Severnaia Osetiia Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic

Severnaia Osetiia Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic


(Tsagat Iristonï Avtonomon Soveton Sotsialiston Respublika), also North Ossetian ASSR or Severnaia Osetiia (Tsagat Ir), part of the RSFSR. Situated on the northern slopes of the Greater Caucasus and on the adjoining plains, Severnaia Osetiia was formed as an autonomous oblast on July 7, 1924, and reorganized as an ASSR on Dec. 5, 1936. Area, 8,000 sq km. Population, 584,000 (Jan. 1, 1975). It is divided into eight raions and has six cities and seven urban-type settlements. The capital is Ordzhonikidze.

Constitution and government. The Severnaia Osetiia ASSR is a socialist state of workers and peasants and an autonomous soviet socialist republic. Its existing constitution was adopted on July 6, 1937, by the Extraordinary Seventh Congress of Soviets of the Severnaia Osetiia ASSR. The highest organs of state power are the unicameral Supreme Soviet of Severnaia Osetiia and its Presidium. The members of the Supreme Soviet are popularly elected for five-year terms. The Supreme Soviet forms the republic’s government, the Council of Ministers. The republic is represented by 11 deputies in the Soviet of Nationalities of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. The local organs of state power are municipal, raion, settlement, and village soviets of people’s deputies, whose members are popularly elected for 2½-year terms.

The Supreme Soviet of Severnaia Osetiia elects the members of the republic’s Supreme Court (comprising a criminal and a civil division), who serve for five years, as well as the Presidium of the Supreme Court. The procurator of the Severnaia Osetiia ASSR is appointed by the procurator general of the USSR for a term of five years.

Natural features. The southern part of Severnaia Osetiia is occupied by the Glavnyi (Vodorazdel’nyi) and Bokovoi ranges, which rise to more than 4,000 m in Mount Dzhimara (4,780 m), the republic’s highest peak. Mount Uilpata (4,649 m), and Mount Tepli (4,431 m). The ranges are divided by a longitudinal valley consisting of three basins: the Zakinsk, Zaramag, and Verkhniaia Digora. The frontal ranges (Skalistyi and others) are typical cuestas. The central part of the republic is occupied by the sloping Ossetian Plain. North of the plain rise the low Sunzha and Terek ranges, beyond which lies the Mozdok Plain, part of the Terek-Kuma Lowland.

Mineral resources include complex ores, building materials, dolomites, and mineral water springs.

The climate is moderately continental. The Mozdok Plain, swept by dry winds, has an arid climate. Here, temperatures average -4.3°C in January and 24°C in July, and the precipitation totals 400–450 mm. The Ossetian Plain, where temperatures average -4°C in January and 20°C in July, receives 600–800 mm of precipitation. On the plains, the frost-free period lasts up to 190 days, and the sum of the positive temperatures exceeds 3000°C. At an elevation of 2,000 m the frost-free period decreases to 100 days, and the temperatures above 10°C total about I000°C. About 172 sq km are covered by glaciers, of which the largest are Karaugom and Tseiskii.

The republic’s rivers belong to the Terek River basin. The largest rivers—the Terek (flowing for 110 km within Severnaia Osetiia), Urukh (upper and middle course), Ardon, Fiagdon, and Gizel’don—are fed by ice and snow and reach their peak flow in spring and early summer. Floods caused by summer rains are characteristic of the Ursdon (Belaia), Kambileevka. and Sunzha (upper course) rivers, which rise in the cuesta zone.

On the Mozdok Plain the original fescue and feather-grass steppe, growing on chestnut soil, has been replaced by fields. To the south are found various chernozem soil subtypes. In the Terek River valley and along the lower reaches of the Terek’s largest tributaries, floodplain forests and meadows have developed on alluvial soils. On the Ossetian Plain, which has predominantly meadow-chernozem, meadow-bog, and soddy-gley soils, the original forest steppe has also given way to farmland.

Altitudinal zonation is characteristic of the mountain regions. In the low and medium-elevation mountain areas, mountain-forest landscapes predominate. The brown-forest and soddy podzolized soils support broad-leaved forests consisting chiefly of beech; such woodlands cover 61 percent of the forested area. Other species include hornbeam, linden, ash, maple, and oak. as well as many wild fruit-bearing trees and shrubs. In the intermontane depressions pine and birch forests, as well as highland xerophytes, grow on mountain-podzolic and mountain-steppe soils. Some 22 percent of the republic’s area is forested. In the high mountains subalpine and alpine meadows on mountain-meadow soils are found to elevations of 3,000 m.

The mountains are inhabited by many wildlife species, the wild goat Capra cylindicornis, chamois, European wildcats, wild boars, roe deer, bears, wolves, foxes, lynx, stone and pine marten, forest dormice, long-clawed and snow voles, and such birds as the snow pheasant, Caucasian black grouse, and gray partridge. In the plains are rodents (voles, susliks, and hamsters), hares, and corsac foxes. Bison, deer, Altai squirrels, and racoon dogs have become acclimatized. The Severnaia Osetiia Preserve has been established along the upper reaches of the Tseia, Ardon, and Fiagdon rivers.


