Every year, our Soviet Europe team lead countless trips into the post-Soviet breakaway states of Abkhazia, Transnistria, Nagorno-Karabakh and South Ossetia. A common question from our guests is in regards to the passport stamps of breakaway countries, arguably the most important passport stamps of the world. Whilst Transnistria doesn’t have a passport stamp, Abkhazia and Nagorno Karabakh do issue visas which remain unattached to your passport. Although Abkhazia often confiscate them upon exit and to place the Nagorno-Karabakh visa in a valid passport would bar you from entering Azerbaijan on said passports. The question of stamps when travelling to South Ossetia, however, has been murky for a while due to the sheer lack of foreigners who have actually entered this secretive country.
On our recent journey into the breakaway state of South Ossetia to celebrate their independence day celebrations (which you can read about here), we were curious as to what our passports would look like after the trip. Our first stop was the Russian border and as our double entry Russian visas were being looked over in preparation for our Russia passport stamp, we were asked if we would like to be stamped out of the country at a very undiplomatic border or receive an unofficial exit mark. With both sounding tempting, I took the Russian exit stamp and my colleague took the unofficial exit mark.
The Russian exit stamp was a fairly standard border stamp of a car at the Nizny Naramag Border crossing that marks you as very obviously visiting South Ossetia, whereas the unofficial exit was simply a 1 and 2 marking entries and exit:
After crossing through the infamous Roki Tunnel we soon approached the South Ossetia border where our local contact was waiting for us. He processed us with the local KGB as we waited and watched the sun slowly set over the beautiful Caucasus mountains dotted with war ravaged villages and livestock. When he returned with our South Ossetia visa which is more of a permit paper, we asked our contact if we can be stamped into South Ossetia but then felt the disappointment many feel when they hit the Transnistrian border for the first time, the answer was that there simply isn’t stamp facilities at the border. But to say our local team in South Ossetia are connected is an understatement and we were promised that, if we wanted it, a South Ossetia stamp can be officially obtained by foreigners for the first time in the capital of Tskhinvali.
So a few days later, on a rainy morning in the South Ossetia capital of Tskhinvali, we were taken by our local team to a nondescript building in the backstreets and were told it was the ministry of foreign affairs. A local administrator opened up for us and asked us to enter one by one and we were the first to be officially stamped in by the least visited breakaway region on earth! The South Ossetian stamp itself is fairly non-descript but definitely not an ordinary stamp. It states in Cyrillic: Immigration Control. MVD (the internal police force). POU (an abbreviation of the Republic of South Ossetia). Unfortunately, it came without the flag of South Ossetia.
The only issue with obtaining a South Ossetia passport stamp and a Russian exit stamp (which I reiterate are both completely optional) is that, due to the South Ossetia war also known as the Russia Georgia war, it will bar all future entry into the Republic of Georgia on said passport due to it being evidence of entering what Georgia considers its territory through a border post which is out of the control of Georgian government.