Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Ossetias

A question popped up about South Ossetia which on Sunday had its referendum on independence from Georgia. The question was 'I thought South Ossetia is in Russia'.

Well, no. There is North Ossetia and South Ossetia. North O is indeed in Russia (and the site of the Beslan tragedy), but South O is in Georgia, though it seems, a bit unwillingly. It is not recognised as anything like a state by anyone, and some say the referendum (which went for idependence) was fixed - not unheard of in this part of the world. It has certainly become another issue during the current Russian/Georgian 'situation', whereby the Russians are putting in a new oil or gas pipeline to South Ossetia, and recently sent a 20 m USD trainload of humanitarian aid to that region. Their own population could also do with some of that humanitarian aid...

The most famous Ossetian (north or south, I don't know) is Valery Gergiev, the conductor who is loved or loathed. Many adore him, even those sitting within flying range of his perspiration, on other occasions one reads, for example, that he is running the Mariinsky Ballet (formerly the Kirov) into the ground by not giving them enough rehearsal time. (The story was that a tour of the UK had been planned, but then Gergiev suddenly decided to perform more Shostakovich, which somehow interfered with the ballet's rehearsals, so their performances were very poor).

I see that Tajikistan has re-elected its president, without so much as a whisper of complaint. One of the key opposition candidates died in the summer, of natural causes it seems, and there was a dearth of other candidates. After the civil war 10 years ago the Tajiks are not keen to repeat such an experience.