Population. According to the 1970 census, Severnaia Osetiia’s population consists of 269,300 Ossets (Ossetians), 202,400 Russians, 18,400 Ingush, 13,400 Armenians, 10,300 Georgians. 9,300 Ukrainians, 6,400 Kumyk, and small numbers of persons from other ethnic groups. The republic’s population increased from 280,000 in 1924 to 406,000 in 1940, 451.000 in 1959, and 552,000 in 1970. The average density is 73 persons per sq km (Jan. 1, 1975). The plains are the most densely settled areas, and the mountains are sparsely populated. Urban dwellers constitute 68 percent of the population (Jan. 1, 1975). With the exception of Ordzhonikidze (270,000 inhabitants as of Jan. 1, 1975) and Mozdoka (34,000), all the cities in the republic (Beslan, Al-agir, Digora, and Ardon) were founded in the Soviet period.

Historical survey. The territory of Severnaia Osetiia was settled during the Paleolithic. During the Aneolithic land cultivation and livestock raising were practiced, and mining and copper-making were introduced. The Koban culture, a transitional culture between the Bronze Age and the early Iron Age, evolved here at the end of the second millennium B.C.. Scythians appeared in the Northern Caucasus in the seventh century B.C.. and Sarmatians in the fourth century B.C.. The Alani, descendants of the Sarmatians, emerged as a distinct ethnic group at the beginning of the Common Era. With the coming of the Huns in the late fourth century A.D., part of the Alani migrated to Western Europe and the rest settled in the area between the Kuban’ and Terek rivers or in the mountains. During the eighth and ninth centuries feudal relations developed among the Alani, and in the ninth and tenth centuries the early feudal state of Alania arose. Christianity, which had spread to the Alani from Byzantium in the seventh century and later from Georgia, became the official religion in the tenth century. From the tenth to the 13th century the Alani maintained political and commercial ties with Georgia, Kievan Rus’, and Byzantium. The Ossetic nation began to evolve between the eighth and 12th centuries.

During the Mongol-Tatar invasion (1222–39) the population was decimated and many outstanding works of material culture were destroyed. The Ossets were pushed back into the mountain gorges along the upper reaches of the Terek and onto the southern slopes of the Glavnyi Range. In the mountains the principal occupations of the Ossets were livestock raising, agriculture, hunting, and domestic crafts. The restoration of productive forces stimulated the revival and development of feudal relations, although not to the same extent everywhere. Many vestiges of the patriarchal tribal way of life persisted. Severnaia Osetiia’s feudal fragmentation enabled the Kabardin princes to extend their rule over its western regions in the 16th century.

Unfavorable economic conditions and the external danger posed by the Crimean Khanate and Turkey prompted Severnaia Osetiia to turn to Russia. In 1774 it voluntarily merged with Russia, a move that protected it from foreign invasions, paved the way for eliminating feudal fragmentation, and enabled the area to become part of Russia’s economy and culture. (In the late 18th century the first books in Ossetic were printed using the Russian script.) The area’s unification with Russia was confirmed by the Treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji, concluded with Turkey in 1774. In 1799, Severnaia Osetiia was linked with Georgia by the Georgian Military Road. In the early 19th century some of the Ossets migrated from the mountains to the Mozdok region and the Vladikavkaz Plain, where they attained a higher level of agriculture. By the late 18th century the Ossets had become a distinct nation.

During the 1850’s and 1860’s the bulk of the peasantry was allocated land and liberated from personal feudal dependency, and in the 1870’s administrative and judicial reforms were instituted. The fortress of Vladikavkaz, founded in 1784, was designated a city in 1860. When the Terek Oblast was created in 1861, Severnaia Osetiia was included in it as the Osetiia Military Okrug. Vladikavkaz became the oblast’s administrative center in 1863. The construction of the Ossetian Military Road (1858–88) promoted the economic development of Severnaia Osetiia. A mining and metallurgical industry was founded in the mid-19th century, and cadres of Ossetic skilled workers were formed in the 1860’s. The building of a railroad linking Vladikavkaz with Rostov-on-Don stimulated the development of capitalism in Severnaia Osetiia.

The Ossetic poet and revolutionary democrat K. L. Khetagu-rov began his sociopolitical work in the 1880’s. From the late 19th century the liberation movement in Severnaia Osetiia developed under the influence of the working-class struggle throughout Russia. By the early 20th century more than 3,500 workers, both Russians and Ossets, were employed in industry. A group of Ossets joined the Social Democratic organization that was formed in Vladikavkaz in 1903. The workers of Severnaia Osetiia took an active part in the Revolution of 1905–07. S. M. Kirov directed the work of the Bolsheviks in Severnaia Osetiia and the entire Terek region from 1909 to 1917. After the February Revolution of 1917 a soviet of workers’ deputies was created in Vladikavkaz on March 8 (21); in May it merged with the soviet of soldiers’ deputies. A revolutionary-democratic organization called Kermen was founded in the summer of 1917. The Second Congress of the Peoples of the Terek Oblast, held in Piatigorsk in March 1918, proclaimed the establishment of the Terek Soviet Republic within the RSFSR. The Bolshevik S. G. Buachidze was elected chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars.

