The authorities in South Ossetia want to change the name of their self-declared republic in response to a historical dispute with a rival Caucasus nation. A rebranding could also, some in South Ossetia hope, hasten its incorporation into the Russia Federation.
In November, South Ossetia's de facto president Leonid Tibilov announced that he was forming a political council to address renaming the republic after Alania, a medieval Caucasian kingdom.
South Ossetia may appear to have more pressing concerns. Its traditional agricultural economy has collapsed and most residents rely on state jobs paid out of the budget of its superpower patron, Russia. Its population of 50,000 (according to official statistics) is isolated, cut off from Georgia – to which it still belongs, in the eyes of most of the world – by an increasingly hardened border.
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Irina Kelekhsayeva is a freelance journalist based in Tskhinvali. Joshua Kucera is the Turkey/Caucasus editor at EurasiaNet, and author of The Bug Pit. He is based in Istanbul.