Is Georgia an Asian Country, a European Country, or a Transcontinental Country?

According to many standard geographical reference works, only a few countries span continental boundaries. World Atlas, for example, lists four “contiguous transcontinental countries”: Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkey, and Egypt. World Population Review adds only Denmark to its transcontinental list, owing to Denmark’s non-contiguous dependency of Greenland, which is oddly excluded from its inappropriate Mercator-projection map (posted below). But as careful cartographers and geographical compilers note, the list of transcontinental countries is considerably longer, especially if one includes non-contiguous cases. The most comprehensive map of such countries that I have found comes from an anonymous Reddit contributor (posted below), as is often the case.

As “Fearlessredditor’s” map indicates, the Republic of Georgia is, by conventional criteria, a contiguous transcontinental country, as is its eastern neighbor, Azerbaijan. According to the most widely used definition, the watershed divide formed by the Greater Caucasus Range separates Europe from Asia in the area between the Black and Caspian seas. Almost all Georgian territory lies south of this divide, but a small area is situated to the north, and is therefore “officially” part of Europe. I have highlighted this remote, sparsely populated area in red on an interesting “Orographic Scheme” map found in the National Alas of Georgia (2018). The road that links one part of this region (Tusheti) to the rest of Georgia has been deemed the “World’s Most Dangerous Road” by one YouTube contributor, but I have been on roads in other parts of the world that I suspect are far more dangerous.

Although now standard, the watershed of the Greater Caucasus is only one of many continental divides that have been inscribed across the Caucasus region. As the Wikipedia map posted below indicates, almost all bifurcate Georgia. Historically speaking, Georgia might therefore be regarded as a quintessentially transcontinental country.

It is also of interest that the boundary between Russia and Georgia passes through many of the highest peaks of the central Greater Caucasus Range, but many of these peaks are located to the north of the drainage divide. A detail of a physical map of Georgia found in the country’s National Atlas (2018) shows this feature; I have highlighted the northward flowing Argun River (Arghuni in Georgian) to make it more clearly visible.

Regardless of its small “European” segment, Georgia is conventionally classified as an Asian country. Most Georgians, however, resent this designation, cogently arguing on cultural, historical, and geopolitical grounds that Georgia should be classified as part of Europe. The National Atlas of Georgia (2018) evocatively describes Georgia as “the balcony of Europe” (p. X). As noted in a Wikipedia article, “Despite its geography, Georgia is considered a European country geopolitically because of its historical, cultural, ethnical, and political ties to the continent.”

In my own view, “Asia” is an essentially meaningless category, and I therefore use the term only in regard to geographical discourse, rather than in regard to geography itself. Southwest Asia, on the other hand, is a serviceable regional designation – but it does not include Georgia (or Armenia). In what world region should these countries therefore be placed? Europe does seem to be the only realistic choice. For historical discussions, however, it might be best to consider the Caucasus as a world region in its own right, one that includes not just Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, but also the greater north Caucasus and perhaps even Iranian Azerbaijan and northeastern Turkey. The final map posted here, by Georgian cartographer Manana Kurtubadze, nicely captures the physical geography of this expanded Caucasus region.

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