Unlock the message on the carpet

Ingushetia (Republic)

Russia Beyond
Russia Beyond
What is the best souvenir to bring back from your trip? If we are talking about Ingushetia, then definitely felt carpets, which have been made here for hundreds of years.

In order to create the famous felt carpet, sheepskin is first dried in direct sunlight for several days. This gets rid of some of the fat. The skin is then dusted and cleaned, then whipped with rods and loosened. Skins are then laid out on a cloth, covered in a soapy solution and rolled into tubes.

It remains to dry the felt cloth and proceed to the manufacture of the carpet. If you take several pre-prepared pieces in different colors and carefully cut out ornaments from them, then part of one carpet will become part of another. 

In Ingushetia, only women were engaged in felt craft. They gathered together to quickly complete all the stages of harvesting, felting and sewing carpets. As a result, after such work, each craftswoman remained with her own isting carpet, which differed in color.

'Isting' is not just a decoration or a way to insulate a stone dwelling high in the mountains, but also a means of communication. Experienced needlewomen knew how to leave secret messages for their neighbors with the help of an ornament! Plants, animals, celestial bodies and geometric figures… Such a cipher could only be deciphered by “one’s own” person, who was familiar with the isting symbolism. By sending a symmetrical carpet as a gift, the neighbors informed their allies that all was calm. And if they transmitted a story with an asymmetric pattern, then it was worth preparing for a possible attack by enemies.

How to unravel the message on the carpet?

Interest for the ancient craft has grown in recent years and not only among the Ingush themselves. If you’d like to take a crack at decoding the messages yourself, as the inhabitants of the Caucasus have done for many centuries, you’ll need to visit the ‘Isting’ studio in Magas. You’ll learn the special skill and fall in love with Ingush culture. 

Yes, this is the Caucasus!

🚘 Do you enjoy traveling mountainous serpentine roads by car? Then you should definitely drive though Ingushetia. This can be done in just one day, starting from Magas and heading towards the highlands in the south of the republic. Although, there is a high probability that you will not have time… Why? As you reach new altitudes, you’ll want to stop at every mile - the views are so breathtaking, your phone might run out of memory. 

✅ Here’s a tip from Russia Beyond: try taking that road at different times. With each passing hour, the sun will accentuate these breathtaking landscapes in a different way. And if you find yourself near Mount Tsey-loam at dawn or sunset, then you will definitely make a promise to yourself to return to the Caucasus more than once. 😍

❗️ Just don’t forget your passport: checks are not uncommon in border areas.


🙌 The Russia Beyond film crew would like to thank ‘Isting’ (@isting_studio) for their wonderful lecture on Ingush traditions and help in creating this video. If you find yourself in the capital of Magas region, make sure to drop by to gaze at genuine hand-made istings and, if you like what you see - stay for the felting masterclass!😉

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