Uatsdin (Ossetian: Уацдин), otherwise spelled Watsdin, also known as Assdin (Ассдин, "Ese-Faith"), or by the extended name Ætsæg Din (Æцæг Дин, literally "True Faith"; the same meaning of "Uatsdin", which is a word compound), and among Russians as Assianism (Russian: Ассианство, Assianstvo; alternative rendition of "Assdin"), is the modern neo-Pagan movement and religious organization of the same name founded in North Ossetia. Its followers consist primarily by the Ossetians (an Eastern Iranic, Alan-Samatian ethnic group inhabiting a homeland in the Caucasus that is split nowadays between two states: the Republic of North Ossetia–Alania within Russia, and the neighbouring state of South Ossetia). This religion has experienced an organised revival since the 1980s.
In the Ossetian case, certain traditions of folk religion had survived with unbroken continuity, and were revived in rural areas. This contrasts, and interacts, with an urban and more intellectual movement which elaborated a systematic revival religion to overcome the crisis of identity of the Ossetian people, based in ethnic nationalism and opposition to both Russian and Georgian Orthodox Christianity, perceived as foreign, and opposed as well to the Islam professed by the neighboring Turkic and Caucasian ethnic groups and among a small minority of Ossetians. The major organisation among Ossetians is the Atsætæ organization (Ossetian: Ацæтæ; Russian: Асата, Asata) led by Daurbek Makeyev, based in North Ossetia–Alania.
The Uatsdin movement is active both in North and South Ossetia. Whilst there are no figures about religious demographics for South Ossetia, in North Ossetia–Alania about 29% of the population was practicing this ethnic folk-religion in 2012, according to a survey carried out in that year.
Ætsæg literally means "right", "true" in the Ossetian language, and is a cognate of Avestan haiθiia, also meaning "true". Din is a cognate of the Avestan daena (whence din in Persian), which represents "insight" and "revelation", and from this "observance" and "religion", but also "consciousness".
Uatsdin contemplates the worship of a supreme God, Xwytsau (Хуыцау), who is the creator of the universe and of all beings. The supreme God may be called upon by a multiplicity of epithets, including simply "Styr Xwytsau" (Стыр Хуыцау), meaning "Great God", but also "Duneskænæg" (Дунескæнæг), "Creator of the Universe", "Meskænæg Xwytsau" (Мескаенаег Хуыцау) and "Xwycautty Xwycau" (Хуыцаутты Хуыцау), meaning "God of the Gods". Uatsdin's theology affirms that God is within every creature, and in men he manifests as consciousness and worthy action. A variety of other beings, lesser gods, deities and spirits, such as Uastyrdzhi, are worshipped as intermediaries with Xwytsau.
There are attempts to turn local traditional gods into objects of national worship in North Ossetia–Alania. For example, in former times, a grove was devoted to the local communal god/saint Khetag. After the clashes between Ossetians and Georgians in 1991–1992, a glade near the wood was turned into a place for pan-Ossetian worship, including religious and political rituals, with activities supervised by the Great Council of Ossetian Priests (Styr-nykhas), a non-governmental committee established in 1993.
The Khetag celebration was approved by the 1990s president of North Ossetia–Alania as a national holiday. A special foundation was established in order to raise funds for the reconstruction of the site, and since 1994 a big annual sacrifice is arranged at the Khetag shrine.
In 2009, at the Center for Conservative Research of Moscow State University, led by philosopher Alexander Dugin, a conference was held about the role of Ossetians in Russian history. Among participants there was, among others, Daurbek Makeyev, the head of the Atsætæ Church. On that occasion, Dugin praised the revitalisation of Ossetian culture for it having preserved a pristine Indo-European heritage. He discussed the importance of Scythian culture in the development of broader Eurasia, recognising that Scythian culture had an enormous impact on the development of Finno-Ugric, Turkic and Slavic cultures, and despite this European scholars have paid little attention to it so far. Makeyev declared that the Atsætæ Church was founded for fostering traditional Ossetian religion, but also to share the heritage of Assianism with other peoples, because "what was preserved in Ossetia is not [merely] Ossetian, but is a worldwide heritage".
Assianism (Russian: Ассианство, Assianstvo; meaning the "religion of the ese", in Russian асов, asov) is a Scythian movement of Native Faith practised in Russia, based on the traditional folk religious beliefs of the Ossetians, modern descendants of the Scythians. The religion is known as "Assianism" among its Russian adherents, and as Uatsdin (Уацдин, literally "True Faith") by Ossetians in their own language. It started to be revived in a conscious and organised way in the 1980s, as an ethnic religion among the Ossetians, who have since largely embraced it. Scythian religious groups are also present in Ukraine.
