Ossetians, also known as Ossetes, an ethnic and linguistic group primarily inhabiting the central Caucasus. Ossetians live in Ossetia, a region that straddles the Caucasus Mountains in the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Small communities of Ossetians are found in Turkey. The northern part of Ossetia, known as the republic of Alania (formerly North Ossetia), is located in Russia. South Ossetia is a region of Georgia, a country in western Asia.

Most Ossetians speak Ossetic

Most Ossetians speak Ossetic, a language of the Iranian branch of Indo-Iranian languages. Ossetic has two dialects, Iron and Digor. Iron is spoken by the majority of Ossetians and serves as a common literary language. Written Ossetic uses the Russian Cyrillic alphabet. Since the 12th century most Ossetians have been Eastern Orthodox Christians, although a minority in Alania are Sunni Muslims. The northern Ossetians export lumber and cultivate various crops, mainly corn. The southern Ossetians are chiefly pastoral, herding sheep, goats, and cattle. Traditional manufactured products include leather goods, fur caps, daggers, and metalware.

Ossetians are descendants of the Alans

Ossetians are descendants of the Alans (or Alani), a nomadic pastoral people who lived in the region in the 9th century. When invading Mongols conquered the area in the 13th century, ancestors of the Ossetians retreated to nearby mountainous regions. After Ossetia was absorbed by Russia in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the Ossetians recolonized the plains.

In 1922 the southern part of Ossetia was

In 1922 the southern part of Ossetia was designated an autonomous region of Georgia and became part of the USSR. During the late 1980s, as the USSR experienced increasing social and political upheaval, South Ossetians began to agitate for reunification with Alania. In 1990 South Ossetia declared itself a sovereign republic. The Georgian legislature responded by abolishing South Ossetia as an administrative unit. South Ossetians began an armed struggle with Georgia with the aim of rejoining Alania in Russia. Following Georgia`s secession from the USSR in 1991, the war became locked in a military stalemate. Russian troops have helped maintain a cease-fire since 1992. In 1995 Alania changed its name to Alania to emphasize its historical connection to the ancient Alans.

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