On December 4th, 2021, during a visit to the TV channel “Obieqtivi,” Malkhaz Topuria, a member of the Alliance of Patriots, stated that according to the statistics published by the United Nations, the Georgian language is on the verge of extinction and is likely to disappear by 2050.” Topuria names the demographic situation in the country as the main reason for this trend, as a large number of young people are leaving the country en masse.
Malkhaz Topuria, Alliance of Patriots of Georgia: “The data of the UN, which is not biased by interest groups or conspiracy theories, say that the Georgian language will disappear by 2050, it simply will cease to exist. The extent to which the youth is leaving the country directly impacts the disappearance of the oldest surviving Georgian languages in the world.“
Identical information was spread on the Georgian online media in the past as well. Back in May 2015, businessman Levan Vasadze expressed a similar opinion at the conference “Western Civilization and Traditional Values,” stating that the UN included the Georgian nation in the list of dying nations and the Georgian language in the list of dying languages.
Levan Vasadze: “According to the UN data, by 2050, if we do not change anything, the population of Georgia will decrease by 28%. Among them, the proportion of ethnic Georgians, according to the UN, will be reduced by 50%. The UN has included the Georgian nation in the black list of dying nations and the Georgian language in the black list of dying languages.“
Vasadze’s statement was quickly spread on the internet. A number of online publications have devoted articles to the potential destruction of the Georgian nation and the Georgian language, including Media Holding Week, Reporter, etc.
In fact, the Georgian language is not included in the UNESCO list of dying languages. According to the criteria developed by UNESCO in 2003, the Georgian language can be classified as a group of languages that are not in danger of extinction. From the group of Georgian languages, Svan and Megrelian languages can be found among the list of endangered languages, which instead of high rates of migration, can be explained by various other institutional factors. As for the issue of the potential extinction of the Georgian nation, the United Nations indeed predicts a reduction in the population of Georgia by 2050; however, the decline is not alarming.
Which factors contribute to language vitality?
In 2002-2003, UNESCO, with the help of a particular group of experts, developed a system for assessing the viability and threat of extinction of languages, which is based on several criteria and divides languages into six main categories. The given categories are: safe, vulnerable, definitely endangered, severely endangered, critically endangered, and extinct. According to this classification, UNESCO groups Georgian language in the category of safe languages.
As for the language viability criteria, they can be grouped as follows: 1) intergenerational language transmission; 2) the absolute number of people using the language; 3) Proportion of speakers to the total population; 4) changes in the areas of language use; 5) Responding to new domains and media; And 6) access to language education and literacy materials.
Notably, none of these factors should be used independently. A language that ranks high according to one of the criteria may deserve immediate and urgent attention due to another factor.
Source: UNESCO Document on Language Vitality and Endangerment
As for the Megrelian and Svan languages, UNESCO indeed includes them in the list of endangered languages, but according to the vitality criteria, the main reason for the trend is the fact that the language is not taught systematically in schools, there is no production of legal documents in the given language, and few learning materials are being created in the language.
- Georgian Population Prospects by 2050
Although the United Nations projected a decrease in the Georgian population by 2050, it is important to note that the decline is not alarming. Specifically, if by 2020 the population of Georgia was about 3.989 million people, by 2050, this number is expected to decrease to 3.517 million.
False information about the UN allegedly projecting the extinction of the Georgian nation has been fact-checked by “Myth Detector” in the past as well. For more details, see our article:
- Disinformation: Georgia was put on the list of endangered countries
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