Historical Context

Ossetia is a region in the Central Caucasus, which is located on both sides of the Greater Caucasus. The majority of population is Ossetins. The southern part (from the Greater Caucasus), is the land of the partly recognized Republic of Ossetia, and the northern part, Alania, is a part of the Russian Federation. The territory of both is around 11.940 sq/km.

From the 14th century to the mid-17th century, Ossetia was a closed highland territory with no cities. There is no certain information about the formation of its settlements. The northern part of Ossetia (today’s Alania) has been partly under the rule of Kabardians.

In 1774, the Medieval Ossetia became a part of the Russian Empire. In 1801 a part of Ossetia, which still remained in the Kingdom of Kartli-Kakheti, became a Russian territory as well.  And in 1992, Ossetia was divided into two parts: Northern Ossetia remained a part of the Russian SFSR, and Southern Ossetia remained a part of the Georgian SSR.

The home of Northern Ossetins is the territory of the North Ossetia autonomy; besides, many Ossetin settlements can be found in the neighboring Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachay-Cherkessia.

North Ossetia or Alania was established on July 7, 1924. Currently it is an autonomy in Russia, a constituent unit of the Russian Federation, and a part of the North Caucasian Federal District. The capital city is Vladikavkaz.

The home of Southern Ossetins is the territory of the South Ossetia, formerly an autonomy in the Georgian SSR; besides, many Ossetin settlements can be found in territory of Georgia. Unofficially, they are called not Southern Ossetian Ossetins, but Georgian Ossetins.

In 1982, in Ordzhonikidze (Vladikavkaz), mass riots took place. In 1991, the southern part of Ossetia proclaimed itself a republic under the Russian SFSR. (Legally, Southern Ossetia is still a part of Georgia, because it has not been widely recognized as an independent state yet.) From 1989 till the first half of 1992, Georgia was at war with South Ossetia; there was ethnic aggression against the Ossetians there. In 1992, South Ossetia proclaimed itself an independent state. South Ossetia is located in the north of Georgia and south of Russia. Is has been recognized only by Russia, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Nauru. The capital city is Tskhinvali. From 1990s, during the Georgian-Ossetian war, the majority of the territory of South Ossetia was controlled by the government of South Ossetia, and Georgia controlled a minor part of it. From 2008, after the end of the war, the government of South Ossetia started to control its entire territory.

Christian Context

In 914, Bishop Peter arrived to Alania from Constantinople, the center of Eastern Christianity, and baptized the Alan people. This is the official version of the Diocese of North Ossetia; however, there is another version, according to which history of Christianity in Ossetia-Alania is much older.

Christianity has come to this region of the ancestors of the Ossetians much earlier than 914. Alans were one of the first nations that heard the Good News of the Gospel. Stories about the first missionaries are dated back to the time of the Apostles, when Simeon the Canaanite and Andrew brought the Gospel to the region of today’s Ossetia. It is worth mentioning that there are three Alan Church buildings, which are preserved up to this day and are considered ancient Christian places of worship.

Due to Christianity, Ossetians obtained their own script on the basis of the Greek alphabet. After the fall of the Byzantine Empire and the raids of nomadic tribes, Ossetins regressed from Christianity all the way back to their own folk traditions. Ossetia was conquered by its neighboring Kabardians, and the people started to convert to Islam.

In 1745, a Russian Orthodox Committee under the leadership of Archimandrites Pachomius arrived to Ossetia, and the new baptism of the Ossetians became an act of political faithfulness to Russia. At that time, Ossetians treated it as something necessary to join Russian people and were not interested in the doctrine of Christianity at all.

Despite of many difficulties, Orthodoxy is prevalent among Ossetians. But today there are also Ossetians in Alania who profess Islam. Because of their traditional religious system, through centuries, people developed an approach that is fundamentally different from a monotheistic belief. Their faith is open and able to receive completely new views and ideas from other religions. Ossetians are tolerant to both Christianity and Islam. Muslim or Christian, no difference: they treat both equally, because in different periods of their history, they had both Christianity and Islam.