South Ossetia

From RationalWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Map of South Ossetia

Looking for the nation South Ossetia legally belongs to? See Georgia (country)

South Ossetia, or by its constitutional name Republic of South Ossetia-State of Alania, is an mostly-unrecognized breakaway territory that is a de jure Georgian territory.[1] Like its eastern European counterparts Transnistria, the Donetsk People's Republic, and the Luhansk People's Republic, it is a modern relic of the former Soviet Union.[2] It is located in the Caucasus Mountains. Most United Nations members recognize it as a territory of Georgia under illegal Russian military occupation. The only UN countries to recognize its independence are Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Syria, Tuvalu and Nauru, although Tuvalu withdrew its recognition in 2014.[3][4] State of Alania is derived from the name of the Alani people who inhabited the region during the time of Hun rule.[5] Under Article 3 of the Law of Georgia, South Ossetia is administered as the Provisional Administration of South Ossetia. Despite being the legal administration of the region, this provisional administration has no control over the region.[6]


Collapse of the Soviet Union, Georgian independence and rising nationalism[edit]

When the modern country of Georgia declared independence from the Soviet Union, tensions rose rapidly as the ethnic Ossetians mostly wanted to remain in the Union while the ethnic Georgians mostly wanted independence. In 1990, when the South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast disbanded once Georgia gained independence, conflict erupted as a result.[7] In 1991, the South Ossetian War broke out between the newly-formed nation of Georgia and the separatist forces of South Ossetia. An Ossetian political party known as Ademon Nykhas or in English as the Popular Shrine began expressing nationalistic and anti-Georgian rhetoric. One of the reasons why ethnic tensions formed was that the Georgian language was the state language with other languages only having equal status in small areas of the country. Many people in the South Ossetia region felt marginalized by the nationalist government of Georgia.[8]

Ethnic cleansing of non-Ossetians[edit]

Periodic skirmishes occurred in the area until the conflict reached a boiling point when Georgia attacked the breakaway region in an attempt to reclaim control in 2008. The people of the region were infuriated with the attack as civilian targets were hit. Russia, wanting a stronger foothold in uncontrolled Georgian territory, launched an invasion under the guise of peacekeeping (does that sound familiar?). The Georgian military was ousted from South Ossetia. Russia then recognized South Ossetia's independence. The government of South Ossetia began the ethnic cleansing of non-Ossetians, with people of Georgian ethnicity mostly affected, who were killed or kicked out of the region.[9] Russia convinced the separatist government to cleanse the population of non-Ossetians and Ossetians who simply opposed the brutality. The separatist militia committed human rights violations by kidnapping and killing people, raping women, stealing property, and torching homes. The Civil Registry Agency of the Ministry of Justice of Georgia has registered 125,810 displaced people. The conflict eventually ended with Russia effectively controlling the South Ossetia region.[10]

Possible Russian annexation of South Ossetia[edit]

With the positive reception of the Russian military presence among the local population, many wanted to join the Russian Federation's administrative district Republic of North Ossetia, or as a separate republic. This was not well-received by the government of Georgia and most UN nations. The possible annexation would be more trouble than it is worse as it would destabilize the Caucasus region. Russia claims that it has no intention of formally annexing the region, but it is entirely possible.[11] On May 30, 2022 the referendum was suspended by the separatist leadership due to local change in leadership.[12] As of August 25, 2023 talks about annexation have resumed; thus making the end of occupation seemingly impossible.[13] Dmitry Medvedev, a Russian Security Council member and former president, said in an op-ed piece, “in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the idea of joining Russia is still popular. And it may well be implemented, if there are good reasons for it.” This is an ominous replay of the Russian military build up on the Ukrainian border before the full scale invasion.[14] In a rare poll, 80% of the South Ossetian population supports annexation and the presence of Russian soldiers. This is partially attributed to the bombing of Tskhinvali by the Georgian military.[15]


