Lithuania refuses to rename Georgia

Lithuania’s State Commission on Language has refused to change its official name for the state of Georgia from the traditional Slavic “Gruzija” to English-sounding “Georgia”.

Like other post-Soviet states, Lithuanians refer to the country as “Gruzija” – a name Georgia says is a relic of the communist past.

In December 2009, Georgia’s Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze asked his Lithuanian counterpart to change his country’s name to “Georgia”.

However, after considering all options, Lithuanian authorities formally turned down the request.

Head of the Commission’s administrative department Regina Dobelene explained the reasons behind the decision to RIA Novosti, saying that “Gruzija” has absolutely nothing to do with the either with Slavic languages, or with the Soviet Union, but comes from the Arabic.

“The situation is quite interesting, as Georgians call their own country “Sakartvelo”. It means a union of Kartvels, which Georgians call themselves. Meanwhile Georgia has a clearly English origin. Had they asked to be called “Sakartvelo” the decision might have been different,” Dobelene said, adding that there was no reason to change one non-Georgian name for another.

Another issue here was of course the control over language and its traditions. “You can’t tell people to call Georgians Kartvels overnight!” Dobelene concluded.