The religion has been incorporated by some organisations, chiefly the Atsætæ Church (Ossetian: Ацæтæ; Russian: Асата, Asata) based in North Ossetia–Alania. Some Russians have embraced Assianism by virtue of the fact that most of the ancient Scythians were assimilated by the East Slavs, and therefore modern Russians may reclaim Scythian culture. Among Russians, Assianism is advocated as a religion for all Slavs, Indo-Europeans, or even as a worldwide spiritual heritage.Baltic neopaganism
Baltic neopaganism is a category of autochthonous religious movements which have revitalised within the Baltic people (primarily Lithuanians and Latvians). These movements trace their origins back to the 19th century and they were suppressed under the Soviet Union; after its fall they have witnessed a blossoming alongside the national and cultural identity reawakening of the Baltic peoples, both in their homelands and among expatriate Baltic communities. One of the first ideologues of the revival was the Prussian Lithuanian poet and philosopher Vydūnas.During the Pope Francis's visit to the Baltic states in 2018 Dievturi and Romuva sent a joint letter to Pope Francis calling him to urge fellow Christians "to respect our own religious choice and cease impeding our efforts to achieve national recognition of the ancient Baltic faith".Iranian peoples
The Iranian peoples, or the Iranic peoples, are a diverse Indo-European ethno-linguistic group that comprise the speakers of the Iranian languages.The Proto-Iranians are believed to have emerged as a separate branch of the Indo-Iranians in Central Asia in the mid-2nd millennium BCE. At their peak of expansion in the mid-1st millennium BCE, the territory of the Iranian peoples stretched across the entire Eurasian Steppe from the Great Hungarian Plain in the west to the Ordos Plateau in the east, to the Iranian Plateau in the south. The Western Iranian empires of the south came to dominate much of the ancient world from the 6th century BCE, leaving an important cultural legacy; and the Eastern Iranians of the steppe played a decisive role in the development of Eurasian nomadism and the Silk Road.The ancient Iranian peoples who emerged after the 1st millennium BCE include the Alans, Bactrians, Dahae, Khwarezmians, Massagetae, Medes, Parthians, Persians, Sagartians, Sakas, Sarmatians, Scythians, Sogdians and probably Cimmerians among other Iranian-speaking peoples of Western Asia, Central Asia, Eastern Europe and the Eastern Steppe.
In the 1st millennium CE, their area of settlement was reduced as a result of Slavic, Germanic, Turkic, and Mongol expansions, and many were subjected to Slavicisation and Turkification. Modern Iranian-speaking peoples include the Baloch, Gilaks, Kurds, Lurs, Mazanderanis, Ossetians, Pamiris, Pashtuns, Persians, Tajiks, the Talysh, Wakhis, and Yaghnobis. Their current distribution spreads across the Iranian Plateau, stretching from the Caucasus in the north to the Persian Gulf in the south and from eastern Turkey in the west to western Xinjiang in the east—a region that is sometimes called the Iranian Cultural Continent, representing the extent of the Iranian-speakers and the significant influence of the Iranian peoples through the geopolitical reach of Greater Iran.Iranian religions
Iranian religions are religions which originated in Greater Iran.Iron people
The Iron (IPA) /ɪ.ɹɔːn/ ) are a subgroup of the Ossetians. They speak the Iron dialect, one of the two main dialects of the Ossetian language. The majority of Irons belong to the Eastern Orthodox Church, with a Uatsdin and Muslim minority.Islam in North Ossetia–Alania
Islam is the third most widely professed religion in North Ossetia–Alania.
While the majority of Ossetians are Christian (predominantly Eastern Orthodox) and professing their ancestral faith Uatsdin, according to official estimates, 15 percent of the population of North Ossetia–Alania is Muslim (predominantly Sunni).List of ethnic religions
Ethnic religions (also "indigenous religions") are generally defined as religions which are related to a particular ethnic group, and often seen as a defining part of that ethnicity's culture, language, and customs.Major religious groups
The world's principal religions and spiritual traditions may be classified into a small number of major groups, although this is by no means a uniform practice. This theory began in the 18th century with the goal of recognizing the relative levels of civility in societies.Modern Paganism
Modern Paganism, also known as Contemporary Paganism and Neopaganism, is a collective term for new religious movements influenced by or derived from the various historical pagan beliefs of pre-modern Europe, North Africa and the Near East. Although they do share similarities, contemporary Pagan religious movements are diverse, and no single set of beliefs, practices or texts are shared by them all. Most academics studying the phenomenon have treated it as a movement of different religions, whereas a minority instead characterise it as a single religion into which different Pagan faiths fit as denominations. Not all members of faiths or beliefs regarded as Neopagan self-identify as "Pagan".
