Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Countries/Lists of countries

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There have been several issues surrounding Wikipedia's treatment of lists of countries, and I believe we need a centralised discussion point for our definitions of what should be and should not be included on these lists in order to gain a cross-article consensus that can then be consistently applied on Wikipedia. This will serve the encyclopaedia better than having the debate separately on every list.

As everywhere on Wikipedia, all users are invited to discuss these topics here. If any moves are proposed, an RM will be called for, and while this may be the designated discussion point for RM, separate notification will be placed on relevant talk pages.

Central questions[edit]

  1. What, generally speaking, should be the inclusion criteria for the lists of countries?
  2. Should the lists remain at their current names, or if some or all should be moved, what should they be moved to?

Statement of the issues[edit]

Inclusion Criteria[edit]

Any list on Wikipedia has to have a set limit as to what it includes and what it does not include, otherwise lists would become absurd. These limits may be obvious (it would be difficult to argue that Rabbit belongs on the list of sovereign states), or they may not (as per the recent discussion of Niue on that same article). It serves both the reader and the editors of any such inclusion criteria are well defined by the article, and if these criteria leave as little room for ambiguity as possible - while at the same time they must not be smothered in legalese. Where we have a set of lists that use different metrics to compare the same data points - in this case, countries of the world - it serves our readership best if the same countries are used in every list.

The Featured List Criteria state that any featured list must have an engaging lead section that introduces the subject, and defines the scope and inclusion criteria of the list. See also Wikipedia:Lists (stand-alone lists)#Lead and selection criteria.

Clearly, this does not mean, if drilling down further into countries' subdivisions is required to fully explain a topic, that the principle of uniformity should prevent us from doing so. WP:IAR clearly still applies. But a general definition of a "country" where these are not at issue would be a benefit.

Article naming[edit]

Wikipedia is best served where all articles whose sole purpose is to list countries by whatever metric - where they have the same inclusion criteria - were named in the same way.

The word "country" is frequently used in reference to entities that are neither independent sovereign states, nor the dependencies of such states - two categories that between them are the inclusion criterion for most of these lists, and it has been argued that a "list of countries" must include any entity commonly defined as a country, such as the countries of the UK (see UKCOUNTRYREFS for references). Some editors recently have been arguing to include the countries of the UK in lists of countries more generally.

The alternative term that we use, "sovereign state", is also used for subnational entities. For example the states of the USA are legally defined as "sovereign" (see Section 26 of Louisiana's state constitution). The same arguments that see England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in lists of countries could equally apply to Louisiana, Texas, Vermont and Kentucky in lists of sovereign states.

Again, there is no reason why WP:IAR cannot apply when a standardised name is inappropriate for whatever reason.

We must, clearly, come to an agreement as to what the most appropriate title of these lists is, and what areas they should include. While the discussion of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland precipitated this discussion, it seems fair not to consider this the only issue here.


Sorry to insert my 2 cents here, but I went through the list and found a mistake. In Belarus legal drinking and cigarette purchase age is 18. I have no links to prove it, except that I lived there for 17 years. In case you want to improve the article. Thanks.

My opinions:

  1. Any state that passes all of the following tests, taken from the list of sovereign states and list of unrecognised countries, should be considered a "sovereign state" (or whatever word is used in its place):
    • It should claim independence
    • It should meet the four criteria defined as characteristic of a state by the Montevideo Convention:
      1. A permanent population
      2. A defined territory
      3. A government
      4. The capacity to enter into relations with other states, whether it actually does so or not
    • It should either be recognised by at least one UN member state (including the Vatican), or hold de facto control over all of its claimed territory
  2. Any qualifying state that is not recognised by the UN as independent (so, any state other than the UN member states plus the Vatican) should be included but not ranked in stand-alone lists, or listed separately. Where significant, recognised states should include unrecognised states, with figures excluding unrecognised states placed in footnotes.
  3. If dependent territories are included in a list, they should be explicitly mentioned in the article name (List of countries and dependent territories by... rather than List of countries by...).
  4. I have no strong preference as to whether the word "country", "sovereign state", or something else is used to define a qualifying state, provided that the term is concise, reasonably accurate and consistently applied.
    • We are likely to find no formulation that is both concise and entirely unambiguous, and we should be prepared to use the inclusion criteria stated in the leads of the articles to explicitly limit the lists' contents.

