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I realise I've made an off-the-cuff policy decision here with my intro. Feel free to dispute, but I think it is the only way to avoid back-and-forth POV pushing of the type that plagues Wikipedia: To count it must be a UN member.Ian Cundell 18:44, 7 March 2007 (CST)

Why not rename the article to "List of Member States of the United Nations." (or something more catchy.) Since that's what it will be. Derek Harkness 04:03, 8 March 2007 (CST)
I agree with Derek about the title of the article. I've added the members from A through L. I'll add the rest later today.Hillie Plantinga 08:55, 8 March 2007 (CST)

The problem with the name is that we aren't interested in "member states of the UN" (right now). We're interested in the countries of the world. Therefore, in addition to the UN states, we can have a handy list of nonrecognized/questionable/whatever states. --Larry Sanger 09:21, 8 March 2007 (CST)

Gareth's slight reworking of the intro is immensely helpful. The point is to have a clear concept of :organization that avoids the problems of special/ vested interest groups arguing that their hobby horse absolutely MUST has recognition at the top level: as a matter of policy we should deal with "nonrecognized/questionable/whatever" in the article for the pertinent state that is recognised. Any argument is over at a stroke and if you wish to know about South Ossetia you start at the Georgia article.
I would also argue for a name change, but to Citizendium Gazetteer, with a category of the same name for country's/ city's/ continent's etc articles, and the removal of Countries of the World from the Social Science section on the front page because, quite frankly it ain't. As I may have cited elsewhere, mere place names are not geography.Ian Cundell 17:38, 8 March 2007 (CST)

I'm very open to a name change. Citizendium Gazetteer is an interesting possibility. --Larry Sanger 19:18, 8 March 2007 (CST)

Cool. What's the best way to take things forward? Just go for it and see it it ends up making sense? Ian Cundell 15:05, 10 March 2007 (CST)

I'd like to discuss the implications of our labelling a list of countries a "Gazetteer." What precisely will we mean by this term? Does this mean that we will have Gazetteers for every national and major subnational entity? Let's get a reasonable proposal on the table before we take an action with such consequential implications. Will we mean something different by entries in a "Gazetteer" than what we mean by "encyclopedia article"? Or is the only reason we choose the word "Gazetteer" that it provides a nice label for a list of geographical entities? --Larry Sanger 17:46, 11 March 2007 (CDT)

Well, a gazetteer is a geographical index and this is one way of organising the information on geographical objects. I would favour a category/ workgroup to back it up and move the other pertinent stuff (Lists of Oceans/ mountain ranges - whatever AND the articles to it) to this and away from Geography (which is a subject, not an object). The only reason I kept it to countries was because that was the title of the (then red) link. 'Gazetteer' is a good, reasonably familiar term for a way of cataloguing geographical information (Let's Go..., Rough Guide etc are all gazetteers), so it makes sense. But happy for another term if anyone can think of one. Citizendium Guide to the World, anyone? Ian Cundell 14:20, 12 March 2007 (CDT)

Additional Information.

Can we convert this list into a table and add some addition information and or demographics. For example, Capital City, Continent, Population, Land area, Adjoining Counties and Seas. Derek Harkness 19:49, 8 March 2007 (CST)

No problem in principle, but I'd be wary of over complicating things. I'd favour keeping as sinmple an index as possible: Country; Capital; Land Area; Population. No real need for "feature bloat"
But if we switch to a Gazetteer approach there may be scope for a more flexible outlook. In the end any apporach needs to be easily understood. Ian Cundell 15:02, 10 March 2007 (CST)
There is the obvious limit of the width for the screen. I thought perhapse 4 or 5 columns containing just the most important information and demographics. Derek Harkness 03:18, 12 March 2007 (CDT)
No problem with that. Ian Cundell 14:20, 12 March 2007 (CDT)

Taiwan, etc.

I understand the desire to head off disputes of the kind that plague the similar wikipedia article on this subject, but it seems like problems are bound to creep in. A couple of thoughts:

  1. Limiting to UN member states is untenable. The Vatican would have to be excluded if this were strictly observed. Furthermore, until quite recently there were undoubtedly sovereign states which were not UN members. Notably Switzerland, which only joined in 2002 or so.
  2. Taiwan/The Republic of China is a sovereign state in all but name. It doesn't necessarily have to be in the main list, but surely it should at least be mentioned here. This list generally seems to take up a constitutive theory of statehood - i.e., that statehood comes from recognition by other countries, rather than by attainment of certain objective characteristics, which is the declarative theory of statehood. The latter seems to be the one more commonly used by political scientists, so it seems problematic to pretend otherwise for the sake of a neat list. The ROC pretty clearly meets a declarative theory of statehood definition, and it seems wrong to entirely exclude it on the basis that it doesn't meet as well an alternate, but less widely held, view. (And the ROC, additionally, does have recognition from a couple of dozen small countries).
  3. What has happened to Western Sahara? It has about as much de jure recognition as Palestine, and considerably more claim to de facto status. Somaliland, the various de facto states of the Caucasus, and Transnistria should also probably be mentioned, even if not listed in the main list.

The problem with this list in wikipedia is that there's a ton of Template:Soup [point of view] pushers on all sides of the issues who aren't really interested in trying to come up with a reasonable article that deals with the questions concerning the various dubious states. Instead they all want to force their perspective through on whichever of the dubious states they're trying to either prove or disprove the statehood of. So you've got a bunch of people who will come through and repeatedly remove anything from the list that hints at questionable status for, say, South Ossetia or Somaliland, and then you'll have others who will simply remove them entirely. And you get a bunch of people with questionable command of English and very strong points of view arguing vehemently on the talk page. One would hope that this project could deal with the issue a bit more maturely and productively, rather than simply closing off all possibility of improvement by artificially limiting the list to UN members, which isn't, as I pointed out above, a tenable distinction. John Kenney 00:39, 12 March 2007 (CDT)

We really need two lists. One Politically Correct list and one comprehensive and politically ignorant list. For the PC list, we have to decide who's politics to go by and I suppose the UN is as good as any other. I'm not saying the UN is unbiased and Template:Soup [non-neutral], it is decidedly biased, but at least we all know how and why it is so.
The second list should be longer and aim to be a comprehensive list that ignores political opinions of what is and is not a country and goes by the generally understood idea of sovereignty. I would argue that this list includes all potential country articles even if the country no longer exists. This allows use to cover subjects like Prussia, the old Yugoslavia, Scotland, England, Wales, etc. It would equally allow use to cover countries that are disputed such those named in the post above. Derek Harkness 03:30, 12 March 2007 (CDT)
I'm not sure I understand the "politically correct"/"politically ignorant" distinction you are making. At any rate, there is no reason not to make this list multifaceted and include more dubious currently existing countries somewhere. We already include Palestine, which is not a de facto state and is not a UN member. If we had a separate section for it, why shouldn't we include the ROC, or Abkhazia, or whatever? To sink these currently existing state-like entities into a list that includes Scotland and Anhalt-Dessau would just be to bury it. John Kenney 10:05, 12 March 2007 (CDT)
I think the idea of having two lists should be anathema. One list, properly disciplined with clear rules for when exceptions are made (I can see a case for both Taiwan and Western Sahara - NOT for England etc because they should be covered in the UK article). As far as I know the PLO (or the Palestinian Authority is it now?) has observer status so I do not think Palestine should be on the list, because (right or wrong) it doesn't exist. The Vatican stays because it has permanent observer status and that Switzerland only joined in 2002 is neither here not there: in 2001 there may have been a necessary debate. Now the point is academic.
The reason for using the UN as the basis point is that it provides a clearly defensible line: that is to say it is an editorial decision, and has nothing do to with political correctness and everything to do with maintaining a manageable system, free of the need to keep checking for POV pushers and special interest groups. It is essentially the same as a magazine having a style guide: ie "this is the way we do it. Work with it, or head back to wikipedia". Ian Cundell 14:20, 12 March 2007 (CDT)
The Switzerland example was merely to demonstrate that, until quite recently, UN membership was not very close to coterminous with "generally recognized sovereign states". It may not be again at some point. Beyond that, I'd be happy to discuss a system that would allow exceptions for Taiwan/ROC and Western Sahara in particular, as those two have both de facto statehood and considerable minority diplomatic recognition. Palesitne has considerable recognition, but no de facto status - the Palestinian Authority, which rules Gaza and some parts of the West Bank, is neither sovereign nor the same thing as the de jure State of Palestine, which is represented diplomatically not by the PA but by the PLO. That said, listing Palestine separately wouldn't be too bad either. I don't really feel that strongly about Somaliland and the various ex-Soviet de facto states. If we can come up with a clear distinction that allows us to include Taiwan and ditch them, that would make me perfectly happy. John Kenney 01:17, 13 March 2007 (CDT)

Text here was removed by the Constabulary on grounds of civility. (The author may replace this template with an edited version of the original remarks.)

I could be persuaded to add another section on the end listing "Former members". Such a list would allow ROC, USSR and other countries that have changed in the last 50 or so years to be included in the list without creating a political headache. Derek Harkness 04:02, 13 March 2007 (CDT)

Text here was removed by the Constabulary on grounds of civility. (The author may replace this template with an edited version of the original remarks.)

