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North Ossetia

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Europe : Russia : Southern Russia : North Caucasus : North Ossetia
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Travel Warning WARNING: North Ossetia is considerably unsafe to go to at the moment, and at present should not be considered a Tourist destination. Visitors are in fear of militant activity, where there is heavy presence of such movements in Vladikavkaz and Beslan.
Mount Monakh at Zei

North Ossetia-Alania is a republic within the Russian Caucasus bordering Kabardino-Balkaria to the west, Stavropol Krai to the north, Chechnya and Ingushetia to the east, and Georgia to the south.

Regions

Cities

  • Vladikavkaz — capital and largest city by far; the main city on the scenic and historic Georgian Military Highway
  • Alagir
  • Ardon
  • Beslan — third largest town and site of the horrific Beslan school massacre
  • Chikola
  • Digora
  • Mozdok — second largest town and site of many terrorist attacks against Russian facilities
  • Nizhny Unal

Other destinations

  • Zei (Цей) — this once premiere Soviet high alpine resort (currently hobbled by the difficulty of traveling near a war zone) offers skiing, relaxation, and excursions to some of Europe's highest peaks; if willing to put up with a lot of red tape, it may be possible (once the Georgia-Russian border opens up) to trek across the spine of the Greater Caucasus from here to the Soviet resort of Shovi in Georgia's Racha region
  • Dzinaga — a smaller, but similarly gorgeous tour-base in southwestern North Ossetia

Understand

The Ossetes are an Iranian ethnic group who speak Ossete, a language related to Farsi. As a small, Orthodox Christian group in the predominantly Sunni Muslim North Caucasus, the Ossetes were quick to ally with the Russian Imperial government in its conquest and annexation of the region. This alliance has endured to the present, where Russia tacitly supports its allies the Ossetes in their goal to reunify North Ossetia with Georgian controlled South Ossetia and in their ethnic conflict with the neighboring Ingush. This particular ethnic conflict has made North Ossetia a magnet for terrorist attacks, especially in its southeast, and has led to a tight security situation policed by often corrupt officials that is discouraging for travel.

Just to make sure you sound sophisticated, Ossetia is pronounced ah-SEH-tee-yah, Ossete is ah-SEET, and Ossetian is ah-SEH-tee-uhn (not ah-SEE-shuhn)

Talk

While Ossetian is the official language, all Ossetians understand Russian. Even though English is becoming a necessity in all of Russia, very few people can converse in English fluently, and most will either speak Ossetian or Russian to you. Having a working knowledge of either language is very useful.

Get in

Vladikavkaz is a major regional transit hub and is served by domestic flights from Moscow, Saint Petersburg, and other major Russian cities. It is also easily reached by rail via Stavropol.

By train

Daily trains leaves from/to Moscow . Trains from/to Saint Petersburg, Adler and Novorossiysk leaves one time for 2 days.

Get around

Travelers will find pre-arranged travel with reputable agents to be far more convenient than independent travel on unreliable public transportation.

See

Itineraries

Do

  • Skiing
  • Hiking
  • Mountain climbing/biking
  • Adventuring

Eat

Ossetia is famous for its delicious meat pies, very similar to Georgian khachapuri, but it is stuffed with lamb, beef, and mushrooms instead of cheese.

The most common food of the region are Ossetian pies with different fillings such as cheese, potatoes, meat, pumpkin. However Fizonag which is similar to kebab is also wide spread like in the rest of Caucasus. Vladikavkaz offers a large variety of traditional and international restaurants. Dzykka, one of the region's most ancient dishes is popular among the Ossetes, and is most probably the easiest dish for a visitor to taste.


Drink

North Ossetia is famous for it's alcoholic drinks, very similar to Russia drinks. Locals prefer to drink an alcoholic drink called Arak, an alcoholic drink produced from corn grain, barley, or other grain crops.

Sleep

Learn

North Ossetian State University-located in Vladikavkaz.

Stay safe

Because of the ongoing Ossete-Ingush ethnic conflict, regional instability, and proximity to Chechnya, travelers should consider North Ossetia a war zone and tread very cautiously, event though it is safer than its eastern neighbors. Avoid going near the border to South Ossetia, as the border is guarded by extremely corrupt army officers on both sides. On a significant notation is that North Ossetia doesn't not experience terrorism frequently.


Respect

Ossetes, are very hospitable people and are generally well open to foreigners. You do need to remember that this is a traditional and conservative society and that you need to look out for yourself when you feel you are in trouble.

Speaking out against a person's relatives, either alive or deceased, may make a local person act very hostile against you, which doesn't really mean that Ossetes are temperamental, but this is just to say that they are strong believers in honor and dignity.

Under no circumstances, whatsoever, will you ever touch a person's hat, because according to Ossetic customs, hats are considered to be a sacred and untouchable thing. Ossetes have zero tolerance towards touching people's hats, and can lead into some unwanted quarrels. When greeting people, you need to greet the elders before you greet any others, just as a form of respect.

Photography is perhaps another difficult thing to do around the region. Ossetes view photography as another way to make fun about their culture, and if you want to take pictures, it is your responsibility to have a discussion with them. However, the chances of taking photos of people are very slim, as most will refuse.

Mobile

In North Ossetia there are three GSM operators (MTS,Beeline,Megafon), one 3G-UMTS operator (Beeline) and one CDMA 2000 operator on 450 MHz frequency (SkyLink) and they often have offers that give you a SIM card for free or at least very cheap. If you are planning to stay a while and to keep in touch with North Ossetian and other North-Caucasus people, then you should consider buying a local SIM card instead of going on roaming. If you buy a SIM card from a shop you'll need your passport for identification. It only takes five minutes to do the paperwork and it will cost less than $10.

Get out

As of yet the border with Georgia remains closed to all third country nationals. Travel east to Dagestan should be done in roundabout fashion through Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkaria to avoid extremely unstable Chechnya and Ingushetia. Expect shady border officials to question you at length as to your travels when leaving.



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