Yough Pioneer Tours

South Ossetia Independence Day

A tank parading for the independence day of South Ossetia

At the Soviet Tours department of YPT, we made our name by pioneering travel to the four rogue nations of the former Soviet Union: Transnistria, Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh and South Ossetia, the latter being our least visited breakaway state. But this year, through YPT’s many contacts throughout the former USSR, we were personally invited to the capital of South Ossetia to celebrate Independence Day celebrations alongside the wonderful Ossetian people. Whilst we have led tours to Independence Day celebrations in the three other breakaway states and saw tanks roaring down the main boulevards of Transnistria and Nagorno Karabakh and Kalashnikovs firing into the sky in Abkhazia, South Ossetia National Day was to be a first for us!

The independence of South Ossetia

Trucks and machine guns parading during the Independence Day of South Ossetia

With a strong separatist history dating back to 1920, South Ossetia hit the headlines in 2008 during the brutal war over the region between Russia and South Ossetian militias fighting Georgian troops. Georgia lost control of the region and to this day South Ossetia is an independent republic recognized by Russia, Venezuela, Nauru, Nicaragua and the other three post-Soviet breakaway states. National day or independence day in South Ossetia is the primary state holiday of the republic and takes place on September 20th which is the date South Ossetia declared independence from the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1990.

On the republic’s first independence day in 2008, 4 weeks after Russian recognition, militia members flooded the streets of the South Ossetian capital of Tishkinval and victoriously fired machine guns into the air as armoured vehicles captured from fleeing Georgian troops were paraded down the main avenue called Stalin Street. Afterwards, Georgian state and military flags were thrown to the ground and trampled by South Ossetian militias in homage to the famous Victory Parade in Moscow where Red Army troops did the same to captured Nazi flags. But that was over ten years ago, when tensions were still boiling after bloodthirsty war, so what is Independence Day in South Ossetia like now?

Our experience of the Independence Day of South Ossetia

A battalion of Young Pioneers marching during South Ossetia Independence Day

To find out, the YPT Soviet Europe team began our journey in Moscow and covered over 1,770 km by train before entering Vladikavkaz, the gateway to the Caucasus, a few days later. We checked into the Hotel Vladikavkaz for the classic Soviet hotel experience. From here, we were met by officials and former separatist fighters from the South Ossetian government and boarded vehicles with government number plates bearing the South Ossetia seal and headed through one of the longest tunnels in the world, the Roki tunnel, before crossing the South Ossetia border. Travel to South Ossetia requires being on a permitted traveller list, since YPT were under a special invite and rolling in government cars, our entry was smooth. We were pulled in for questioning by Russian intelligence at the heavily militarized border, but all of them were friendly and we were soon allowed to enter once they were sure we were just tourists. We checked into a plush hotel overlooking a South Ossetian football stadium and bedded down for the night, after a few beers and bottles of local Chacha with traditional South Ossetian hospitality, of course!

On the morning of National Day we were given front row access and at 11am the classic breakaway state fun began! The event was attended by delegates from other breakaway states such as Abkhazia, the Lugansk People’s Republic and the Donetsk People’s Republic. The celebrations began with an incredible military parade jam packed with troops, tanks and artillery and even a battalion of Young Pioneers! Afterwards we hit up the main park in the city for an Ossetian food and folk event with traditional dancers and incredible cuisine and drink, all for free!

The locals of South Ossetia were incredibly friendly and overwhelmed to see foreigners, apparently there has been just over 500 non Russian foreigners registered as entering the republic, so it is not a common sight here. YPT are excited to bring group and private tours to South Ossetia and show this mostly unknown but overwhelmingly incredible republic to the world!

The president of Donetsk attending the celebrations of the Independence Day of South Ossetia

To visit South Ossetia with us, get in touch today!

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