Table of contents:
- Scythian roots in the epic and language of the Ossetians
- Religious beliefs of the Ossetians. Way of life
- The role of the Russian Empire in the development of Ossetia
Ossetians are one of the most mysterious ethnic groups in the Caucasus. Scientists called them the descendants of the ancient Polovtsians, put forward theories of Germanic and Finno-Ugric origin. This discrepancy is due to the fact that scientists traveling in the Caucasus in the 18th – 19th centuries knew little about the history and ethnographic genealogy of the region. Subsequently, they came to a common denominator, agreeing with the theory of Heinrich Julius Klaproth about the Alanian origin of the Ossetians. This was later backed up by Academician Vsevolod Miller.
The outstanding Caucasian and Slavic scholar in his works managed to confirm the hypothesis that the Ossetians are descendants of the Scythian-Sarmatian-Alan tribes. The historian collected archaeological, ethnographic and folklore data, which irrefutably proved that the Ossetians inhabited the entire flat strip of the North Caucasus. And only in the recent past were they pushed aside by the Tatar-Mongols into the narrow geographical limits of the Central Caucasus mountains.
Scythian roots in the epic and language of the OssetiansLinguist and etymologist Vasily Ivanovich Abaev supplemented the works of Vsevolod Miller. In his research, he proved that the modern Ossetian language, religion and culture have a close connection with the carriers of the Koban culture.
In his opinion, the fact that the Scythians are the ethnogenetic ancestors of the people is clearly indicated by the language and the epic. Vasily Abaev found in the modern Ossetian language more than 200 coincidences with Scythian: common roots in words, in the names of Roxana and Zarina, as well as in the names of the Dnieper, Don, Danube and some other rivers. Many Scythian-Sarmatian words are easily identified in the modern Ossetian language. It is easy to trace it from the works of ancient authors and numerous inscriptions left in the places of the ancient Scythian cities-colonies.
The Scythian epic is also reflected in the Nart subjects. The legends of the Ossetians and other peoples of the Caucasus coincide in many details with the descriptions of the life and customs of the Scythians, noticed by ancient authors, for example, by Herodotus. Ethnographic parallels in funeral rites and traditions of the hearth, the seven-god cult, and the culture of the glass of honor look indicative.
Religious beliefs of the Ossetians. Way of lifeThe striking similarity with the Scythian rituals has been preserved for thousands of years, passing into the Ossetian way of life. Part of the people up to our time adhere to traditional pagan beliefs (according to polls in 2012, their number among Ossetians is 29%). The mountain people revere the god of war Uastyrdzhi and the god of thunder Uatsilla, who are the prototypes of George and the prophet Elijah. Some Ossetians profess Islam, which they adopted from the Kabardians in the 17th – 18th centuries. The overwhelming majority - 57% - are Orthodox Christians.
As it should be according to Christian laws, Ossetians predominantly adhered to monogamy. Previously, polygamy existed to a certain extent among the well-to-do representatives of the population, but the Christian clergy waged a fierce struggle with it. Some concessions were made only in one case - if the first wife was childless.
Traditionally, women had to do all the housework: cleaning the house, preparing food and household chores. The men were engaged in agriculture and cattle breeding. The people were famous for quality woolen products, cheeses and butter. Metal forging, stone and wood carving, embroidery and other applied arts were also well developed.
For a long time, the houses of the Ossetians (khadzars) were divided into two parts: female and male. And if on the side of the head of the house were placed beautiful objects, musical instruments, weapons and horns, then on the female side were all household utensils.
The role of the Russian Empire in the development of Ossetia
In the 18th century, the decline of agriculture in Ossetia reached its climax. In difficult mountain conditions, any attempts to engage in agriculture and animal husbandry were initially doomed to failure. The situation was aggravated by the issue of serious overpopulation of the country. The Ossetian princes saw two ways out of the situation: to agree to become vassals of the Georgian or Kabardian nobility and gain access to the North Caucasian plain, or to become part of the Russian Empire.
Having not received sufficient guarantees of political and economic stability, the Ossetian community refused to cooperate with the Georgians and decided to establish diplomatic relations with the Russian Empire. Ossetia received official permission to become citizens in 1774 during the reign of Catherine II. But in fact, the people have been under the patronage since 1743, right after the representatives sent their request to the empress.
The merger of Ossetia and the Russian Empire created fertile ground for the revival of the mountain people. Beneficial peasant reforms began, the mass resettlement of Ossetians to the plains and the expansion of external relations began.
During the formation of Soviet power, the region again experienced an economic and cultural decline. Many wealthy Ossetians fought for the White movement, peasants for the Reds. The conflict was superimposed on a stubborn struggle with Georgia, which turned into the burning of villages and the expulsion of Ossetians from their native territories. The bloody events ended in peace during the Soviet era. Then Ossetia was administratively divided into two parts: the South fell under the jurisdiction of the Georgian SSR, the North fell to the RSFSR.
In the nineties of the last century, the countdown of a new historical period began. The collapse of the USSR led to serious territorial disputes. South Ossetian Autonomous Okrug demanded to recognize its independence from Georgia. A conflict of interest led to the final division of Ossetia. South Ossetia received the status of a partially recognized state, North Ossetia remained a part of the Russian Federation.
Anyone interested in history will be interested to know how the Caucasian highlanders chose their wives, and which girls risked being left without a husband.