Caucasus Edition

Glossary and Guidelines

Working in the complex context of the South Caucasus, the Editorial Board of the Caucasus Edition every so often faces the challenge of terminology that is often not acceptable for one or more of the sides. In these cases, the Editorial Board is guided by the following principles:

The Caucasus Edition is an independent publication aiming to contribute to sustainable peace in the region by providing space for a diversity of perspectives and promoting alternative discourses on conflicts and their resolution. As a shared platform for journalists and analysts from the South Caucasus, Turkey, and Russia, the Journal seeks to use neutral terminology in the coverage of key events in the different parts of the region as well as in the analytical articles.

The Journal works towards the gradual development of a language fit for dialogue – one that is acceptable for all sides of the discussions.

The Editorial Board of the Journal is engaged in ongoing consultations with representatives from all possible sides in order to develop/identify mutually acceptable options for:

  • geographical names/toponyms;
  • designation of the parties (sides) to a conflict;
  • description of the events of a conflict;
  • description of the processes related to the politics of memory (heroization, /glorification of controversial events and incidents, the practice of the representation of genocides);
  • description of the negotiation formats/discussions;
  • terms impeding the advance of a dialogue.

The Editorial Board constantly works on the identification of terms and concepts that need to be excluded from the language of dialogue (political clichés, hate speech, etc.).

The Editorial Board promotes the use of neutral terms depending on the situation and the context. In some cases, it is more appropriate to use terms that bypass the sharp angles of the conflicts. In cases when the use of neutral terms is not appropriate or possible, we recommend avoiding terms and designations that further exacerbate the conflict and spread hate rhetoric. For example, instead of the phrases “savagely/brutally killed”, “was killed” or “died” can be used; instead of “(again) were shot”, “firing took place” can be used.

Based on these principles, the Editorial Board approves for use the following terms and guidelines:

Naming conflicts

Nogorno-Karabakh Conflict – This designation allows to avoid ethnically- or politically-marked designations such as “Armenian-Azerbaijani” and “Azerbaijani-Armenian” conflict, “Azerbaijani-Karabakhi” conflict, or “conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan”. Abstaining from ethnic frames allows for the acknowledgement of the active involvement of third parties in the conflict (both allies of the immediate parties to the conflict and the sides actively engaged in the negotiation/peace process). The proposed designation also emphasizes the political as opposed to the ethnic nature of the conflict without nevertheless overly politicizing the conflict.

Georgian-Abkhaz conflict” and “Georgian-Osset conflict” designate a political conflict directed at the identification of a new status for territories as opposed to a conflict between Georgians and Ossets or the Abkhaz. The designation “Georgian-Russian conflict” also is used in order to describe the confrontation between the two states.

Geographical and Political Designations

  • Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia – neutral forms designating conflict regions as opposed to politicized alternatives; territories that de-facto exist independently from Azerbaijan or Georgia for more than 20 years. Note: South Ossetia and Abkhazia were respectively an autonomous region and an autonomous republic on the territory of the Georgian SSR that today have a disputed international legal status. They have been recognized as independent republics by Russia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Nauru. Other states consider them integral part of Georgia, unrecognized or self-proclaimed states. They are often referred to as disputed territories in analytical reviews and the media. Nagorno-Karabakh, an ex-autonomous region on the territory of the Azerbaijani SSR with a majority ethnic Armenian population, declared independence in 1991 but is not recognized by any state. It is considered an integral part of the Republic of Azerbaijan, an unrecognized or self-proclaimed state. It is often referred to as a disputed territory.
  • The Editorial Board recommends when appropriate the simultaneous use of geographical names that takes into consideration the views of all sides to the conflict – Stapanakert/Khankendi, Shushi/Shusha, Tskhinval/i, Sukhum/i, etc. This approach allows for flexible description and analysis of events depending on the specific case and context. For example: “In Stepankert, called Khankendi in Azerbaijan, …” or “In Nagorno-Karabakh that is considered an unrecognized republic in Armenia and a self-proclaimed republic in Azerbaijan …”. In this manner, the material is presented in the third person allowing for a balanced rhetoric void of unnecessary evocative expressions/overstatements that stir emotions. We also recommend the use of names reflecting the social-political and temporal context of the particular event. For example: Referring to the modern names of the cities of Ganja and Gyumri, it should be noted that before Sovietization, these cities were called Elisavetapol and Aleksandrapol, and in the Soviet period they were called Kirovabad and Leninakan respectively.
  • Region of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict – geographical designation including not only Karabakh but also the whole territory of Armenia and Azerbaijan avoiding the ethnically- or politically- framed designations. The region of South Ossetian and Abkhaz conflicts is a geographical designation including not only South Ossetia and Abkhazia but also the whole territory of Georgia.
  • The zone of the Karabakh, Abkhaz, and South Ossetian conflicts – the immediate territory where the main military operations and confrontation occurred or are taking place. In this case, it refers to the ex-NKAO and the adjacent territories (regions) as well as the territories bordering Armenia and Azerbaijan along which the violations of the ceasefire take place. Accordingly, it is also the ex SOAO or the Abkhaz SSR and the adjacent territories.
  • Line of contact” should be used to designate the line of contact between the military forces of the conflicting sides. The Editorial Board believes that it is important for the sections of “Media Review” and “Analysis” to cover developments in the entire region of the South Caucasus including unrecognized and partially recognized republics and disputed territories. In case of a relevant event, the section “Media Review” may frequently reference the governing bodies of unrecognized or partially recognized states. Both the reference to or the absence thereof should not be regarded as a political position of the Editorial Board of the Journal. The publishers are solely guided by considerations of neutrality in the coverage of contentious themes and the assumed responsibly to present their readers with a fullest possible review of the most important events as covered by the media.