Adherents rely on pre-Christian, folkloric and ethnographic sources to a variety of degrees; many follow a spirituality which they accept as being entirely modern, while others attempt to reconstruct or revive indigenous, ethnic religions as found in historical and folkloric sources as accurately as possible. Academic research has placed the Pagan movement along a spectrum, with Eclecticism on one end and Polytheistic Reconstructionism on the other. Polytheism, animism and pantheism are common features in Pagan theology. Rituals take place in both public and in private domestic settings.
The Pagan relationship with Christianity is often strained. Contemporary Paganism has sometimes been associated with the New Age movement, with scholars highlighting both similarities and differences. From the 1990s onwards, scholars studying the modern Pagan movement have established the academic field of Pagan studies.North Ossetia–Alania
The Republic of North Ossetia – Alania (Russian: Республика Северная Осетия — Алания, tr. Respublika Severnaya Osetiya — Alaniya, IPA: [rʲɪˈspublʲɪkə ˈsʲevʲɪrnəjə ɐˈsʲetʲɪjə ɐˈlanʲɪjə]; Ossetian: Республикӕ Цæгат Ирыстон — Алани, Respublikæ Cægat Iryston — Alani, Ossetian pronunciation: [resˈpublikə t͡səˈgät iɾɨˈʃton äˈläni] listen ) is a federal subject of Russia (a republic). Its population according to the 2010 Census was 712,980. Its capital is the city of Vladikavkaz.Ossetians
The Ossetians or Ossetes (; Ossetian: ир, ирæттæ, ir, irættæ; дигорæ, дигорæнттæ, digoræ, digorænttæ) are an Iranian ethnic group of the Caucasus Mountains, indigenous to the ethnolinguistic region known as Ossetia.
They speak Ossetic, an Eastern Iranian (Alanic) language of the Indo-European languages family, with most also fluent in Russian as a second language. The Ossetian language is neither closely related to nor mutually intelligible with any other language of the family today. Ossetic, a remnant of the Scytho-Sarmatian dialect group which was once spoken across the Pontic–Caspian Steppe, is one of the few Iranian languages inside Europe.The Ossetians mostly populate Ossetia, which is politically divided between North Ossetia–Alania in Russia, and South Ossetia, a de facto independent state with partial recognition, closely integrated in Russia and claimed by Georgia. Their closest relatives, the Jász, live in the Jászság region within the north-western part of the Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok County in Hungary.
Ossetians are mostly Eastern Orthodox Christian, with sizable minorities professing Uatsdin or Islam.Religion in Russia
Religion in Russia is diverse with Christianity, especially Orthodoxy, being the most widely professed faith, but with significant minorities of Irreligious people, Muslims and Pagans. A 1997 law on religion recognises the right to freedom of conscience and creed to all the citizenry, the spiritual contribution of Orthodox Christianity to the history of Russia, and respect to "Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism and other religions and creeds which constitute an inseparable part of the historical heritage of Russia's peoples", including ethnic religions or Paganism, either preserved or revived. According to the law, any religious organisation may be recognised as "traditional" if it was already in existence before 1982, and each newly founded religious group has to provide its credentials and re-register yearly for fifteen years, and, in the meantime until eventual recognition, stay without rights.The Russian Orthodox Church, though its influence is thin in some parts of the North Caucasian region and there are a lot of different religious movements in Russia, claiming the right to decide which other religions or denominations are to be granted the right of registration. Some Protestant churches which were already in existence before the Russian Revolution have been unable to re-register, and the Catholic Church has been forbidden to develop its own territorial jurisdictions. According to some Western observers, respect for freedom of religion by Russian authorities has declined since the late 1990s and early 2000s. Activities of the Jehovah's Witnesses are currently banned in Russia.
Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 there has been a revival and spread of Siberian shamanism (which also mixed in some cases very strong with Orthodox elements) , and the emergence of Hindu and new religious movements throughout Russia. There has been an "exponential increase in new religious groups and alternative spiritualities", Eastern religions and Neopaganism, even among self-defined "Christians"—a term which has become a loose descriptor for a variety of eclectic views and practices. Russia has been defined by the scholar Eliot Borenstein as the "Southern California of Europe" because of such a blossoming of new religious movements, and the latter are perceived by the Russian Orthodox Church as competitors in a "war for souls". It must be added that Borensteins commentary is very imprecise and inaccurate, as many of the religions of Russia have been traditional components for several hundred of years and formed the Russian cultural identities over a long period of time through strong ethno-cultural interactions.Slavic Native Faith
The Slavic Native Faith, also known as Rodnovery, is a modern Pagan religion. Classified as a new religious movement, its practitioners harken back to the historical belief systems of the Slavic peoples of Central and Eastern Europe. "Rodnovery" is a widely accepted self-descriptor within the community, although there are Rodnover organisations which further characterise the religion as Orthodoxy, Old Belief and Vedism.
