When the Soviet empire collapsed in the great events of 1989-91, it meant that East and West Germany could become one and that Yemen and South Yemen could reunify, and it made the reunification of North and South Korea seem imminent too (though it turns out that could take a while). But one much smaller Eurasian nation found, once the dust had settled, that they were now divided as they had not been for centuries: Ossetia. Now that Ossetians are talking reunification, it may turn out to be a far more complicated business than it has been in Germany, Yemen, or even Korea.
Properly speaking, Ossetia was already divided during the Soviet period. North Ossetia was the North Ossetian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, part of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (R.S.F.S.R.), while South Ossetia was the South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast, part of the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic. But both the the R.S.F.S.R. and Georgian S.S.R. were, in turn, constituent republics of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.), and anything called “federal” or “autonomous” in the U.S.S.R. was a polite fiction in a party dictator ruled from the center. For better or for worse, Ossetia was united.
|Yeltsin and Putin|
|South Ossetia’s official seal|
|Mikhail Gorbachev and Eduard Shevardnadze|
|Mikheil Saakashvili chose war with Russia, and lost.|
|Russian troops invading South Ossetia in 2008|
|Alla Dzhioyeva in 2011|
|The snow leopard, the national animal of both Ossetias,|
features prominently in the iconography of the reunification movement.
|There is not much daylight been North Ossetia’s President Taymuraz Mamsurov and Vladimir Putin|
|Anatoliy Bibilov (flags on his desk are South Ossetian and Russian)|
|Fighters in 2008 waving the flag of South Ossetia, which is also the flag of North Ossetia–Alania|
|Youths waving Abkhazian, South Ossetian, and Russian flags|
|“Take my Mingrelians—please!”|
Georgia’s president, Giorgi Margvelashvili (right), with his former prime minister, Bidzina Ivanishvili.
|This is the flag some Georgian nationalists would like|
for a South Ossetia reabsorbed someday by Georgia