North Ossetia
The Ossetian culture is a fragment of the ancient Iranian world in the Caucasus and also a country with a cultural tradition that traces back to the semi-mythical Scythians and Sarmatians.
Inhabitants of hard-to-reach gorges, Ossetians carried through the dark medieval times the ancient ideas of creation and the position of humans there. These this knowledge was evolving quite exotically and were being passed on from generation to generation through feast rituals, the community Simd dance, famed Ossetian pies, and the Nart epic sagas.
History reference

Though rooted in antiquity, the Ossetian nation started taking shape at the end of the 19th – beginning of the 20th century. That’s when the Ossetian writing and literature emerged and the economic growth skyrocketed, giving rise to intellectuals who started accumulating and structuring the knowledge on history and ethnography of the Ossetians and their Alani ancestors. The national republic was established in 1936. However, that wasn’t the endpoint..
The 20th century was turbulent here: the revolution of 1917 and the civil war, the division of the Terek Region (that used to include most territories of the modern North Caucasus) with its capital in Vladikavkaz into Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republics according to ethnicity. The expansion of North Ossetia after the Prigorod Region was alienated from Checheno-Ingushetia in 1944 provoked conflicts with the Ingush in the 80s and 90s. In this context a nation has to give good reasons for land ownership and its existence in general. In the Caucasus the longer you live in a territory, the more rights you have.

Miller-Abayev theory on the unity of Scythians, Sarmatians, and Alans, and on their cultural kinship with Ossetians, has provided such reasoning, and has been recognized by later distinguished researchers. According to modern scientific perspective the Irani-speaking tribes of Scythians (in the 6th century BC) and later Sarmatians (in the 3rd century BC) settled in the steppes to the north of the Caucasian Mountains and started influencing the culture of neighboring highlanders who represented the Koban archaeological culture. The Alan tribe, mentioned since the 1st century AD, consolidated the Sarmatian tribes into one nation, creating one of the most powerful states in the area.

The state was devastated by the Mongols in 1239 and included into the Golden Horde. And later Tamerlan exterminated almost all the population of the lowlands and part of the highlands population in 1395 during the war with Tokhtamysh, the legitimate ruler of the Golden Horde. That’s when the Ossetian ethnic group started shaping, in disconnected gorges from Digoria in the west to the Terek in the east.

The latest DNA research shows that genetically the greater part of Ossetian families (clans) are indigenous, pre-Alani inhabitants of the Central Caucasus.
Scientific research of archaeologists, historians, ethnographers, and philologists in the 19th – 20th centuries spurred the evolvement of the folk Ossetian tradition in the face of globalization. On our tours we get acquainted with the Ossetian culture through rituals and meetings with the most brilliant culture enthusiasts. It’s not all about talking, we engage in other modes of interaction – baking Osseatian pies, learning to dance, play, and sing with local folk musicians.
Ossetian mountains are the most accessible for travelers. It takes an hour and a half on an excellent asphalted highway to get from the airport to the foot of the Great Caucasian Ridge in the area of Alagir. That’s where the Ossetian nation was formed and most of the medieval towers and shrines are located.
Vladikavkaz has a European vibe, a lot like Saint Petersburg, standing on the Terek instead of the Neva, and near the mountains. Therefore the implications: views of the Caucasus, reckless driving, everyday life interspersed with national patterns, hipsters and elderly artistic elites. The abundant cultural life recalls European cities: plenty of museums, theaters (including the one-of-a-kind Equestrian Dramatic Nart Theatre), Portal Art Space, the State Contemporary Art Center. The pedestrian street has a tram line, and the city center with its historic buildings is an example of integrity rare in the Caucasus.

Among the mansions there are true masterpieces of Russian Modern style, and the stories of some buildings and their owners are worth telling. Some historically significant city buildings, such as the first drama theater and museum in the North Caucasus, the mansion of AlexandraAksyonova, where in 1906 Pate Company opened a cinema, and Oganov’s mansion are the epitome of the Modern style.
No other city in the North Caucasus boasts so many monuments. Literally every historical event in the city is reflected in sculpture.

