Caspian Region

Policy Reverse Offers Hope of Protection to North Ossetia’s Beautiful Digorsky Gorge

Mark Elliott

The Digorsky Gorge, or simply “Digoria,” refers to a glorious mountain-rimmed geographical area encompassing the narrow, almost mystical Urukh Canyon, several villages with medieval tower houses, a couple of castles, and the locally famous Devil’s Bridge from which local criminals were once executed by being thrown into the river below. Should they survive the fall, the accused would have their sentence revoked.



Image: Trip.with.taste/Wikimedia Commons

All this beauty lies around three hours’ drive west of Vladikavkaz, the main city of North Ossetia. That republic, which also calls itself Alania in reference to its people’s historical forebears (the once nomadic Alans), is part of the Russian Federation - unlike South Ossetia, which is a self-declared but unrecognized entity that broke away from Georgia in the 1990s. Digor, from which the Digorsky Gorge takes its name, is the name of a dialect of the Ossetian language and the people of Digoria that speak it[1].


Image: Russian embassy

Recently, the Dogorsky Gorge’s pristine splendour appeared to have been threatened by the approval of quarrying in the gorge area. Mineral extraction in the region would not be new – indeed, one of the attractions in the mountain village of Fasnal is the shell of a stone building built by a Belgian mining engineer.


Image: Kirill Skorobogatko/Shutterstock

However, the renewed exploitation of dolomite in local beauty spots of the region has become a hot topic in Vladikavkaz lately. Finally, on April 6, it was reported that the minister of ecology who had signed off on the quarrying plans had been fired. This appears to be a power play by North Ossetia’s overall political chief Sergey Menyaylo who announced the moves on his Telegram social media feed. Instead, Menyaylo claims that he intends to declare more formal protection for the area around the gorge and to develop tourism rather than mineral extraction in this beautiful location.




[1] Though in recent censuses almost all Digors self-identify as Ossetians