I’m working on some posts dealing the wars Georgia has fought in post-Soviet times, and the terminology involved in these conflicts is hotly contested. So rather than repeatedly adding disclaimers and footnotes, I’ll lay out my terminology guidelines here. (Much of this post is based on George Hewitt‘s new book Discordant Neighbours.)
Georgian: Apkhazeti (აფხაზეთი)
Abkhaz: Apsni (Аҧсны)
Mingrelian: Saapkhazo (სააფხაზო)Russian: Abkhaziya (Абхазия).
Also: Afxazeti, the Georgian keyboard transcription of აფხაზეთი.
The Abkhazian self-designation (Abkhaz: Аҧсуа). I include it here because, as Hewitt explains, it has gained some currency among Georgian nationalists as a way to refer to Abkhazians. This might sound like a sign of respect, but in fact it is used to paint Abkhazians as foreign invaders and occupiers. There is a theory (popular in some circles) that the original inhabitants of Abkhazia were Kartvelians who were displaced a few centuries ago by peoples from the North Caucasus. Adherents of this theory will refer to Abkhazians as “Apswa” (Georgian: აფსუა) and reserve “Abkhazians” (Georgian: Apkhazebi (აფხაზები)) to refer to the hypothetical original inhabitants of Abkhazia.
A Georgian place suffix. I include this because Donald Rayfield says in his Georgian history book Edge of Empires that he uses “traditional English names” for regions rather than Georgian ones, e.g. “Kakhetia” and “Imeretia” instead of “Kakheti” and “Imereti”. But those Anglicized names, besides not being well-attested, are grammatically silly, appending place suffixes to words which already have place suffixes (Kakh-eti-a). So I’m sticking with Georgian names for such places.
Incidentally, “Ossetia” is the result of the same comical resuffixing. Os– is the Georgian stem for “Ossetian”, with Oseti meaning “land of the Oses”. Oseti was taken up into Russian (and hence into European languages) as Ossetia, “land of the Ossetes”, rather than the more sensible Ossia.
Usually refers to the modern nation-state Georgia, including the disputed regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. I won’t generally include those regions in my use of “Georgia”, although I may refer to, say, “Georgian Abkhazia“.
For the names of Georgia in various languages, see The Names of Georgia
Properly refers to native speakers of Georgian (or perhaps descendants thereof), but almost always includes Mingrelians and Svans and even Laz. In other words, it is typically used as if it were synonymous with Kartvelian (see below). I will generally try to abide by the distinction, but I might sometimes refer to someone like Beria as a “Mingrelian Georgian” (see Are Mingrelians Georgians?).
The Georgian nominative case ending (that is, it attaches to the end of words in the subject position of a sentence). The basic form of Georgian words almost ends in -i. In particular, -i is usually added to the names of cities (unless they already end in a vowel). Abkhazians and Ossetians don’t use these -i’s, giving, for instance, Gal instead of Gali. In Russian, both forms are used (even for cities which are indisputably Georgian, e.g. Batum vs Batumi). A writer’s use of -i for city names is sometimes taken as a sign of sympathy towards the Georgian side and its absence is correspondingly taken as a sign of sympathy for the Abkhazian and Ossetian sides. That said, I will generally use the -i, since Georgian is the relevant language with which I am most familiar, but I might drop it if that sounds better to me. I don’t intend anything by either usage. Sometimes I’ll use the neutral parentheses-i (e.g. Gal(i) ), though this is visually displeasing.
A region in southwest Georgia populated mostly by Armenians. Related to the wars in that there has been friction (albeit nonviolent) between Georgian nationalists and the local Armenian population. Hewitt reports the following terminological incident (p. 344):
When Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vshadze visited Yerevan in October 2010 and was asked about the problem of “Javakhk”…he rather undiplomatically replied that no such place exists on the map and that there was no problem with Georgia’s Armenian community.
Actually, Hewitt uses the Russianized spelling “Dzhavakheti” (and similar for other J- names, which are quite common on both sides of the Caucasus). For details, see the last few paragraphs of Adjarans.
Refers to speakers of Kartvelian languages (Georgians (see above), Mingrelians, Svans, and Laz). Not in common usage (because most people conflate Kartvelians with Georgians), but used by Hewitt, in whose book one often finds the word “Georgian” accompanied by the footnote “recte Kartvelian”.