During the Civil War (1918–20), Severnaia Osetiia was the scene of fierce fighting. The struggle against the counterrevolutionaries in the Northern Caucasus was directed by G. K. Ordzhonikidze. In January and February 1919, Severnaia Osetiia was captured by General A. I. Denikin’s forces. At the end of March 1920, Vladikavkaz was liberated by the Red Army and partisans, and Soviet power was reestablished throughout the area. On Nov. 17, 1920, a congress of the peoples of the Terek Oblast proclaimed the founding of the Gortsy ASSR, in which Severnaia Osetiia was included as the Osetiia (Vladikavkaz) Okrug. (The All-Russian Central Executive Committee confirmed the founding of the republic on Jan. 20, 1921. On July 7, 1924, Severnaia Osetiia was reorganized as the Severnaia Osetiia Autonomous Oblast, and on Dec. 5, 1936, it became the Severnaia Osetiia ASSR.

Under Soviet power fundamental changes occurred: a socialist economy was created, both heavy and light industry were developed on a large scale, and agriculture was collectivized. A great deal was done to eliminate the vestiges of the feudal-clan system. A cultural revolution was carried out, and Ossets entered all branches of the economy and culture. The Ossetic people became a socialist nation. Art and literature flourished. The gross output of large-scale industry in 1940 was 26 times that of 1913, and the number of workers and white-collar employees grew sevenfold in that period. In 1940 the sown area exceeded that of 1913 by 71.5 percent.

During the Great Patriotic War (1941—45), after heavy fighting from August to December 1942, the Nazi German troops were driven out in early 1943. More than 60,000 workers were awarded orders and medals for their heroism, courage, and feats of labor during the wartime years. The title of Hero of the Soviet Union was conferred on 60 inhabitants of the republic, among them Army General G. I. Khetagurov and Colonel General Kh. U.-D. Mamsurov; Army General I. A. Pliev and Major General I. I. Fesin were awarded the title twice.

In the postwar period the economy was fully restored and expanded. For its achievements in developing its economy and culture the republic was awarded the Order of Lenin on Aug. 7, 1964. To mark the 50th Anniversary of the USSR on Dec. 29, 1972, the republic was given the Order of the Friendship of Peoples, and in commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the republic’s formation and the 200th Anniversary of Severnaia Osetiia’s voluntary merger with Russia, it was awarded the Order of the October Revolution on Sept. 26, 1974.


Economy. Under Soviet power profound economic changes have taken place in Severnaia Osetiia. A well-developed diversified industry and an intensive agriculture have been created in the republic.

INDUSTRY. Industrial production increased tenfold between 1940 and 1974. Today, heavy industry accounts for two-thirds of the industrial output. The principal branches are nonferrous metallurgy, mining, machine building, electrical engineering, and the manufacture of starch and molasses. Among other important industries are woodworking and the production of leather footwear, clothing, knitted goods, carpets, and tulle curtains. (The output of selected industrial goods is indicated in Table 1.)

More than 90 percent of the republic’s electricity is generated by hydroelectric power plants, which utilize about 10 percent of the republic’s hydroelectric potential. There are three hydroelectric power plants: the Gizel’don Plant, built in accordance with the plan drawn up by GOELRO (State Commission for the Electrification of Russia), the Ordzhonikidze Plant, and the Ezmi Plant on the Terek River. The Beslan and Digora heat and electric power plants are fueled by natural gas. Severnaia Osetiia’s electric power plants are part of the energy system of the Northern Caucasus Economic Region. Nonferrous metallurgy is represented by the Sadon Lead and Zinc Combine, which includes the Sadon, Zgid, Kholst, Arkhonskaia, and Fi-agdon mines and the Mizurskii and Fiagdon ore-dressing factories, and by the Elektrotsink and Pobedit plants in Ordzhonikidze.

In 1974 machine building and metalworking accounted for 29.4 percent of the industrial output and 27 percent of the industrial fixed capital stock and employed 41.3 percent of the industrial workers. From 1966 to 1974 the volume of industrial output doubled. Ordzhonikidze has a railroad-car repair plant and plants producing gas appliances, automotive electrical equipment, electric switches (Elektrokontaktor), and light bulbs. There are also machine-building enterprises in Beslan (Avtospetsoborudovanie Plant) and Ardon (Avtozapchast’).

The glass and porcelain-faience industry, based in Ordzhonikidze, produces glassware, glass for vacuum tubes, porcelain for electrical appliances, and porcelain art objects. The building-materials industry manufactures bricks, silicate wall materials, Keramzit (expanded clay aggregate), and reinforced-con-crete products.

Light industry contributes about 11 percent of the republic’s industrial output. The Ordzhonikidze Knitwear Association includes two knitwear factories and a hosiery factory. There are also enterprises producing footwear, leather (Ordzhonikidze), and furniture (Kazbek Firm).

The food-processing industry comprises about 30 large industrial enterprises. Starch and molasses are produced by the Beslan Corn Combine, the largest plant of its kind in Europe, and by the Ordzhonikidze Starch Plant. Canneries in Chermen, Ordzhonikidze. Ardon, and El’khotovo process fruits and vegetables. There are also flour-milling, meat-packing, and dairy enterprises.

