Scythian Neo-Paganism in the Caucasus

The Ossetian Uatsdin as a ‘Nature Religion’


  • Richard Foltz Concordia University



Ossetia, Caucasus, Scythians, Alans, Uatsdin, neo-paganism, nature religion


The Scythians, a warlike, pastoral-nomadic, Iranian-speaking people who dominated the Eurasian steppes throughout the first millennium BCE, are known to us through the accounts of Herodotus and other Greek writers of antiquity. The Scythians’ language and many of their cultural customs survive today among the Ossetes of the Central Caucasus, among whom an attempt to revive the ancient religion has been underway since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. The Uatsdin or ‘True Religion’, as this revived system has been named, consists of rituals associated with the ancient deities of war and hunting, along with such natural phenomena as thunder, wild and domestic food animals, and wolves. This movement can be analyzed within the framework of nation-building ideologies, similar to other movements taking place across the former USSR and beyond.

Author Biography

Richard Foltz, Concordia University

Richard Foltz is a cultural historian specializing in the broader Iranian world. His most recent book is A History of the Tajiks: Iranians of the East (Bloomsbury, 2019).


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How to Cite

Foltz, R. (2020). Scythian Neo-Paganism in the Caucasus: The Ossetian Uatsdin as a ‘Nature Religion’. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 13(3), 314–332.