Ossetic Literature

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Ossetic Literature


the literature of the Ossets, who live in the Severnaia Osetiia ASSR and the Iuzhnaia Osetiia Autonomous Oblast.

Written Ossetic literature has existed for little over 100 years. It has been hypothesized that the direct ancestors of the modern Ossets, the Alani, had a written language as early as the fifth century A.D. However, the medieval Alani kingdom was destroyed during the Mongol Tatar invasion; its cultural tradition was broken off, and no reliable information about its written works has survived. After the invasion, the people turned to an ancient, familiar folkloric tradition. This extensive heritage has many genres, including tales of the Daredzan heroes, folktales, songs, proverbs, parables, legends, taurags (historical tales), and the Narty Epic.

In the mid-18th century, progressive Ossets saw the need for a pro-Russian economic, political, and cultural orientation and for unification with the Russian state. As this idea became realized, an Ossetic written language was created, based on the Russian alphabet, and the first Ossetic-language book (Short Catechism) was published in 1798.

Early in the 19th century the progressive Ossetic figure I. Ialguzidze (1775–1830) invented a writing system based on the Georgian alphabet, but the Russian-alphabet system won out. In 1865, T. Mamsurov (1843–98) wrote the first poems in Ossetic. However, they did not become known to readers until the Soviet period. The publicists of the 1860’s and 1870’s, writing mainly in Russian (A. Gassiev, I. Kanukov, A. Ardasenov) and in Georgian (G. Liakhveli-Chochiev), sought to instill in the people new ideological principles.

These writers believed it their social task to defend the mountaineers from the low esteem in which they were held among the supporters of autocracy and at the same time to provide the Russian reader with an accurate historicocultural concept of the mountain people. Postreform Ossetic literature was dominated by the idea that while it was necessary to preserve the best features of ancestral morality, new concepts of individual dignity had to be developed, and the narrowness of patriarchal thinking overcome.

The most powerful Ossetic thinker, social figure, and literary artist of the 19th century was K. Khetagurov (1859–1906). Writing in Ossetic soon after Mamsurov, he created poetical works that were classical in their wealth of content and beauty of form but imbued with the ideology of revolutionary democratism. Also outstanding were I. Kanukov (1951–99), A. Kubalov (1871–1944), and B. Gurdzhibeti (1868–1905).

Ossetic literature was formed during the 19th century. The early 20th century saw the emergence of a national press, with such newspapers as Iron gazet (Ossetic Newspaper; founded 1906) and Nog tsard (New Life; founded 1907) and such journals as Zond (Reason; founded 1907), Afsir (Ear of Grain; founded 1910), and Khury tyn (Sunbeam; founded 1912). Ossetic dramaturgy and prose appeared, and its creators included E. Britaev (1881–1923), S. Gadiev (1856–1915), A. Kotsoev (1872–1944), and Ts. Gadiev (1883–1931). Continuing Khetagurov’s tradition, they introduced new themes and heroes, related to the struggle for national and social freedom. Britaev and Ts. Gadiev, revolutionary activists, were persecuted by the authorities until the October Revolution of 1917. On the eve of the revolution, the new Ossetic national literature went into decline. Creative energy was stifled by persecution of the best writers, strict censorship, and the economic disadvantage of publishing for a small readership. The establishment of Soviet power led Ossetic literature out of this impasse.

During the Soviet period, Ossetic literature has had opportunities for all-around development. In the first years of Soviet power the works of such writers as Ts. Gadiev, G. Barakov (1890–1937), S. Bagraev (1888–1941), Kotsoev, and Niger (I. Dzhanaev, 1896–1947) were inspired by the struggle for revolutionary change. In 1924–25 the Ossetic group Ziu was formed within the Moscow Association of Proletarian Writers. The group published collective anthologies in 1925 and 1927. Beginning in 1927, the journal Fidiuag (The Herald) was published in Iuzhnaia Osetiia. After the formation of the Severnaia Osetiia ASSR in 1924, the scale of publishing increased; the anthologies of the short stories of Kotsoev and Kulaev and the verse of such poets as Barakov and Ts. Gadiev were printed. Newcomers to Ossetic literature in the 1920’s included K. Farnion (1907–37), B. Botsiev (1901–44), D. Mamsurov (1909–66), T. Epkhiev (1911–58), G. Kaitukov (born 1911), T. Besaev (born 1910), Kh. Pliev (1908–66), and M. Kamberdiev (1909–31).

