Will He Write a Book About the Ossetes?

Strangely, the author of this article did not actually contact me to ask what answer I would give. However, since many others have written us asking the same thing, I will reply that at this point I truly do not know. I am legally bound by my contract with my British publisher to write it,Continue reading “Will He Write a Book About the Ossetes?”

Towers and Tombs: Remnants of Medieval Ossetian architecture

For centuries and possibly millennia the peoples of the high Caucasus have built stone towers to serve as refuges when under attack from invaders. Called ganakh in Ossetian, these towers are typically four stories tall, and have window openings which were used as lookouts and to fire upon encroaching enemies. Each family would have a tower ofContinue reading “Towers and Tombs: Remnants of Medieval Ossetian architecture”

Hiking in Digoria

Digoria is the western part of North Ossetia-Alania, where the archaic Digor dialect of Ossetian is spoken. Many consider it to be the most beautiful region of Ossetia, particularly the mountainous Irafsky district which is home to the spectacular Alania National Park. The area is heavily forested yet boasts seven major glaciers. The remote Urukh ValleyContinue reading “Hiking in Digoria”

Was Stalin an Ossete?

Every killing is a treat, for the barrel-chested Ossete — Osip Mandelstam, 1933 For a Westerner raised during the Cold War the figure of Joseph Stalin is most often associated with state terror under a brutal dictatorship. It can therefore be surprising to see his image today all over Ossetia, both North and South, andContinue reading “Was Stalin an Ossete?”

Visiting South Ossetia

The best means by which South Ossetia can hope to establish its viability as a country is, in my view, to make itself more open to foreign visitors. Visas are not currently required, but one must obtain permission to visit from the South Ossetian office in Vladikavkaz and this requires an invitation from someone inContinue reading “Visiting South Ossetia”

South Ossetia is a Country

In the medical profession there is a term for one who refuses to accept reality and tries to behave as if things were otherwise: it is called “denial”, and it is considered a pathological condition. Geopolitics, unfortunately, is rife with it. To cite but one of many possible examples, South Ossetia (official name: Republic ofContinue reading “South Ossetia is a Country”

Ossetian Popular Religion: Scythian Connections

When one has spent years studying a topic and earned the status of a specialist through much time and effort, it can be deeply annoying when others who have not done so presume to voice opinions in the absence of familiarity with the facts. One can only imagine the frustration of climate scientists when politicalContinue reading “Ossetian Popular Religion: Scythian Connections”

Ossetian Genealogy: From Arya to Alan to Ir

National identity became something of a worldwide rage during the 20th century and nowhere more than in the former Soviet Union, particularly when the breakup of that multi-ethnic empire allowed for the resurgence among non-Russians of nationalist claims to territory and history. The Ossetes, numbering less than a million and living in one of the world’sContinue reading “Ossetian Genealogy: From Arya to Alan to Ir”

Vladikavkaz: Gateway to Ossetia

Pretty much anyone coming to Ossetia will arrive first in Vladikavkaz (Oss. Dzæudzhyqæu), the capital of North Ossetia-Alania. The easiest way is by plane; the airport at Beslan, 14 kilometres north of Vladikavkaz, is served by four or five flights a day from Moscow and a couple of times a week from St. Petersburg. TheyContinue reading “Vladikavkaz: Gateway to Ossetia”

Is Ossetia Safe to Visit?

I was always interested in the northern Caucasus but my impression was that it was a no-go region, plagued by war and terrorism. The government websites of Canada, the US and the UK all warn against travelling there, and the Canadian site says “If you are there, you should leave.” When several years ago IContinue reading “Is Ossetia Safe to Visit?”