South Ossetia

So, I went to South Ossetia on Monday. This is a small territory which fought and won a war against Georgia in the early 1990s and is kept going now by Russian military and economic support. (There is also a North Ossetia, which is one of the republics within Russia, and which is where the awful massacre at the school happened last year).

Ossetian is a language related to Persian but written in Cyrillic script. This is the sign outside the Foreign Ministry and an inspiring and uplifting slogan on display at the deserted main square:


I was told that the Ossetian for Ossetia, “Iryston”, comes from the same root as “Ireland”, and that “Belfast” means “Broken Spade” in Ossetian. Make of that what you will.

The Foreign Minister, Mr Dzhioev, was very pleased to see me. I don’t think he gets many visitors, given that even the Russians have not recognised them as an independent country:

When I asked him what I should take pictures of, he said, “Well, you didn’t come here for our scenery or our climate, did you, you came for the political situation!” (In fairness, the climate up in the foothills of the Caucasus was much more pleasant than on the sun-baked plain of central Georgia.) Irina and Teimuraz, our minders, suggested I should try taking a picture of the one tourist attraction in Tshinvali, the city theatre, unfortunately burnt in an accidental fire last year:

Actually, here are Irina and Teimuraz in front of the Foreign Ministry:

The other slogan on display in the deserted main square was in Russian, and expressed the desires of the South Ossetian people in so far as anyone has bothered to ascertain them:

“230 Years With Russia”

Personally I think they are doomed. The Georgians at the moment are publishing peace plans without actually communicating them to the South Ossetians, which I don’t take seriously; but sooner or later the Russians will get tired of maintaining the South Ossetians in the style to which they have become accustomed (itself sharply reduced by Georgian economic sanctions and military actions from a year ago) and will cut them loose. Later rather than sooner, I expect, given Russia’s current difficulties in the North Caucasus, but the day will come.

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1 Response to South Ossetia

  1. mscongeniality says:

    There’s a lot more of those books on my ‘To be Read’ pile than I’ve actually read. There are few enough of them, so here’s my thoughts on the ones I checked:

    Guy Gavriel Kay: A Song for Arbonne Not his best, but a decent historical fantasy.

    Fumi Yoshinaga: Ooku: The Inner Chambers, Volume 2 I love this series and cannot recommend the available volumes enough. I think Volumes 2-3 were awesome. Vol 4 was also excellent, but had a slightly different focus.

    Editors of Playboy: Transit of Earth As with any short story collection, a mixed bag. I really did enjoy this over all, possibly more than I was expecting for such a slim collection, and it was a great reminder that Playboy used to publish the best science fiction.

    Peter Emshwiller: The Host Not a great book, but there were some interesting ideas in there.

    Harriet Beecher Stowe: Uncle Tom’s Cabin Excels as abolitionist propaganda but for me, a bit less successful as a novel. I think it was mainly because I tire of getting preached to very easily. It is, on the other hand, entirely worth reading.

    Arthur Conan Doyle: The Complete Sherlock Holmes I’ve recently picked this back up and been making my way through it again in between other things. My father is also re-reading it for the first time in years. Definitely worth the time.

    Katherine Paterson: Jacob Have I Loved I was probably 13 or 14 when I read this and remember it as being dark and melodramatic. I don’t know if it actually is those things, or if it’s worth reading as an adult.

    Frederick Douglass: The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass Probably the best of the slave narratives that I’ve read, certainly the one with the most authentic authorial voice.

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