Here are some flags from Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and associated places in the South Caucasus. I won’t go into the details of the symbolism because I don’t care — white symbolizes purity or loyalty or something, red symbolizes blood spilled, blah blah blah, whatever. I’ll just list the flags along with historical remarks.
Note to readers: This will be a dry, picture-heavy post, but there will be a couple of decent jokes, so it is recommended that you read the whole thing.
Georgia‘s current flag consists of a red St. George cross on a white background (like the flag of England) with a red Bolnisi cross on each of the four white patches.
The South Caucasus, consisting of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, used to be known as Transcaucasia. The word “Transcaucasia” was coined as a translation of the Russian Zakavkazie (Закавказье), meaning “the far side of the Caucasus”. Far from what, you ask? From Russia, of course. From about 1800 until the collapse of the Soviet Union, the South Caucasus was dominated by Russians, and “Transcaucasia” connotes that time period and that domination.
So if neutrality is desired in nomenclature, then clearly “Transcaucasia” should be abandoned in favor of “South Caucasus”.***But the biased term is not all bad, for it also carries with it the memory of a South Caucasus far more ethnically mixed than it is today. It even recalls a brief time when the South Caucasus was independent and politically united.
Since the nineteenth century, the Georgian language has been significantly influenced by Russian. More recently, Georgian has begun to import words from English. Consequently, some Georgians are concerned about the “purity” of their language, and prescribe the use of “Georgian” words instead of “foreign” words. But some foreignisms offend the linguistic purist more than others. In this post I’ll give four categories of foreign words and phrases which are “foreign” and “native” to different degrees, with examples in both Georgian and English.
IMPORTANT UPDATE 4/20/14: New example added to Category III!