AGRICULTURE. In 1974 the republic had 409,000 hectares (ha) of agricultural land, of which about 50 percent were occupied by arable land, 7.5 percent by hayfields, and 39.9 percent by pastures. On Jan. 1, 1975, there were 45 kolkhozes and 30 sovkhozes. The republic had 2,821 tractors in 1974, as compared to 1,579 in 1960, 525 grain-harvesting combines (445) and 2,100 trucks (1,180). Large-scale irrigation projects have been initiated. There are now eight irrigation and water-supply systems, based on the Terek-Kuma, Alkhanchurt, and other canals. Some 46,200 ha were under irrigation in 1974. (See Table 2 for a breakdown of the sown area.)

Grain is the chief crop. Most of the wheat (62 percent) is grown in the steppe zone, and corn is grown in all the agricultural regions. Severnaia Osetiia is a major producer of hybrid corn seed for the northern and eastern parts of the USSR. Sunflowers and southern hemp are cultivated in the steppe regions, vegetables are raised everywhere, and 90 percent of the potatoes are grown in the forest-steppe and piedmont zones. In 1974 the grain harvest totaled 268,900 tons, including 78,900 tons of winter wheat and 154,000 tons of corn. Some 1,200 tons of hemp seed were produced and 105,100 tons of potatoes. That year 13,700 ha in the foothills and mountains were covered by orchards and berry bushes, and vineyards occupied 900 ha, chiefly in the Mozdok region.

In livestock breeding the emphasis is on raising dairy and beef cattle, although hog and sheep raising is also well developed. At the end of 1974 the livestock population included 170,000 head of cattle (106,000 in 1940), including 61,000 (47,000) cows; 143,000 (70,000) hogs; and 172,000 (190,000) sheep and goats. Large mechanized livestock-raising complexes are being built. Dairy cows are raised in the steppes and on the outskirts of towns, and beef cattle are raised in the forest steppes and mountains. Sheep-raising is well developed throughout the republic, and pig-farming is concentrated in the Mozdok region. Poultry is supplied by the Ordzhonikidze and Tsalyk poultry farms. A rabbit-breeding sovkhoz and two beekeeping sovkhozes have also been established.

In 1974 state purchases included 136,200 tons of grain (32,000 in 1940), 23,000 tons of potatoes (21,700), 51,200 tons of vegetables (9,400), 6,000 tons of sunflower seeds (300), 27,000 tons of fruit and berries (1,400), 22,000 tons of meat and poultry (2,200), 65,000 tons of milk (2,600), 41.8 million eggs (4.5 million), and 966,000 tons of wool (174,000).

TRANSPORTATION. The republic is crossed by the Northern Caucasus Railroad, which runs from Rostov-on-Don to Baku. An electrified branch line connects Beslan with Ordzhonikidze, and other branch lines link the Darg-Kokh station with Alagir and the Ardon station with Digora. A second trunk line links Mozdok with Prokhladnaia and Gudermes. In 1974 the republic had 149 km of railroad track and 1,908 km of roads. The Moscow-Tbilisi-Yerevan highway crosses the republic; a branch of the highway runs from Beslan to Baku. Ordzhonikidze is linked by road with all parts of the republic. The Georgian and Ossetian military roads originate in the republic, which is also served by the Stavropol’-Groznyi and Ordzhoni-kidze-Tbilisi gas pipelines.

TRADE. Severnaia Osetiia supplies other parts of the USSR with nonferrous and rare metals, hard alloys, precision instruments,

Table 1. Output of selected industrial goods
1Although production of electricity declined, the republic’s consumption of it increased; the additional electric power was supplied by power plants outside the republic
Electric power (million kW-hr).....................94.8120.1380.9363.41
Electric light bulbs (million) ......................---92.8
Timepieces (rubles)...........................2,488,000
Electric switches (units) ........................153,000332,900
Motor generators (units) ........................387,000820,000
Gas stoves (units) ............................31,400179,000
Glassware (million standard containers) ..............7596147555
Starch dry (tons)16,00024,40016,10038,000
Molasses (tons)65,00067,30074,80083,300
Canned goods (million standard containers)............18.224.763.974.4
Furniture (million rubles)........................4.322.1
Knitted outerwear (pieces).......................73,00063,00084,0001,424,000
Hosiery (million pairs)..........................0.21.511.811.5

motor generators, electric switches, gas stoves, building materials, glass for vacuum tubes, electric insulators, dextrin, sulfuric acid, starch, molasses, and tulle curtain material. In return, it receives metal-cutting machine tools, rolled ferrous metals, mechanization and automation equipment, lumber, cement, and fuel.

The living standard of the inhabitants is steadily rising. The retail goods turnover in state and cooperative trade, including public catering, increased from 207 million rubles in 1965 to 393 million rubles in 1974. Large-scale housing construction is under way. In 1974 state and cooperative enterprises and organizations, kolkhozes, and private individuals increased the amount of available housing by 204,000 sq m, compared to 184,000 sq m in 1965. Social insurance and pension funds have also increased.


