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North Ossetia

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Travel Warning WARNING: A number of Western governments continue to caution against travel to North Ossetia, but in fact the republic is currently very safe. There have been no terrorist attacks since 2010, in contrast to many popular destinations in Europe and elsewhere. The situation could change at any time, however, particularly given the proximity to Ingushetia where jihadist activity is an ongoing problem.
North Ossetia
North Ossetia-Alania in Russia.svg
Flag of North Ossetia.svg
Quick Facts
Capital Vladikavkaz
Government Russian republic
Currency Russian ruble (RUB)
Area 8,000km²
Population 712,980(2010 estimate)
Language Official:Russian, Ossetian
Religion Russian Orthodox 49.2%, Ossetian native faith 29%, Unaffiliated Christian 10%, Muslim 4%, Atheist 3%, Other Orthodox 2%, Protestantism (1% Non-Religious Spirituality 1%, Other 0.8%
Electricity 220V, 50Hz (European plug)
Time Zone UTC+3
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.


  • 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, forbidden to foreigners because of its military base. Do not go there!
  • Nizhny Unal

Other destinations[edit]

  • Tsey (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. Also ther site of one of Ossetia's most important popular religious shrines, Rekom, which is accessed by a short hike from the main road.
  • Dzinaga — a smaller, but similarly gorgeous tour-base in southwestern North Ossetia


The Ossetes speak an Iranian language which is believed to be a direct descendant of the Scythian, Sarmatian and Alanic languages, and is distantly related to Persian. Ossetes, who are about 80 per cent Orthodox Christian, have historically had good relations with Russia and enjoyed its protection through conflicts with neighbouring Caucasian peoples.


While Ossetian is the official language, all Ossetians understand Russian. Even though English is becoming a necessity in Russia, Ossetia hasn't followed the trend yet, and English remains little spoken except by some of the younger generation, especially university students. Learning a few Ossetian words and phrases will be highly appreciated.

Get in[edit]

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

By train[edit]

Daily trains leaves from/to Moscow . Trains from/to Saint Petersburg, Adler and Novorossiysk leave every other day.

Get around[edit]

Ossetian cities are linked by marshrutkas, but most visitors use taxis which are inexpensive, especially if you use the Uber and Yandex mobile apps.

See[edit][add listing]

  • Vladikavkaz, a pleasant city great for walking.
  • Popular mountain shrines of the traditional Ossetian religion, especially at Tsey.
  • Massive statue of Ossetian patron deity Uastyrdzhi emerging from a cliff above the highway to South Ossetia in the Alagir Canyon.
  • Fiagdon, a mountain resort town with many good examples of traditional Ossetian stone towers (bashnya).
  • Dargavs, a spooky necropolis in the mountains between the Fiagdon and Koban canyons.
  • Digoria region, including Alania National Park and historic Galiat village.

Do[edit][add listing]

  • Skiing
  • Hiking
  • Mountain climbing/biking
  • Adventuring

Eat[edit][add listing]

Ossetia is famous for its delicious pies (pirogi), which are serfved in stacks of three and filled with cheese (ualibakh), potato (kartofdjin), beets (sakharadjin), or meat (fidtjin).

Vladikavkaz, the capital city of North Ossetia-Alania, offers a large variety of traditional and international restaurants.

Drink[edit][add listing]

Drinking is an important part of Ossetian culture and central to their traditional ritual gatherings, going back to Scythian times. In North Ossetia the most common drinks are vodka and Ossetian beer (iron bægæny).

Sleep[edit][add listing]

Ossetia has a number of good hotels, especially in Vladikavkaz. Inexpensive apartment rentals can be found on the Russian site Avito.


North Ossetian State University (SOGU)-located in Vladikavkaz.

Stay safe[edit]

North Ossetia is currently very safe and street crime virtually non-existent.


Ossetians are very hospitable people and are well open to foreigners. Foreigners visiting North Ossetia are usually so surprised by the Ossetian hospitality. Ossetians usually say: "Even if your enemy entered your house without any bad intentions, you should treat him as a honorable guest".

The Ossetian culture is understandably traditional and conservative, which may tend to confuse visitors from time to time, so you do need to be able to look out for yourself whenever you feel you are in trouble. If you are in doubt, feel free to ask someone.

Pride and vindictiveness is strongly rooted in Ossetian culture. This doesn't really mean that Ossetes are arrogant or temperamental by nature per se, but this is just to say that they are strong believers in honor and dignity. Ossetians do not judge people's behavior by their words, but by their actions. Hats are considered to be a sacred and untouchable thing. Ossetes have zero tolerance towards others' touching people's hats, and this can lead into some unwanted quarrels. That said, visitors are often given the benefit of doubt. When greeting people, you need to greet the elders before you greet any others, just as a form of respect. You do need to understand that Ossetian culture revolves around placing immense importance on respecting the elders than any other person. Keep opinions about their customs to yourself in order to avoid any unnecessary conflict.

If invited over at someone's house to either eat or hang out, Be sure to dress appropriately (i.e. no shorts, sportswear, saggy pants) as they pride themselves on etiquette and presentability. The table is considered a sacred place; As a general rule, do not smoke, leave without informing your hosts, drink excessively, use swear words, or talk negatively about someone or something.

A great deal of respect is needed when discussing the Beslan Hostage crisis; It is an understandably touchy subject in North Ossetia.


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[edit]

North Ossetia is served by highways heading northwest towards Rostov and beyond, east towards Ingushetia, Chechnya and Daghestan, and south via the Verkhny Lars border crossing and the Daryal gorge into Georgia. Buses and marshrutkas serve all of these routes, but the easiest means of transport is by taxi, either shared or private. All of these can be found at the main train station.

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