Any thoughts? Pfainuk talk 11:02, 17 December 2008 (UTC)

I welcome the centralised discussion of what has become a problematic issue. My own view is that these lists are probably best limited to sovereign states recognised by the UN. However its important that they make that clear. If a list uses "country" in the title without qualification then it properly should include the constituent countries of the UK and others. I think there is a case for secondary lists and also for sub-lists (for example Wales/Scotland listed under UK) where appropriate. --Snowded TALK 11:21, 17 December 2008 (UTC)
Thanks for creating this discussion Pfainuk which will be welcomed by many people including myself. I am sure people with different points of view on this matter would still prefer for a central debate on the issue instead of time consuming debates on one article talk page at a time.
I think the criteria set out on the Sovereign States article is a good starting point for all other country lists on wikipedia. Obviously there will be some exceptions where it is important to go into more detail within countries like the United Kingdom. For example when it comes to crime England and Wales have a single legal system but Scotland has its own one and that clearly gives justification for them to be listed separately just as the EuroZone gets included on many economic lists although I would be concerned if they were ranked.
The important thing in my view is the introduction, as long as the introduction makes clear what is entitled to be on the list and what is not then a lot of disputes can be prevented. From the lists I have looked there are many that just use the term “list of countries” in the introduction but don’t go into more detail. This really needs to be changed as most lists only include Sovereign States and there for should state that.
When it comes to the titles, I do not have a problem with the current titles used “Countries” can mean Sovereign states and as long as the introduction explains the situation there is little need for a change. I agree lists that include dependent territories should include that in their title, but Sovereign state should not have to replace the term country. I would not object to a wikiwide change from using “country” to using “Sovereign states” in titles, but this should only be done with the understanding that the countries pages are redirected to them and under no circumstances a new list is simply created which would contain almost identical information with a few extras like Countries of the United Kingdom, Overseas France etc.
List of countries and outlying territories by area is an article I like. The table provides an area for notes where it is possible to include the details of each country of the United Kingdom without having to put them in separate rows like currently found at List of countries by population which I have a problem with. Currently on that page only France / UK are treated as exceptions and get a mention but there are many others that might seek to be included on the list which would simply make it too large an unreadable (such as US/German states) for example.
So basically I would like to see…
  • The titles remain the same (apart from fixing some by adding “including dependent territories”).
  • Improve the introductions on list of countries pages to explain what is actually listed, most just being sovereign states and rightfully so.
  • Where possible (based on the space and if the data exists) information about the different parts of the UK to be included in notes sections like shown on the Countries and outlying territories article rather than in separate rows which adds confusion and leads to requests for other places to be included.
  • As a lot of the data does exist to compare different parts of the United Kingdom on population, area, crime rates etc a separate article be created to include all such data which could be linked next to the UKs entry on relevant international lists so the information is still available for those interested in comparing different parts of the UK. (Just as there are many lists and tables comparing different US states on issues)
I would also support the recreation of the wikiproject for “Lists of countries”, where major debates about the inclusion of different countries could be dealt with in the future, rather than just one article at a time going over old ground. BritishWatcher (talk) 12:56, 17 December 2008 (UTC)
I would be very wary of a "one-size-fits-all" policy. I came here from Talk:List of parties to international copyright agreements, where it is appropriate to treat Hong Kong and Macau as separate from the People's Republic of China and to list the European Union as an entity separate from its member states. It would also be appropriate to list the British dependent territories separately, but this isn't done for lack of conclusive information. On the other hand, FIFA World Rankings would obviously have different inclusion criteria, with separate inclusion from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland but no inclusion for British dependent territories. Physchim62 (talk) 13:31, 17 December 2008 (UTC)
Sure, there will always be such cases. I notified everyone who I felt might be affected - but clearly there will be cases where the nature of the topic makes it more appropriate to split Hong Kong and Macao from China (and there are probably articles that I notified that might not actually be affected - on a second look, List of parties to international copyright agreements is probably onesuch article). I don't think anyone's going to argue that articles should not combine countries together, or split countries up, where doing so helps to inform the reader - if HK is a separate party, it should certainly be listed separately. But I think there's value in having a default rule that we can make the appropriate exceptions from. Pfainuk talk 14:03, 17 December 2008 (UTC)
There are certainly alot of articles that deal with specific issues like you mention Physchim62 where one size fits all clearly wouldnt work. The reason this discussion was started is because over recent months there have been several debates about if things like England should be included on different lists as they are described as "countries" and if such pages should be renamed as they dont include all "countries". It made alot of sense to try and get opinions from people across the different wikipedia country lists rather than have to go through exactly the same debates on many different pages over and over again. This is mainly a problem for pages on things like population, area, density etc. BritishWatcher (talk) 14:28, 17 December 2008 (UTC)

