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South Ossetia

South Ossetia is a mountainous region in Georgia, inhabited mainly by Ossetians who fled to the Southern Caucasus from Mongol invasions in 14th century. It is part of the historical Georgian province "Shida Kartli" - meaning "Inner Georgia". The term "South Ossetia" was introduced by Soviet forces, who occuppied Georgia in 1921. In April of 1922 the "South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast (Region)" was formed. Formally under rule of Georgia's government, it enjoyed some degree of independence.

Following Georgia's independence in 1991, the Ossetian minority continued to seek greater levels of autonomy, but was faced with increasing nationalist sentiment among the Georgian majority. Violent fighting between Ossetians and Georgians had begun in 1989, which continued until in 1992 a joint peacekeeping force of Russian, Georgian, and Ossetian troops was deployed. The governments of Georgia and South Ossetia reached an agreement to avoid the use of force against one another, and Georgia pledged not to impose sanctions against South Ossetia.

However, unclear political perspectives, a ruined economy, thousands of refugees, and illegal drug and arms trade has made the region unstable again in the last few years.

See also: Ossetic language