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Definition: Ossetia from Collins English Dictionary


1 a region of central Asia, in the Caucasus: consists administratively of the North Ossetian Republic in Russia and South Ossetia (formerly an Autonomous Region) in Georgia

Summary Article: Ossetia
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Region in the Caucasus, on the border between Russia and Georgia, comprising the autonomous republic of Alania, formerly North Ossetia, and South Ossetia, an autonomous region of Georgia. It is inhabited by the Ossetes, descendants of the Alani people who speak the Iranian language Ossetic, and who were conquered by the Russians in 1801–6.

Both regions have seen recent interethnic conflict. Conflicts between Ossetes and Georgians in South Ossetia from 1989 sent more than 100,000 Ossetes from South Ossetia to Alania 1989–92. This in turn caused Ingush people there to flee to Ingushetia.

The Ossetes demanded that South Ossetia be upgraded to an autonomous republic as a preliminary to reunification with Alania, and in September 1990 declared the region independent of the USSR (a claim rejected by President Gorbachev). Separatist moves were violently suppressed by Georgian authorities and states of emergency imposed December 1990 in the capital, Tskhinvali, and in the town of Dzhava, following clashes between police and Ossetes. During 1991 several hundred lives were claimed in interethnic gun battles. The violence escalated June 1992, when armed South Ossetian nationalists launched a drive to unite the two regions, spreading violence to Alania and heightening tensions between Georgia and Russia. A peace accord reached 24 June had little effect, but in July a ceasefire agreement was signed and Georgian and Russian peacekeeping troops were deployed.

In September 2004, Chechen terrorists seized a school in the town of Beslan in Alania which ended in a clash with Russian security forces and the deaths of more than 350 people, nearly half of them children.

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