No prob with Taiwan - I would strongly resist USSR - it doesn't exist and is not current, so belongs in a History of Russia article, with links form the from Soviet states' articles as apparopriate. Ian Cundell 07:37, 13 March 2007 (CDT)
I did not mean the USSR, I meant what I said, the ex-Soviet de facto states - Abkhazia, Transnistria, South Ossetia, and Nagorno-Karabakh. I thought I was using a well-understood shorthand to refer to these countries, but I guess not. Perhaps everyone would be well-advised to at least read over the wikipedia arguments on these subjects here. While that discussion is incredibly annoying and never resolved, and is full of nationalist POV-pushing, this all feels like reinventing the wheel. And if we just want a List of UN members, we should just import the wikipedia article United Nations member states, which is completely adequate (and is a featured list). John Kenney 10:28, 13 March 2007 (CDT)

Neither the Taiwanese nor the Chinese consider Taiwan to be a seperate country from China. In that regard it is in no way a sovereign state. It can be considered an alternative government of China (although they don't push that much these days) but not sovereign. How about a category at the bottom "other entities"? Then let their articles explain exactly how and why. --Michael Johnson 22:20, 14 March 2007 (CDT)

short form names and long form names

Derek, whatever names the UN may use, it is wrong to use a mishmash of short form names and long form names. In a political context, "Russia" means the "Russian Federation," and it is not even slightly incorrect to call the Russian Federation "Russia." Or to call the Islamic Republic of Iran "Iran." Or, for that matter, to do what you have also done and call the French Republic "France," or the Islamic Republic of Pakistan "Pakistan," or to use the short name of just about any country in the world. There are some times when it makes sense to use the long form name, because the short name is informal or ambiguous (the Koreas, Macedonia, the Congos, the Federated States of Micronesia all come to mind). But the list as it was was completely inconsistent, giving some short form names and some long form names. John Kenney 10:02, 12 March 2007 (CDT)

BTW, if we were to turn the list into a table, I would support having separate columns for short name and long name (with the two merged in cases where there is no short name or no long name.) John Kenney 10:06, 12 March 2007 (CDT)

I don't know why some countries are listed with the long for and some short, perhaps an email to the UN might reveal some interesting information. I do think we should be consistent. A mix of long and short is odd. However, there are often more than one shortened version plus abbreviation. Listing both long and short together would just complicate the page without actually providing much additional information. Adding a column listing the capital cities would link to another page on those cities where as a column listing alternative names link to the same place as the first column.

My argument in favor of using only the long form on this page would be several fold. The long versions are less prone to ambiguity. Using the long version increases the amount of information where as using shortened versions decreases the quantity of information. There is space in the articles themselves to list all the various shortened, abbreviated, colloquial and local dialect versions of the names and their origin. There would be less chance of ambiguation with historical names. Derek Harkness 12:56, 12 March 2007 (CDT)

On balance I'm inclined to agree that long form removes and risk of ambiguity (same essential reasoning as using the UN as the basis point). The only reason it is like it is now is because it was stitched together by several people. Ian Cundell 14:20, 12 March 2007 (CDT)
What risk of ambiguity is there with "Iran" or "Russia"? John Kenney 18:11, 12 March 2007 (CDT)
And what about countries where the long form name doesn't even include the short name? "French Republic," for instance? It seems to me that this is unnecessary pedantry. Wikipedia, I think, actually does a good job with this. See here, and the way they give both short form and long form names. Beyond that, the problem is not that the list was stitched together by several people, but because the UN itself is completely inconsistent in how it names the various countries. There is no rhyme or reason to which countries the UN gives the long form for, and which the short form, and I don't see why we should emulate them on this subject. John Kenney 18:17, 12 March 2007 (CDT)
The wikipedia list is a bit messy. Especially with all the different language names included. I hope we can make something neater than that. I'm for only one name per country and full explanation of all the other variations and histories of the name can be left to the article on that country.
As for ambiguity: Russia, historically, has been used for various states. For example, The Tsardom of Russia, The Russian Empire, Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic and Russian Federation, have all been known by the short name of Russia. There are WP articles on all these long names except for the Russian Federation which is listed under the title Russia. Here lies an inconsistency. Other short names name similar levels of historical ambiguity. For example, I can find at least 6 different United States of somewhere or other. While only one United States exists now, it doesn't mean that we won't want articles on some of the others. The short name for the United Kingdom leaves open some ambiguity as to the status of Ireland; where as the long name does not have this ambiguity. Derek Harkness 00:11, 13 March 2007 (CDT)
It is pretty standard practice for encyclopedia articles on currently existing countries to use the short form name. Wikipedia is rather unusual not for doing this, but for having separate articles on earlier incarnations of the state. But it's completely silly to have separate articles for, say, Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and Republic of Venezuela and United States of Venezuela. They are all the same country. The article on Russia can deal with both the current Russian Federation and all the previous entities called "Russia". Same thing with France (which can refer to the "French Republic," the "French State," the "French Empire," and the "Kingdom of France"), to Bulgaria ("Principality of Bulgaria," "Kingdom of Bulgaria," "People's Republic of Bulgaria," and "Republic of Bulgaria"), and so forth. Does it really make sense to act as though the People's Republic of Albania in 1975 is a different entity from the Socialist People's Republic of Albania in 1977? They were both the same country, ruled by the same man, Enver Hoxha. The change was completely meaningless and cosmetic. Especially at this point, where we don't even have separate articles for most countries, it seems bizarre to worry about ambiguity with earlier long form names that represent exactly the same state. And if we are going to use one name on the list, we should use the short form name except in cases of ambiguity like the Congos, the Koreas, and such like. That is to say, of instances where there is a present day ambiguity, not where there is ambiguity between the current form of a state and forms that existed in the past. John Kenney 01:11, 13 March 2007 (CDT)

Text here was removed by the Constabulary on grounds of civility. (The author may replace this template with an edited version of the original remarks.)

What are you talking about a straw man? Derek's justification for using the long form name was the potential of confusion with older long form names. I think that's ridiculous. Short form names are well-accepted, and are the titles used by every encyclopedia in their titles of entries on countries. If the old long form names are "irrelevant historical parallels," then, I repeat the question, what possible ambiguity arises out of articles at Russia, Iran, Iraq, France, and so forth? And are you all really proposing articles at French Republic and the like? As to what it should look like, a table that includes capitals, area, and population would make sense. As I suggested before, including long form names, as well, would make sense if people care about the long form names. As to "wikipedia-esque navel-gazing," surely this kind of thing isn't "wikipedia-esque," but a rather inevitable result of the fact that people can feel strongly about relatively small issues, and disagree about them. John Kenney 10:09, 13 March 2007 (CDT)

Dependent territories

Should these be listed here, perhaps in a separate list? Sometimes they even have separate currencies from their home country. John Kenney 12:17, 13 March 2007 (CDT)

I think a tiered aproach would be best. This list contains countries. The country articles contain the main sub devisions of that country (provinces or states) and, when we get that far, the state's article contains a list of it's counties and the countie's article contains a list of it's cities and so on. Dependent territories would be listed in the article of their parent country. Some of them will merit an article of their own (e.g. gabralta) others with not, but to list them all on this list would probably double or triple it's size and also make the list difficult to manage and check cause I doubt many of us know all the dependent territories of all the countries in the world without some heavy research. Derek Harkness 14:20, 13 March 2007 (CDT)
The thing about dependent territories, though, is that they aren't actually part of their parent country. French Polynesia, which is called a pays (country) in French, is not part of France. Greenland is certainly not part of Denmark. When one is talking about the land area of Denmark, for instance, the enormous size of Greenland is pretty much never included. As to all the dependent territories, little research is required. Among other things, wikipedia already has a list of them that is more or less adequate as a starting point. The CIA World Factbook also lists them all. John Kenney 16:30, 13 March 2007 (CDT)


Well, I thought a gazetteer was a dictionary of places. So you could say that a really big encyclopedia contains gazetteer entries (in that sense) and thus replaces a gazetteer. An index of places, however, can also be called a gazetteer. "Index" usually means "alphabetical list," although indexes can also be organized in other ways as with a topical index. So what, precisely, is the content of the proposal that we create a "gazetteer"? It is that we call any list of places, or perhaps a top-level master list like countries of the world, a "gazeteer," and perhaps also that we feel free to intermix different types of links and geographical information into the pages, again as we are doing with countries of the world?

I suspect the appeal of the "gazeteer" or "guide" proposal is that it will be useful to people to have more information than, simply, a list of countries. I agree with this.

Here is what I propose. I propose we have (mere examples offered here) World Gazeteer, North America Gazetteer, United States Gazetteer, Ohio Gazetteer, and Licking County Gazetteer. At each level our aim is, obviously, not to have every possible piece of information about things at that level of generality, but merely "the highlights"--obviously, a controversial task, but one that is open to various objective measures (such as population statistics).

The idea, then, is that at each level, we list the major political divisions, major cities, major mountains and/or mountain ranges (and other geological features), major parks, and so forth. As to what sort of information to have, I would urge you to think first and foremost of what users are to find most useful and interesting. A list of countries alphabetically is not quite necessary, because if I want to look up a country, I can use the search box for that: so how many people want or will use an alphabetical list? Organizing them by continent, and continental subdivision as in the case of Europe, Asia, and Africa, would be much more interesting. Listing them also by land area, population, GDP and cost of living would all be interesting. But ultimately, for the World Gazetteer we should choose just one listing (perhaps by continent, then alphabetical); then we can link to a page such as Country comparisons that has the aforementioned lists. We might also on World Gazeteer have lists of the major mountain ranges, cities, rivers, oceans, etc.