Public health. In 1913, Severnaia Osetiia had II hospitals with 223 beds and 20 outpatient clinics staffed by feldshers. The entire territory was served by 61 physicians. By 1975 there were 37 hospitals with 6,700 beds (11.5 per 1,000 inhabitants), as compared to 31 hospitals with 1,700 beds, or 4.2 beds per 1,000 inhabitants in 1940. Outpatient care was provided by 97 polyclinics and 55 women’s consultation clinics and children’s polyclinics (29 in 1940). In 1975 medical personnel included 2,900 physicians, or one for every 205 inhabitants (as compared to 404 physicians, or one for every 1,025 inhabitants in 1940), and 5,700 medical assistants (1,000 in 1940). Medical personnel are trained at the Severnaia Osetiia Medical Institute, founded in Ordzhonikidze in 1939, and at a medical school.

There are balneological health resorts at Karmadon (mineral springs) and Tamisk, and eight sanatoriums.

TOURISM. Severnaia Osetiia is one of the centers of tourism and mountain climbing in the USSR. There are 11 trade union tourist facilities and two mountain-climbing camps (in the Tsei Gorge). The most popular tourist routes lie along the Georgian and Ossetian military roads and through the Gizel’don, Fiag-don, and Urukh valleys, reaching the Tsei and Karaugom glaciers and crossing Roka Pass to the Black Sea coast.

Education and cultural affairs. Prior to 1917 Severnaia Osetiia had 165 primary schools with an enrollment of 17,100 pupils and two specialized secondary schools with about 100 students. There were no institutions of higher learning.

During the 1974–75 school year 116,400 children attended the republic’s 261 general schools, 8,700 pupils were being trained in 18 vocational-technical schools, and 14,800 students were enrolled in 13 specialized secondary schools. There were four institutions of higher learning: the Severnaia Osetiia University, the Gorsk Agricultural Institute, the Severnaia Osetiia Medical Institute, and the Northern Caucasus Mining and Metallurgical Institute, all in Ordzhonikidze. The higher schools had a total enrollment of 18,200 students. In 1975, 25,100 children attended 234 preschool institutions.

On Jan. 1, 1975, the republic had 204 public libraries (with 3,707,000 copies of books and magazines) and 171 clubs. There are four museums in Ordzhonikidze: the Severnaia Osetiia Republic Museum of Local Lore (with branches in Alagir and Mozdok), the S. M. Kirov and G. K. Ordzhonikidze Museum (with the G. A. Tsagolov House Museum in Digora, Tsagolov’s hometown), the M. S. Tuganov Severnaia Osetiia Republic Art Museum, and the K. L. Khetagurov Museum of Severnaia Osetiia Literature (with the K. L. Khetagurov House Museum, in Nar, his birthplace). In addition, there are 159 motion-picture units, a palace of Pioneers, and a young naturalists’ station (See below: Music and Theater.)

Scientific institutions. In 1975 the republic had 12 scientific institutions, including higher schools. The Ossetic Historical and Philological Society, founded in 1918 in Ordzhonikidze, was reorganized in 1925 as the Severnaia Osetiia Research Institute of History, Economics, Language, and Literature. Among other learned institutions are the Northern Caucasus Branch of the All-Union Research and Design Institute Tsvetmetavtomatika (1959, Ordzhonikidze), the Northern Caucasus Branch of the All-Union Scientific Research Institute of Starch Products (1959, Beslan), and the Northern Caucasus Scientific Research Institute of Mountain and Piedmont Agriculture (1971, in the village of Mikhailovskoe). Research is also conducted at institutions of higher learning. In 1975 the republic had more than 2,000 scientific workers, of whom more than 700 held the degree of doctor or candidate of sciences.


Press, radio, and television. In 1974, 141 titles of books and pamphlets, totaling 1,050,000 copies, were published in the republic. The leading republic newspapers are Rastdzinad (Pravda), issued in Ossetic since 1923, Sotsialisticheskaia Osetiia (since 1917), and the Komsomol Molodoi kommunist (since 1928). The chief periodicals are the literary and sociopolitical magazine Makh dug (Nasha epokha), issued in Ossetic since 1934, and the miscellanies Sovetskaia Osetiia (since 1948) and Bloknot agitatora (since 1945).

The republic television station broadcasts three hours a day and the republic radio network, 2½ hours a day in both Ossetic and Russian. Central Television programs are on the air 13 hours daily and All-Union Radio programs, 17 ½hours.

Table 2. Structure of sown area (hectares)
Total sown area .......109,400187,600205,000
Grain crops ..........93,600118,500103,700
Winter wheat ......25,20043,50040,900
Corn (seed) .......39,90056,90042,900
Winter barley ......4,0004,30010,000
Millet ...........8,5004,1003,400
Industrial crops .......2,50016,4009,900
Southern hemp.....1005,7002,300
Sunflowers .......1,5003,6006,900
Potatoes and vegetable-   
melon crops ........7,50020,90014,200
Fodder crops.........70031,80077,200

Architecture and art. The oldest works of art discovered in Severnaia Osetiia date from the third millennium B.C. The red clay vessels found in the region are similar to those of the Maikop culture. Bronze Age kurgans, sometimes enclosed by rings of boulders forming cromlechs, have yielded vessels decorated with cord impressions and stamped designs (notches, interlace, garlands), as well as bronze ornaments. There are numerous relics from the Koban culture. The Scythians, who arrived in the area in the seventh century B.C., left behind cast bronze artifacts, including religious objects, decorated in the animal style. The art of the Alani, found throughout the area, is echoed in modern Ossetic folk art.

