This substantial and innovative article summarises the findings of the author’s fieldwork aimed at providing an analysis of the teip (‘clan,’ from Arabic tayifa طایفه ) as a social phenomenon, and establish its relevance for the social and political life in the Vainakh republics of Chechnya and Ingushetia. The argument draws on participant observations and in-depth interviews carried out in 2002-05. Perfectly aware of the limitations imposed by this very specific field, the author first assesses debates among researchers as to the relevance of teips, especially with regard to Chechnya, before exposing a method centred on the participant study of fourteen ‘average’ families from different regions of the two republics, and of the social networks of an ‘average’ professional (studying mechanisms of job recruitment in order to see whether teip membership plays a role in career developments). The result of interviews made clear that the term teip is used with two different meanings: (1) a large kin group comprising hundreds of families, which “does not exist as a social group, but to some extent matters as a social identity ”; (2) extended family, i.e. all the relatives with whom a person maintains kin relations, this second meaning being used in colloquial language, more frequently among the Ingush, and when speaking about politics. The extended family appears a category particularly relevant in the expression of group solidarity and redistribution of income by well-off family members. A special chapter scrutinises the relevance of teip and family structures to recruitment patterns in both republics—most respondents of the author’s interview materials affirming that in their circles, and in a context of mass unemployment, the predominant recruitment channels are: (1) relatives, (2) neighbours, (3) members of the same wird [mystical denomination], (4) friends. Conversely, the author also properly notes the diversification of employment profile inside an extended or nuclear family, especially in Chechnya, as a survival strategy aimed at limitation of risk. She also sheds light on the impact of war on the development of strong and permanent solidarities among neighbours. Contrary to essentialist perceptions of Northern Caucasian societies, she also underlines the variation of the integration and prominence of different wirds in the public space, making the majority of them poorly relevant in recruitment to office. Friends (schoolmates, university friends, and former colleagues in previous employments) largely appear as channel one’s recruitment to office. If the influence of family networks is insufficient for making the claim that clan structures shape the socio-political processes in Chechnya and Ingushetia, the result of this study also fully disqualifies the hypothesis that state-building and policy-making in both republics have been shaped by interaction of primordial patterns of social integration, primarily teips. (The author notably points out how Dzokhar Dudaev’s efforts to use Islam and clan structures to enhance the legitimacy of his regime globally failed “because they did not reflect the political make up of the society ,” in spite of their revaluation as an asset of the symbolic capital of many families and groups.) The entities of the political class that compete with each other for access to power at the republican level are rather called political or political-military groupings, formed on the principle of a personal loyalty to an influential public figure.