Political status The United Nations, European Union, OSCE, Council of the European Union, NATO and most of the countries around the world recognize South Ossetia as an integral part of the Georgian state and its constitution. However, the de facto independent republic governed by the secessionist government has held a second independence referendum on November 12, 2006, after its first referendum in 1992 was not recognized by the international community as valid. As expected the referendum turned out a majority for independence from Georgia. However, it was not recognized internationally by the UN, European Union, OSCE, NATO and the Russian Federation, given the lack of ethnic Georgian participation and the legality of such referendum without recognition from the central government in Tbilisi. Parallel to the secessionist held referendum and elections, the Ossetian opposition movement (The Salvation Union of South Ossetia) to Kokoity, organised their own elections in which both Georgian and some Ossetian inhabitants of the region voted in favour of Dmitri Sanakoev as the alternative President of South Ossetia. The alternative elections of Sanakoev claimed full support of the ethnic Georgian population. In 2007, Dmitri Sanakoev became the head of the Provisional Administration of South Ossetia. On July 13, 2007, Georgia set up a state commission, chaired by the Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli, to develop South Ossetia's autonomous status within the Georgian state. According to the Georgian officials, the status will be elaborated within the framework of "an all-inclusive dialogue" with all the forces and communities within the Ossetian society. History Medieval and early modern period The Ossetians are originally descendants of Iranian-speaking tribes from Central Asia. They became Christians during the early Middle Ages, under Georgian influence. Under Mongol rule, they were pushed out of their medieval homeland south of the Don river in present-day Russia and part migrated towards and over the Caucasus mountains, to Georgiawhere they formed three distinct territorial entities. Digor in the west came under the influence of the neighboring Kabard people, who introduced Islam. Tualläg in the south became what is now South Ossetia, part of the historical Georgian principality of Samachablo where Ossetians found refuge from Mongol invaders. Iron in the north became what is now North Ossetia, under Russian rule from 1767. Most Ossetians are now Christian (approximately 61%); there is also a significant Muslim minority. South Ossetia under Russia and the Soviet Union The modern-day South Ossetia was annexed by Russia in 1801, along with Georgia proper, and absorbed into the Russian Empire. Following the Russian Revolution, South Ossetia became a part of the Menshevik Georgian Democratic Republic, while the north became a part of the Terek Soviet Republic. The area saw brief clashes between the Georgian governmental forces and Ossetians led by Ossetian and Georgian bolsheviks in 1920. The Soviet Georgian government established by the Russian 11th Red Army in 1921, created the South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast (i.e. district) in April 1922. Although the Ossetians had their own language (Ossetian), Russian and Georgian were administrative/state languages. At present, Russian is the only administrative language used by the separatist government in Tskhinvali. In the Soviet time, under the rule of Georgia's government, it enjoyed some degree of autonomy, including to practice (Ossetian) language and teach it in schools. Georgian-Ossetian conflict The tensions in the region began to rise amid the rising nationalism among both Georgians and Ossetians in 1989. Prior to this, the two communities had been living in peace with each other except for the episode in 1920. Both ethnicities have had a high level of interaction and high rates of intermarriages. In the same year, the influential South Ossetian Popular Front (Ademon Nykhas) demanded unification with North Ossetia as a measure to defend Ossetian autonomy. On 10 November 1989, the South Ossetian Supreme Soviet approved a decision to unite South Ossetia with the North Ossetian ASSR, part of Russia. A day later, the Georgian parliament revoked the decision and abolished South Ossetian autonomy. Additionally, the parliament authorized the suppression of newspapers and demonstrations. Following Georgia's independence in 1991 under the nationalist leader Zviad Gamsakhurdia, the Georgian government declared Georgian to be the only administrative language throughout the country. Throughout the Soviet era Georgian, along with Russian, were the state and administrative languages, since it was stipulated as such in both the 1936 and 1979 constitutions of the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic. This caused great concern in South Ossetia, whose leaders demanded that Ossetian become the language of their state. The Ossetian minority continued to seek greater levels of autonomy, but were faced with increasing nationalist sentiment among the Georgian majority. Violent conflict broke out towards the end of 1991 during which many South Ossetian villages were attacked and burned down as well as Georgian houses and schools in Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia. As a result, approximately 1,000 died and about 100,000 ethnic Ossetians fled the territory and Georgian proper, most across the border into North Ossetia. Further 23,000 ethnic Georgians fled South Ossetia and settled in the Georgia. Many South Ossetians were resettled in uninhabited areas of North Ossetia from which the Ingush had