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North Ossetia

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North Caucasus : North Ossetia
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Mount Monakh at Zei
Travel Warning WARNING: War has broken out between Georgia and Russia within the separatist region of South Ossetia, amidst heavy fighting between Georgian and separatist forces in Tskhinvali. The situation is in a very dangerous state of flux, and there are reports that Georgian airports outside of South Ossetia have been bombed. Now is the time to cancel your trips, and avoid travel to the region at all costs if possible. The region of North Ossetia is a popular place of refuge for those caught up in the fighting, yet it is still highly advisable that tourism here is cancelled. If you must go, take a look over War zone safety.

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 widely spoken, all understand Russian.

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.

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 stuffed with lamb, beef, and mushrooms instead of cheese.

Drink

Sleep

Learn

North Ossetian State University-located in Vladikavkaz.

Stay safe

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.

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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