So, I went to
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.