South Ossetia is an internationally unrecognised country in de facto it is the Republic of South Ossetia, which is a part of Georgia. South Ossetia’s de jure has been recognised only by Russia (since 26 August 2008), Nicaragua (since 5 September 2008), Venezuela (since 10 September 2009) and Nauru (since 16 December 2009).
South Ossetia is located in the centre of Caucasus. It occupies the southern slopes of the Greater Caucasus Mountain Range and the northern part of the Kartalin Valley. South Ossetia’s area is 3900 square kilometres.
In west, south and east, South Ossetia shares a border with Georgia, but in north – with the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania, which is a federal subject of Russia.
South Ossetia does not have a direct access to sea and its territory is mostly hilly. Almost 90% of South Ossetia’s territory is 1000 metres above sea level. The highest point is Mount Khalatsa (3938 m).
South Ossetia’s climate changes regarding mountainous areas – in the southern part it is moderately warm and humid, while, in the northern part of the mountains, there is always snow. The Greater Caucasus Mountain Range protects South Ossetia from northern winds and thus it is much warmer there than in the North Caucasus. The average temperature in January is +4.5 C°, in July – +20.3 C°.
According to the last population census data, which South Ossetia had in 1989, there are 98 527 people living in South Ossetia, from which 69.1% are Ossetians, 26.9% are Georgians, 2% – Hebrews, 1.6% – Armenians and 0.2% – Russians.
According UN’s data, up to August 2008, there are approximately 83 000 people living in The Republic of South Ossetia. In 2009, in the report made by the Migration Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, it is stated that approximately 50 000 people live in the Republic.
Many Ossetians left the region during the armed conflict in the 90s and moved to Russia (mainly in North Ossetia-Alania). Majority of Georgians left their villages after the events that took place in August 2008.
In 2009, according to South Ossetia’s data, 80% of the population were Ossetians.
In 2012, State Statistics Office in South Ossetia conducted a survey; the survey states that 51 572 people live in the Republic, from which 89.1% are Ossetians, 8.9% – Georgians, 1% – Russians and 1% – representatives of other nationalities.
Majority of South Ossetia’s population are Orthodox. Official languages in South Ossetia are Ossetian, Russian and Georgian. Ossetian and Russian are named as state languages.
The Republic of South Ossetia is divided in five districts – Dzau District, Znaur District, Leningor (Akhalgori) District, Tskhinvali District and the capital of the Republic, Tskhinvali. Some of the districts have two names – one is used in Georgia and the other in South Ossetia.
During the Soviet era South Ossetia was one of the least developed regions in Georgia. The main sector of the economy was mechanical engineering. The factory "Elektrovibormashina" operated in Tskhinvali - one of the leading USSR enterprises specializing in the production of mining and rock processing equipment, the bus repair factory "Emalprovod", the timber company in Tskhinvali, which worked with local timber. Building materials were also produced in South Ossetia. The food industry was developed in the Republic. Canned food, beer, wine, sweetened drinks and dairy products were produced on a small scale. Most of the industrial enterprises that existed in South Ossetia during the USSR are currently closed or operate at 5% -10% of their previous capacity.
South Ossetia's economy is currently in deep crisis, aggravated by the collapse of the Soviet Union, the war with Georgia, the undeveloped form of market governance, the economic blockade imposed by Georgia, the South Caucasus market closed to the republic and a number of other factors.
Russia's financial support is a significant part of South Ossetia's budget. In 2018, the budget revenue of South Ossetia amounted to RUB 7.67 billion (financial support provided by Russia accounted for 86.5% of the budget revenue or RUB 6.6 billion), expenditure - RUB 7.67 billion.
On March 18, 2015, an integration agreement was signed in Moscow, which envisages the establishment of a joint Russian-South Ossetian defense and customs area. Russia has also committed itself to providing a pension and medical insurance system for the people of South Ossetia.
The South Ossetian leadership is aware that the South Ossetian economy is currently in a complex situation and calls on investors to develop promising business projects for the republic, promising government support for implementation of such projects.
The South Ossetian leadership takes for granted that the republic is part of the Russian economic space and that, from an economic point of view, South Ossetia must develop high value-added production, but there is a complex logistical problem due to South Ossetia's lack of seaports and railways connecting the Republic with the Russian Federation.
South Ossetia is not an attractive region for investors and no economic growth or entrepreneurship business opportunities are in view.
In essence, the South Ossetian economy depends on Russia's financial support in all areas of the republic's socio-economic development.
On April 9, 2017, Parliament Speaker Anatoly Bibilov was elected President of South Ossetia with 54.8% of the vote in his favour.
After the election victory A.Bibilov announced that South Ossetia would continue negotiations with Russia on the organization of a referendum to join the Russian Federation. "I have always emphasized and emphasize now that the desire of the people of South Ossetia to return to the Russian Federation has existed since the moment of separation of the Ossetian people," said A.Bibilov.
A.Bibilov was born in 1970 to a family of Tskhinvali workers, having received his military education at the Ryazan Higher Airborne School. After graduation he was sent to the 76th Pskov Airborne Division, where at that time a battalion was formed for a peacekeeping operation in South Ossetia, and in 1992 he returned to South Ossetia as a member of the battalion. After his return, he served in the South Ossetian Armed Forces, where he commanded a special purpose group. From 1996 to 1998 he lived and worked in Kyiv, from 1998 to 2008 he served in the North Ossetian Peacekeeping Battalion, initially as the Commander of the South Ossetian Company, and later as the Deputy Commander of the Battalion. In August 2008, A.Bibilov actively participated in combat operations during the armed conflict between South Ossetia and Georgia. A.Bibilov was one of those who organized the defense of Tskhinvali. During the fighting, A.Bibilov was twice wounded, but remained in the active service.
