Anton Valkovsky and Ekaterina Gandrabura. Show Invisibles

Anton Valkovsky and Ekaterina Gandrabura. <i>Show Invisibles</i>Anton Valkovsky and Ekaterina Gandrabura. <i>Show Invisibles</i>

If you enter the House of Cinema in Muzeiny Lane in Vladikavkaz, in the semi-darkness of this listed 1904 building you can imagine a museum collection on the history of the Ingush people that we will probably never see again. We can only try to reconstruct it in our imagination from the descriptions and the rare photographs that remain: a black stone with five indentations, the holy book of Mago from the Mago-Yerdy temple, the mask of the goddess Tusholi found in the village of Kok, a model of the Tkhaba-Yerdy sanctuary.

The fate of Ingush heritage and the Ingush museum collection is a tragic one: transferred from Vladikavkaz to Grozny in 1940, after Ingushetia lost its autonomy and became part of the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, the collection was almost completely destroyed during the Chechen Wars. As early as 1992, 1,657 items from the collection were stolen as a result of an attack on the local history museum. More serious losses followed during and after the military campaigns in Chechnya in 1994–1996. On the night of December 31, 1994, the building of the main museum was destroyed by aerial bombardment and artillery fire. Along with the early-twentieth-century historic building, all of the exhibits on display were destroyed, as were most of the items in storage. Those that remained intact were stolen. According to various reports, between 90% and 95% of the combined Chechen and Ingush collection was lost.

The research project aims to reconstruct the movements of the lost collection, its key artifacts, and how it looked. Museum acquisitions and transfers will be studied in the context of Soviet cultural and ethnic policies and museum artifacts will become the starting point for a conversation about the difficult history of the Ingush people in the twentieth century. The project team will also produce a prototype and a concept for the museification of lost heritage and facilitating the restitution of cultural artifacts.