Zakharova E., Shtyrkov S. The Term Osq’opili (“a Former Ossetian”) in Eighteenth-Century Georgian Documents and in Early Twenty-First-Century Traditionalist Debates of North Ossetia-Alania

Evgenia Zakharova
Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography of the Russian Academy of Sciences
Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation
ORCID: 0000-0002-1605-4623

Sergei Shtyrkov
Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography of the Russian Academy of Sciences; European University at Saint-Petersburg
Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation
ORCID: 0000-0002-1664-3575


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ABSTRACT. The current polemics in North Ossetia-Alania, centering around the issue of what should be considered the traditional religion of Ossetians, tend to use Georgian sources as evidence of the existence of a distinct Ossetian religion, which is not reducible to Christianity or Islam. These sources indicate that, in the eighteenth-century Georgia, there was a special term osq’opili (“a former Ossetian”) to denote Ossetians who converted to Christianity. This fact is interpreted in the way that, by using this term, Georgian authorities recognized Ossetians to have their own religion, the bosom of which they supposedly left to join Orthodoxy. The article analyzes examples of the modern usage of this lexeme. The authors examine the context of its use in the Georgian eighteenth-century documentation and, drawing upon these materials, argue that at that time the status of the Christian had a legal rather than doctrinal meaning, which determined the pragmatics of the use of the term “a former Ossetian”. Furthermore, for the representatives of the Georgian educated strata, the religious status of those peoples who were not controlled by the church or similar institutions was rather defined as the absence of any religion, which was associated primarily with the sphere of doctrinal and church administrative disciplines.


KEYWORDS: osq’opili, Georgia, Ossetians, religion, identity, Christianity, paganism, legal capacity


DOI 10.31250/2618-8619-2021-4(14)-78-91
УДК 316.35



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