The spread of Christianity from the tenth century stimulated the construction of churches, most of them small single-apse structures without piers. They were made either of undressed stone held in place with limestone mortar or of bricks alternating with rows of large stones, as exemplified in the bell tower in the village of Nuzal, built in the tenth and 11th centuries. There are ruins of mosques and minarets, in the town of Tatartup, founded by the Mongol-Tatars. During the Middle Ages stone defensive walls were erected in the mountains (in the Kasarsk, Koban, Kurtat, and other gorges), along with military and guard towers three or four stories high, sometimes forming entire complexes. Built between the 14th and 18th centuries, the towers in the village of Lisri are noteworthy for their austere grandeur. Medieval Ossetic mountain settlements—picturesque terraced compositions—blended harmoniously with the surrounding landscape. Each settlement had a central square, called nykhas. The plains settlements that sprang up in the 19th century were usually situated along river banks or major roads and had a manorial layout.

During the 18th and 19th centuries the mountain people built two-story, multiroom houses of crudely worked stone. These dwellings, called sakhli, had flat earthen roofs and separate entrances leading to open balconies. In the plains rectangular adobe (later brick) houses with sloping tiled roofs were constructed. Near the settlements the Ossets built burial vaults of various shapes, some aboveground and others semiunder-ground or underground. They also erected tomb stelae, stone pillars decorated with small carved figures of the deceased, dragon killers (St. George), and horsemen. In urban architecture, the eclectic style prevailed in Mozdok and Ordzhonikidze in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, although buildings in the art nouveau style were also constructed.

During the Soviet period Ordzhonikidze has been modernized and expanded in accordance with general plans. Numerous construction projects have been undertaken since the 1950’s under the direction of the architects A. I. Btemirov, T. M. Butaeva, and G. V. Chknavorian. Apartment complexes of two to five stories, surrounded by greenery and provided with sports facilities and service enterprises, have been built in Mozdok, Alagir, Beslan, Ardon, and Digora. The construction of sanatoriums, houses of rest, Pioneer camps, and tourist facilities has grown rapidly. The Severnaia Osetiia Division of the Architects’ Union of the RSFSR was established in 1936.

The principal and oldest forms of Ossetic folk art are gold embroidery for decorating clothing and household objects, the making of stamped ornamental pieces of gilded bronze or silver to be sewn on belts or other articles of dress, and the production of richly ornamented weapons. Harnesses and saddles were also frequently decorated with gold embroidery and silver overlay embellished with engraving and niello. Floral designs were used in decorating all such objects. Solar motifs (rosettes, stars, circles with spiral rays) and zoomorphic motifs (the head or horns of a ram, goat, or deer) were generally employed in wood carving (on houses, chests, furniture, utensils, walking sticks) and in making articles of wrought iron.

At the end of the 19th century the first Ossetic painter, K. L. Khetagurov, produced genre paintings, portraits, and landscapes modeled on the works of Russian artists of the democratic school. M. S. Tuganov, who was active from the first years of Soviet power, won fame for his agitational Windows of the Ter-kavROSTA (posters with rhyming captions, produced by the Terek-Caucasus Division of the Russian Telegraph Agency) and historical-revolutionary and genre canvases. Among artists who came to prominence in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s were the graphic artist and painter A. Z. Khokhov, the painters N. E. Kochetov and V. L. Lakisov, the graphic artist R. V. Khasiev, the sculptor A. M. Dzantiev, and the artist Iu. A. Dzantiev, S. M. Endziev, and S. D. Tavasiev. The Union of Soviet Artists of the Severnaia Osetiia ASSR was established in 1939; in 1968 it was renamed the Artists’ Union of the Severnaia Osetiia ASSR.

Since the mid-1950’s the greatest achievements have been in genre painting, often infused with emotion and lyricism (P. M. Zaron, B. N. Kalmanov), but sometimes having an epic quality and a vibrant decorative coloring (Iu. A. Dzantiev). A strong interest in folklore is reflected in the series of illustrations for the Ossetic Narty Legends, created in the 1960’s by A. V. Dzha-naev, Tuganov, and Khokhov. Since the 1950’s monumental sculpture has been developed by Tavasiev and the sculptured portrait and small-scale sculpture by Ch. U. Dzanagov, A. M. Dzantiev, S. P. Sanakoev, and B. A. Totiev. Superior work has been done in the graphic arts and stage design by Z. P. Aboev, Iu. G. Bigaev, and Iu. P. Fedorov. In decorative applied art, Ossetic artists excel in producing silver objects decorated with minute niello floral ornamentation and in rug-making (V. N. Ktsoev, O. G. Maltyzova, M. O. Tsarikaev).