I think the proper place to work out this idea is CZ:Geography Workgroup or some subpage thereof. (Notice that the new CZ: namespace permits subpages.) I'll copy this mail there for further discussion.

--Larry Sanger 15:26, 13 March 2007 (CDT)

Please reply at CZ:Geography Workgroup/Gazetteer.

A quick nudge to awaken the Gazetteer group that seems to have fallen asleep. CZ_Talk:Geography_Workgroup/Gazetteer. - Derek Harkness 10:46, 4 May 2007 (CDT)

Professionalism on this talk page

Please be aware that CitiZendium intends to create a professional environment for its writers. Although, there are bound to be disagreements, seldom is it necessary to revert to unprofessional behavior. Hopefully, this will make a better experience for everyone. Thanks for reviewing CZ:Professionalism guidelines. Also be aware that abbreviations such as POV are not to be used at CitiZendium for the benefit of all. --Matt Innis (Talk) 16:59, 13 March 2007 (CDT)

I apologize for using the term "POV", although I will say in my defense that I was using it in the context of discussing activity at Wikipedia. It's hard to kill old habits, but I will try to consciously stop myself from using wikipedia jargon. Beyond that, I apologize for any incivility on my part. John Kenney 17:38, 13 March 2007 (CDT)

Population figures

What source should we use for the population figures? Currently it seems to be drawn from the population numbers in the wikipedia article on the country, which themselves aren't sourced. That doesn't seem adequate to me. The wikipedia list of countries by population seems to give figures based on Minnesota State University's "Population Counter" (and which are different from the figures given in the individual articles). Other alternatives would be the CIA World Factbook, which itself generally gives the source of its conclusions. I'd suggest that as probably the best option, but I'm not sure. At any rate, I think for something like population, where there's any number of potential sources and the figure is constantly changing, it is essential to give the source of the figures. John Kenney 22:15, 13 March 2007 (CDT)

The half dozzen figures I added did come for WP. I don't think that's the most accurate source, I just wanted something in the box to see how the table would look on the page before spending allot of effort filling in every box. The best source would be direct form the county's own government pages e.g. for the UK use and for the USA use Of course not every country has accurate census data, in which case another reliable source such as the CIA World Factbook or the Statesman's Yearbook (not free access but very detailed) could be used. Some cross checking between more than one source should ensure accuracy. Since most current published figures are estimates of current population due to only taking a census every 10 years or so, there may be small discrepancies between some sources. Derek Harkness 23:48, 13 March 2007 (CDT)
what are we to do in cases where we can get official census information from a government site, but other sites have more recent estimates? And what about situations when there's an official estimate from a few years ago, and an unofficial estimate for right now? The issue can become quite complicated, unfortunately. John Kenney 01:03, 14 March 2007 (CDT)
It depends who calculated the estimate. Some source would be more credible that others. For example, an estimate published as part of a pier reviewed journal would be good, but the local tabloid newspaper poll might not be so good. We have to just use some judgement and common sense.
This is all assuming that the population column stays. It's just one suggested demographic, I'm open to other alternatives. For example maybe the name of the current Head of State linking to a biography of that person or to a list of all the previous Heads of State would be better. Or maybe type of government, land area, GDP and so on. It doesn't have to be population. Derek Harkness 03:41, 14 March 2007 (CDT)
I like population, in that it gives a good sense of how large and important a country is. I'd think that land area should perhaps be included, as well. If I were going to get rid of a column currently there, I'd go with monetary unit, which is rather a secondary feature compared to population and area. I think a separate list dealing with heads of state would probably work better. It's worth noting that wikipedia has dozens of lists of the countries of the world giving different information. There's no particular need to put everything here. Name, capital, area, and population seem like the key things to put into the main table, to me at least. John Kenney 09:16, 14 March 2007 (CDT)
The correct datasource for all population data is unquestionably the UN Population Division. THe easiest published source from them is a database which can be downloaded, which constitutes the publication World Population Policies 2005. More recent estimates of population changes are unreliable and should be ignored, as is standard academic practice in these matters. Here is the link to the database World Population Policies 2005. This should avoid the horrors to be found on Wikipedia of CIA World Factbook estimates, most of which seem to be about 10 years out of date. --Martin Baldwin-Edwards 19:48, 13 April 2007 (CDT)

This article take a needless position

In the world today there are:

  • Internationally recognized countries, e.g., via the U.N.
  • De facto countries, e.g., Palestine and Taiwan, who have recognition of certain states but not internationally.
  • Separatist groups who wish to gain land and/or recognition to become a country, who may have limited recognition by at least one other state.

The above seems a far, far superior outline in which to construct this article, and the only one capable of full neutrality.

Stephen Ewen 06:06, 14 March 2007 (CDT)

I agree that places like Taiwan need to be addressed. I wonder if separatist groups might be going a bit too far. Tongue in cheek here, but would Texas count? Chris Day (Talk) 07:20, 14 March 2007 (CDT)

Stephen, you are confusing de facto countries, like Taiwan, with de jure countries, like Palestine. Taiwan, or Somaliland, or whatever, are de facto countries in that, while they do not have widespread recognition internationally (or, in the case of Somaliland, any international recognition), they function in fact more or less in the manner that other states do. According to one theory of statehood (the declarative theory), such entities are states whether or not they have international recognition. On the other hand, Palestine (and, to some extent, Western Sahara, although the latter has de facto control over a small part of its claimed territory) is a de jure state that has diplomatic recognition from a large number of states, but does not actually function as a state. The "State of Palestine" controls no territory, and has no population. The Palestinian Authority, which governs the Gaza Strip and some parts of the West Bank, is a) not the same thing as the State of Palestine; and b) not sovereign. At any rate, it does no good to confound these two very different kinds of state or semi-state into one. On the question of "separatist groups," before I comment, I want to be clear on what you are suggesting. Do you mean separatist groups that actually control a de facto state,, like Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transnistria, Nagorno-Karabakh, North Cyprus, and Somaliland? I'm fine with listing those somewhere, although I don't think it's necessary. Or do you mean more broadly any group that would like to have its own state? The latter seems entirely unworkable to me. John Kenney 09:13, 14 March 2007 (CDT)

I apologize for the inadequately thought out reply I made moments before dropping into bed last night. What follows will explain much more what I a getting at.

I have never visited Wikipedia's counterpart article to this until today, but what I think is happening is that the contentions over there are coloring things (a "point of view fork", but undertaken here). The Wikipedia article uses the Montevideo Convention as its standard, while this one selects U.N recognition.

I understand the purpose of this article to be one of serving as a top-level sort of "gateway to the world" article. While the intro here on this article does make an attempt at neutrality, I think it fails starting with, "For the purposes of this directory, a 'country' is…" In my view, all that is going to do is ensure this article not only begins as, but ever remains a battleground. I think there is a better strategy.

The first step is to discard countries of the world for the geopolitical world. From the get-go, this will set up the article to avoid un-needed declarative statements. We can then go about describing the geopolitical world neutrally and by allowing contested entities a place within appropriate categories that nearly everyone will agree are fair.

The intro should describe that what comprises the geopolitical world is always contested and shifting. Within it are internationally recognized nation-states; de facto and de jure states; dependencies; separatist groups that control land and are a de facto state (e.g., North Cyprus); and yes, we should mention a few major separatists groups who are seeking self-government and laying claim to land. This outline will provide for maximum utility of the article, and each main section should lead to a main article.

Stephen Ewen 17:35, 14 March 2007 (CDT)

I would agree with everything you say, more or less, except two things: 1) I'd prefer to leave the title at "Countries of the World." "The Geopolitical world" seems kind of awkward and unnatural to me. 2) I don't think that this is the appropriate place to discuss "major separatist groups who are seeking self-government and laying claim to land". What entities are you specifically thinking of? It seems to me that if they have some measure of de facto sovereignty, like Abkhazia or Somaliland, or whatever, it makes sense to mention them here. Kosovo, which is probably going to become independent in the not so distant future, and which is already de facto separated from Serbia, might be another example of something to mention. But when one goes below that level, it gets really murky. There are tons of autonomous regions within countries, and some of these have some pretentions towards independence - Iraqi Kurdistan and Chechnya come to mind. But Iraqi Kurdistan is undoubtedly part of Iraq at the moment (the President of Iraq is a Kurd, among other things), and the separatists in Chechnya don't even control the Chechen government anymore, much less have any kind of actual de facto independence. And those are probably the best examples of separatist movements that don't have de facto states. I think anything listed here should be able to claim either de facto or de jure statehood status. If it can claim nothing but nationalist sentiment (and perhaps autonomy) on its behalf, it shouldn't be listed, or else the whole thing will get rapidly out of hand. John Kenney 18:34, 14 March 2007 (CDT)


  1. the geopolitical world - it should actually be geopolitical world. "Countries of the world" seems to require us to select a criteria like the Montevideo Convention or U.N recognition to define "country". geopolitical world neatly avoids that dilemma and prevents this article from becoming a battleground for people who want to have their whatever listed under "country".
  2. The reason why it is very important to select a few separatist groups for discussion is because it provides context to show how geopolitical shifts often begin. As for which ones are chosen, I would say two to four of whichever illustrate a different angle on how shifts can start out. The idea is to bring maximum illustration to the point, not lay out an exhaustive list.

Probably, we should await further views on what we have discussed thus far.

