Architecture of Chechnya
Traditional Chechen households
The natural surroundings determined what kind of villages and housing units were to be built in the mountainous and flatland parts of Chechnya. Mountain rock was the main. and wood, clay and straw, the auxiliary building materials.
Security was the chief concern of those who settled to live in mountain canyons: their villages were to be well protected. Besides, the highlanders were concerned about the availability of grass and grazing pastures, water, and, last but not least, arable land. Land ought not to be wasted, so houses were built even on top of mountain cliffs.
One-storey houses with a flat roof constituted the widest-spread type of buildings in mountainous Chechnya. Two-storied houses and three-to-five-storied towers were occasionally built, too. Several buildings - the living quarters, a tower and the outhouses - made up what might be called a family holding. Their relative positions depended on the terrain.
A mountain village looked a helter-skelter agglomeration of buildings. No straight streets cut through it. Land was scarce. It was divided between kins and no construction blueprints were ever drawn up. The more kinsmen, the bigger chunk of land a kin was entitled to get. As a result, there appeared blocks of family holdings: kinsmen settled to live side by side with one another. Every village had a main square which was dominated by a mosque. The main square was meant for public gatherings.
Flatland villages eventually came to imitate the highlanders' planning methods. They stretched on the bank of a river or along a road and were far more populous. A mountain village had 20 to 25 family units whereas a village of flatland Chechnya, over 400.
The Chechens usually built their long, flat-roofed, one-story houses of mountain rock and, less frequently, of straw brick. It took a week to build this unpretentious shelter, and a week was all the time a Chechen could afford to spend on housing construction after his old house was destroyed by an enemy.
Other construction materials were used in flatland Chechnya. The walls of the houses were made of a mixture of clay, chaff and fresh manure. The roofs were made of wooden poles covered with tree bark and a layer of clay. The clay was to be tamped with a special rammer, otherwise grass would grow on the roofs.
The housing unit was divided into two fully detached rooms. There were, consequently, two entrances. The master of the house lived and received guests in one of the two rooms, the other room belonged to the mistress of the house and the children. A combination of a chimney and an oven was used for heating purposes. A clay-covered wicker smoke stack failed, by one meter, to reach the floor. Fire was constantly burning in an earthen fireplace, right beneath the chimney. A pot with cooking food was hooked up to a chain that hang from the ceiling. There was next to no furniture: an armchair for the master of the house, a low table, and a few low benches...By and large, people slept on the floor. Matresses, lengths of felt, rugs, carpets and blankets were kept, together with tableware, on wide shelves that lined the inside walls of both rooms. Wooden chests stood by the wall.
The Chechen house had no regular windows. A square opening that went down to the floor was closed for the night with a shutter.