Music. Ossetic folk music, represented by songs, epic tales, and instrumental pieces, developed as part of the oral tradition. Folk songs are classified by genre as historical-heroic, work, feast, lyric, humorous, cradle, or ritual songs. Ritual songs are further divided into wedding, hunting, funeral, and healing songs. As a rule, the songs are performed by men’s choruses, with a soloist carrying the basic melody and the others joining in. Often there are two lead singers who alternate with each other. In contrast to the men’s choral polyphonic singing, with two or three voice parts, most of the women’s songs consist of one or occasionally two voice parts. In the latter case the first voice carries the basic melodic line.

Ossetic music is essentially diatonic. Modal variations with a common tonic are encountered, as well as songs based on two modes. The melodic range extends from a perfect fourth to an eleventh. A characteristic feature is the predominantly descending movement of the tune, with the culmination occurring at the beginning of the tune or at the beginning of one of its individual components. In the historical-heroic songs and some of the ritual songs the melodic line is more developed and has a flowing movement. Unlike the melody of most of the work, feast, humorous, cradle, and lyric songs, it is based on a constantly changing intonation.

Ossetic folk songs differ with respect to meter. Along with duple and triple meters, there are meters with five or seven beats, as well as alternating meters with irregular groupings. Syncopation and triplets are common.

Instrumental music consists chiefly of dance tunes, named after the dances they accompany, such as the simd (group dance), the khonga-kaft (flowing dance), and the tymbyl-kafl (round dance). Sometimes the name of the tune reflects the place where the dance originated. The most popular national instruments are the dyuadastanon, a 12-string harp; the dala-fandyr, a plucked stringed instrument; the kissyn-fandyr, a bowed stringed instrument; the wind instruments called uadyndz (panpipes), stili (reed pipe), and fidiuag (made from a bull’s horn); and the kartsganan (rattle) and gumsag (drum). The iron-kandzal-fandyr (diatonic and chromatic accordions), balalaika, and fiddle are also widely used.

Severnaia Osetiia has produced a number of outstanding folk storytellers, singers, and instrumentalists, among them Bibo Dzugutov, Dabeg Gatuev, Khasako Dzampaev, Gakha Slanov, Vano Guriev, and Kaisyn Merdenov. The most famous contemporary storytellers are Arsamag Tsopanov and Dris Tau-tiev, and the leading singers are G. Pliev, E. Dzedzaev, E. Gul’cheev, D. Kasabiev, E. Kokoev, and N. A. Toguzova.

In the late 19th century S. I. Taneev, M. M. Ippolitov-Ivanov, and D. I. Arakishvili assembled collections of Ossetic folk music. Their work was continued in the late 1920’s and 1930’s by P. B. Mamulov, V. I. Dolidze, B. A. Galaev, A. N. Alikov, and A. S. Totiev, who were later followed by E. A. Kolesnikov, T. D. Kokoiti, D. S. Khakhanov, L. I. Kuliev, and K. G. Tskhurbae-va. The songs written down by Galaev have been published in two collections, called Ossetic Musical Folklore (1948) and Ossetic Folk Songs (1964).

Professional music emerged after the October Revolution of 1917. From 1924 to 1926 the Gortsy People’s Conservatory functioned in Ordzhonikidze. A folk instrument orchestra created in 1932 under the auspices of the Radio Committee was transformed into a symphony orchestra in 1944. Founded in 1958, the republic’s theater of music and drama was reorganized as a musical theater in 1972. A song and dance ensemble was formed in 1938. A music school was established in 1938 and a school of musical education, in 1947.

The 1920’s saw the appearance of the first professional works, arrangements of folk songs and orchestral miniatures by Mamulov, Dolidze, Alikov, T. la. Kokoiti, and other composers. In the 1930’s Ossetic composers devoted themselves chiefly to small vocal genres. Large-scale works were written during the 1950’s and 1960’s by Kh. S. Pliev (the opera Kosta, operettas, oratorios, and songs), Khakhanov (symphonies, opera, ballets, concerti, and choral works), I. G. Gabaraev (the operas Azau, Ollana, symphonies, art songs, and music for dramatic productions), T. la. Kokoiti (symphonic works and songs), A. la. Kokoiti (an operetta, symphonic works, and songs), N. A. Karnitskaia (concerti, symphonic poems, piano music), and R. K. Tsarionti (an opera, an oratorio, and songs). A. A. Polian-ichenko, Kolesnikov, and Kuliev have become noted for their instrumental and choral music. An important contribution has been made by the musicologists Z. Kh. Tuaeva, Tskhurbaeva, and P. F. Panasian and by the choral conductors Z. A. Dzutst-sati and A. T. Acheev.

The leading singers are Honored Artists of the RSFSR T. A. Togoeva, E. V. Kulaev, and M. S. Katolieva: People’s Artists of the Severnaia Osetiia ASSR F. S. Suanov, D. N. Belaonova, and A. V. Khasieva; and Honored Artists of the Severnaia Osetiia ASSR Iu. A. Batsazov, N. V. Kokaeva, V. K. Dzutsev, and Z. M. Kalmanova.