By the way, we could really use a geography editor about right now!

Stephen Ewen 21:26, 14 March 2007 (CDT)

Is this really a geography issue, though? Isn't this more the kind of thing that a political science editor should have a look at? Geography proper is about rivers and mountains and such like. Political geography is the domain of the political scientist, really. There's actually 12 politics editors. Perhaps they could be notified? John Kenney 23:29, 14 March 2007 (CDT)

The problem with "geopolitical world" is that it does not identify a concept that most people looking for a list of countries are familiar with, or particularly care to learn about. World Gazetteer and countries of the world are user-friendly, and that basically trumps all other concerns. --Larry Sanger 22:05, 14 March 2007 (CDT)

John, geography is exceptionally interdisciplinary and overlaps with most other disciplines, including political science. At any rate, we should consider the point on renaming the article moot since the Editor-in-Chief has expressed what he has above. I suggest we keep countries of the world and work out language in the Intro stating that what is and is not a "country" is a contested concept, give a brief overview of approaches, and aim for a moderate inclusiveness of what gets listed. Stephen Ewen 01:13, 15 March 2007 (CDT)
I think geopolitical is a confusing name. It's usually used on a map where a map of political bounderies has been overlayed ontop of a relief map. That is fine for a visual map, but I think confusing for a writen discription. It has to be either a geographical view or a political view. For example, geographically, Ireland would refer to an island, but politically it is a different thing, an island with a little bit cut out of one corner. A list of countries implies a political view rather than geographical. Perhaps we should tag this list to both geography and political workgroups to get more input.
As for the opening paragraphs, I have no love with articles that start with "for the purposes of this article..." It is accepting that you are trying to exclude something form the outset. I'd rather be inclusive than exclusive. That is why I suggested moving the current list to "Member states of the UN" and start a second list that is based on some other looser political or non political definition. I understand larry's point about not needing a list for the UN yet, but we probably will when someone writes a UN article and so why not keep what we have got and not through the baby out with the bathwater.
Just another point to confuse things more - What about Antarctica? It's not a country, or dependency, or de jure or de faco or anything else. However, it's such a large area of the earths surface that we can't really omit it. Derek Harkness 01:51, 15 March 2007 (CDT)
RE: Antarctica - From my remembrance of a Intro to Geography textbook I read for a class of the same title in I think 2000, basically the UN divvied it up like very thin slivers of pie to mostly Western countries through a treaty that included a usage rights scheme. I recall Japan had a sliver. See this for more. Stephen Ewen 04:13, 15 March 2007 (CDT)
That is incorrect about Antarctica. Several countries have made (overlapping) claims to Antarctic territory - Argentina, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, Britain, France, and Norway. These claims are, as Stephen says, basically slivers of pie. The Antarctic Treaty basically puts all their claims on hold and doesn't recognize any of them, and turns Antarctica into a scientific preserve. To Derek - if we want a list of member states of the UN, as I said before, the wikipedia article is excellent, and should just be imported. This article should focus on being about what it's title says. John Kenney 09:21, 15 March 2007 (CDT)

Sources and accuracy

I think it would be preferrable to note both sources and dates (for population numbers), but I'm uncertain about what format would be best. Any ideas? In addition, to what accuracy should populations be stated? I noted it down to closest 1000 people, but for certain countries I think this is too fine. --Simen Rustad 14:02, 24 April 2007 (CDT)

Countries are cultural entities, STATES are administrative units

I think the whole current lead passage is handicapped by a US-centric viewpoint.

England, Korea, Germany are (and will remain until their languages change and patriotisms transmute) countries.

The United Kingdom, The Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the German Democratic Republic are (or were) sovereign States. UK founded 1801, DPRK 1948, GDR 7 October 1949.

Countries are fluid entities in flux and without definable birthdays or deaths (barring catastrophic events). States typically have definite birthdays and dates of demise. A rough rule of thumb is that if you can pinpoint an exact foundation date, then the entity is not a country but a state. In this respect the USA is the exception that proves the rule.

It is rather rare (except for islands) for the borders of a state to be coterminous with that of a country or nation (that's why there are [or were] all these national liberation moverments like the IRA, PLO, Tamil Tigers, Minutemen, etc).

Using this clarification the Republic of China is a State (that both Taipei and Bejing agree is NOT coterminous with the country of China). When the UN swapped its recognition of the two chinese republics, little on a practical level changed in the State of `Taiwan'; people continued to speak the same language, spend the same banknotes, watch the same TV and salute the same uniforms. Again the US is the exception in awarding `recognition' of a state as some sort of award of probity rather than applying the practical test of control traditional to European diplomacies.

Please note that, in this regard, sovereignity is a practical de facto rather than de jure test.

Iraq provides a good example. It was formed as a (non sovereign) state by the British, probably became a country with a common culture and patriotism some time during Saddam's reign and may well die as both a state and a country during the next couple of years.

On this clarification, Antarctica (and the Moon) are neither countries nor states. W. Frank 17:25, 24 April 2007 (CDT)

Both the term 'country' and 'state' have more than one meaning. The UK is composed of countries and the USA is composed of 'states'. But the constituent countries and states are not sovereign. In effect, country and state are widely used interchangeably and with loose meaning. Adding the term 'sovereign' may seem to clarify things, but then there will be arguments over wither some countries are truly sovereign or not. Some on the UN list may be considered by some people to have lost some level of sovereignty. E.g. Iraq is partly dependent on the USA and to what extent does the European Union impinge on the sovereignty of it's members?
We do need to find a way of including other entities like ROC, Palestine, Antarctica, Greenland etc somewhere. They account for too much of the earths surface to omit entirely. They should not be in the main list, but maybe in a section near the end explaining the situation for their special status. They are not countries or states but the rather loose term the UN uses of 'Entity' is suitable. The term Entity recognises their existence but does not require the problematic classification of each.
The introduction does need reworked. It needs to be less about defining the rules for the list and more about describing countries/states in a loose sense. It should not try to make the issue black and white, but rather explain the levels of grey.
Derek Harkness 23:51, 24 April 2007 (CDT)
I concur with your last paragraph, Derek. Utility is vital. That is why I prefer taking something like as a starting point (perhaps adding last known capital and dated population and area figures if this does not become unwieldy).
I agree that 'country' and 'state' both have more than one meaning. Wikipedia and Wikidictionary lean too much towards US useage - which is why our list needs to be modified to include such undoubted countries (and past nation-states) as Scotland and such countries (and past and future states) as Yugoslavia and Kurdistan.
Scotland is actually a good example of WP inconsistency here, since it could be argued that it has a similar degree of self-government to "Faroe Islands (Self-governing country in the Kingdom of Denmark)" and certainly more than the Falklands or Pitcairn.
Perhaps the use of indentation from the left hand margin could signify. States recognised by the UN with a long stable history of the nation and country being co-terminous with the current borders of the state would be hard up against the margin (perhaps only Australia would appear here), then states recognised by the UN with internationally recognised stable borders broadly co-terminous with the cultural or national entity (`country) for at least the past 70 years such as Cuba, followed by those member states with at least 50 years stability such as Iceland, etc, etc.
Obviously there will be discussion on degree of indentation but this is where the advantage of an expert managing editor can be revealed so that Kurdistan, Chechnya, Palestine Sark are not indented too far to the right. W. Frank 03:37, 25 April 2007 (CDT)
I think stability of the nations borders may be hard to define. For example, you gave Australia as an example of a country that was coterminous for an extended period. However, Heard Island and McDonald Islands became part of Australia in 1947 and Christmas Island was transferred form British to Australian control in 1958. There may be other changes I haven't spotted yet. Countries borders change. A change in borders doesn't make the country less or more valid. So I don't think the stability of borders is significant here and I don't think we should be ranking the countries in this way. Derek Harkness 05:51, 25 April 2007 (CDT)
Exactly, one of my points. There are uniquely few countries that are synonymous with States. And the degrees of indentation are not intended to rank or award brownie points but rather to convey concisely the spectrum of possibilities as regards state (rather than national borders). In relation to its total area, none of these islands represent a substantial change in the national boundaries of Australia (especially since Heard Island and McDonald Islands are uninhabited, barren islands located in the Southern Ocean, about two-thirds of the way from Madagascar to Antarctica and the 1600 souls on Christmas Island probably regard themselves as both something more and less Australian than the average resident of Darwin -wry grin).
Again, this makes my basic point that the geographical limits of countries change relatively slowly (as feelings and cultures and national identities change and coalesce and evolve) but that the borders of states are typically more well defined but subject to frighteningly rapid change. A list of UN recognized member States is not and never will be a list of countries - either past, present or future. W. Frank 08:04, 25 April 2007 (CDT)

I can categorically inform you that the opening passage is not in any way shape or form US-centric. Ian Cundell 12:00, 28 April 2007 (CDT)

I meant in the sense that the US State Department exercises a de jure approach to recognition while some States (the UK used to be the prime example) are more concerned with whether an administration exercises de facto control over a territory.W. Frank 18:07, 28 April 2007 (CDT)

Need for a conceptual framework

IN my view, there is far too much discussion of detailed issues and far too little of conceptual ideas on this Talk page. First problem, which nobody has mentioned, is the claim that there are "nation states" recognised by the UN. The existence or otherwise of a nation is a matter for each country, and not for other countries or the UN. Canada, for example, would not be adequately defined as a nation state; nor would be the UK. Nations and states are nowhere near coterminous [see Seton-Watson, Nations and States, 1977 for the classic analysis].

