Learn more about Ossetians
|Total population||700,000 (estimated)|
|Regions with significant populations|| Russia:|
|Religion|| Mostly Russian Orthodox with a large minority professing Sunni Islam <tr>
<th style="background-color:#fee8ab;">Related ethnic groups</th> <td style="background-color:#fff6d9;">other Iranian peoples, Jassic people of Hungary</td>
The Ossetians are an ethnic group from Ossetia, a region in the northern Caucasus Mountains in Europe. Its territory currently straddles the political divide between North Ossetia-Alania in Russia, and South Ossetia in Georgia. They speak Ossetic, an Iranian language.
The Russian geographic name "Ossetia" and the corresponding ethnic designation "Ossetians" comes from a Georgian root. The Russians originally called the Ossetians Jas, but in the late 14th century adopted the Georgian name of the Ossetians and their nation. In Georgian language, Alania and the Alans are known as "Oseti" and "Osebi" respectively. From the Russian language the names Ossetia and Ossetians came to other languages. The Ossetians themselves refer to their nation as Iryston.
The Ossetians descend from Iranian tribes of Eurasia, namely Alans, Sarmatians and Scythians. They became Christians during the early Middle Ages under Georgian and Byzantine influence. In the 8th century a consolidated Alan kingdom, referred to in sources of the period as Alania, emerged in the northern Caucasus Mountains, roughly in the location of modern Circassia and North Ossetia-Alania. At its height Alania was a regional power, with a strong military and vast wealth from the Silk Road. Forced out of their medieval homeland (south of the River Don in present-day Russia) during Mongol rule, they migrated towards and over the Caucasus mountains, where they formed three distinct territorial entities:
- Digor in the west came under the influence of the neighboring Kabard people, who introduced Islam. The lands once known as Digor are now part of the Kabardino-Balkaria Republic.
- Tualläg in the south, in the Georgian central region of Shida Kartli. In 1924 part became known as South Ossetia
- Iron in the north became what is now North Ossetia/Alania, under Russian rule from 1767.
The Ossetic language is divided into two main dialect groups, Ironian of South Ossetia and Digorian of North Ossetia. Ossetic is classified as Northeastern Iranian, the only other surviving member of the subgroup being Yaghnobi, spoken more than 2,000 km to the east in Tajikistan. Both are remnants of the Scytho-Sarmatian dialect group which was once spoken across Central Asia.
Today the majority of Ossetians, from both North and South Ossetia, follow Eastern Orthodoxy. As the time went by, Digor in the west came under Kabard and Islamic influence. It was through the Kabardians (an East Circassian tribe) that Islam was introduced into the region in the 17th century. Today, a large minority profess Islam (mostly Sunni, but Sufi orders are widespread). Tuallag in the southernmost region became part of what is now Georgia, and Iron, the northernmost group, came under Russian rule after 1767, which strengthened Orthodox Christianity considerably. Most of the Ossetes today are Eastern Orthodox Christians.
Most Ossetians today live along the central part of the Greater Caucasus Range in the two Ossetias, with a significant number living in central Georgia. A large Ossetian diaspora lives in Turkey, and Ossetians have also settled in Russia, France, Sweden, Syria, the USA, Canada and other countries all around the world.
Nasidze et al. (2004) found that while North Ossetians (Digorians) share similarities in terms of mitochondrial and Y-chromosomal DBA, and the Ardonian subgroup of Digorian in particular are close to Iranians of Isfahan, South Ossetians (Ironians) are closer to Slavic populations in terms of mitochondrial DNA, and closer to Caucasian groups such as the Nakh in terms of Y-chromosomal DNA. In North Ossetians, Y-chromosomal DNA is dominated by G*, while South Ossetians have high frequencies of haplogroups F* and E*.
- Nasidze et al., Mitochondrial DNA and Y-Chromosome Variation in the Caucasus, Annals of Human Genetics, Volume 68 Page 205 - May 2004
- Nasidze et al., Genetic Evidence Concerning the Origins of South and North Ossetians (2004) 
 See also
 External links
- Ossetians.com: a site about outstanding and famous Ossetians
- A great site for further reading and knowledge of the thousand year old history of the Ossetiansde:Osseten