A tricky difficulty arises for inclusion of entities that are not member of the UN, such as Taiwan and Palestine. In my view they qualify as countries, but they might be excluded by the phrase:

It should either be recognised by at least one UN member state (including the Vatican), or hold de facto control over all of its claimed territory

I would prefer to weaken the all into: a significant part of. −woodstone (talk) 14:36, 17 December 2008 (UTC)

Agreeed on it having control over a significant part of / some territory(Which is said on sovereign states page) rather than all. I agree unrecognized sovereign states like Taiwan should clearly be listed on most, although Palestine even with the "part of" is still far more debatable and difficult to include on all. BritishWatcher (talk) 15:10, 17 December 2008 (UTC)
Taiwan would be ok as the rules are currently written because it is recognized by at least one UN member (around 20 UN members recognize the ROC (Taiwan)).
I don't agree with saying "or hold de facto control over all of its claimed territory" nor do I agree with saying "or hold de facto control over a significant part of of its claimed territory". In most cases it won't make a difference since most places have recognition by at least one UN member. However, considering two examples and taking the hypothetical situation where neither has recognition, the first criteria would eliminate China (the PRC) because China does not control all of it's claimed territory. The second criteria could be argued to exclude Taiwan as the government officially claims not just Taiwan but also China. It will just lead to arguments over how much territory is "significant". It's not clear to me why matching claimed to actual territory is important. The fact that government of a country makes wild outlandish claims to be the rightful masters of other peoples lives (e.g. China's claims to Taiwan or Taiwan's claims to China) does not make the country any less existing. Readin (talk) 15:18, 17 December 2008 (UTC)
I included it in order to exclude micronations from the definition, not insisting on any degree of recognition. I wouldn't insist on it, provided we're clear that microstates (including entities such as the Republic of Lakotah) are not included. If we were to remove that criterion (and insist on recognition by any UN member state or by the Vatican), we would lose Transnistria, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Somaliland. Pfainuk talk 17:27, 17 December 2008 (UTC)
  • Comment: If a ranked list uses data from a single source, the inclusion criteria of that particular source should be used. If a list article contains multiple ranked lists, with each list derived from a single source (e.g. List of countries by GDP (PPP), the same holds true for each list in the list article. --Polaron | Talk 14:42, 17 December 2008 (UTC)
Agreed the main sources for the actual list should play a major role in what gets included but the problem is many pages simply get updated by different sources and at different times. So at the moment List of countries by population for example is currently mostly sourced by UN estimates but includes England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Overseas France (unranked and sourced from the national rather than international statistics). I dont think they should be included in such a list (although they could be mentioned in the notes section). BritishWatcher (talk) 15:10, 17 December 2008 (UTC)
If England, Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland & other dependancies are removed from all those article lists, I'll be content. GoodDay (talk) 16:32, 17 December 2008 (UTC)
Note that dependencies are often included in the sources used for many of the ranked lists. We should strive to follow the sources as close as possible unless the source has an obvious error or omission. --Polaron | Talk 16:52, 17 December 2008 (UTC)
I agree, on principle, if the source is defined as the basis for the list. In a (hypothetical) list of countries ranked by population, say, I see no reason to use the inclusion criteria for a UN source just because it's there - unless the article is intended to be the UN list of countries by population. Better, IMO, to use the UN as a source for figures but not necessarily for inclusion decisions. Pfainuk talk 17:32, 17 December 2008 (UTC)
The population list (and possibly the population density list) is the only one that really uses multiple sources. The vast majority of ranked lists do use a single source and for the most part include only entries from that source. --Polaron | Talk 17:33, 17 December 2008 (UTC)
Right, but IMO, unless the list is intended to be a Wiki version of the official list for a certain metric (we have a few - Democracy Index is one), I don't see that we have to follow such sources to the letter - better for us to create a set of lists based on consistent inclusion criteria than to have different lists saying different things IMO. Pfainuk talk 17:40, 17 December 2008 (UTC)
