Ossetian is spoken on the slopes of the Caucasus Mountains, which divide the Russia from the Georgia. The area in Russia is known as the North Ossetian A.S.S.R. (capital: Vladikavkaz), while the area in the Georgia is called the South Ossetian Autonomous Region (capital: Tskhinvali). Ossetian speakers number about 500,000, 60 percent of whom live in the North Ossetian Republic, and 15 percent in the South Ossetian Autonomous Region.
Ossetian is an Iranian languagethe only one of any consequence spoken in the Caucasus. There are two important dialectsIron and Digorthe former, shown below, being the more widely spoken. Written Ossetian may be immediately recognized by its use of the æ, a letter to be found in no other language using the Cyrillic alphabet.
The juniper sheds its foliage,
The buckwheat has turned yellow_
The fog has settled on the northern slope,
Which is not warmed by the sun_
We have mown and carted away
Our grain, our hay .
Some work at threshing,
While others shear their sheep .
There is much grain and cattle
With the help of God.
The abundance of our mountain land,
What a wonder you are!
Cruel winter, oppressive winter,
Our despair, our sorrow!
Its days are bitter,
Its nights like death.
Our villages are caves,
Our homes are scenes of avalanches.
Our ancestors have ordained that we
Perish in turn under an avalanche.
Our poor ones, our orphans,
Without a drop of work,
To God cry out
Hungry, frozen .