The Narts: Ossetia’s National Epic

The Nart cycle of heroic legends is considered as the national epic tradition of the Ossetes, and as such it is key to understanding and appreciating their rich and ancient culture. And though less well-known to modern Westerners than the Greek, Roman, Germanic or Celtic literatures to which they are closely related, the Nart sagasContinue reading “The Narts: Ossetia’s National Epic”

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?”

Introducing Ossetia

Ossetia is a region of the central Caucasus that is divided between two political entities: North Ossetia-Alania, which is a republic within the Russian Federation, and the Republic of South Ossetia-State of Alania, which is a de facto independent state that declared its independence from Georgia in 1991 and — due to geopolitical factors whichContinue reading “Introducing Ossetia”