Pushkin spent two days in Vladikavkaz and described the Ossetian funerals in “The Journey to Arzrum”, therefore a monument at the crossroads of Prospect Kirova Avenue and Miller Street: Alexander Sergeyevich in a two-wheeled oxen-drawn carriage, crouched in the cold wind. Too bad the artist’s audacity has been frowned upon by most of the city residents.

A more conventional monument to Bulgakov stands on Prospect Mira Avenue. It was in Vladikavkaz that the emerging classic turned to dramaturgy. The same avenue features writer Seka Gadiyev standing, poet Kosta Khetagurov sitting, the nameless police officer imposing order, co-founder of Vladikavkaz DzaugBugulov pointing to the spot for the future aul, Vakhtangov leaning on a walking cane near the building where he was born and grew up, and Soslan, the Nart epic hero, training. All the sculptures fit perfectly in the city environment. Don’t worry, there’s a monument to Lenin, too.
This art space emerged from an underground art squat. For a long time Portal was housed in the unfinished building of the National Museum. Later the construction was completed, and the art space was reborn where abandoned repair workshops used to be. Curiously, Portal was acclaimed on the scale of the republic and beyond, being at the forefront of contemporary youth culture in the North Caucasus. The original concept of the participants was to express the Ossetian tradition through contemporary art forms, such as calligraphy, stencil art, and graffiti, to engage young people in national culture, and to create an artistic environment for new generations of artists to thrive.
State Contemporary Art Center
The brightest project of the Art Center is Alanika, an international annual artistic symposium. For one month the art residence brings together prominent artists (mostly Russian-speaking) focused on one topic which varies every year but always has to do with the Caucasus. At the end of the symposium the artists create a series of art objects in the city and in the building of the Art Center. All year round the museum hosts exhibitions of avant-garde artists, meetings, and workshops.
Food and drink scene
Ossetia, especially Vladikavkaz, is paradise for foodies and the only North Caucasian republic where there’s no shortage of good drinks. Generally, Muslim republics are quite rigid about alcohol.

Ossetian pies with one of 12 various fillings are a must, be it with beet tops, potatoes, cabbage and nuts, pumpkin, or meat. Don’t miss out on the Ossetian fondue ‘dzykka’ or the local equivalent of lobio called ‘kodur’.
The most traditional and ancient alcohol in Ossetia is special home-made beer which tastes nothing like the usual beer. It has been brewed since old times for religious holidays. By the way, the largest beer producer in Russia “Baltika” was founded by an Ossetian.

The most common hard liquor is ‘araka’, a distillate product usually made of wheat. It is 20 to 60% strong depending on the effort and preferences of the maker. Every Ossetian house features a unique recipe. Some keep araka in barrels for months, others in glass vessels for years. The advanced tradition of home-made distillates might have boosted industrial vodka-making in the 2000s to meet the highest standards in terms of volume and quality. Since those times the best Russian vodka has been produced in Ossetia.
Also, one of the top-class independent Russian winemakers Konstantin Dzitoyev is based in North Ossetia. If you are a wine lover and connoisseur, tasting at Konstantin’s might become one of your highlights in the republic.
useful information
It takes two hours and a half to fly from Moscow, and the ticket costs approximately 50 – 100 USD. You can also fly to Vladikavkaz from Sochi, Rostov-on-Don, and Saint Petersburg. Check out flights to the airport of Nazran (Magas). The distance to Vladikavkaz is just 50 km. Take into account that the western part of North Ossetia, Digoria, is at the same distance from both the airport of Vladikavkaz and that of Nalchik. So if you’re going to Digoria check out flights to Nalchik, they might be a better deal and suit your schedule better, too.

Trains from Moscow to Vladikavkaz run two-three times a week, and the journey takes one and a half days. There are also trains from the Black Sea Coast – from Novorossiysk and Adler. Vladikavkaz stands on the Military Georgian Road, and since its foundation has been an important hub on the way to Georgia and back. Often travelers get to Tbilisi via the capital of North Ossetia. They fly to Vladikavkaz and continue by land to Georgia, which makes it cheaper. The road will give you a thrill, too, with its zigzags, tunnels, and views of Kazbek.
North Ossetia is part of Russia, so a Russian visa will be enough. A lot of the sights are located in the mountains, not far from the border with Georgia and South Ossetia, and you will be required a permit there. If you have bought our tour, we take care of all the permits.
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