The second problem is that countries are not defined by anyone -- to my knowledge -- as cultural entities; please provide the references, if I am wrong. Historically, almost all countries had to be socially constructed from disparate and almost unconnected local or regional communities: emerging central states tried to weaken local and other identities in order to create a common "national identity" [see Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities for a leading theory derived from study of Asian nation state emergence].

Thirdly, throughout modern history, most countries have been (more or less) coterminous with states, for the simple reason of governance: the fact that the territorial borders often change over time is neither here nor there.

If you accept these basic points, then some things follow logically. They are:

(1) the different meanings and implications of the terms "nation", "state" and "country" have to be clearly differentiated. Just to take one example, the UN recognises states, not nation states, so the opening para should be corrected

(2) States can take various forms [such as each state of the USA, in a federal system], but the type with which we are concerned here is that which is coterminous with a specific country. Thus, we can have simultaneously the UK & Northern Ireland as a governing entity or state, alongside Scotland or Wales as semi-autonomous countries within the UK.

(3) The situation of islands is very complex, and perhaps should be treated separately. This requires further discussion, but it would not be unreasonable to do so for any island which has a high degree of autonomy [even the Isle of Man, for example].

(4) Former countries, such as the Federal Rep, of Yugoslavia, should perhaps be mentioned somewhere. Similarly countries which changed name or underwent massive territorial change. These should be included as a matter of historical accuracy, but I suppose we should set a timeframe -- e.g. nothing before 1900 should be included.

(4) Countries which are not recognised by the UN should be included, with a note saying such. Northern Cyprus and Palestine are obvious examples, along with the Republic of Macedonia which is provisionally recognised as "the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" and should be categorized under F, according to the UN.

I hope we can make some progress with this, and that these points are generally acceptable. Feel free to comment, modify or argue. --Martin Baldwin-Edwards 19:37, 28 April 2007 (CDT)

You are right, the focus of this discussion has drifted a little. This is supposed to be a list for Geography. That is the primary reason it's got the word 'Country' in the title. A Nation is a group of people not a place and a State is a pollitical entity that governs a territory but is not the territory its self.
The way I see it, we need a teired aproach. Start with the biggest units, then the largest sub devisions of those units, then sub sub devisions. E.g. USA-States-Counties or P.R.China-Provinces-Counties. If you can think of a larger entity that your territroy is within, then it shouldn't be here, it should be on another catalog descibing the sub devisions of the larger entity. This list should be of entities that are can in no way be considered sub devisions of something bigger. Though I can see a special case for entities like the EU.
If I may pick you up on a few of your points:
2. When we list the UK, we naturally include the territory of that entity. So adding Scotland or Jersey just duplicates territory that we have already listed. If we were to list Scotland, England and Wales etc, then we would not need to list the UK. The UK is the largest entity that contains these territories so the UK is on the list and Scotland is on another catalog of UK divisions and dependencies.
3. I don't see this as limited to just islands. There are territories with high levels of Autonomy that are not Islands. I don't think that an entity should be extra special just because it's surrounded by sea. However, if they are subordinate to a larger entity, then we should list the parent entity here not all it's component parts.
4. Historical entities can be covered by the history workgroup. We should focus on describing the world as it is now and not as it was then. Other catalogs can cover entities like the USSR and Vichy France.
4. (Again? think you meant 5) Entities laking UN recognition should be explained. We already have 2 entities listed under the main table (vatican and palestine) and we could add others here, but they need to be covered in more detail to explain why they are distinct form the main list. They should not be in the main list because that would imply that they are equal to the other entities when they are not. It's politically hot water and biased to suggest that they have equal status. But at the same time It is also Biased to suggest that they are subordinate to another entity. They exist in a grey area. The categories at the foot of the page are where the grey area can be explained.

Derek Harkness 02:25, 29 April 2007 (CDT)

A reply:

Thanks for the rapid reply. Let's try to work out a schema, and hope that others will join in or even accept it. The first problem is that I don't know what a country is, nor does anyone else, it seems. I have found one dictionary definition [not even from a major dictionary!] that works, which is:

"Country: an area of land distinguished by its political autonomy".

The problem is that there is no geographical definition of a country: it is always linked to political status. So, I propose this arbitrary definition as the most inclusive possible.

PROPOSITION 1: For the purposes of this article, a country is considered as such if it is an area of land distinguished by its political autonomy

The idea of a tiered approach is interesting, but does it lead to the right result? Are you sure that Scotland is not a country, for example? Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man are not part of the UK, so they are not covered by that entity. This leads to my second proposition, that these countries be included as non-sovereign [dependent territories]. IN Europe, this would cover Jersey, Guernsey, Isle of Man, Gibraltar,[possibly Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland], Canary Islands, Faroe Islands, Madeira, Melilla and Ceuta, Mount Athos amongst others. The list worldwide will be long...

PROPOSITION 2: A second list of non-sovereign dependent territories is needed, which are not normally classed as countries but occasionally considered as such.

Next, we need to deal with non-recognised countries, like Kosovo,North Cyprus, etc. As we are not interested in what the UN thinks, for the pruposes of this article, they should all be included in the main list but with footnotes explaining the position of each country.

PROPOSITION 3: Countries which are not recognised by the UN, but de facto behave in accordance with Proposition 1, should be categorised as standard countries, but footnoted at the bottom of the table.

Finally, I accept that it is too difficult to include historical data. This leads to the final proposition:

PROPOSITION 4: The list of countries should be dated, and the information provided will be valid only for that date. Periodic revisions should be made, and also dated.

Comments are needed on the acceptability of the propositions! --Martin Baldwin-Edwards 05:59, 29 April 2007 (CDT)

  • concur with Proposition 4

How would you treat the Cook Islands, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Puerto Rico, Palestine, Kurdestan and Scotland just to help me clarify your conceptual framework as to the test of "Political autonomy" ? W. Frank 09:43, 29 April 2007 (CDT)

The Cook Islands are a dependency, despite being self-governing. So they go into the same class as Jersy, Guernsey, Isle of Man, Canary Islands, etc. I suggest that all these should go into category 2 [non-sovereign states].
Liechenstein, Andorra are category 1 [sovereign states]
Puerto Rico is a problem, but I suggest putting it into category 2 as a non-sovereign state
Palestine is also a problem, but I would incline to category 2
Kurdistan does not exist, except as an idea or a region of Iraq. Therefore it will not appear in any of the lists
Scotland either won't appear, or will appear in category 2. as a non-sovereign state [this needs discussion]
Hope this makes sense, Obviously, it is reductionist, as all lists tend to be. --Martin Baldwin-Edwards 10:26, 29 April 2007 (CDT)

I can detect your tendency: that sovereignity lies not with the people of a country but with their 'rulers'. On this test, I presume that both Louisiana and France would go in category 2. (States that are subject to the law of a Union of which they are part but with a considerable degree of self government and with at least a theoretical right to secede from the Union of which they are part.)

On another theory, a country comes into being when its people are either united in their cultural solidarity to the extent that they, of and sufficient unto themselves, believe that they are countrymen or united in their concerted and organised opposition to their (former) rulers. On this test, all of my above examples are countries (including Kurdistan and Palestine). On this test, Kurdistan indubitably passes, Moldova fails, and Iraq will probably fail that test within 2 months. [The above text was contributed by W. Frank but unsigned]

Reply: my definitions are entirely based on empirical realities. That is to say, who has power? Whereas my sympathies lie with popular power, the world is constructed differently, so in describing it we need to remember that.

On specifics, clearly France is in category 1! I am tempted to push for Palestine as category 1, but logically I have to incline to category 2. Kurdistan does not have identifiable borders! How can it be a country [although I wish the best for its future, along with my Kurdhish friends]. I don;t know why you think Moldova fails: it has identity and other issues, but clearly sovereignty lies with its own government.

Really, we have to move on with this project [as Derek mentions, below]. If you don't have any specific suggestions about how to proceed, I will do so in line with the propositions over the next week. --Martin Baldwin-Edwards 12:31, 29 April 2007 (CDT)

The definition of Country is crucial. There is more than one definition. It could be:
  1. An area of land distinguished by its political autonomy (roughly synonymous with 'State' in the big sense like France)
  2. A subdivision of the UK (roughly synonymous with 'state' in the small sense like New Jersey)
  3. An area of land
  4. Synonymous with 'rural area'.
Clearly we are concerned with Country as in definition 1 and not the others.
While Jersey, Isle of Mann, Gibraltar etc are not in the UK in the sense that they cannot affect UK law and have no representation in the UK parliament, they are 'in' the UK in the opposite sense in that the UK is overlord of them and the UK can make laws that affect these dependencies. Maybe 'in' is the wrong word. Maybe it should be 'owned by'. Jersey is not autonomous in the same sense as Canada and Australia. Jersey and Mann should be on level 2 equal to Scotland, Wales etc.
We will need more than one catalog for level 2 as the items on here will not be non-sovereign state but rather 'non-sovereign somethings'. Since each Country/State has it's own constitution and names for its subordinate entities and political divisions as well as differing levels of autonomy, level 2 needs to be divided by parent country.
That said, I'm basically happy with prop1 and prop2 above.
As for prop3. I'd prefer two sections. The first with the 182 countries that nobody disagrees with and are widely recognised. (I've not see any suggestion of removing any of the current countries.) The second section listing contentious counties that some might disagree with. Putting them all together in one list is as biased as omitting them completely.
Now as to prop4. This is not required as we have the page history to track what was added, when and by who. There is no need to duplicate this data onto the article page.
PROPOSITION 5: We scrub off the 'UN Recognised' and replace with 'Widely Recognised' which is effectively the same thing but without the words 'UN' which see to be irritating some people
PROPOSITION 6: Get on and do it. It's a wiki. Be bold. If someone disagrees with your change we can discuss it but if we discuss before making the change then we will never ever make any changes.
Derek Harkness 11:36, 29 April 2007 (CDT)
  • concur with Propositions 5 and 6

