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?”

How to Create a Scandal in Ossetia

For the past two months I have been subjected to a crash course in the realities of Ossetian life, specifically the nightmare of official bureaucracy. After Fatima and I married in January 2020 I applied for a residence permit since I intended to stay in Ossetia for at least a year in order to researchContinue reading “How to Create a Scandal in Ossetia”

The Uzunag Festival in Digoria

Every summer on the third Saturday in July Digorians—most of whom have migrated out of their native region to Vladikavkaz or other cities—return to their ancestral villages. On this occasion those with family connections to the village of Vakats (pop. 87) congregate in a clearing high in the mountains about 200 metres below a shrineContinue reading “The Uzunag Festival in Digoria”

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?”

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”

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”