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Israelite Tribes in Exile
Hundreds of years ago, Ossetians roamed all over Western Europe, from the Caucasus to Scotland. As Tim Whewell reveals, the folk memories of these wanderings have lingered down the centuries, so that it can be hard to tell where myth ends and history begins.
But the Ossetians are not just like the medieval Scots. As far as they are concerned, they are the Scots. And the Scots are them.
Centuries ago, possibly during the great migrations of the Dark Ages, some of their ancestors went down from the Caucasus and set sail through the Black Sea, the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, and arrived eventually in a landscape they recognised: Caledonia.
In fact, though, they did not just occupy Scotland. They occupied the whole of Western Europe on their fast horses, spreading the chivalrous respect for women that is originally an Ossetian concept.
Some children are taught about the arrival of the first Saxons, or Frisians, Hengist and Horsa. Very few know the story of our legendary Trojan ancestor Corinius and his battle on the cliffs of Cornwall with the giant Gogmagog.
Ossetian children know all about their forefathers' wanderings around Europe and how eventually their territory diminished again to those two little pockets on either side of the great Caucasian watershed, the southern one of which we heard so much about, so briefly, in August.
But the Ossetians, in their glory days of continental mastery, were not known by that name. They were sometimes Sarmatians, and sometimes Alans.
Every third Ossetian you meet now seems to be called Alan, and the north Ossetian republic, within Russia, is officially "Alania", as satisfying, I suppose, for Alans as it would be for me to live in Timia.
Meanwhile, the Alans in the south now live, supposedly, in an independent state, a miniscule country of 50,000 people, recognised only by Russia, Nicaragua and Somalia.
The rest of the world insists it is still part of Georgia, though the people I met there said that since the war they could never again live in one country with Georgians.
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