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Old August 12th, 2008 #1
Bwana
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Bwana
Default A Short History of Ossetia

The Ossetians have usually been considered the descendants of the ancient and mediaval Alans, an Iranian people of Sarmatian origin. But this interpretation has now been recognized as an oversimplification. Though anthropologically linked to the north and linguistically to Iran , the Ossetians ethnographically are of local Caucasian stock,differing little physically from the other Caucasian peoples around them. Essentially they represent a fusion of those Alans moving southwards from their original homeland in the steppes between the Don and the Kuban rivers into the Caucasus Mountains , with the aboriginal tribes of the region.

In the 4th century A.D. the invasion of the Huns divided the Alans into two groups , one of which moved deep into Western Europe while the other remained in the caucasus, occupying the foothills and mountain valleys between the upper Kuban river and the Darial Gorge . There they gave up their nomadic life for stock-raising and agriculture . Gradually the Alans developed a rudimentary state known as Alania . Towns appeared , one of them , Magas , becoming their capital . Christianity became the official religion of Alania in the 10th century . The Alans raided South Caucasia from the first century A.D., giving their name to the Darial Gorge through which they passed : Dar-i-Alan, " Gate of the Alans".

In the mid-seventh century the Alans became vassals of the powerful Khazar state centered between northeast Caucasia and the lower Volga basin. After the Khazars were crushed by the Arabs in the 8th century , the Alans reasserted their independence and became once again an important power. It was the Mongol invasion of the 13th century which finally overwhelmed them.

Magas was totally destroyed in 1339 , and the Alans were scattered all over the world . Those who remained in Caucasia regrouped in the deeper valleys of the range and in the plains to the south , reemerging as the Ossetians.

In the 14th century the Muslim Kabardians settled near the Ossetians and in the 18th century imposed their rule over them , so that Islam gradually spread among a minority of the population , leading to weakening wars between muslim and christian Ossetian tribes. Russian influence began to be felt among the North Ossetians at this time , especially after the founding of Vladikavkaz (Dzaudzikau) in 1784 and in 1792 the Russians "freed " the Ossetians from Kabardian domination.

By 1810 the Russians were in control of Ossetia but could not prevent the Ossetians from rising from time to time untill 1850, with a massive revolt in 1842. With Shamyl captured in 1859 and the Circassian tribes defeated in 1864 the 100 years lasting struggle against Russian imperialism was over and Russia was in control of the Caucasus. The Russians, not confident of future obedience of the Caucasians decided to force them to leave and in 1865 1,2 million Caucasians including 3,000 Ossetian families left to settle in the Ottoman empire.

In the early Tsarist period many Ossetians left the mountains to settle in the plains , where they developed a high level of agricultural life. Serfdom was abolished in Ossetia in 1867 as it had been in Russia proper in 1861, but such traditional Caucasian practices as clan feuds , polygamy, the abduction of women, bride purchase , blood vengeance , banditry and horse and cattle rustling continued until after the Sovitiezation of Ossetia . Some traditions , such as clan loyalties and polygamy proved especially difficult to eradicate.

Soviet Period : Revolutionary activity had began in South Ossetia as early as 1903 . S. Kirov directed Bolshevik activities in the region from 1909 , and shortly after the outbreak of the February Revolution a soviet was formed at Vladikavkaz . With the break-up of the Russian empire in 1918, the south ossetian lands became a part of the Georgian menshevik Republic , while the North formed a part of the Terek Soviet Republic . Fierce fighting took place in The North Caucasus during the ensuing civil war (1918-21) and in January , 1919 white forces of General Denikin occupied North Ossetia . In late March , 1920 ,however, Vladikavkaz fell ro the Red Army , and on November 17, 1920 northern Ossetia was included in the newly formed Mountain (Gortsy) ASSR as the Ossetian Okrug(region) . On July 7, 1924 Osetia was reorganised as the North Ossetian Autonomous Oblast and on december 5, 1936, as the North Ossetian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. The south ossetian oblast was organized within the Georgian republic on April 20,1922.

Under Soviet rule the usual processes of 20th century development have taken hold in Ossetia including urbanization , the rise of light and heavy industry , and the expansion of education , mediacal care and cultural life . To these must be added specific Soviet features such as collectivization of agriculture and the concerted effort to extirpate religion , nationalism and other expressions of pre-soviet life and thought . The German reached North Ossetia in WO2 and occupied Vladikavkaz , but was driven out after heavy fighting in early 1943.
Although the Ossetians served valiantly both as partisans behind the German lines and as soldiers in the Russian army (50% of the Ossetian soldiers died in WO2), they too,like other Caucasians, were molested by the regime after the war. The Muslim Ossetians (Mostly Digor) were deported to several places in the Soviet Union and up to 50% of them died due to the terrible conditions.

Three new districts were added to the North Ossetian ASSR in 1944 as well as parts of three others. Most of these lands , including the city of Mozdok were taken from the Stavropol Territory and part from Ingushetia . Together they increased the area of the ASSR by 50%. This increase in territory , however , reduced the percentage of Ossetians in North Ossetia from 84 % to about 60% . The capital of North Ossetia is Vladikavkaz meaning "rule of the Caucasus". South Ossetia, historically divided by Russia as part of the divide and rule politics, comprises 3911 sq.km and has four raions .
Its capital is Tskhinvali (Ossetian : Tchereba).
Since 1989 the South Ossetians are trying to reassert their indepence from Georgia and have fought a short but bloody war.While the North-Ossetians fought a battle with their Ingushetian neighbours over land that was taken from Ingushetia in 1944.

The Ossetians seem to be a very old people who maintained their racial identity in spite of many invasions.

I have read anecdotal testimony that when they received reports of Mongols in the area they would impregnate as many of their females as possible, so as to maintain their racial purity

Here are a couple of sites with Ossetian history.

http://www.geocities.com/Vienna/Strasse/5262/

http://www.ossetia.net/
 
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