The 1930’s were marked by the revival of drama and the emergence of large epic works. New journals appeared, including Literaturon kazueton (Shock Worker of Literature; 1932–33) and the monthly Makh dug (Our Era; founded 1934). Writers’ Unions of Severnaia and Iuzhnaia Osetiia were organized. The basic theme in the 1930’s was village life during the period of collectivization, explored in such works as Gadiev’s novella Honor of Our Forefathers (1931), Kotsoev’s novella Dzhanaspi (1940), and D. Mamsurov’s novel A Difficult Operation (1939). The tradition of historical narration was developed with such novels as Farnion’s Sound of the Storm (1932) and Botsiev’s Broken Chain (1935). Poetry achieved considerable success, especially the long narrative poems by Kamberdiev, Kh. Pliev, and Niger.

During the Great Patriotic War (1941–45), many Ossetic writers fought at the battle front, and military themes predominated in all literary genres. After the war there appeared epic works, whose authors attempted to interpret the recent historical events. Examples are the first book of a trilogy by E. Uruimagova (1905–55), Going Forth To Meet Life (1949); Mamsurov’s novel A Poem About Heroes (books 1–2, 1948–58); the novel by N. Gagloev (born 1900) Shoulder to Shoulder (books 1–2, 1954–56); and Unconquerable Force (books 1–4, 1954–61), a novel by D. Dzhioev (born 1913). Collections of poetry included those by Kaitukov, G. Dzugaev (born 1911), G. Pliev (born 1913), Gafez (born 1913), A. Tsarukaev (born 1918), B. Murtazov (born 1917), and R. Asaev (born 1923). Children’s literature began developing, the leading writers being T. Dzhatiev (born 1910), D. Tuaev (1903–64), and S. Britaev (1898–1961).

The ties between Ossetic literature and other literatures of the peoples of the USSR are strengthening, and a great many works are being translated. During the 1960’s Ossetic literature was enriched by new works, many concerned with modern life. They include the novels People Are People (1960) by Mamsurov and The Solstice (1964) by A. Aguzarov (born 1923) and the novellas The Heart Is a Witness (1963) by Besaev and An Ossetic True Story (1965) by M. Tsagaraev (born 1916). Successful dramatists include A. Tokaev (born 1910), V. Gagloev (born 1931), G. Khugaev (born 1922), R. Khubetsova (born 1922), and D. Temiriaev (born 1925). A new generation of poets has appeared, among them G. Bestauty (born 1932), Kh. Dzutstsaty (born 1935), A. Kodzati (born 1937), V. Maliev (born 1938), Sh. Dzhikaev (born 1938), I. Kozaev (born 1930), and K. Khodov (born 1942). Critics and literary scholars include Kh. Ardasenov (1911–68), A. Khadartseva (born 1920), G. Gagiev (born 1932), N. Dzhusoity (born 1925), S. Merzoev (born 1927), and G. Kaloev (born 1912).


Totoev, M. S. Ocherki istorii kul’tury i obshchestvennoi mysli v Severnoi Osetii v poreformennyi period. Ordzhonikidze, 1957.
Ardasenov, Kh. N. Ocherk razvitiia osetinskoi literatury: Dooktiabr’skii period. Ordzhonikidze, 1959.
Ocherk istorii osetinskoi sovetskoi literatury. Ordzhonikidze, 1967.
Ardasenty, Kh. Tsar ämä poëzi. Ordhonikidze, 1962.
Gadzhity, G. Lirika ämä bazïrjïn aztä. Ordzhonikidze, 1963.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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