However, for the ignorant coming to CZ for enlightenment, countries that have their own national trappings such as national dress, postage stamps, legal systems, musicology, monarchs, religions, flags, bank notes, legislatures, sports teams, languages, etc should still be listed. We'll look a bit silly, however erudite our reasoning, when people can find the Republic of Nauru or the Republic of the Marshall Islands but not the country of Scotland in the list. W. Frank 13:03, 29 April 2007 (CDT)

I'm afraid those trappings don't signify Country as in definition 1. Change the words National to Regional and you could be talking about many places that are not on the list. On the converse, there are many definition 1 countries that are largely devoid of these trappings but are on the list.
I am Scottish. I was born in Paisley, Went to Glasgow University, voted in favour of the Scottish Parliament with a double yes and voted SNP at every election I was allowed. However, despite my votes Scotland is still part of the UK.
Scotland is a 'Country of the UK' not a 'Country of the world'. Derek Harkness 13:05, 29 April 2007 (CDT)
I will find a way to include Scotland, while noting that it is a constituent country of the UK rather than of the world. I still think category 2 is a possible way, but let me try it out. I will attempt the wiki over the next few days! In the meantime, other comments are welcome and will be taken into account. --Martin Baldwin-Edwards 13:31, 29 April 2007 (CDT)
  • Concur with propositions 4, 5, and 6. Might a possible solution be to use some sort of nested table? Column 1 could show (for want of a better term), 'top-level' countries. This would would include, e.g, France, Italy, the United States, the United Kingdom, etc. Usually, column 2 would be blank, but where appropriate, constituent countries/dependencies would be included. So, next to the UK in column 1, its column 2 entry would list England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, etc. In theory, no entity would be listed more than once. Anton Sweeney 14:53, 29 April 2007 (CDT)

A particular question I have is the definition of what are dependent territories. Some of the ones Martin mentions above are not generally recognized as such. Madeira, the Azores, Melilla and Ceuta, and the Canary Islands, for instance, I've always seen treated as integral parts of Portugal and Spain. I've only very occasionally seen Athos listed as anything but an autonomous portion of Greece. I've certainly never seen Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland listed as anything but subnational divisions of the U.K. The Scottish Parliament is much less close to sovereign than, say, the government of Pennsylvania. The former exists entirely at the pleasure of Westminster. If Blair decided tomorrow to abolish it, it would cease to exist, and Scotland would be ruled directly by Westminster. The same is true of the governments of Wales and Northern Ireland (the latter of which is currently suspended). The existence of a state government of Pennsylvania, on the other hand, is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, and probably could not be abolished even by constitutional amendment without its own consent. Obviously, Scotland, et al, are more culturally distinct than U.S. states are, but they have considerably less political autonomy. Certainly it would be hard to conceive of listing them and not listing Canadian provinces, which have even more autonomy than U.S. states and which include Quebec, which has at least as much claim to a unique cultural identity as the home nations of the UK do.

There's some cases where the issue of "dependent territory or integral part" gets a bit unclear - Hong Kong and Macau, Aland, and the French overseas departments come to mind as cases where one could go either way. For other dependent territories, though, it is certainly incorrect to say that they are "part of" the country on which they are dependent. Greenland is not "part of Denmark," nor is Gibraltar or Guernsey "part of the United Kingdom," nor is New Caledonia "part of France." Such cases clearly ought to be listed separately. Then there's the "generally recognized as sovereign" states that don't really conduct their own foreign relations - Monaco, San Marino, Andorra, and Bhutan come to mind in this respect. Some kind of notice of their semi-dependent status might be in order - in practice they are not terribly different from the Cook Islands or Niue, except that the former are members of the UN and the latter are not. John Kenney 03:11, 30 April 2007 (CDT)

I concur generally with your analysis, John, in so far as it speaks to the theoretical political autonomy of the State (administrative division). However I retain my usual caveat as to the word country being both a cultural and an administrative specification. I also reiterate the practical point that States can arise very rapidly. If the Scottish Parliament were to be abolished overnight by Gordon Brown fiat, I suspect that a Scottish Republic might arise just as rapidly - especially if the removal were due to differences in national (ie twixt English and Scots) political sentiment regarding foreign wars.
I always found it both depressing and refreshing how quickly the velvet divorce occurred between the countries constituting the Czech Lands (Czecho) and Slovakia. W. Frank 04:34, 30 April 2007 (CDT)
I understand and agree with John Kenney's point. The status of Gibraltar is equivalent to the Falklands and Jersey as they all are prescribed as British Dependant Territories and as such attached to the same State control under the same rules. But the status of the Canary Islands is not the same as that of the Faroe Isles because the rules concerning their status are determined by different States and with different purpose. But all of these can go on list 2 as dependants and major subdivisions of X country.
As for Scotland, I can't find the law that details how the parliament could be removed. Westminster doesn't rule of devolved issues by convention rather than by law so technically it could do whatever it wants. However, it required a referendum to create the Scottish Parliament so it may be expected that another referendum would be required to remove it. If that was so, the the Parliament wouldn't be able to remove it's self while hiding form an angry lynch mob like they did last time.Derek Harkness 12:21, 30 April 2007 (CDT)

Scrap population column and replace with...

The last column, population, is clearly causing some problems. This is demonstrated to a large extent by the lack of input of new data. Seems nobody wants to complete this column. It also seems to be difficult to obtain accurate data without just copying some other site. I question our ability to maintain such data. It would be better to discus the demographics of population and changes in population in the country articles rather than just list raw data of dubious accuracy. I suggest we drop population and change to a different subject.

I suggest we choose one of the following possible alternatives for the 4th and maybe a possible 5th column (I don't think there's space for 6th):

  • Language(s)
  • Head of State
  • Form of government
  • Or other...

Derek Harkness 23:12, 24 April 2007 (CDT)

I repost my comment from above, as there is no problem with population data for most countries.

The correct datasource for all population data is unquestionably the UN Population Division. THe easiest published source from them is a database which can be downloaded, which constitutes the publication World Population Policies 2005. More recent estimates of population changes are unreliable and should be ignored, as is standard academic practice in these matters. Here is the link to the database World Population Policies 2005. This should avoid the horrors to be found on Wikipedia of CIA World Factbook estimates, most of which seem to be about 10 years out of date. --Martin Baldwin-Edwards 19:48, 13 April 2007 (CDT)--Martin Baldwin-Edwards 04:14, 25 April 2007 (CDT)

I had read your comments above before, that is why I said "... without just copying some other site." There seems to be little point in just being an exact duplicate of some other site. But worse, we'll be a dupliate that is often out of date and playing catchup all the time. Derek Harkness 04:57, 25 April 2007 (CDT)
It might be possible to use templates to simulate a database. For example, we could create a Template:Country population data with the content (not sure if the syntax is right)
 |Afghanistan = 29,863,000
 |Albania = 3,581,655
Such a template could be updated without too much effort whenever the UN releases a new set of population data. Then any article can get the up-to-date numbers by transcluding {{Country population data|country=Afghanistan}}. Fredrik Johansson 17:04, 25 April 2007 (CDT)
I am, frankly, astonished that Derek Harkness characterises the UN Population Division dataset, which is made by professional statisticians working with state officials of every country, as "some other site". The data are not well-known to the public, which is why I pasted the link to their free database. Wikipedia is completely ignorant of the existence of such data, and their inclusion on Citizendium will be a hallmark of professionalism. As far as "playing catchup" is concerned, that is what all professional advisors and academics do with data: in other words, that is how the real world works. We have to run to stay in the lead.--Martin Baldwin-Edwards 18:10, 25 April 2007 (CDT)
You seem to have taken the word "some" to implied a derogatory term. I did not used it as such. Some, as in the adjective meaning 'Unknown or unspecified by name'. The word "some" is used to describe any site that is not Citizendium, irrespective of what site that may be or how well respected it is. Derek Harkness 21:13, 25 April 2007 (CDT)
I'm not sure I understand Derek's point. There is much that cannot be done without "copying some other cite". For instance, no list of United States Presidents or Academy Award Winners for best picture, say, could be compiled which would not be more or less identical to every other existing list of the same. So what's the problem with using the UN's numbers? John Kenney 03:00, 30 April 2007 (CDT)
I will say, though, that I can't get the UN page to work on my browser
It's down to maintainability. A list of Presidents will only change every 4 years. Even then it would only need added to as the former presidents would remain unaffected. Where as a list of population data will change frequently and extensively. Columns 2 and 3 do not pose any problem of maintainability. Column4 does have a problem. This is exemplified by it remaining unfilled. An external site like the UN site is able to maintain population data and keep it up to date, we are not. We should stick to what we are capable of maintaining. See CZ:Maintainability where Larry explains the concept better than I can. Larry is talking about articles, but if a section of an article is not maintainable then it directly affect the maintainability of the parent.
I think adding info such as 'Head of State' and 'Government type' serves a useful purpose to this catalog. It gives a basic but broad introduction country that would be useful to users. I am open to other suggestions too.
If you think population is maintainable, then I suggest we have a separate catalog that contains other demographics like birth rate, death rate, life expectancy and such. This data group is more useful than population on it's own.Derek Harkness 11:19, 30 April 2007 (CDT)
Accurate population counts would surely only change every few years, though, as a country undertakes a full national census? Anton Sweeney 11:36, 30 April 2007 (CDT)

The UN, in collaboration with national authorities, estimates periodically the changes from the last Census in each country. They tend to publish them every 2 years: the latest data are for 2005. I do not think it is too difficult to maintain a total population figure. THe other demographic data would be rather more trouble.