I disagree. Often it is better not to combine statistics from different sources, because there are subtle (and not-so-subtle) differences that make a combined list misleading. There are grey areas even with apparently clear-cut concepts, such as population and area, and often sticking with a single source could be the best decision. Encouraging people to combine figures from different sources to match some overall wikipedia definition of "countries" might be counterproductive. -- Avenue (talk) 20:52, 17 December 2008 (UTC)
On dependencies, I don't think we necessarily should bar them, provided it's clear that they are not independent states. I would not, however, block a consensus if it otherwise fell that way. Pfainuk talk 17:40, 17 December 2008 (UTC)
Most international lists do display dependencies as well so i think theres clear justification for including them. The most important thing is the intro explains they are included and a change of the name to say it includes dependencies might help. BritishWatcher (talk) 17:55, 17 December 2008 (UTC)
If dependancies are to be listed, they should be listed in a subordinate way (under their respective independant countries). For example: England, Wales, Scotland & Northern Ireland should only be listed under the United Kingdom entry. GoodDay (talk) 18:36, 17 December 2008 (UTC)
Oh, right. No, I don't think England, Wales, Scotland and NI should generally be included. I took the word dependency to be synonymous with dependent territory - so, the Falklands, Niue, Aruba, New Caledonia, the US Virgin Islands and so on - which I think could be included, noted in titles as necessary. Countries of the UK are integral parts of the UK, whereas the British overseas territories are not. Pfainuk talk 18:43, 17 December 2008 (UTC)
Indeed, my preference is exclude the UK countries (IMO constituent countries) from the lists. GoodDay (talk) 18:52, 17 December 2008 (UTC)
Not sure what soap box you are on here GoodDay. There is a perfectly sensible discussion above which covers things like FIFA (where they are separate teams) and also the idea of making a list clearly one of sovereign countries but indicating constituent countries (per BritishWatcher's suggestion above). This is all about creating something that works, is properly named (or qualified) does not cause contention and is supported by citation. Throwing in comments about a desire exclude something without any argument or context smacks of a POV position.
I think there should be a protocol here which allows the continued use of country in the title (the renaming would be a nightmare) but in which the lede should always state its definitions. That does mean if it just says "countries" at the UK ones should be in the list in their own right. If it says "sovereign countries or states then they are not with the option to include secondary analysis as a default option unless there is good reason not to --Snowded TALK 19:02, 17 December 2008 (UTC)
As I've mentioned (above), if England, Wales, Northern Ireland & Scotland are to be included, they should be presented under the UK entry. GoodDay (talk) 19:11, 17 December 2008 (UTC)
That's an improvement over "exclude" but for FIFA they should be in, or for any list which is just described as a list of countries. --Snowded TALK 19:25, 17 December 2008 (UTC)
On sporting lists like for Fifa they need to be listed on their own, although there should be an explanation or link to the explanation of why they compete as individual countries. The other lists that use the term country should all have introductions explaining they are about sovereign states and dependencies only, except others were its important to include individual parts of the UK like on legal systems. The burden should be on proving why England etc belong on the list(other than just the title mentioning country), rather than having to prove they dont belong on it. BritishWatcher (talk) 19:32, 17 December 2008 (UTC)
Yes, FIFA lists are OK (Grrr, most countries have 1-team, the UK gets to have 3 or 4). GoodDay (talk) 19:38, 17 December 2008 (UTC)
Of course the UK countries must stay in a FIFA list, because that's a list of the members of an organisation (if the Moon were affiliated to FIFA then it should also be included in the list). But most of the articles we're talking about are not membership lists, they're lists of all the countries in the world - and in probably all circumstances, we should include every country (with an N/A or similar if no data exists or is known). I think Pfainuk's definition at the top of this discussion is a good one. England, Wales, etc. should be listed in the notes of the UK entry (if data exists), and dependencies should be included only where relevant. Snowded is right - the article's introduction, not title, should define the scope. Bazonka (talk) 19:39, 17 December 2008 (UTC)

