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The meaning of «ossetians»

The Ossetians or Ossetes (/ɒˈsɛtiənz/; Ossetian: ир, ирæттæ, ir, irættæ; дигорӕ, дигорӕнттӕ, digoræ, digorænttæ) are an Iranic ethnic group of the Caucasus Mountains, indigenous to the ethnolinguistic region known as Ossetia[23][24][25]. They speak Ossetic, an Eastern Iranic (Alanic) language of the Indo-European language family, with most also fluent in Russian as a second language. The Ossetian language is neither closely related to nor mutually intelligible with any other language of the family today.[26] Ossetic, a remnant of the Scytho-Sarmatian dialect group which was once spoken across the Pontic–Caspian Steppe, is one of the few Iranian languages inside Europe.[27]

The Ossetians mostly populate Ossetia, which is politically divided between North Ossetia–Alania in Russia, and South Ossetia, a de facto independent state with partial recognition, closely integrated in Russia and claimed by Georgia. Their closest relatives, the Jász, live in the Jászság region within the north-western part of the Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok County in Hungary.

Ossetians are mostly Eastern Orthodox Christian, with sizable minorities professing Uatsdin or Islam.

The Ossetians and Ossetia received their name from the Russians, who adopted the Georgian designations Osi (ოსი) (sing., pl.: Osebi (ოსები)) and Oseti ("the land of Osi" (ოსეთი)), used since the Middle Ages for the single Iranian-speaking population of the Central Caucasus and probably based on the old Alan self-designation "As". As the Ossetians lacked any single inclusive name for themselves in their native language, these terms were accepted by the Ossetians themselves already before their integration into the Russian Empire.[28]

This practice was put into question by the new Ossetian nationalism in the early 1990s, when the dispute between the Ossetian subgroups of Digoron and Iron over the status of the Digoron dialect made the Ossetian intellectuals search for a new inclusive ethnic name. This, combined with the effects of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict, led to the popularization of "Alania", the name of the medieval Sarmatian confederation, to which the Ossetians traced their origin, and inclusion of this name into the official republican title of North Ossetia in 1994.[28]

The folk beliefs of the Ossetian people are rooted in their Sarmatian origin and Christian religion, with the pagan gods having been converted into Christian saints. The Nart saga serves as the basic pagan mythology of the region.[31]

The Ossetians descend from the Alans,[32] a Sarmatian tribe (Scythian subgroup of the Iranian ethnolinguistic group).[33] The Alans were the only branch of the Sarmatians to keep their culture in the face of a Gothic invasion (c. 200 CE), and those who remained built a great kingdom between the Don and Volga Rivers, according to Coon, The Races of Europe. Between 350 and 374 CE, the Huns destroyed the Alan kingdom, and the Alan people were split in half. One half fled to the west, where they participated in the Barbarian Invasions of Rome, established short-lived kingdoms in Spain and North Africa, and settled in many other places such as Orléans, France. The other half fled to the south and settled on the plains of the North Caucasus, where they established their medieval kingdom of Alania.[citation needed]

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