North Ossetia is a sovereign republic of the Russian Federation. Situated on the mountains of the North Caucasus, it is home to more than 700,000 people. North Ossetia has been the center of main Caucasus routes and has been a subject of conflict between many empires (World Vision). The Silk Road ran through the Alan kingdom from which much of North Ossetia draws its cultural heritage. During the last years of Soviet rule over the region, Nationalist movements overtook the Caucasus. Because of these Nationalist movements, many Ossetian intellectuals called for the name Alania to draw a link to a medieval kingdom and a common historical ancestor (Wikipedia). Caucasian, nomadic tribes first inhabited the region of North Ossetia. Around the 7th century nomadic Alans inhabited the region forming a kingdom. Alania was eventually converted to Christianity by Byzantine missionaries. The Tatars and Mongols ransacked the region after the middle Ages, destroying the population. The Karbadinians first introduced Islam to North Ossetia during the 1600s. However, eventual conflict between the Khanate of Crimea and the Ottoman Empire pushed the region into an alliance with the Russian Empire. Imperial Russia was then able to exert its control and influence over the region during the 18th century by establishing a military base in Vladikavkaz (which means “power over the Caucasus”). Vladikavkaz became the first Russian-controlled area in the Caucasus (Wikipedia). The Russian rule over Ossetia led to the development of industry that eventually overtook the region’s isolation from the rest of Europe. Rapid industrialization included the Georgian Military Road that is still considered to be a crucial link across the mountains in the Caucasus. After the Russian Revolution, North Ossetia became a part of the Soviet Mountain Republic in 1924. Shortly afterward, North Ossetia then became the North Ossetian Autonomous Oblast, eventually becoming the North Ossetian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1936.
During World War II, the Nazis tried unsuccessfully to take over Vladikavkaz. However the Germans were successful in occupying the northern and western parts of North Ossetia until November 11. They also deported the Ingush and ceded their territory to North Ossetia as well, creating the foundation of ethnic conflict. North Ossetia remained under the infuence of the Soviet Union until 1990. In June of 1990, the North Ossetian Soviet Socialist Republic declared autonomy from the Soviet Union becoming the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania in 1991. During the late 1980s and 1990s, while the fall of the Soviet Union was still imminent, North Ossetia underwent various degrees of democratization. The Ossetians created various Russian political parties and movements (Fillipova, 83). At the same time many cultural centers and other ethnic movements began to take root. Some of these movements included the Adamon Tsadis, which was established in September of 1989. The purpose of the Adamon Tsadis was to consolidate the Ossetian people to become more politically active, in addition to reaffirming the state sovereignty of North Ossetia (Fillipova, 83). This movement dissolved in 1993. However, the same year another all-Ossetian ethnic movement rose seemingly from nowhere. This movement was called the Styr Nikhas, and was eventually changed into the Alanty Nykhas. This new movement became one of the largest public organizations in North Ossetia, with the set goal of the use of politics to achieve unification between South Ossetia and North Ossetia into a single republic under the Russian federation. (Fillipova, 84)
These organizations were created to demonstrate at the federal level a sense of inter-ethnic peace as an initiative of the power structures in the region. (Fillipova, 83) The social, political, and legal problems of North Ossetia’s ethnic minorities are not supported by the republic’s power structures. (Fillipova, 83)
The Ossetians and the Ingush shared a complicated history in the North Caucasus. When Russia incorporated parts of Georgia and Armenia into their empire, it turned toward the North Caucasus (Olson, 31). This conflict lasted about fifty-five years between Imam Shamil contributed to the exile of many Caucasians to Turkey( Olson, 31). This war legacy coupled with the anti-nationalist policies of the Soviet Union contributed to much of the modern ethnic conflicts of the region, including the Russian Federation, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. (Olson, 31) The rise of Stalin brought about forced deportation of the Ingush and the Chechens from the region due to accused collaboration with the Nazis. These groups were deported to Siberia. However, after 1957 the Soviet Union allowed for some of the Chechens and the Ingush to return to their native land. Some of the Ingush were able to purchase back some of their land from the Ossetians, contributing to the notion of “restoring historical justice” (Wikipedia). The Ingush continued to voice their opinions about the reunification of the Prigorodny district to Ingushetia. The situation became worse when the Ingush openly declared their rights to the Prigorodny under legitimate legal grounds established by the Soviet Union in 1991. Many people had easy access to weapons resulting in an armed conflict between the Ingush of the Prigorodny district and the armed Ossetian militia from Vladikavkaz. There were even allegations of ethnic cleansing committed by the Ossetian police against the Ingush in the district. The collapse of the Soviet Union brought about the rise of ethnic conflicts within their satellite states. The Ingush-Ossetian conflict was just one amongst many examples of the tension created by Soviet forced deportation.
- Alexander Dzadziyev and Ruslan Dzidzoyev, “Are the Minorities Left Out?” State Powers and Self-Government in North Ossetia. Local Governance And Minority Empowerment in the CIS, edited by Tishkov, Valery, Flippova Elena (Budapest: Local Government and Public Service Reform Initiative, 2002.)
- Olga Osipova, North Ossetia and Ingushetia: The First Clash. Managing Conflict in the Former Soviet Union, edited by Alexei Arbatov, Abram Chayes, Antonia Handler Chayes, Lara Olson ( London: The MIT Press, 1993.)
- Wikipedia,”NorthOssetia-Alania.”AccessedMarch28,2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Ossetia–Alania.
- Wikipedia,”EastPrigorodnyConflict.”AccessedMarch28,2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Prigorodny_conflict