The designation of the parties (sides) to a conflict

We urge our authors to refrain from expressions of xenophobia, hate speech, or language calling for violence; the intentional ethnicization of the conflict, the attribution of negative tags as essential and inherent traits of one of the sides to the conflict (“historical/ancestral enemies”, “fascists”, “monsters”, etc.). We believe the conscious avoidance of pejorative assessments is a very important step.

Sides to/in the conflict – a designation including all key actors in the conflict.

Civiliam populations/civilians – all those that at the moment of speech are not in the power structures and the military personnel or are not conscripts to the armed forces of one of the sides to the conflict.

Victims of the conflict – people immediately affected by the conflict (the families of the wounded, the killed, the missing persons, and other). We depart from the premise that no group of victims of the conflict should be excluded from participation in the peace processes.

Forcibly displaced persons – people who have resided or are residing in the region of the conflict, who have lost belongings and property in the conflict and do not have the possibility of safe return to the places of their former residence.

Description of the events of the conflict and events related to the politics of memory

We purpose to use, to the extent possible, terms that are accepted in the legal practice of conflict description. We urge to refrain from insulting and derogatory expressions such as “the so-called”, the use of inverted commas for sensitive words such as “the so-called ‘massacre in Khodjali’” or “the so-called ‘Sumgait pogroms’”. Also we recommend to avoid using generalizing and negative attributes while describing the sides of the conflict such as “all Armenians”, “all Azerbaijanis”, “cruel”, “blood-thirsty” and so forth.

As a rule, such metaphors and hate speech are used to construct an insurmountable divide between the conflicting societies. Instead, the authors of the glossary suggest to take into consideration the existing established terminology and principles of designation of events of the confrontation (pogroms and war crimes/military offenses), avoiding the conscious ethnicization and generalization, the formation of enemy images and collective guilt.

Participant in military activities/combatant –Each side has its heroes that are very often perceived as antiheroes by the opposing side. In case the reference is to a participant in the military activities possessing an actual status of “a national hero”, then the designation “participant in military action awarded as a national hero” should be used.

Incidents in the zone of the armed confrontation/conflict – designation for all events/incidents and direct fighting (firing, exchanges of fire, sniper activities, etc.).

We urge authors to avoid collective ethnic markings while describing incidents in the zone of the armed conflict. For example, “Armenians fired”, or “Azerbaijanis captured”, or “the Abkhaz arrested”. Instead we recommend to use the descriptions along the lines of “armed forces of Armenia, Azerbaijan, or Georgia” etc.

Hate speech – We recommend avoiding exaggerated ethnicization, overly broad and general designations, allowing the shift of guilt for certain activities onto an entire ethnic group/nation/national community; clichés reproducing “the enemy image” (“ruthless”, “historical enemies”, “cruel” and such). In general, it is recommended to avoid adjectives that do not carry a factual connotation and are instead aimed at shaping fully generalized conflict images encompassing all members of an ethnic group/national community.

Forcibly relocated populations/forcibly displaced persons, phrases such as “were expelled”, “were forcibly deported”, or “were deprived of shelter” should be used instead of the overly emotional or intentionally ethnicizing expressions such as “Armenians expelled” or “Azerbaijanis deported”. Hate speech should be renounced and avoided while describing tragic events of that nature.

Negotiations format/format of talks

Attempts at maintaining contacts and advancing dialogue and discussions between the societies caught in conflict can and should be made in different formats and on different levels. Below are concepts for different discussion platforms and negotiations formats that need a clear definition.

Public control/monitoring – monitoring carried out by representatives of the civil societies over the implementation of any adopted commitments and agreements.

Confidence building measures between the conflict sides – monitoring of the implementation of the agreements between sides on the level of politicians and armed forces, non-political activities aimed at overcoming and/or transformation the conflict; convening periodic meetings and organization of permanent dialogue platforms (discussions, cultural and sports activities and so on).

Peace process/peacebuilding process – the process of political negotiations implying the possible transformation of the conflict; engagement and joint efforts of the civil societies aimed at the maintenance and development of contacts and relationships.

Civil monitoring over compliance with the ceasefire regime – joint groups of representatives of state structures, international organizations, and activists of the civil societies of the conflict sides, that should be integrated into the monitoring process of the ceasefire compliance.

Dialogue platform formats – implies ongoing, regular meetings, discussions and talks on different levels with the widest possible inclusion of segments and groups of the societies.

Actors engaged in the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh, Georgian-Abkhaz, and Georgian-Ossetian conflicts – third parties (countries) that are actively engaged in the peace/peacebuilding and the confidence building processes between the sides of the conflict.

Enhancing/Strengthening security in the conflict zone – abstention from the use of hate speech and language calling for violence, strengthening civil control over the activity of formal structures engaged in the negotiations, increased civil control over the activities of the military forces on the line of contact, launch of the process of and guarantees for return and/or reparations for all persons who have left their homes, study of the prospects of implementation of international experiences in the zone of the conflict.


The Editorial Board strongly recommends that authors adhere to these guidelines when collaborating with the Journal and reserves the right to refuse the publication of articles that do not follow these recommendations. At the same time, the Journal acknowledges the fact that heeding to every term is impossible and reserves for the authors and editors of every single edition the right to a certain degree of interpretation in following the recommendations of the glossary.


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