South Ossetia

Travel Guide Europe South Ossetia

edit

Introduction

South Ossetia (or Tskhinvali Region) is a disputed region and partially recognised state in the South Caucasus, located in the territory of the South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast within the former Georgian SSR of the Soviet Union.

Top

edit

Brief History

South Ossetia declared independence from Georgia in 1990, calling itself the Republic of South Ossetia. The Georgian government responded by abolishing South Ossetia's autonomy and trying to re-establish its control over the region by force. The crisis escalation led to the 1991-1992 South Ossetia War. Georgian fighting against those controlling South Ossetia occurred on two other occasions, in 2004 and 2008. The latter conflict led to the Russia–Georgia war, during which Ossetian and Russian forces gained full de facto control of the territory of the former South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast.

In the wake of the 2008 South Ossetia War, Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Nauru recognized South Ossetia's independence. Georgia does not recognize the existence of South Ossetia as a political entity, including most of the area in its Shida Kartli region, however under the administration of the Provisional Administrative Entity of South Ossetia. Georgia and a significant part of the international community consider South Ossetia to be occupied by the Russian military. South Ossetia relies heavily on military, political and financial aid from Russia. Russia does not allow European Union Monitoring Mission monitors to enter South Ossetia. South Ossetia, Transnistria, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Abkhazia are post-Soviet "frozen conflict" zones

Top

edit

Geography

South Ossetia is in the very heart of the Caucasus at the juncture of Asia and Europe, and it occupies the southern slopes of the Greater Caucasus Mountain Range and the foothills' part of the Kartalin Valley. South Ossetia is a very mountainous region. The Likhi Range is roughly in the center of South Ossetia, and the plateau that's also roughly in the center of South Ossetia is called Iberia.

South Ossetia covers an area of about 3,900 km2, separated by the mountains from the more populous North Ossetia (which is part of Russia) and extending southwards almost to the Mtkvari river in Georgia. More than 89% of South Ossetia lies over 1,000 metres above sea level, and its highest point is Mount Khalatsa at 3,938 metres above sea level.

Most of South Ossetia is in the Kura Basin with the rest of it in the Black Sea basin. The Likhi and Racha ridges act as divide separating these two basins. Major rivers in South Ossetia include the Greater and Little Liakhvi, Ksani, Medzhuda, Tlidon, Canal Saltanis, Ptsa River and host of other tributaries.

Top

edit

Cities

Top

edit

Sights and Activities

  • In Tskhinvali there are sights related to the Russian-Georgian war of 2008.
  • Mountains - South Ossetia is located in the Caucasus mountains and most of the country is located over 1,000m above sea level.

Top

edit

Weather

South Ossetia's climate is affected by subtropical influences from the East and Mediterranean influences from the West. The Greater Caucasus range moderates the local climate by serving as a barrier against cold air from the north, which results in the fact that, even at great heights, it is warmer there than in the Northern Caucasus. Climatic zones in South Ossetia are determined by distance from the Black Sea and by altitude. The plains of eastern Georgia are shielded from the influence of the Black Sea by mountains that provide a more continental climate.

The foothills and mountainous areas (including the Greater Caucasus Mountains) experience cool, wet summers and snowy winters, with snow cover often exceeding 2 metres in many regions. The penetration of humid air masses from the Black Sea to the West of South Ossetia is often blocked by the Likhi mountain range. The wettest periods of the year in South Ossetia generally occur during Spring and Autumn while the Winter and Summer months tend to be the driest. Elevation plays an important role in South Ossetia where climatic conditions above 1,500 metres are considerably colder than in any lower-lying areas. The regions that lie above 2,000 metres frequently experience frost even during the Summer months.

The average temperature in South Ossetia in January is around +4 degrees Celsius, and the average temperature in July is around 20.3º C. The average yearly liquid precipitation in South Ossetia is around 598 millimeters.[84] In general, Summer temperatures average 20 °C to 24 °C across much of South Ossetia, and Winter temperatures average 2 °C to 4 °C. Humidity is relatively low and rainfall across South Ossetia averages 500 to 800 mm per year. Alpine and highland regions have distinct microclimates though. At higher elevations, precipitation is sometimes twice as heavy as in the eastern plains of Georgia. Alpine conditions begin at about 2,100 metres, and above 3,600 metres snow and ice are present year-round.

Top

edit

Getting There

By Car

From Georgia, you will have to drive towards the border until you come upon a Georgian Army checkpoint. Your car will be searched, and you will be questioned about your intended visit. If the soldiers agree to let you through, you will drive another five kilometers until you reach the buffer zone, which is controlled by Russian troops in fortified positions and armored vehicles. You will again be stopped, searched, and questioned. If the Russians decide to let you in, you will have to follow a Russian Army staff car, which will take you to the South Ossetian Foreign Ministry to register your arrival.

From Russia, head to Vladikavkaz in North Ossetia (there are trains and planes from Moscow). Then go onward by a mountain road that passes through the Roki Tunnel. There are buses. You will be at the mercy of the Russian authorities, but they are willing to let some people in, including journalists. If they allow you in, simply drive into the tunnel from Russia. When you exit, you will be in South Ossetia. Consider engaging the services of a guide/tour operator who will say the right things and pay the right people at the right times.

Top

edit

Red Tape

If travelling from Russia, the South Ossetian embassy (9 Kurcovoi Pereylok, +7 (495) 644-27-57) in Moscow should be able to arrange your documents. A late 2012 agreement promised to establish a South Ossetian Consular Agency in Vladikavkaz, until the consulate is functioning representatives of South Ossetia are based in that city at the MFA, 38 Prospekt Mira.

Top

edit

Money

See also Money Matters

Top

edit

Language

The people of South Ossetia can speak Ossetian, Russian and Georgian. However most people will refuse to talk in Georgian and may act hostile towards you if you do, due to the conflict between South Ossetia and Georgia that has been ongoing since the early 90's and experienced a highly publicized war in 2008. Likewise, bitterness, fear and hatred against Georgians remain high. If you can't speak Ossetian, Russian is what you should stick to. English is basically non-existent.

Top

edit

Eat

Ossetian food is delicious, a Caucasian cuisine similar to but significantly different from Georgian cuisine. Be sure to feast on Ossetian pie, a dish similar to khachapuri, but with meat and mushrooms instead of cheese.

Top

edit

Health

While the war and conflict has ended, the situation is far from over and medical supply is not always going to reliable and efficient. Heating, electricity, plumbing are basically commodities owing to years of failing infrastructure damaged by years of warfare. Likewise, the health care system is dilapidated - be sure to bring the necessary medical equipment and only buy bottled water.

Top

edit

Safety

South Ossetia is not any more dangerous but is not yet easy to visit due the absence of standardized formalities. If you can get an " approval to visit" you can go without hassle.

You must have at least double entry visa to Russia. There is no way out from Georgia and you have to re-enter Russia. The Ossetes are understandably jumpy and may arrest travelers taking photographs of, well, anything. Likewise, officials may believe that by taking pictures, you are spying on their country. It is also a bad idea to voice your political opinions regarding the conflict; better to listen to locals' perspectives and to be vaguely sympathetic.

Top

edit

Keep Connected

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

Top

South Ossetia Travel Helpers

We don't currently have any Travel Helpers for South Ossetia

This is version 2. Last edited at 11:28 on Sep 1, 17 by Utrecht. 5 articles link to this page.

Creative Commons License
Except where otherwise noted, content of this article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License