A large number of architectural monuments are located on the territory of Ossetia, the most outstanding of which are medieval towers and castles, widespread in the mountainous area. The defensive structures of the Ossetians are subdivided into combat ("mæsyg") and semi-combat residential towers ("gænakh"), castles ("galuan"), rock and cave fortresses, and protective walls. Each of these types of monuments is characterized by certain methods of construction, a special layout and a specific purpose. In Ossetia, more than three hundred towers of varying degrees of preservation have been noted, the battle towers are the best preserved, and the residential ones are in much worse condition. A large number of towers and other fortifications were destroyed or damaged in 1830 during the punitive expedition of General Abkhazov in Ossetia.
The towers are one of the main symbols of Ossetia. It should be noted that most of all Ossetian towers are objects of cultural heritage of federal significance – 107 towers, while 46 towers are referred to the objects of cultural heritage of regional significance. A number of towers are in the status of identified objects or with signs of cultural heritage, and this list is being replenished. In order to start building the tower, it was, first of all, necessary to obtain the consent of the Council of Elders - Nykhas. Not every family was allowed to build a tower, a symbol of a strong, often noble family, with an unblemished reputation. After obtaining permission to erect the tower, the terms of preparation (collection) of the stone were set - three months or six months. The construction of the tower, in the conditions of the then primitive technology, was a very complex and difficult task. Before proceeding with the laying of the tower, it was necessary to do a lot of preliminary work on the procurement of building materials: they brought and cut stones, burned lime and, finally, found and invited craftsmen. Most often, men from the clan did the legwork. There were cases when the towers remained unfinished, since, for example, one bull was given for one large flat stone, which was the guarantor of the fortress and stability of the tower at the base. Usually, the clan that received permission to build a tower was obliged to finish it within a year, otherwise, they lost the right to build, or the tower remained unfinished. The construction of the tower required so much building material that among the Ossetians there is still a saying: “You cannot build a single tower from a destroyed village, but a whole aul (village) can be built from a destroyed tower”. In most cases, Ossetian towers were built with a facade to the east, 3-5 stories high (there are also 7-storey ones), quadrangular, slightly narrowed upwards. The highest towers belonged to the most distinguished families. The opening of the tower or the square of the upper floor was usually measured with a sweep of the hand with a ramrod in such a way that a person in military operations could freely and unhindered load his gun and fight the enemy. The walls of the towers, both above and below, were built of the same thickness, traditionally there were no roofs. Towers played an extremely important role in the life of the Ossetians. The wealth and social significance of one or another Ossetian clan was measured by the availability of a tower, a mill and a family crypt. The first question that was asked during the matchmaking to the groom's relatives was: “Do you have a tower, a mill and a family crypt. Ossetian towers, which at one time were the ancestral or family pride, more than once experienced, perhaps, on themselves the power of foreign weapons, at the present time, have turned into monuments of distant antiquity. Towers as historical objects.
The towers are material evidence of human existence in this space many centuries ago. They have been standing here for so long that they have already merged with nature. It is like an extension of the mountain, carrying the spirit of history, the spirit of the people who once lived here. It is also interesting that the historical owners are returning here now. In the era of globalism, which mercilessly blurs cultural differences, these towers are a kind of opposition to globalization. Something to hold on to and preserve history, traditions.
Towers as a means of communication. Ossetian combat (signal-watch) towers in different corners of the mountains were built at the entrance to the gorge, on elevated and strategically important places, so that the sentry from the top of the tower could overlook the largest possible territory. In case of danger, they signaled to distant mountain villages with bonfires lit on the towers and, thus, gave the population the opportunity to get ready to repel the enemy. It is believed that individual towers were built in places connected by a semblance of sound corridors, thanks to which the defenders of the towers, being at a decent distance, could talk and hear each other.
Towers as elements of modern architecture. The watchtower is undoubtedly a national symbol in the Caucasus, a marker of the territory. Its image can be found on labels, emblems, souvenirs. As a sign of a special attitude to the national, cultural heritage in Ossetia, similar family watchtowers are erected in the adjoining territories, in public places they are used as an element of national architecture.
