South Ossetia

by | May 3, 2022

The Republic of South Ossetia is a territory located in the Asian region of the Caucasus.

  • Республикӕ Хуссар Ирыстон (Respublikae Xussar Iryston) in the Ossetian language ;
  • Республика Южная Осетия (Respublika Yuzhnaya Ossetia) in Russian language ;
  • სამხრეთ ოსეთი (Samjreti Oseti) in Georgian language.

During the time of the Soviet Union it was the Autonomous Region (Oblast) of South Ossetia within the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic. In 1989, while the dissolution of the Soviet Union was taking place in 1990, this province unilaterally declared its independence from Georgia and its desire to join the Republic of North Ossetia, within Russia. After winning an armed conflict with Georgia, most of its territory became a de facto independent republic, under the protection of a peace treaty with the presence of a contingent of Russian and Georgian troops. However, Georgia officially considers it part of the Shida Kartli region. and he calls it by the old name of Samachablo or, more recently, the Tsjinval region, which is its capital city.

The 26 of August of 2008, after the second war with Georgia due to the armed aggression of this, Russia was the first country to officially recognize the independence of South Ossetia to the equal that of Abkhazia.


The toponym of South Ossetia (or Upper Ossetia) appears for the first time in the Russian military literature of the 19th century and then referred to the mountainous areas of the Georgian historical regions of Racha, Imereti and especially Shida Kartli, with a large presence of population of Ossetian origin. However, the Ossetian population in these mountains dates back to the Tatar-Mongol invasion when the surviving Alans from the Don Plain and the Kuban took refuge in the Caucasus Mountains.. The Alana population, isolated for centuries and under some influence from neighboring Caucasian peoples (Georgians, Kabardines, Ingushes) formed the Ossetian nationality, most of which is now concentrated in the Republic of North Ossetia (Alania). Both regions, the south and the north of Ossetia are divided geographically by the great mountain range of the Caucasus.

In 1922, South Ossetia became an Autonomous Region within the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic with the city of Tskhinval as its capital.

The October to November of 1989 the Congress of Popular Deputies of the region proclaims its conversion into autonomous republic (within Georgia), a decision that the Georgian Parliament declared unconstitutional.

The 20 of September of 1990 local deputies proclaim sovereignty and the creation of the Republic of South Ossetia. On December 10 of the same year, the Parliament of Georgia declared the autonomy of South Ossetia abolished.

The next day, clashes broke out and the first fatalities occurred, for which Georgia imposes a state of emergency in the area.

In early January of 1991 detachments of the National Guard seeking to enter Tskhinvali and face defending the Ossetian militias, starting a two – year war that caused about 1,800 deaths and the exodus of 4,000 people.

Union with the north

The separatists proclaim their purpose to unite with North Ossetia and Russia.

The 19 of January of 1992, most Ossetians in the South they voted for binding to the sister republic of Ossetia in the north, in Russia, after which began receiving help from the North, where they came fighters. In 1992 the Georgian forces, reinforced with tanks and artillery from the troops of the former USSR, surrounded and bombarded the city and managed to enter its suburbs.

Hostilities ceased after the signing in Dagomis (a seaside resort on the Russian Black Sea coast) of an agreement between Russia and Georgia, by which, as of July 14, 1992, peacekeepers would be deployed in the area.

The presence of these forces did not prevent the Ossetians from maintaining their own armed self-defense forces.

Until 2008, the part of the territory of what was the autonomous region of South Ossetia (between 30 and 40 percent), inhabited mainly by Georgians, remained under the control of the Georgian authorities and the rest, including the capital Tsinvali, Led by the pro-independence authorities, it advocated independence and union with the Russian Federation.

The presidential elections and the referendum

On November 10, 1996, presidential elections were held in the Ossetian side, despite protests from Tbilisi.

Eduard Kokoiti was elected president of the self-proclaimed republic on December 6, 2001 with 53 percent of the vote.

On November 12, 2006, a referendum not recognized by Georgia was held with 91% participation, where 99% voted for the independence of Georgia and the union with North Ossetia and Russia, Eduard Kokoiti was re-elected that day for more 96% of the votes in favor.


South Ossetia has a small territory, surrounded by Russia and Georgia. Russia, Nicaragua, Nauru, and Venezuela have recognized their independence from Georgia.

South Ossetia has an area of approximately 3,900 km² (1,506 square miles) located on the southern side of the Caucasus, separated by mountains of North Ossetia (part of Russia). It extends south almost to the Mtkvari River in Georgia. It is very mountainous, with most of the region being over 1,000 m (3,281 ft) above sea level and its highest point being Mount Khalatsa, at 3,938 m (12,920 ft) above sea level.

The largest lake in the Republic is the Kelistba located on the Kelskom volcanic plateau at an altitude of 2,921 m.


The Climate of South Ossetia is influenced by different factors, but above all by the height of its mountains. South Ossetia is protected by the north from cold winds thanks to the Main Caucasus chain, so that here even at high altitude it is warmer than other parts of the Caucasus.


Its economy is primarily agricultural, although less than 10% of South Ossetia’s land area is cultivated. Cereals, fruits and vines are the main products. Forestry and livestock-related industries are also thriving. A number of industrial facilities exist, mostly around the capital, Tskhinvali.

Following a war with Georgia in 1990, much of the South Ossetian economy has suffered. Jobs and supplies are scarce. In addition, Georgia has cut off the electricity supply to the region, forcing the South Ossetian government to make a power cable through North Ossetia.

Most of the population survives from subsistence agriculture. South Ossetia’s economy is heavily dependent on the Roki tunnel that connects it with North Ossetia and Georgia via the Transcaucasus Highway. The South Ossetian government reported that it obtains a third of its budget from the collection of customs duties on the traffic of goods through it.

The GDP of South Ossetia was estimated at 15 million US $. (250 U $ S. Per capita) in a work published in 2002.


Before the conflict between Georgia and Ossetia, approximately two-thirds of the population of South Ossetia were Ossetians and between 25 and 30% were Georgians. The eastern part of the country, around the city and district of Akhalgori (Lenkoran), is predominantly Georgian, while the center and west of the territory are predominantly Ossetian. Much of the northern mountains are sparsely inhabited.

The last estimate of the composition of the South Ossetia population in 2007 was between 45,000 and 47,000 Ossetians and 17,000 Georgians.

South Ossetia