been expelled by Stalin in 1944, leading to conflicts between Ossetians and Ingush over the right of residence in former Ingush territory. According to some estimates there are 45,000 ethnic Ossetians and 17,500 ethnic Georgians in South Ossetia in 2007. In 1992, Georgia was forced to accept a ceasefire to avoid a large scale confrontation with Russia. The government of Georgia and South Ossetian separatists reached an agreement to avoid the use of force against one another, and Georgia pledged not to impose sanctions against South Ossetia. A peacekeeping force of Ossetians, Russians and Georgians was established. On November 6, 1992, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) set up a Mission in Georgia to monitor the peacekeeping operation. From then, until mid-2004 South Ossetia was generally peaceful. In June 2004, tensions began to rise as the Georgian authorities strengthened their efforts against smuggling in the region. Hostage takings, shootouts and occasional bombings left dozens dead and wounded. A ceasefire deal was reached on August 13 though it was repeatedly violated. Presently the situation is tense though largely peaceful, although Moscow and Tskhinvali view the recent Georgian military build-up with concern. The Georgian government protests against the continually increasing Russian economic and political presence in the region, as well as the uncontrolled military of the South Ossetian side. It also considers the peacekeeping force to be non-neutral and demanded its replacement. This criticism was supported, for example, by Richard Lugar, however on October 5, 2006, Javier Solana, the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union, ruled out the possibility of replacing the Russian peacekeepers with the EU force. EU South Caucasus envoy Peter Semneby admitted later that "Russia's actions in the Georgia spy row have damaged its credibility as a neutral peacekeeper in the EU's Black Sea neighbourhood." Politics The Republic of South Ossetia consists of a checkerboard of Georgian-inhabited and Ossetian-inhabited towns and villages with the largely Ossetian city of Tskhinvali. The capital and most of the other Ossetian-inhabited communities are governed by the separatist government in Tskhinvali, while the Georgian-inhabited villages are governed by the Georgian government. This close proximity and the intermixing of the two communities has made the conflict in South Ossetia particularly dangerous, as any attempt to create an ethnically pure territory would necessarily have to involve population transfer on a large scale. The political dispute has, however, yet to be resolved and the South Ossetian separatist authorities govern the region with effective independence from Tbilisi. Although talks have been held periodically between the two sides, little progress was made under the government of Eduard Shevardnadze (1993–2003). His successor Mikheil Saakashvili (elected 2004) made the reassertion of Georgian governmental authority a political priority. Having successfully put an end to the de facto independence of the southwestern province of Ajaria in May 2004, he pledged to seek a similar solution in South Ossetia. After the 2004 clashes, the Georgian government has intensified its efforts to bring the problem to international attention. On January 25, 2005, President Saakashvili presented a Georgian vision for resolving the South Ossetian conflict at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) session in Strasbourg. Late in October, the U.S. Government and the OSCE expressed their support to the Georgian action plan presented by Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli at the OSCE Permanent Council at Vienna on October 27, 2005. On December 6, the OSCE Ministerial Council in Ljubljana adopted a resolution supporting the Georgian peace plan which was subsequently rejected by the South Ossetian de facto authorities. Geography South Ossetia covers an area of about 3,900 km² on the southern side of the Caucasus, separated by the mountains from the more populous North Ossetia (part of Russia) and extending southwards almost to the Mtkvari river in Georgia. It is extremely mountainous, with most of the region lying over 1,000 m (3,300 ft) above sea level. Its economy is primarily agricultural, although less than 10% of South Ossetia's land area is cultivated, with cereals, fruit and vines the major produce. Forestry and cattle industries are also maintained. A number of industrial facilities also exist, particularly around the capital Tskhinvali. Demographics Before the Georgian-Ossetian conflict about two thirds of the population of South Ossetia were Ossetians and 25-30% Georgians. The present composition of the population is unknown. (*) Economy Following a war with Georgia in the 1990s, South Ossetia has struggled economically. Employment and supplies are scarce. Additionally, Georgia cut off supplies of electricity to the region, which forced the South Ossetian government to run an electric cable through North Ossetia. The majority of the population survives on subsistence farming. Virtually the only significant economic asset that South Ossetia possesses is control of the Roki Tunnel that links Russia and Georgia, from which the South Ossetian government reportedly obtains as much as a third of its budget by levying customs duties on freight traffic. The separatist officials admitted that Tskhinvali received more than 60 percent of its 2006 budget revenue directly from the Russian government. In late 2006, a large international counterfeiting operation stretching from South Ossetia was revealed by U.S. Secret Service and Georgian police.