Photo and video materials by Eugeny Ivanov
Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC 4.0)
Personal stories of Vladikavkaz residents
For every person there is an important concept - Fatherland. Fatherland for a person is everything that connects him or her with the past of the clan, the family. Without this concept, it is absolutely impossible to form a personal worldview, to build a structure for the upbringing of your younger ones. A.S. Pushkin stated these feelings in the lines:
“... Two things, divine to mortal end,
Feed heart, relieving pains of soul:
The love to ashes of your own;
The love to tombs of homeland... ".
Personification of the Fatherland for us, the representatives of the Tsalikov clan, is our tower, the Tsalikov family tower in the village of Dallagkau in the Kurtatinsky gorge of North Ossetia-Alania.
The tower, having survived hard times, still rises above the village. It majestically dominates the surrounding area. Of course, it has become dilapidated – time and wars have done their job. Residential and household buildings that were once located near it collapsed. But, despite everything, the tower survived, and until present it shows its strength, because neither time nor enemies could break it.
The huge stones lying at the base of the tower are covered with cracks and potholes, as with age a person's face becomes covered with wrinkles and age spots. This comparison brings a person close to the tower. On one of the tower walls, you can clearly see the trace of a very large hand of an ancient builder left on the lime mortar. Only very strong people could build such a powerful tower. Being near the tower, you begin to feel a certain responsibility for your actions, for your younger ones, for your deeds. The tower, as it were, has its own “opinion” of the people who come to it, at some it "looks" with respect, at others with reproach. It all depends on the purity of the thoughts of the person who came to it. You want to talk with the tower, to think about something important and meaningful.
According to historians, the time of the tower construction dates back to approximately the XIV-XVII centuries. It was erected in difficult times: the battle tower was vital, both for the survival in those conditions, and for establishing the authority of the clan among the neighbors in the gorge and neighboring peoples.
At the end of the 18th century, in the house of Aleguko, in the baptism of Andrei Tsalikov, near the tower, the elders and respected people of the Kurtatinsky and Alagirsky societies took the decision to join Ossetia to Russia. And from the same house, the delegation of 20 people left for negotiations with the governor for Mozdok, including Bakhtyngirey Esiev, Shovlokh Demirov, Khamirza and his son Andrei Tsalikovs, Tot Guriev, Abi Shovlokhov, Georgy Agkaev, Dzhava Tsopanov and others.
And already in 1771, Sergeant Major Aleguko Tsalikov with other influential people of Ossetia, having visited the Astrakhan governor P. Krechetnikov, conveyed this request to him.
It is symbolic that the tower, being a witness of this decision fateful for Ossetia, stands out with its invincibility as a kind of symbolic guarantor of the inviolability of fraternal relations between Ossetia and Russia.
For every Tsalikov the tower is the material embodiment of the Motherland. Touching its moss-covered stones, you have a high sense of belonging to the history of your clan and the whole of Ossetia. Every Tsalikov considers it his duty to bring growing children to the tower to show them the material symbols of his roots, his history.
When my children were young, I also brought them to the family tower. One of the daughters, bypassing the tower, asked me: "If the enemies attack us, will we have to take up defensive positions here?" Of course, then the child did not understand yet - there is the concept of Motherland and the concept of small Motherland. But this understanding comes a little later, over the years.
Throughout the course of history, outstanding representatives of the clan participated in the preservation of the tower.
After the Ossetians moved from the mountains to the plane in 1867, the tower and adjacent buildings were transferred to the treasury for the parish school. And back in 1889, the tower was returned to the clan by General Danilbek Tsalikov. For the first time in its long history, he also carried out the works to preserve it, reinforced the walls and the foundation.
In the post-war years, the tower was nearly destroyed. The local authorities needed to find building materials for the construction of a cattle farm. Someone suggested destroying the tower and building a farm from its stones. However, something stopped the builders. And the tower withstood again.
Realizing that over time the tower will continue to collapse, we, relying on the law and having established the family society, proceeded to preserve the building and put the adjacent territory in order. We were assisted by students who came from different parts of our homeland. These were the participants of the International youth cultural and historical project “Lighthouses of Friendship. Towers of the Caucasus”, and Ruslan Gusarov, journalist and vice-rector of the State University of Management, was the Project Manager.
Years pass, important and complex events take place, but the significance of the tower remains important. Young people continue to show interest in their history, in their roots. Therefore, there is a firm conviction that future generations will preserve the cultural and historical heritage of our people and will preserve our Tower as its symbol.
Alexander Tsalikov, retired Colonel. Chairman of the Regional Public Organization "Cultural Heritage of the Tsalikovs"