Georgian: Samegrelo (სამეგრელო)Mingrelian: Samargalo (სამარგალო)
The homeland, in Western Georgia, of Mingrelians. Among English teachers in Georgia the existence of the word “Mingrelia” is not well-known; they usually just say “Samegrelo”. It has even been argued to me (by a Canadian friend living in Mingrelia) that Anglophones ought to avoid “Mingrelia” on the grounds that Mingrelians themselves don’t use the word. But “Samegrelo” and “Samargalo” are both grammatically opaque in English. An Anglophone who didn’t know any better might suppose that the people who lived there were called “Samegrelians”, not knowing that the sa- is a grammatical prefix. So I’m sticking with “Mingrelia”. (Similar considerations apply to the argument that we should say “Sakartvelo” instead of “Georgia” — if we’re going to use a name like the Georgian endonym, we should say something like “Kartvelia“, because “Sakartvelo” is nonsensical in English.)
In Abkhaz: Agirni (Агырны) or Girtwila (Гыртәыла), both being related to the Kartvelian names (compare –gir-, –gr-, –gar-).
“The land of the Machabelis” by the standard Georgian grammatical construction Sa-Machab(e)l-o (see Mingrelia). The princely Machabeli family used to control part of what is now South Ossetia. Since the rise of the Ossetian independence movement in the late 1980s, Georgian nationalists have used “Samachablo” as a euphemism for South Ossetia, though naming regions after ruling families is not a well-attested historical practice. Hewitt points out (p. 97) that the Machabelis actually sold their rights to the land to the Russian Empire after annexation, so that there is not even a thin legal pretext for using the name.
- Shida Kartli
The Georgian administrative unit to which South Ossetia theoretically belongs. Sometimes used as a euphemism for South Ossetia, but in fact Shida (Inner) Kartli is strictly larger than South Ossetia, including indisputably Georgian areas like Stalin’s hometown of Gori.
Abkhaz: Akwa (Аҟəа)
Georgian: Sokhumi (სოხუმი)
Russian: Sukhum (Сухум; see -i)Mingrelian: Akujikha (აყუჯიხა) (not well-attested on Google)
The capital of Abkhazia. Known in ancient times as Dioscurias (Greek: Διοσκουριάς) and Sebastopolis (Greek: Σεβαστόπολις).
- South Ossetia
Ossetian: Khussar Iriston (Хуссар Ирыстон)
Georgian: Samkhreti Oseti (სამხრეთი ოსეთი)Russian: Yuzhnaya Osetiya (Южная Осетия), or Yugo-osetiya (Юго-Осетия)
The Ossetian word for “Ossetia”, Iriston, is constructed from the Ossetian endonym Ir- + -stan, just “Tajikistan” and all those “stan” countries (because Ossetian is an Iranian language).
See also: Samachablo, Shida Kartli, Tskhinvali Region.
Ossetian: Kalak (Калак)Mingrelian: Karti (ქართი)
The capital and largest city of Georgia. Known historically in English (and currently in many languages) as Tiflis (Russian: Тифлис), which is similar to how “Tbilisi” is pronounced by English-speakers today (/Ti-bli-si/). Though derived from “Tbilisi”, “Tiflis” was re-georgianized as Tpilisi (ტფილისი, which looks strange as a Georgian word). I will generally refer to the city as “Tiflis” in historical contexts and “Tbilisi” in modern contexts.
The Ossetian name for Tbilisi, Kalak, comes from the Georgian word kalaki, meaning “city”, presumably bestowed because Tbilisi is the nearest real city to South Ossetia. The Mingrelian name for the city, Karti, comes from kart, the Georgian ethnic endonym (suggesting Karts and Mingrelians as separate ethnic groups). Abkhaz uses this name as well (Қарҭ).
Russian, Ossetian: Tskhinval (Цхинвал; see -i)Ossetian (alternate): Chreba (Чъреба)
The capital (indeed, the only city) of South Ossetia. From 1934 to 1961 the city was renamed Staliniri, after some Soviet politician. The Georgian keyboard transcription of ცხინვალი is Cxinvali. If you Google Image Search this word, you will find almost exclusively pictures of people dead and injured from war.
- Tskhinvali Region
A euphemism for South Ossetia. There is no analogous “Sukhumi Region” because, as a commenter pointed out, South Ossetia’s autonomy was officially abolished after Georgian independence, whereas Abkhazia’s was not. (Recall that in Soviet times, Abkhazia was an ASSR (Autononomous Soviet Socialist Republic), while South Ossetia was merely an AO (Autonomous Oblast).)