actual mention of the word in 1590, when the "mountain people Kolkan" attacked 2 Russian ambassadors in the Darial pass and the late establishment of the word among south-western Nakh people only several centuries later, in the early 1920s.
The ancestors of the Ingush people have been historically mentioned under many different names, such as Dzurdzuks, Kists or Ghlighvi, although none of them was used as an ethnonym and are of Georgian origin. The ancient Greek historian Strabo wrote about the Gelai, an unknown people in the Caucasus he thought to be of Scythian origin, which the American cartographer Joseph Hutchins Colton later used to label the Vainakh people in his map from 1856. Contemporary sources mention the ethnonym Nakhchoy, which Chechens still use today. However, due to political and hostile disagreements, the term was quickly replaced starting from the 19th century up to the introduction of "Vainakh" ("our people" in Chechen/Ingush) in the early 20th century.
The Ingush never had a feudal system and were always governerned by highly esteemed selected elders among the local clans. In 1770, the elders of 24 Ingush tribes signed a treaty with Russia, but are commonly considered under Russian rule from 1810. The Ingush, however, considered themselves independent, and were unwilling to conform to Russian laws, which led to various skirmishes with Russian forces in Ingushetia, such as the uprising of Nazran in 1858, when 5000 armed Ingush residing in Nazran tried storming the local fortress. After 2 failed attempts of aid in June and July by Imam Shamil, the Russians succeeded in suppressing the revolt. The leaders of the uprising were hanged and many of the participants physically punished. Nevertheless many Ingush, like the national hero Utsig Malsag, stood true to the oath with Russia from 1810, which included the order to fight off the enemies of Russia, particularly the Chechens and Kabardians. Under Soviet rule during World War II the Ingush, along with the Chechens were falsely accused of collaborating with the Nazis and thus, the entire population was deported to the Kazakh and Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republics. The Ingush were rehabilitated in the 1950s, after the death of Joseph Stalin, and allowed to return home in 1957, though by that time western Ingush lands had been ceded to North Ossetia.
The famous Soviet archaeologist and historian, professor E.I. Krupnov described the Ingush towers in his work «Medieval Ingushetia»:
The Ingush possess a varied culture of traditions, legends, epics, tales, songs, proverbs, and sayings. Music, songs and dance are particularly highly regarded. Popular musical instruments include the dachick-panderr (a kind of balalaika), kekhat ponder (accordion, generally played by girls), mirz ponder (a three-stringed violin), zurna (a type of oboe), tambourine, and drums.
According to one test by Nasidze in 2003 (analyzed further in 2004), the Y-chromosome structure of the Ingush greatly resembled that of neighboring Caucasian populations (especially Chechens, their linguistic and cultural brethren).
There has been only one notable study on the Ingush Y chromosome. These following statistics should not be regarded as final, as Nasidze's test had a notably low sample data for the Ingush. However, they do give an idea of the main haplogroups of the Ingush.
- J2 – 89% of Ingush have the highest reported frequency of J2 which is associated with the Fertile Crescent.
- F* – (11% of Ingush) This haplogroup was called "F*" by Nasidze. It may have actually been any haplogroup under F that was not under G, I, J2, or K; however, it is probably consists of haplotypes that are either under J1 (typical of the region, with very high frequencies in parts of Dagestan, as well as Arabia, albeit in a different subclade) or F3.
- G – (27% of Ingush) Typical of the Middle East, the Mediterranean and the Caucasus. The highest values were found among Georgians, Circassians and Ossetes. There was a noticeable difference in G between Ingush and Chechens (in J2 and F*, Ingush and Chechens have similar levels), possibly attributable to low samples that were all from the same town.
In the mtDNA, the Ingush formed a more clearly distinct population, with distance from other populations. The closest in an analysis by Nasidze were Chechens, Kabardins and Adyghe (Circassians), but these were all much closer to other populations than they were to the Ingush.