Rodnovers typically regard their religion as a faithful continuation of ancient beliefs that survived as folk religion or as conscious "double belief" following the Christianisation of the Slavs in the Middle Ages. Rodnovery draws upon surviving historical and archaeological sources, folk religion and even non-Slavic sources such as Hinduism. Rodnover theology and cosmology may be described as pantheism and polytheism—worship of the supreme God of the universe and of the multiple gods, ancestors and spirits of nature identified through Slavic culture. Adherents usually meet together in groups to conduct religious ceremonies. These typically entail the invocation of gods, sacrifices and the pouring of libations, dances and a communal meal.
Rodnover ethical thinking emphasises the good of the collective over the rights of the individual. The religion is patriarchal, and attitudes towards sex and gender are generally conservative. Rodnovery has developed distinctive strains of political and identitary philosophy. Rodnover organisations often characterise themselves as ethnic religions, emphasising that the religion is bound to Slavic ethnicity. This often manifests as ethnic nationalism, opposition to miscegenation and the belief in the fundamental difference of racial groups. Rodnovers often glorify Slavic history, criticising the impact of Christianity in Slavic countries and arguing that these nations will play a central role in the world's future. Rodnovers share a strong feeling that their religion represents a paradigmatic shift which will overcome the mental constraints imposed through feudalism and the continuation of what they call "mono-ideologies".
The contemporary organised Rodnovery movement arose from a multiplicity of sources and charismatic leaders just at the brink of the collapse of the Soviet Union and spread rapidly by the mid-1990s and the 2000s. Antecedents are to be found in late 18th- and 19th-century Slavic Romanticism, which glorified the pre-Christian beliefs of Slavic societies. Active religious practitioners devoted to establishing Slavic Native Faith appeared in Poland and Ukraine in the 1930s and 1940s. Following the Second World War and the establishment of communist states throughout the Eastern Bloc, new variants were established by Slavic emigrants living in Western countries, being later introduced in Central and Eastern European countries after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In recent times, the movement has been increasingly studied in academic scholarship.Uastyrdzhi
Uastyrdzhi (Ossetian: Уастырджи, pronounced [ˈwɑʃtɨrd͡ʒi]) is the name of Saint George in Ossetian folklore.
Uastyrdzhi is the patron of the male sex and travellers as well as being a guarantor of oaths. Because of his association with fertility, it is forbidden for women to pronounce his name. Instead they must refer to him as лӕгты дзуар (literally, "the saint of men").
Uastyrdzhi is invoked in the national anthem of North Ossetia-Alania.
He is depicted as a horseman with a long beard, riding on a white horse.
One of his cultic centers is a place called Hetag's Grove (Хетæджы къох), a wood situated three kilometres outside of Alagir, near Suadag village.
According to legend, St. Hetag (also Khetag; Хетаг) was the son of an Alanian king who consecrated the grove to Uastyrdzhi.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the cult of Uastyrdzhi at St. Hetag's Grove in particular has enjoyed renewed popularity in Ossetian nationalism, and there have been several claims of visitations. The attitude of the local Russian Orthodox Church towards Uastyrdzhi is ambivalent.The festival of Djiorgwyba (Джиоргуыба) is celebrated in Uastyrdzhi's honour in November (and is eponymous of the month's name in Ossetian). It involves the sacrifice of a one-year-old bullock. To indicate that the victim belongs to the god, its right horn is cut off long before, forbidding any herdsman to swear on it.St Hetag's own feast day is on the first Sunday in July.Vladikavkaz
Vladikavkaz (Russian: Владикавка́з, IPA: [vlədʲɪkɐˈfkas], lit. ruler of the Caucasus; Ossetian: Дзæуджыхъæу, romanized: Dzæudžyqæu Ossetian pronunciation: [ˈd͡zæwd͡ʒəqæw], lit. Dzaug's settlement), formerly known as Ordzhonikidze (Орджоники́дзе) and Dzaudzhikau (Дзауджика́у), is the capital city of the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania, Russia. It is located in the southeast of the republic at the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains, situated on the Terek River. Population: 311,693 (2010 Census); 315,068 (2002 Census); 300,198 (1989 Census). Vladikavkaz is one of the most populous cities in the North Caucasus.
The city is an industrial and transportation center. Manufactured products include processed zinc and lead, machinery, chemicals, clothing and food products.
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