Sunday, February 10, 2019

The Teips, Ancient Structures of Ingush Society, Reemerging as Powerful New Actors

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 9 – One of the most intriguing developments of rapid modernization around the world is the way that old social structures, groups and identities which many expect to pass away as a result of social change in fact re-emerge to play new and sometimes more powerful roles long after their demise was predicted or even claimed by new rulers.

            Indeed, it often happens that modernization provokes exactly that response among those who are supposed to be absorbed by new groups and identities and thus disappear. That happened in Iran at the end of the shah’s time, in Afghanistan following the Soviet invasion, and in various Western countries in response to globalization, to name but three.

            Now, it is happening in Ingushetia largely as a result of the overreach of republic head Yunus-Bek Yevkurov and his September 26 border deal with Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov.  Thousands of Ingush went into the streets for more than a month to protest, and their activism has led to a dramatic increase in the political role now of a most ancient Ingush structure.

            That is the teip, a tribe or clan, that has been the basic structure of Ingush society from time immemorial and that is embedded in the name of every Ingush to this day, despite Russian, Soviet and post-Russian efforts to move beyond that in the name of modernization and nation building.

            (For background on this institution and its role in Ingush society, see especially Ekaterina Sokirianskaia, “Families and clans in Ingushetia and Chechnya. A fieldwork report,” Central Asian Survey 24:4 (2005): 453-467 and
            When the popular protests against the border accord began, the leaders of the teips came out in support of those who had taken to the streets to defend the lands of their ancestors. Indeed, many of those demonstrating argued that they had to defend the lands in question because they were the homes and graves of their ancestors or teips.
            But as sometimes happens when a group re-emerges for one reason, it will expand to take on additional roles. That is happening with the teips in Ingushetia, who have now taken up the cudgels against the Yevkurov regime, its corruption and its illegal actions, and is pressing its case by letters to the authorities and the use of the Internet to spread the word.
            The re-emergence of the teips as a political force almost certainly will only add to the regrets some officials around Yevkurov and in Moscow may already be experiencing as a result of the border accord because it means that in that region, the most traditional element of Ingush society has now been energized and set in motion, a force the powers will find it hard to contain.      

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