NORTH OSSETIA Geography The Republic is located in the northern Caucasus. The northern part of the republic is situated in the Stavropol Plain. 22% of the republic's territory is covered by forests. • Area: 8,000 square kilometers (3,088.8 sq mi) • Borders: o internal: Kabardino-Balkar Republic (W/NW/N), Stavropol Krai (N), Chechen Republic (NE/E), Republic of Ingushetia (E/SE) o international: Georgia (including South Ossetia) (SE/S/SW) • Highest point: Mount Dzhimara (4,780 meters (15,682 ft)) • Maximum N->S distance: 130 kilometers (81 mi) • Maximum E->W distance: 120 kilometers (75 mi) Natural resources Natural resources include minerals (copper, silver, zinc), timber, mineral waters, hydroelectric power, and untapped reserves of oil and gas. Climate Climate is moderately continental. • Average January temperature: −5°C • Average July temperature: +24°C • Average annual precipitation: 400-700 mm in the plains, over 1,000 mm in the mountains. Demographics • Population: 710,275 (2002) o Urban: 464,875 (65.5%) o Rural: 245,400 (34.5%) o Male: 336,035 (47.3%) o Female: 374,240 (52.7%) • Females per 1000 males: 1,114 • Average age: 33.8 years o Urban: 34.2 years o Rural: 32.9 years o Male: 30.4 years o Female: 36.9 years • Number of households: 200,191 (with 690,806 people) o Urban: 143,397 (with 447,884 people) o Rural: 56,794 (with 242,922 people) • Vital statistics (2005) o Births: 7,894 (birth rate 11.2) o Deaths: 8,654 (death rate 12.3) • Ethnic groups The Ossetian population of North Ossetia is predominantly Christian with a Muslim minority, speaking Ossetic and Russian. According to the 2002 Census, Ossetians make up 62.7% of the republic's population. Other groups include Russians (23.2%), Ingush (3.0%), Armenians (2.4%), Kumyks (12,659, or 1.8%), Georgians (10,803, or 1.5%), Ukrainians (0.7%), Chechens (3,383, or 0.5%), and a host of smaller groups, each accounting for less than 0.5% of the total population. 3,283 people (0.5%) did not indicate their nationalities during the Census. Politics The head of government in the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania is the Head of the Republic. As of 2005, the head of the republic is Taymuraz Mamsurov. Mamsurov succeeded Alexander Dzasokhov, who voluntarily quit his post on May 31, 2005. Economy Despite the inevitable economic burden of a sizeable refugee population, North Ossetia is the most well-to-do republic in the northern Caucasus. It is the most urbanized and the most industrialized, with factories producing metals (lead, zinc, tungsten, etc.), electronics, chemicals, and processed foods. Local agriculture focuses primarily on livestock, especially sheep and goats, and the cultivation of grains, fruit, and cotton. Transportation There is an airport in Vladikavkaz. Overall, the transport infrastructure is well-developed, with railroads and automobile roads being the principal means of transportation. The famous Georgian Military Road connects Vladikavkaz with Transcaucasia. Culture There are six professional theaters in North Ossetia-Alania. Also Ossetian State Philarmonia. Education The most important facilities of higher education include North Caucasus State Technological University, North Ossetian State University, North Ossetian State Medical Academy, and Mountain State Agrarian University; all located in Vladikavkaz. Religion The predominant religion is Russian Orthodox Christianity, followed by Islam. However, many of the native rituals predate both faiths.
___________________________________________________________ Subdivisions of Russia
Federal districts Central • Far Eastern • Northwestern • Siberian • Southern • Urals • Volga ________________________________________ 1 On March 1, 2008, Chita Oblast and Agin-Buryat Autonomous Okrug are due to merge to form Zabaykalsky Krai. 2 On January 1, 2008, Ust-Orda Buryat Autonomous Okrug is due to merge into Irkutsk Oblast.