Ossetia is an ethnolinguistic region located on both sides of the Greater Caucasus Mountains, largely inhabited by the Ossetians. The Ossetian language is part of the Eastern Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages family. The Ossetian-speaking area south to the main Caucasus ridge is South Ossetia. The northern portion of the region consists of the republic of North Ossetia-Alania within the Russian Federation.
South Ossetia is a disputed region and partly recognized state in the South Caucasus, located in the territory of the South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast within the former Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic. South Ossetia covers an area of 3,900 square kilometers and a population of 82,000 inhabitants, of whom 58,000 are Ossets and 22,000 Georgian.
South Ossetians declared independence from Georgia in 1990, calling themselves the “Republic of South Ossetia”. The Georgian government responded by abolishing South Ossetia’s autonomy and trying to retake the region by force. This led to the 1991–1992 South Ossetia War. Georgian fighting against those controlling South Ossetia occurred on two other occasions, in 2004 and 2008. The last conflict led to the 2008 South Ossetia war, during which the Ossetian and Russian troops gained full, de-facto, control of the territory of the former South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast.
In the wake of the 2008 South Ossetia War, Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Nauru recognized South Ossetia as an independent republic. Georgia does not recognize South Ossetia’s existence as a political entity, and considers most of its territory a part of the Shida Kartli region within Georgian sovereign territory occupied by the Russian army.