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Friday, 28 October 2016


Tskhinval going into history

2011-09-01 12:19

It takes official Tbilisi a lot of efforts to make the whole world call Georgia in an English manner, though it has not been a success so far. Any nation's aspiration towards authentic toponymy is understandable, for it is an integral part of national identification. Tiflis was also properly transformed into Tbilisi once. The government's desire to implant an alien Anglo-Saxon ethnicon into the Georgians' mind is welcomed neither in the country, nor abroad. However, the problem of positioning one's country in the world worries not only the Georgian bureaucrats: South-Ossetian intellectuals are also pondering about a historically correct self-name.


Actually, the process of reviving autochthonic geographical names has been initiated when the capital of the country, Tskhinval, acquired its traditional name. A toponymic commission is acting in the territory of the Caucasian republic, giving the localities their historical names back. But the issue of a self-name for the entire ethnic community is essential for restoring the South-Ossetians' national identity as an independent and state-forming people.

"Oseti or Ovseti - that's the way our country is called in the Georgian historical documents. Since XVII century, there has always been a community of the Georgian tsars-in-exile, tsarevitches, princes, court nobility and merchants in Russia, which used to call us Yases in the Middle Ages. For a long time, Russian tsarist administration received information about Ossetia from the Georgians being in permanent emigration in Moscow, who accordingly used Georgian terminology. But our North-Caucasian neighbours did not know the world "Ossetian". For example, the Abkhaz called the Ossetians Apsua and the Vainakhs called them Hiri. Historical documents of the West-European and Russian chroniclers of the pre-Mongol period called the country Alania and its people - the Alans, Asses or Yases. However, after the Mongol conquest, Alania ceased to exist as a single politico-territorial space and everything associated with it sank to oblivion for centuries. Ultimately, Russia forgot our nation's name and the current Georgian term sprang up centuries later", - the Respublica newspaper reports.

There is no single opinion about a name for the independent South-Ossetians because of the complicated historical processes that went on in the territory of the Alans' traditional habitat. Many local scientists stand for reviving the most ancient form of the toponym, Iryston.

"We call ourselves Iron, not Alan. It means the Republic should also be called Iryston, not Alanston. We are talking about the roots, and Alania originated from "Ir", - Doctor of Philology Nafi Jussoity remarks.

He is echoed by a historian-Alanyist Yuri Gagloity: "I think this is not the best time, but if we are to rename the country, we should definitely call it Iryston. This original name had existed before Alania. According to the chronicles, "they call themselves Irons and the country they inhabit Ironystan. On the other hand, one cannot ignore South Ossetia's example, which revived the name of Alania. Restoration of this toponym would highlight South-Ossetians' kinship with their northern neighbours.

"I see these tendencies as purely positive. In Galazov's time, North Ossetia added the identifying prefix of "Alania" to its name. If the same prefix appears in the name of the Republic of South Ossetia, it will serve another illustrative example of our people's commonness", - Chairman of the International Public Movement "Supreme Council of Ossetians" Boris Basayev remarks.

A similar viewpoint is shared by Chairman of the Ossetian Union of the Defenders of Motherland Amiran Dyakonov: "We were called Ases or Yases in ancient documents.

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