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North Ossetia, Republic of
Celebration With Mortar Rounds
Mar. 11, 2004
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Republic of North Ossetia
The Republic of North Ossetia-Alania is located in the very center of the Caucasus where Europe and Asia meet. The Georgian Military Road and the Transcaucasian Highway pass through its territory, connecting Russia with the Transcaucasus via the Krestovy and Roksky passes of the Main Caucasus Range.

The republic occupies an area of 8000 km2 and has a population of 702 000. The population density is more than 140 people per km2 in the most heavily populated areas.

The republic's mineral resources include dolomite and polymetallic ores containing zinc, lead, copper, and silver. Oil reserves have been explored, and promising fields are being readied for production.

The climate is temperate continental with an average January temperature of -5 °C, an average July temperature of +24 °C, and annual precipitation of 400-500 mm. The frost-free period is 190 days.

Soils range from alpine meadow soils to alpine meadow chernozems (black earths) and leached chernozems. Plant life is rich and varied, ranging from steppe vegetation to subalpine and alpine meadows.

Forests cover 1760 km2 or 22% of the republic's total area; deciduous forests predominate, particularly beech, along with hornbeam, linden, ash, maple, and oak.

Wildlife is also varied and includes native species such as the Caucasian goat (tur), forest cat, wild boar, roe deer, bear, wolf, and fox, as well as introduced species like the European bison, yak, deer, and Altai squirrel.

More than half of the republic's area is occupied bv Alania National Park, the North Ossetia National Preserve, and game reserves with lofty snow-covered peaks, breath-taking gorges, glaciers, rushing rivers, scenic alpine meadows, alpine forests, and fertile valleys.

There are more than 250 therapeutic, mineral, and freshwater springs in the republic. These mineral waters are similar in their therapeutic properties and chemical and gas content to well-known brands such as Essentuki, Borjomi, Matsesta, Vichy, and Wiesbaden.

Nearly 3000 historical and architectural monuments are registered in the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania.

The republic's history is closely linked with the names of great poets, composers, and artists: Pushkin, Lermontov, Griboedov, Chekhov, Tchaikovsky, Aivazovsky, Gorky, and Mayakovsky all traveled around Ossetia in their time.

The variety of historical, architectural, and cultural treasures and the rare natural curative resources have allowed the development of a health-resort and tourist complex to which thousands of people come each year for treatment; educational, ecological, and adventure tours; mountain climbing; and alpine skiing.

A large number of tourist centers and alpine sports camps are located in the mountainous areas of North Ossetia National Preserve and Alania National Park. Numerous trails suitable for educational, hiking, cycling, and horseback tours cross the glaciers and passes running through scenic valleys, gorges, and alpine meadows.

Turbulent rivers attract fans of river tours and rafting. In winter, skiers and snowboarders can experience the snowy slopes of Tsey, Zakinskoe, and Digora gorges. Mountaineers and rock climbers are drawn to the snow-covered peaks, forbidding crags, and sheer walls of the Main Caucasus Range.

North Ossetia offers a wide range of opportunities for hunting and fishing. The republic has established hunting and game reserves where hunting of Caucasian goat, chamois, roe deer, wild boar, bear, waterfowl, game birds, and other wild game is permitted. The rivers and lakes abound in trout, barbel, catfish, and carp. Special fishing camps and hunting and fishing lodges have been set up for hunters and fishermen.

If you look at North Ossetia's capital Vladikavkaz from the heights on a bright sunny morning, you can see that mountains completely surround it. The perpetual snow on the peaks shimmers like diamonds, and highest of all is the dazzling crown of legendary Mt. Kazbek.

The city's appearance has changed over the decades. Buildings tending towards eclecticism and modernism combined with various contemporary styles do not interfere with the special charm of the architecture of past centuries preserved in Old Vladikavkaz, where the sprit of history can be keenly felt.


The national flag is white, red and yellow. These colors symbolize moral purity (white), military valor (red), and abundance and plenty (yellow). The colors and the concepts they symbolize are connected with the social structure of ancient Ossetian (Scythian and Alanic) society and are a reflection of this structure. Its essence is the division of society into three social groups forming an organic whole: the military aristocracy, from which tribal leaders and military commanders originated; ministers and priests; and ordinary people, including herders and farmers. The coat of arms of ancient Ossetia is set in the center of the flag. The main component is a silhouette of mountains worked in dark blue; a leopard in a calm but alert pose is depicted against the background of the mountains. There are black spots on the leopard's body; the stomach is white without spots. The mountains on the coat of arms symbolize the Ossetian landscape. The leopard symbol can be understood from a short description of the animal. The leopard is a member of the cat family. It is 1.5 m long, with an elongated, flexible, muscular body. Its fur is thick and fluffy, yellow or red in color with black spots except the stomach which is white and without spots.


Humans settled the territory of North Ossetia-Alania in ancient times, in part because of the favorable natural and climatic conditions. Iranian-speaking Scythian tribes reached the North Caucasus in the 7th century B.C., followed in the 4th century A.D. by the related Sarmatians, who are the direct ancestors of the Ossetians. The Alano-Ossetian nation began forming in the 8th and 9th centuries.

