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 Northern 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)
While Ossetian is widely spoken, all understand Russian.
Travelers will find pre-arranged travel with reputable agents to be far more convenient than independent travel on unreliable public transportation.
Ossetia is famous for its delicious meat pies, very similar to Georgian khachapuri, but stuffed with lamb, beef, and mushrooms instead of cheese.
Although safer than its eastern neighbors, 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.
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.