In October 2008, A.Bibilov was appointed Minister of Civil Defense and Minister of Dissolving, Emergency Situations and Disaster Relief of South Ossetia. In 2008, A.Bibilov was awarded the highest state award – the Order "Uacamonga" for his heroism and contribution to the clearing the consequences of war. In September 2011, A.Bibilov was awarded the Order of Friendship by order of the President of Russia for his contribution to the relations between Russia and South Ossetia. A.Bibilov is married and has four children.
A.Bibilov participated in the presidential elections in 2011, receiving 40% of the votes and losing to his competitor Alya Djioev. Later, the Supreme Court of South Ossetia annulled the election results and in 2012 new elections were announced, in which A.Bibilov did not apply for participation.
In 2015, Ukraine included A.Bibilov in the list of sanctions, recognizing him as a person who poses a threat to Ukraine's territorial integrity, sovereignty, national security and interests. A. Bibilov was included in this list for repeated visits to the self-proclaimed People's Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk and for visits to Russian-controlled Crimea.
According to the constitution adopted in 1993, South Ossetia is a sovereign, democratic and legal republic established on the basis of the right of self-determination of the people of South Ossetia. Dual citizenship is allowed in South Ossetia.
South Ossetia is a presidential republic according to the boom of governance, headed by a president elected by direct universal elections for a five-year term. A referendum was held in South Ossetia in 1992, on the basis of which South Ossetia declared its independence from Georgia on 19 January 1992.
The domestic political situation in the Republic of South Ossetia is complicated. Along with the difficult socio-economic conditions in the republic, there are also serious political contradictions related to the future status of the republic. There is no consensus in South Ossetian society on the future of the republic. Part of the public is in favor of South Ossetia joining Russia. Others emphasize that South Ossetia has experienced several wars and has no right to give up its independence.
Along with the presidential elections held in South Ossetia on April 9, 2017, the Republic also held a referendum on changing the name of the country, which envisages adding an equivalent name to the name of the Republic of South Ossetia – the State of Alanya. 78% supported the renaming of the country's name in a referendum, but 20% opposed it.
The elections and referendums have not been recognized by the international community, but congratulations to the newly elected President were sent by Russian President Vladimir Putin and the leaders of the self-proclaimed republics in the CIS.
Although Moscow expressed its open support for the then President L.Tibilov before the South Ossetian presidential elections, to the Kremlin A. Bibilov was also acceptable, as his views and visions on the future political direction of South Ossetia did not differ from L.Tibilov’s.
A.Bibilov's victory in the elections was determined by the Ossetians' desire to see a new face in the president’s office, hoping for an improvement in living standards, but in reality the only visible change is related to the change of the president's surname L.Tibilov to A.Bibilov.
South Ossetia's foreign policy course is directed at consolidating the relations with Russia, other self-proclaimed countries (Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, Transnistria) and those countries that have recognized South Ossetia de iure (Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Nauru). One of its foreign policy goals has been for South Ossetia to step up cooperation with the Ossetian community in various countries in order to achieve further recognition of South Ossetia's independence.
Relations between South Ossetia and Georgia are being developed within the framework of the Geneva talks, which also involve Russia, Abkhazia and international organizations. Although negotiations in the Geneva format have been taking place since 2008, the parties to the conflict have not been able to achieve any results in resolving the relationship.
On August 26, 2008 Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed an order recognizing the independence of Russia's occupied Georgian separatist provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and called on other countries to do the same.
On September 17, 2008, Russian President D.Medvedev signed friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance agreements with the Presidents of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The agreements envisage for military, diplomatic and economic cooperation between Moscow and Sukhumi, Moscow and Tskhinvali. The agreements also provide for the right of the contracting parties to use and improve the infrastructure and military facilities of the other country's Armed Forces.
On February 18, 2015, Russian and South Ossetian Foreign Ministers Sergey Lavrov and David Sanakoyev signed a Russia and South Ossetia border agreement in Moscow. D.Sanakoyev stressed that the signing of the border agreement should put an end to the talks about Moscow's plans to annex the territory of South Ossetia. With the agreement, Russia undertook to technically strengthen the entire border of the Republic of South Ossetia with Georgia.
On March 18, 2015, the Presidents of Russia and South Ossetia, Vladimir Putin and Leonid Tibilov, signed a Union and Strategic Partnership Agreement between the two countries. The document provides for the establishment of a common security and defense area, the free crossing of the Russian and South Ossetian border, the integration of customs structures, the expansion of cooperation between the two parties' internal affairs bodies, the simplification of procedures for acquiring Russian citizenship procedures, as well as and social support measures, including the increase of salaries and pensions.
On the issue of South Ossetia's possible accession to Russia, Moscow is cautious in its statements. Given Russia's complex economic situation and the "great needs" of the Republic of South Ossetia, Moscow is in no hurry to support Tskhinvali on its path to Russia in accession.
The views of A.Bibilov, elected president in 2017, on the future direction of the country do not differ from the views of the former president L.Tibilov. In his interviews on the political future of the separatist South Ossetia, A.Bibilov repeated word for word what L.Tibilov said. "After my victory in the country's domestic and foreign policy, the only thing that will change is that cooperation with Russia will be deepened," said A.Bibilov.