On a related note, I realise that I do not know how to make a Table like that on the page. Does anyone know of any software to convert from an Excel table or Word? Otherwise, the task of modifying the existing table is absurdly labour-intensive and I cannot do it. --Martin Baldwin-Edwards 12:03, 30 April 2007 (CDT)

How to edit the talbe

The table is writen in HTML. There are WYSIWYG tools for editing HTML tables Since HTML is what all web pages are made form, instuctions on how to edit HTML code are widely available online such as at [|w3schools]. Also, html can be imported/exported into spreadsheet programs if you wanted - though a dedicated html editor will usually output cleaner code. A free and open source editor that you could use is [1] though any html editor would do.

A short reference for the code:
<table> marks the start of the table and </table> marks the end.
<tr> indicates the start of a table row and </tr> the end.
<td> shows the beginin of a cell within the row and </td> shows the end of the cell.
To add content, you type between the existing <td> and </td> tags.
Derek Harkness 21:12, 30 April 2007 (CDT)

Many thanks: I will give it a try.--Martin Baldwin-Edwards 04:13, 1 May 2007 (CDT)

While using HTML tables is no doubt absolutely fine (but see caveat below!), Wiki's have their own code for creating tables, too. Unfortunately its not something I'm hugely familiar with, but the code for a basic table seems to go something like:
{| class="wikitable"
! valign="top" align="left" width="25%" |
First column heading:
! valign="top" align="left" width="25%" |
Second column heading:
! valign="top" align="left" width="50%" |
And so on...
| valign="top" align="left" width="25%" |
Text goes here
| valign="top" align="left" width="25%" |
and its placement
| valign="top" align="left" width="50%" |
can be adjusted using the alignment parameters|}.
This would produce output looking like:

First column heading:

Second column heading:

And so on...

Text goes here

and its placement

can be adjusted using the alignment parameters

While output from most HTML WYSIWYG editors is fine, that from MS Word and Excel is hugely bloated - avoid where at all possible. Anton Sweeney 04:50, 1 May 2007 (CDT)

OK, I have tried with various tools, including wikED which is supposed to solve these problems for wikis. I realise that I cannot understand how the table, as it is, works [with links] and therefore I cannot do this. Unless somebody with these skills offers to deal with the table, I will not be making any changes, although I am happy to provide the data.
On the issue of defintions, I suggest changing Proposition 1 to the following:
PROPOSITION 1: For the purposes of this article, a country is considered as such if it is an area of land distinguished by its political autonomy and its population possesses a common or shared sense of identity
I think that this deals with the issue of culture versus political authority. Proposition 2 also shouild add the cultural factor, so that we include only countries with both the political and cultural variables.
--Martin Baldwin-Edwards 06:39, 1 May 2007 (CDT)
I'd be willing to work on the table, once its contents are agreed. I'd have to do it over a weekend, though.
Just on the revised Proposition 1 - what level of autonomy do you mean? E.g., the Catalan region of Spain would appear to meet that criterion, as would the constituent countries of the UK (bar Northern Ireland for another couple of weeks, when the Assembly will be reconvened), and possibly the 50 states of the US. Anton Sweeney 08:07, 1 May 2007 (CDT)
Many thanks, Anton! Catalyuna doesnt meet Proposition 1, because it doesnt have sovereignty. It could satisfy Proposition 2, though, along with Scotland etc. The fundamental question is whether to put into the same category (2) all dependent territories which also have some quite different characteristics in certain respects. My idea for the moment, is to try it out, with this 2-level categorisation [plus additions to Level 1, which are not recognised by the UN]. We can put in into a sandbox and invite comments, to see whether it is acceptable or needs modification. If we dont do something, then I fear that nothing will ever be done! --Martin Baldwin-Edwards 09:21, 1 May 2007 (CDT)

Nothing like keeping a thread on topic, sigh. Anyway, html was used rather than wikicode because wikicode is just as complex as html when it comes to tables. By using html here the table could be produced quickly allowing me, and the other people concentrate inputting data. I filled in column 1 using data form the list that preceded the table, the columns 2 and 3 were filled in by other people had have been edited since so it's not impossible. If you need to use an editor, NUV that I gave a link to above will do the job. However, if anyone has problems (and I've offered this service before) send my a word doc or xls file and I'll wikify it for you. Derek Harkness 11:10, 1 May 2007 (CDT)

To update, there is now a brief tutorial on tables located at Help:Table.

NOTICE to contributors of this page

Please do not add anything to the article until the revised Table is produced, as your current efforts will be discarded. For population data, we will be using 2005 data from the UN: more recent census data can be overwritten for individual countries, but we need to have the basic table in place to do that. --Martin Baldwin-Edwards 05:58, 2 May 2007 (CDT)

Is the UN data copyright-free (or licensable)? I started adding some CIA data, which has the advantage of being more up-to-date, and being public domain. Anthony Argyriou 13:59, 2 May 2007 (CDT)
Facts are not copyrightable. Derek Harkness 14:18, 2 May 2007 (CDT)
Collections of facts are copyrightable. The UN cannot claim a copyright in the population of a single country estimated by the UN, but the UN can claim a compilation copyright in the listing of population estimates for all UN members. As could the CIA, except that the U.S. government doesn't copyright its works. Anthony Argyriou 14:28, 2 May 2007 (CDT)
The UN does not generally assert copyright in its publications, and certainly does not in the case of data. If needed, I will ask the Director of the Population Division for clarification, but I am certain that there is no problem. The CIA data are not reliable, by the way: you should avoid using them. --Martin Baldwin-Edwards 16:24, 2 May 2007 (CDT)

Martin sent me a xls file containing the new table. I have added the population data form that file to the current page. I have also wikified his whole xls file and put it at User:Martin_Baldwin-Edwards/Coutries_draft for comments.

Feel free to edit this page as you wish. Any changes can be incorperated and won't be overwriten accidentaly. Derek Harkness 04:57, 3 May 2007 (CDT)

New opening to article

Sorry, Ireland is perhaps best not used as an example, if the new opening is to stand. The new opening states:

"For example the territory of the island of Ireland is not coterminous with the territory controlled by the State of Ireland."
True, no problem with that.
"The borders of the country may be disputed but is still contains a large area of land that is undisputed so remains a country in the wider sense of the word."
Not true. The borders with Northern Ireland aren't disputed. Following the Good Friday Agreement, the Republic of Ireland had a referendum, passed by an overwhelming majority of the people, which changed Ireland's constitution and removed the territorial claim to Northern Ireland. Anton Sweeney 06:15, 3 May 2007 (CDT)
I was hunting for an example, you understand the point I am making even if the example is bad. What I meant was for some time during the last 50 years, the borders of Ireland were disputed, but that doesn't mean the country did not exist untill after the good friday Stormont treaty. Feel free to change the example if you think of somewhere that better fits the explanation. Derek Harkness 06:37, 3 May 2007 (CDT)
Technically Ireland's borders are wholy disputed since the IRA did not recognise the 1922 treaty that disolved the provitional Irish Republic and created the Irish Free state that preceded Ireland. They claim that the Government of Ireland is illeagal and that the Irish Republic still exists. But let's not complicate matters further. Derek Harkness 06:37, 3 May 2007 (CDT)
That was indeed the position of various IRAs from 1922 until quite recently, but the largest (the Provisional IRA) have now given up that stance and recognise the legitimacy of both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Admittedly, the "Real IRA" and "Continuity IRA" I think still maintain that position - but it is one that is wholly rejected by the vast majority of Irish people! Anton Sweeney 06:56, 3 May 2007 (CDT)
Later today, or tomorrow at the latest, I will draft an opening which defines country as wider than UN states, and explains why some countries are added to the UN list. I will also try to identify other categories, as shown in the preliminary Table which Derek has kindly put online. I will also make some amendments to that table.
So, could you please wait until there is this new intro? Then comments and discussion can refine/change what is there. I do think that commenting on individual countries is unwise, as shown by the above discussion on Ireland, unless they are onbiously problematic cases [e.g. Palestine, Kosovo]. --Martin Baldwin-Edwards 06:43, 3 May 2007 (CDT)
Oh, absolutely - I'm aware its a work in progress (moreso than a normal/approved article on a wiki, if you see what I mean) which is why I haven't edited the new intro. This is CZ, not WP :-P Regards, Anton Sweeney 06:56, 3 May 2007 (CDT)
Please look at my proposed page for Countries of the World, with a set of definitions. It is at
Comments are welcome, as are additions. For the moment, please do not add population data, because these need to be sourced properly, and I have not yet done that. --Martin Baldwin-Edwards 19:31, 3 May 2007 (CDT)

While having great respect for the authors of the current version, I believe Martin's draft, with its clearly explained categories and relational table, better elucidates the topic. (I am of course acting solely as an author here). Stephen Ewen 23:16, 13 May 2007 (CDT)

Thanks for the vote, Stephen! I will try in the next few days to polish the draft and move it here. There remains an issue about what constitutes a country, still. I have to confess, even though I deal with countries and governments daily, that I am still unsure how to proceed. Either we have just the first category [UN recognised + a few more] on this page, with links to another page with the remainder; or we follow the idea on my sample page. Any comments on this? --Martin Baldwin-Edwards 15:46, 16 May 2007 (CDT)

Alternative table structure

Essentially this is the same idea as Martin's page but I've tried to lay out the constituent countries, territories, regions, etc, in a different way. I conceiving that we would probably have articles for each country along the lines of Subdivision of the U.S.A., Subdivisions of the People's Republic of China and Subdivisions of the United Kingdom that could explain all the constituent parts and dependants of each country. So rather than trying to find generic terms for these subdivisions, leave the explaining of their constitutional arrangement to the Subdivision page and list the types of subdivision on the main country table which is temporarily at User:Derek Harkness/Countries.

