Confused about certain ethnic, historical, and/or geographic terms in the Caucasus? Here’s a handy guide to help you navigate terminology in a country you have usually have to introduce as “The Other Georgia”:
1. a modern state in the Balkans
2. Caucasian Albania: a state that existed from the 3rd century BCE to the 7th century CE on the territory of present-day Azerbaijan and southern Daghestan.
Explanation: Caucasian Albania refers the historical region of the eastern Caucasus that existed on the territory of present-day Azerbaijan and partially southern Dagestan. The Parthian name for the region was Ardhan, the Arabic was ar-Rān. The name of the country in the language of the native population, the Caucasian Albanians, is unknown. Albania is the Medieval Latin name of the country which is called Shqipëri by its people (presumably because Albania is easier to pronounce). The name may be derived from the Illyrian tribe of the Albani recorded by Ptolemy, or exist as a continuation in the name of a medieval settlement called Albanon and Arbanon.
1. an adjective denoting “from the Caucasus.”
2. an anthropological term denoting a person of a major physical type characterized by white skin pigmentation.
Explanation: the ethno-racial classification was coined around 1800 by the German anthropologist Johann Freidrich Blumenbach, who considered the people of the Caucasus to be archetypal of the “white race” (based primarily on craniology), and he named the first class of humans after the country’s home in the Caucasus Mountains. Blumenbach’s class of Caucasians included most Europeans, Northern Africans, and Asians as far east as the Ganges Delta in modern India. As more scientists (air quotes may or may not be appropriate) pursued racial classification in the 1800s, they relied on Blumenbach’s nomenclature, cementing the region’s legacy in anthropology. The persistence of this label could explain why stormfront.org (slogan “White Pride World Wide”–a white nationalist/supremacist website known as the Internet’s “first major hate site”) has some of the most extensive collections of Caucasus-related photos online.
1. an independent country in the South Caucasus
2. a state on the southeastern coast of the United States
Explanation: endonyms and exonyms are the names of ethnic groups and where they live given respectively by the group itself and by outsiders. An endonym (or autonym) is the name given by an ethnic group to its own geographical area, or the name an ethnic group calls itself. An exonym (or xenonym) is the name given to an ethnic group or to a geographical entity by another ethnic group (for example, “España” vs. “Spain”). There is still some controversy about how “Georgia” became the exonym for a country whose self-designation is “Sakartvelo” (საქართველო)–which simply means “place of the Karts [central Georgian ethnic group].” The Georgia exonym has been variously explained as being derived from the Greek γεωργός (“tiller of the land”), the name of the country’s patron St. George, and from ancient Persian-Arabic designations (Gurg, Gurgan), which reached the Western European crusaders and pilgrims in the Holy Land who rendered the name as Georgia. You decide.
1. an ancient region in the South Caucasus on the territory of modern-day Georgia
2. a European peninsula which includes Spain and Portugal
Explanation: Iberia (or Iveria, in Georgian) was a name given by ancient Greeks travelers to the ancient Georgian kingdom of Kartli (4th century BCE–5th century CE), corresponding roughly to the eastern and southern parts of the present day Georgia. One theory on the etymology of the name was that it was derived from the contemporary Armenian designation for Georgia, which itself was connected to the word that the Kartlians used as an ethnic self-designation. The Iberian Peninsula in Europe was associated since ancient times with the Ebro river (Ibēros in ancient Greek and Ibērus or Hibērus in Latin). The association was so well known among early explorers that it was hardly necessary to state–for example, Ibēria was the country “this side of the Ibērus” in Strabo.
1. a city in South Ossetia
2. an island of Indonesia
3. a variety of coffee primarily grown in Java, Indonesia
4. an object-oriented computer programming language
Explanation: it rolls off the tongue nicely