The Georgian Lari Sign

The National Bank of Georgia has just announced that the Georgian lari will now have its own symbol. It looks like the euro symbol rotated ninety degrees clockwise, but in fact it is based on a form of the Georgian letter L (ლ). There is no word on how long it is expected to take for the symbol to become widely used in Georgia or elsewhere. georgian lari symbol Continue reading

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South Caucasus: Transcaucasia

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.

transcaucasian sfsr

Transcaucasia in early Soviet times

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Azeri (Turkish)

Azeri is a language spoken in Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkey, and Georgia. It is closely related to Turkish, and Turks and Azeris can generally understand each other without special accommodation. Indeed, there are dialects of Turkish spoken in eastern Anatolia that are closer to Azeri than they are to standard Istanbul Turkish. So it would not be amiss to say that Azeri is a dialect of Turkish. We might even go so far as to simply identify Azeri with Turkish. This is done in Iran, the northern part of which is home to more than half of the world’s Azeri speakers.

azeri iran

Iranian Azeris protesting for language rights (I think)

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Sochi, Georgia, Abkhazia

Sochi, the city in which the 2014 Winter Olympics are being held, used to be part of Georgia and Abkhaziakinda. It belongs to a region which is occasionally called Lesser Abkhazia (Russian: Малая Абхазия), Jiketi (Georgian: ჯიქეთი), or Sadzen, after the Sadz Abkhazians who used to live there. They don’t live there anymore, because they, along with most of the Northwest Caucasian peoples, were exterminated or expelled to Turkey by the Russian Empire about 150 years ago. Indeed, Sochi was originally built as a fort during Russia’s initial incursion into then-independent Circassia (or Cherkessia).

circassia cherkessia

Note that Sochi is listed in parentheses as a guardpost

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The Northwest Caucasian Language Family

The Northwest Caucasian language family is a family of languages that originated in the northwest part of the Caucasus. It consists of Abkhaz (with its numerous dialects, including Abaza) and Circassian (the two chief dialects of which are Kabardian (East Circassian) and Adyghe (West Circassian)). It used to include Ubykh, but that language’s last speaker died in 1992.

northwest caucasian languages

The family is also known as Abkhaz-Adyghe.

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The Kartvelian (South Caucasian) Language Family

The Georgian language is not genetically related to any major language anywhere. But it is related to a few minor languages: Mingrelian, Laz, and Svan. Together, these four comprise the Kartvelian language family (from ქართველი, kartveli, the Georgian word for “Georgian”). Kartvelian is also known as the South Caucasian language family, after the region in which its members are spoken.

kartvelian languages south caucasian

The current distribution of Kartvelian langauges

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Adjarans

The Adjarans (Georgian: აჭარლები, ach’arlebi) are an ethinic subgroup of Georgians who live in Adjara, a region in southwest Georgia. They are distinguished from other Georgians by their dialect and by being (at least historically) Sunni Muslims instead of Orthodox Christians.

Adjarans Acaralılar

Just another day in Adjara!

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