In 1975 the republic had a musical theater, a philharmonic society (1945), a symphony orchestra (conducted by I. A. Arkin from 1944 to 1953 and by Honored Art Worker of the RSFSR P. A. Iadykh since 1955), the Alan Dance Ensemble (1966), a choral society (1959), an arts school, a school of musical education (Ordzhonikidze), and 11 children’s music schools. The Composers’ Union of the Severnaia Osetiia ASSR was organized in 1939.


Theater. The professional Ossetic theater has its origin in folk games and shows, accompanied by singing, dancing, and puppet performances. The first amateur productions in Ossetic were staged in 1904 in Vladikavkaz and in the settlements of Ardon, Ol’ginskoe, Khristianovskoe, and Alagir. From time to time, Ossetic drama groups gave performances in Iuzhnaia Osetiia and in Baku and Tbilisi.

After the establishment of Soviet power in the Northern Caucasus, a professional national theater began to develop, traveling agitational brigades were formed, and courses in acting were organized by the department of public education. The Theater of Small Genres was established in Ordzhonikidze in 1930. The next year a group of talented young Ossetic amateur performers was sent for professional training to the State Institute of Theatrical Art in Moscow. In 1935 the graduates of the institute’s Ossetic Studio joined the company of the Severnaia Osetiia Drama Theater, which had been established in Ordzhonikidze. From 1958 to 1971 the theater functioned as a music and drama theater.

Among the theater’s widely acclaimed productions of works by Ossetic playwrights are Kosta by T. A. Epkhiev and I. V. Dzhanaev (1939), Bat’s Sons by D. Kh. Mamsurov (1943), The Black Mist by G. S. Dzhimiev (1944), Two Sisters by E. I. Bri-taev (1947, 1953), Before the Thunderstorm (1947) and Enemies (1948) by E. A. Uruimagova, Chermen by G. D. Pliev (1949), and The Bridegrooms by A. I. Tokaev (1949). Other noteworthy productions of the theater of works by Ossetic playwrights include Mother of Orphans by D. A. Tuaev (1953), The Avengers by D. I. Temiriaev (1957), A Mother’s Heart by S. T. Kaitov (1959), The Brothers by Kh. G. Tsopanov (1966), Black Girl (1966) and A Mother’s Glory (1974) by R. V. Khubetsova, and Sarmat and His Sons by N. M. Salamov (1967).

The theater has also given fine performances of world classics and works by authors from other Soviet republics, among them N. V. Gogol’s Marriage (1939, 1959), M. Gorky’s Vassa Zheleznova (1940), Shakespeare’s Othello (1940), Twelfth Night (1954), and Hamlet (1974), K. A. Trenev’s Liubov’ larovaia (1947), Molière’s George Dandin (1947), J. K. Tyl’s The Piper of Strakonits (1954), Euripides’ Medea (1965), and G. Khu-khashvili’s Roads (Sab’s Fate, 1971). The company’s national distinctiveness, romantic fervor, strong emotionality, and a noble simplicity make it one of the more creatively mature groups in the RSFSR. It has acquired new members from among the graduates of the Ossetic studios of the B. V. Shchukin Moscow Theatrical School (1958) and of the State Institute of Theatrical Art (1970).

The Russian drama theater that was founded in Ordzhonikidze in 1871 has strongly influenced the development of the republic’s theatrical culture and the training of directors and performers. Such outstanding actors as N. Kh. Rybakov, N. N. Sinel’nikov, P. N. Orlenev, and I. A. Rostovtsev performed in the theater at various times. The Sabi Puppet Theater, opened in 1943, includes both Russian and Ossetic groups.

An important contribution to the development of Severnaia Osetiia’s theater was made by its founders: Honored Art Worker of the Severnaia Osetiia ASSR B. I. Totrov; People’s Artists of the Severnaia Osetiia ASSR S. K. Tautiev and P. K. Tsirikhov; People’s Artists of the RSFSR and the Severnaia Osetiia ASSR S. G. Ikaeva, V. S. Karginova, and T. Kh. Kariaeva; People’s Artists of the Severnaia Osetiia ASSR L. A. Kondyrev, S. A. Petrovskii, M. N. Repina, and P. M. Lukina; and Honored Art Worker of the Severnaia Osetiia ASSR E. G. Marko-va.

In 1975 the leading theatrical figures were People’s Artist of the USSR V. V. Tkhapsaev; People’s Artists of the RSFSR Z. E. Britaeva (the principal director of the Severnaia Osetiia Theater from 1950 to 1964 and of the Russian Theater since 1966), N. M. Salamov, K. G. Slanov, E. S. Tumenova, V. V. Khugaeva, G. D. Khugaev (since 1964, the principal director of the Severnaia Osetiia Theater); Honored Art Worker of the RSFSR M. K. Tsalikov; Honored Artist of the RSFSR A. V. Karpov; People’s Artists of the Severnaia Osetiia ASSR O. A. Bekuzarova, M. S. Ikaev, I. V. Gogichev, B. Z. Vataev, Z. G. Kochisova, and V. D. Urtaeva; and Honored Artist of the RSFSR G. P. Fedorov.



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