North Ossetia: culture & people
My name is Alina. I was born in the North Ossetia Republic, in a small town called Beslan and grew up in Vladikavkaz till I was 20 y.o. I really love my hometown for loads of things, especially people and our culture. People there are amazing: kind, hospitable and funny.
I travel a lot myself and experience other countries by talking and spending time with the locals. So it makes me really happy that with the help of Adventure.Dream.Team. I can also share with you about the Ossetian culture and places where I grew up. Hope it helps you, dear readers, see that the North Caucasus and Ossetia in particular is a part of Russia that needs a special visit!
All kids are brought up in the streets
My hometown Beslan is only 20 minutes away from Vladikavkaz, the capital of the North Ossetia Republic. Yet, you can’t even imagine what’s a striking difference between them.
When you live in Beslan, make sure that every single person knows who you are and where you live. Neighbours can come to you and have breakfast, or bring something to you, just to help you with something, even if you didn’t ask them! A lot of families in Beslan live in private houses with their own gardens and livestock. When I was 10 I used to live in a small apartment and my neighbours, who had a goat, used to bring goat milk every evening for me and my siblings.
Everyone knows the expression “I was brought up in the streets” so people in Beslan were brought up exactly this way, but it doesn’t mean that their parents don’t care, it means that every child belongs to all neighbours in your street. For instance I could come to granny that lived next to us and brush her hair before she went to bed. In other words, it’s a small but tightly bound community. Vladikavkaz is bigger and this is the reason why you can’t even know who lives next door.
Basic facts first
Vladikavkaz is the Capital of the North Ossetia Republic (see the map). There live so many different people, different cultures and religions. Despite the population of 700.000 people, various nationalities are peacefully coexisting there. Most residents are Ossetians but you can also meet there Russian, Armenian, Georgian, Azerbaijan, Ukranian, Greek and Ingush. There are also different religions present: Islam, Orthodox, Sunnite, Catholics, Protestants. Ossetians themselves are Orthodox.
People in Vladikavkaz are considered to be one of the most hospitable in Russia. Every time I fly to Vladikavkaz (currently I live in Moscow), I call some of my former classmates or even neighbours and ask to pick me up at the airport and I’ve never heard someone would deny my request. Unfortunately, I don’t come to my hometown very often, and can’t say that I can speak ossetian very well. However, I can cook ossetian pies and other traditional dishes and surprise my international friends with these delicious meals any time.
In their majority, Ossetians are very kind and open-hearted. They are ready to tell you a million stories, ready to give away “the last shirt” and feed you with the best food they have. For us a guest is a very special person, it’s a sacred meaning. The guest gets all the best in the house. An Ossetian will postpone everything to spend a day with a guest, to guide them around the town and share everything they know.
Unlike the rest of Russia, in North Ossetia family name literally means family. The word “namesake” almost doesn’t exist. If two people keep the same surname – it means they are coming from the same family, no doubts.
Ossetians are really careful in a sense of choosing their life partners. Before even starting a relationship they will firstly take a research about the whole family and all the relatives to exclude the chance of getting married to a far relative, which is considered really important.
Even though we are now in the third decade of the 21st century, North Ossetia is among the rare republics where people are very careful and conscious about traditions. Here I’d like to tell you about a few of them which are the most interesting in my opinion.
You can hardly find them on Tinder, they are making friends and meeting new people at the traditional events like weddings, funerals, birthday celebrations. These events are always celebrated with a huge amount of guests. You can find there from 100 up to 1000 guests, just like a century ago, and these celebrations are still the most popular way to meet your “soulmate”. And I must say that it’s a very sweet and even convenient tradition: you dress up for the wedding to impress, and then leave from the celebration with your wife or husband to be wearing traditional dress, that was brought by your new family members.
A boy turning 1 – Kahts tradition
Another special tradition is a celebration of a boy turning one year old. This custom is called “Kahts” or “Kahtsganan” and is very important for Ossetians. A boy means the procreation of the family, by default a hero. That’s why the celebration with different gifts and rituals is very lavish.
Of course, there are a lot of other celebrations and interesting traditions which you will defenitely learn if you come to Ossetia. Also, as all our neighbour nations in the North Caucasus we have a great food culture with our national dishes and table traditions. That’s what you can read in the following article!
Thank you for reading it through!
If you have any questions or just want to discuss something, feel free to leave a comment below or find me on social media
Facebook: Alina Kassabieva
See you in Vladikavkaz!