Due to the fact that South Ossetia is mostly controlled by the Russian government, their policies largely reflect Russian law. LGBTQ+ people face extreme oppression at the hands of separatist authorities. Racism is a major problem, with ethnic Georgians being targets of discrimination. It is common for separatist authorities to seize private property without due process. Religious freedom has a better footing, as do political demonstrations, but there are still heavy restrictions. The most common religions are Christianity (mostly Orthodox), Islam, and Ossetian paganism. Workers' unions exist but face government interference.[16]

South Ossetia is led by a President and a Prime Minister. Parliament is the legislative body of the country. There are democratic elections, too. Women are allowed to hold government positions.[17] However, the democracy South Ossetia offers is strongly authoritarian in nature, and opposition parties rarely get candidates into power. Despite that, there is some indication that the South Ossetian people want to remove Russian influence from their politics, as some leaders have openly criticized Russia. Only time will tell if this trend will continue.[18]

Creeping occupation[edit]

At the conclusion of the 2008 Russo-Georgian War, the separatists and Russia have begun the policy of "Borderisation". This involves militants invading Georgian territory and enclosing captured territories. People are often booted out of their homes or trapped in the newly captured territories. Crossing through Georgia to the separatist territory is very difficult.[19] Russian military and militant forces will encircle homes, schools and businesses so that they would become part of the region. Agricultural land is a frequent target of takeover. People who attempt to cross the de facto border get arrested, fined and often face imprisonment. Those end up trapped in occupied territory become targets of human rights abuses.[20]

Language and culture of South Ossetia[edit]

The primary language of South Ossetia is Ossetian, a Northeastern Iranian language that uses the Cyrillic alphabet. It is notable that this is the only Iranian language native to Europe.[21] The people of South Ossetia pride themselves on making their local meat pies, wine, and beer.[22] Despite the predominance of Orthodox Christianity, many of their traditions stem from old Alanian and Scythian pagan religions. Beer is the most common drink during festivals and celebrations.[23]

Ossetian language: The cultural casualty of occupation[edit]

Despite the Ossetian language being a co-official language alongside Russian; in practice the Russian language is used in all public spheres.[24] Before the occupation begun, there were thriving Ossetian language schools. Many could speak the language. When the separatist forces declared independence from the help of Russia the Ossetian language started to die. In the puppet state of South Ossetia and the Russian territory of North Ossetia only 10-20% of the population can actually speak it.[25]

See also[edit]

  • Russia - The main supporter of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
  • Transnistria - Another territory occupied by Russian proxies. It is an authoritarian mafia state where Russia pulls the strings.
  • Ukraine - A country largely under military occupation by Russia.


  1. Britannica, Retrieved on April 3, 2022.
  2. Soviet Wasteland Tours, Retrieved April 3, 2022.
  3. GeoHistory, Retrieved on April 3, 2022.
  4. Reuters, Retrieved on November 19, 2023.
  5. Britannica, Retrieved on May 16, 2022.
  6. Provisional Administration of South Ossetia, Retrieved on October 8, 2023.
  7. Georgia Government, Retrieved April 4, 2022.
  8. Web Archive, Retrieved April 4, 2022.
  9. Open Democracy, Retrieved on April 5, 2022.
  10. OSCE, Retrieved on April 5, 2022.
  11. Special Eurasia, Retrieved on April 5, 2022.
  12. Yahoo News, Retrieved on June 13, 2022.
  13. Jam News, Retrieved on September 4, 2023.
  14. Moscow Times, Retrieved on September 23, 2023.
  15. open Democracy, Retrieved on October 8, 2023.
  16. Freedom House, Retrieved on April 6, 2022.
  17. South Ossetia government website, Retrieved on April 6, 2022.
  18. OC Media, Retrieved on April 6, 2022.
  19. Aljazeera, October 5, 2023.
  20. Crisis Group, Retrieved on October 5, 2023.
  21. University of Arizona, Retrieved on April 7, 2022.
  22. Ossetia Guide, Retrieved April 7, 2022.
  23. Encyclopedia, Retrieved on April 7, 2022.
  24. Nationalia, Retrieved on September 15, 2023.
  25. Caucus Plus, Retrieved on September 15, 2023.