The early feudal state of Alania arose in the 9th and 10th centuries, and Christianity became the official religion. The Alanskaya Archbishopric under the Patriarchate of Constantinople was established in Western Alania (upper Kuban River). Large-scale church construction began in the Bolshoi Zelenchuk, Teberda, and Kuban gorges, and monumental domed churches in the Eastern Byzantine style were built. Suansky Church near the village of Kosta-Khetagurovo in Karachai-Cherkessia is oldest monument of Alania's early Christian period to remain in use up to our time (1945). In the 10th and 11th centuries, Alania was a powerful state with an active foreign policy; there were close political and trade relations with Georgia, Kievan Rus, and Byzantium. The fabled Silk Road passed through Alania.

The Mongol-Tatar invasion in the 13th century caused a decline in population and forced the Ossetians up the Terek River to the slopes of the Main Caucasus Range.

The threat from the Crimean Khanate and Turkey motivated Ossetia's political orientation toward Russia, and it voluntarily became a part of Russia in the second half of the 18th century. The Ossetians gained access to Russian and Western cultural values (the first books in the Ossetian language were printed in the late 18th century). The Georgian Military Road through Krestovy Pass (1799) and the Ossetian Military Road through Mamison Pass (1888) built by Russian troops with the assistance of local residents drew Ossetia out of its age-old isolation and opened up transportation routes between it and central Russia and Transcaucasia. In the early 19th century, some Ossetians moved from the mountains to the area of Mozdok and the Vladikavkaz Plain. The formation of the Ossetian nation was complete by the turn of the 19th century, and from that time, the Ossetians were allowed to move from the mountains to the plain. This allowed the conversion to a more advanced farming culture, removed some of the social tension, and increased living standards, especially among landless and land-poor peasant settlers. A mining industry arose in the 1850s with the development of the Sadonsky mines, and the Alagirsky silver-lead smelter was constructed. A local cottage industry also developed. At the same time, trade in Russian commodities acquired greater importance, and Vladikavkaz became a commercial center for the entire North Caucasus. The Vladikavkaz-Rostov-on-Don railway was built. Ossetian culture in the first half of the 19th century was noted for the establishment of missionary, military, and then civilian schools that later served as the basis for the development of education.

Ossetia became part of the Terskaya Region of Russia in the mid-19th century.

After the Revolution, on January 20, 1921, it became part of the Mountain (Gorskaya) Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR) as the Osetinsky and Digorsky national districts. In April 1922, the two national districts were united into Vladikavkazsky National District, which in turn was transformed into the North Ossetian Autonomous Region in July 1924 and then into the North Ossetian ASSR of the RSFSR in December 1936. On July 6, 1937, the VII Congress of Soviets of the North Ossetian ASSR adopted the Constitution of the Republic. Finally, on June 20, 1990, the North Ossetian ASSR became the first autonomous republic of the RSFSR to declare national sovereignty.

During World War II, more than 89 000 citizens of the republic were drafted into active army service and more than 48 000 of them died in battle. The Ossetian military intelligentsia made a significant contribution to the development of the national culture, enriching it with the cultural wealth of other nations and scientific advances and providing material support for cultural workers and talented youth. For its successes in cultural and economic development, North Ossetia was awarded the state Order of Lenin, the Order of People's Friendship, and the Order of the October Revolution.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation's fundamental shift to market relations and democracy starting in late 1991, North Ossetia also underwent major political and socioeconomic changes. The republic adopted a new Constitution in 1994 and instituted a presidential form of government. The multistructural nature of the economy, private property rights, ideological and political diversity, and the principles of division of powers were constitutionally recognized; the electoral system was democratized; and real conditions for freedom of conscience were created.


North Ossetia is a presidential republic. Its highest legislative body is the unicameral Parliament elected for a five-year term. Executive power is exercised by the Council of Ministers headed by a Chairman elected in the Supreme Soviet.


The republic's economy is being developed according to a federal target program for the socioeconomic development of the Republic of North Ossetia consisting of subprograms such as "Development of Ossetia's Electric Power," "Ossetia's Oil," Ossetia's Mountains," and "Ossetia's Mineral Waters."

North Ossetia is notable for nonferrous metallurgy, instrument-making, production of building materials (especially glass), and the light, food, and forest industries. The power industry is also developed, and the Gizeldonskaya and Ordzhonikidzevskaya hydroelectric power stations are very important to the economy.

Agriculture specializes in the cultivation of wheat, corn, and sunflowers; horticulture; viticulture; and cattle and sheep breeding. North Ossetia's industry is mainly concentrated in Vladikavkaz. Factories located here include Elektrotsink, Gazoapparat, an instrument-making plant, Elektrokontraktor, a factory producing automotive electrical equipment, a large-panel construction complex, and companies in the food industry. The Sadonsky industrial center has grown around the mining and forest industries.

Output volumes are increasing in the main industrial sectors, e.g., power, engineering, chemicals, and glass. Companies in the defense complex are being converted, and saturation of the consumer market with goods is improving.

The Republic of North Ossetia-Alania has a developed infrastructure for investments and foreign economic relations, aided by its accessibility from countries of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. There is a well-regulated financial and credit system and up-to-date communications and telecommunications systems. The republic exports electricity, nonferrous and rare metals, hard alloys, precision instruments, power generators, switches, gas stoves, building materials, vacuum glass, electrical insulators, dextrin, sulfuric acid, starch, and syrup. It imports rolled ferrous metals, machine tools, lumber, mechanization and automation equipment, cement, and fuel. The government is pursuing a policy of stabilizing the socioeconomic situation and ensuring steady economic growth in the next few years. A legislative base favorable for attracting domestic and foreign investments has been created.

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