This pattern is expandable. The country catalog links to the main subdivisions. The subdivisions link to their subdivisions and so on as deep as we care to link them. So from china we link to the provinces, regions and SAR. From a province such Liaoning we link to the 14 prefecture that make up this province.

We probably won't go more detailed than that for now, but to exemplify the point: We could then link from those 14 prefecture to the 100 counties and from the counties to the 1511 townships. In effect, the layout and structure of the articles will mirror the structure and tiers of government of the territories they are describing.

Additionally, I conceive of more country related catalogs such as User:Derek Harkness/Economies of Countries, User:Derek Harkness/Politics of Countries, User:Derek Harkness/Geography of Countries, User:Derek Harkness/Population of Countries. Before anyone comments on the names of these articles, please note that I'm not fussy about the name. Additionally, I'm not going to fuss over the columns of (many) of these tables. I leave it to the relevant workgroups to consider what columns of data and information might be relevant. All 5 tables are linked by a short horizontal menu at the top of each so that users can switch back and forth between them all. Derek Harkness 21:59, 3 May 2007 (CDT)

As the rival author, maybe I shouldn't comment:-) But one thing, generally, which is nothing to do with names: I don't think people care or are interested in different disciplinary approaches. What readers will be looking for, is information about countries. It would simply be more effort to have to look on different pages according to whether the data are called economic, politics, geography etc. But the nested or tiered structure is fine, otherwise. --Martin Baldwin-Edwards 08:30, 4 May 2007 (CDT)

Puerto Rico

While I sympathize with and admire Eddie's patriotism--I feel the same way about Alaska--Puerto Rico is not a recognized country. It is recognized, by other countries, as a territory of the United States. --Larry Sanger 12:13, 28 October 2007 (CDT)

I disagree, and so does the United Nations. Puerto Rico is a self-governing, unincorporated territory of the US, with our own nationality, government, territory, and constitution. If that does not make us a country, then I don't know what does. --Eddie Ortiz Nieves 12:33, 28 October 2007 (CDT)
I agree with Larry on this one, but it raises a question about what to do with, off-hand, Tahiti (French Polynesia), New Caledonia, American Samoa, Martinique, Guadeloupe, the Virgin Islands, and numerous other bits and pieces scattered around the world. Some are French Overseas Territories, some are French Overseas Departments, some are American Possessions, some are Who Knows What? They are clearly not countries, but many people think of them as being such, and I think they warrant some sort of list or catalog or inclusion here as a sub-category. Hayford Peirce 12:42, 28 October 2007 (CDT)
*sigh* I guess that until the Americans decide to care about us, it's going to stay like this. This Congressional document is the closest thing we have to a definition of our political status. I still think Puerto Rico meets the definition of "country" given in the article; the only thing missing for us to be a "true" country is for the Americans to leave. But, I don't want to start a political debate here, so whatev. --Eddie Ortiz Nieves 12:46, 28 October 2007 (CDT)
What to do with dependent territories was discussed earlier in this page, though without clear consensus. Puerto Rico is mentioned in the page I made at U.S. States and Territories. I note that nobody has fleshed out the full information on that page. There is only my one line definition, which is inadequate, about what constitutes a state as apposed to territory. This should be expanded on. Also there is still no article at Puerto Rico so that's probably a good place for Eddie to start.
Different nations have different vocabulary for their dependencies. They also have different constitutions and degrees of dependency. Puerto Rico cannot be directly compared to Gibraltar. There are similarities but also differences. They are best described in groups based on the parent nation rather than as a whole group. So Puerto Rico should be discussed along with the other U.S. territories and Gibraltar, Falklands, etc discussed along with other UK dependencies. Derek Harkness 04:43, 29 October 2007 (CDT)
I think there is a place, perhaps as another list on this article, for dependent territories. There is a definitional question for some, but the status of most territories is fairly clear. Anthony Argyriou 12:36, 29 October 2007 (CDT)


Can I suggest that this article be moved and divided. A reworded introduction can be placed at Country and the tables moved to Country/Catalog. Derek Harkness 04:43, 29 October 2007 (CDT)

I agree with that, Derek. Go ahead. --Larry Sanger 08:55, 11 November 2007 (CST)

Request for more data and sortable columns

This is an important page (whether it's an article or subpage). I'd like it to have more info and be very spiffy. Spiffiness entails making columns sortable: see William Shakespeare/Works for an example of a page that uses sortable columns.

Also, do make sure you credit your sources for all existing and new data. --Larry Sanger 08:55, 11 November 2007 (CST)

This is one of my delayed projects:-( It is not in good shape, either empirically or theoretically. I will put something in order in the next week or so. --Martin Baldwin-Edwards 09:13, 11 November 2007 (CST)
Sotable tables - Done.
As for more columns, no problem remembering: the width of the screen; and maintainability of the data. There's probably room for two more columns on this table and I have no problem with making more pages or subpages as it will soon be that focus on specific data sets. Derek Harkness 18:50, 11 November 2007 (CST)

Derek, I want to go back to that idea of definition of a country, also including the diffiuclt ones, and making links to new articles covering overseas territories, crown dependencies etc. What we really need to do here is decide which variables should be included in this table. Let's list them, and get some popular reactions... we might also want to do that on the Forum. --Martin Baldwin-Edwards 19:13, 11 November 2007 (CST)

Agree, the current definition needs to be reworked. This table was really started just as a list of things the geography workgroup needed to write about. Defining the word 'country' has got us rather side tracked form the issue of writing the article for each country/city etc. The word 'country' is the problem really. It's a loose and rather woolly term that isn't well defined making it difficult to pin down what should and should not be on this list. If we were doing a list of Nation-states then it would be much easier to say this is definitely a Nation State and that definitely is not.
I think it's impossible to come up with a set of rules that can cleanly define everything without any exceptions. We have to accept some level of 'opinion'. That does not mean bias, it is possible to have a neutral opinion on things, but it does mean that someone (preferable a geography editor but we don't have one) says "in my opinion this place is and that place isn't."
When writing the article for country we should focus on what we think defines a country and the use of the country. Try to put the list out of your mine. The list for country will never be perfect. Because it's hard to define it is difficult to get agreement on it. The most important thing is not to have a definitive list, but to have a comprehensive range of articles covering ever continent, country, major city, territories (disputed, dependant or otherwise). As long as the wiki contains all possible articles, the point as to whither the name is on this list or not becomes trivial. Derek Harkness 07:30, 12 November 2007 (CST)


Should Abkhazia be added to 'Other less well recognised countries'? Russia has reportedly officially recognized it, and Northern Cyprus, already in the list, is also recognized by only one country, Turkey. -- Donald Albury 10:16, 29 September 2008 (CDT)

It is still part of Georgia, unlike Northern Cyprus which has a UN Green Line separating it from Cyprus proper. If we include it, we also have to add all the other semi-autonomous regions. I really don;t advise going down that road, unless there are major political developments. Martin Baldwin-Edwards 17:12, 29 September 2008 (CDT)
As I understand it, the UN position is that Northern Cyprus is still part of Cyprus. Another problem on the list is Transistria, as it is recognized only by Abkhazia and South Ossetia. I agree that there should be a cut-off criteria, or you end up with someone trying to add the Sovereign Military Order of the Knights of Malta to the list. -- Donald Albury 17:45, 29 September 2008 (CDT)
Yes, the legal position of the EU and the UN is that Cyprus is all one country. The practical reality is that there is a separate Northern state, and a Green Line (which Cyprus refuses to accept as a border). THe Green Line and buffer zone are administered by the UN. It is this which makes it different from the others. I agree that Transnistria probably should not be in the list (I didn't put it there). The other option is to make a new list of "Regions with self-declared independence" and avoid the word country altogether. Martin Baldwin-Edwards 10:21, 30 September 2008 (CDT)
I agree that Abkhazia and South Ossetia should be added to the "less-well-regocgnized" list. I also think that there should be an additional column to explain the situation for each, so for example, the ROC would have a note "Claims to be legitimate government of China, including entire territory of PRC (and then some), claimed in entirety by PRC. Functionally independent." Anthony Argyriou 17:22, 2 October 2008 (CDT)