(outdent) I'd go for that: Pfainuk's & Snowded's suggestions. GoodDay (talk) 19:44, 17 December 2008 (UTC)

Why do so many proposals give the UN and UN member states such a huge say in what is and is not a country when the organization is so clearly biased in favor of incumbents and in favor of serving the rich and powerful? Readin (talk) 00:00, 18 December 2008 (UTC)

Unfortunately this is just how the world works. — Blue-Haired Lawyer 00:51, 18 December 2008 (UTC)

I'm not so sure about this whole thing. It kind of looks like a solution looking for a problem! Normally lists on Wikipedia reflect appropriate sources for that information. Thus many sources (eg the IMF's list of countries by GDP) list overseas territories separately from the countries main entries. In other words what is listed in the countries list or a source should be listed in Wikipedia's list, as to do otherwise could count as original research. What's the point in listing the Republic of North Cyprus is the source we cite for everywhere else doesn't include it? I strongly agree with Avenue that sources shouldn't be blended.

I also find the proposed criteria hopelessly broad, potentially subjective and also potentially involving original research. It isn't our business to go around recognising states. The only places that we should describe as sovereign states/countries without qualification are places recognised by the UN. Anywhere else is either partially recognised or unrecognised. Sports should depend on the relevant body instead of the UN but most of these use the UN list. Although some allow an exception for the UK.

Listing the constituent part of the UK is, outside of sports, a terrible idea. The UK isn't even a federal state, US states, Geramn land, Swiss cantons and Belgian regions have a much better claim the be listed, not to mention all of the United Arab Emirates. Lists of around 300 countries will become lists of 3,000 regions! — Blue-Haired Lawyer 00:51, 18 December 2008 (UTC)

The reason I started this discussion was the fact that several people seemed to be working on the basis that, by definition, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should be included in any list of "countries". List of countries was redirected - not only due to this discussion, but in a large part because of it. An RM at Talk:List of countries and outlying territories by area failed, not because of the merits of the move, but because it was felt that consistency was required. The argument essentially goes that England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are countries as defined by the UK government, and therefore any list "by country" must include them.
The debate is slowly spreading through the lists, and as such I felt that a unified discussion to either accept or reject this would be beneficial - essentially so that we don't have to have the debate at every list individually. I thought that, further, it might be an opportunity to try and solve the perennial Kosovo-Abkhazia-South Ossetia-wherever debates that I'm sure we all have.
The vibe I'm getting so far is that we stick to the sources we already have (I seem to be in a minority of one in wanting mixed sourced lists - fair enough, I won't try to insist), though that these sources should be mentioned in article leads where they aren't already; that no mass rename is necessary; that on the odd occasion where we already have mixed-source lists it appears to be considered fair to use something based on the criteria I mention above, mentioned in the lead, and specifically excluding England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. That E/S/W/NI should be included in sports lists (one assumes that includes others where it is relevant to do so); that they should not be included solely on the basis of the word "country" in the title, but that the reasons for their exclusion should be mentioned - directly or indirectly - in the lead (so, saying "this list is based on XYZ source" would count, as would detailed inclusion criteria).
Does that sound like an accurate description? Pfainuk talk 11:28, 18 December 2008 (UTC)
It was the right thing to do to see if there was any support for renaming or changing the critera for all these lists based on the outcome of the vote held on the Talk:List of countries and outlying territories by area which was basically no change unless all list titles were changed too. There is clearly no support for such a change to the names of those lists which will be important for future reference. If there are attempts to have other titles changed in the future because they use the term country but dont include all entites called "countries" then it will be possible to link this to show no support for such a change.
The important thing is that the introduction clearly states what is included on the lists and what isnt. The entries on the list should be based on the main sources of information, and simply because something is called a country doesnt justify it being added. BritishWatcher (talk) 11:56, 18 December 2008 (UTC)

Instead of trying to define our own list, could we not better stick to ISO 3166?. −woodstone (talk) 12:27, 18 December 2008 (UTC)

The main issues with the ISO list are that it doesn't include the unrecognised states (except Western Sahara, the Palestinian Territories and Taiwan) and that it mandates diplomatic names for states that do not accord with NPOV practice on Wikipedia (such as "Taiwan, Province of China" and "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia"). It also splits things for statistical convenience rather than reflecting the facts on the ground: it distinguishes France, Metropolitan France and the French DOM-TOMs individually, for example, and lumps the United States Minor Outlying Islands - which have no special administrative connection to one another (beyond the fact that they are all administered by the United States) - into a single group. Pfainuk talk 12:51, 18 December 2008 (UTC)

I think that

  • It is a good thing to centralise discussion on this matter.
  • List of sovereign states should be the guiding list that other lists refer to and where future discussion should take place.
  • It is clear that there are two types of lists, the type that takes independent states and ranks them on some parameter, and the type that lists entities which satisfy some criterium (e.g. UEFA membership). This should only apply to the former type.
  • If sovereign states is ambiguous, perhaps independent states is a good alternative.
  • I agree with those who have said that the criterium of significant or complete control should be dropped, some stable control is what matters.
  • I think we should drop the criterium of recognition by at least one UN member. We would lose Somaliland which is much firmer established than Somalia itself, and the lack of official recognition clouds the fact that it does in fact have many unofficial diplomatic relations.
  • I am strongly in favour of allowing mixing of sources. As long as the sources are reliable, this shouldn't create distortion, and unreliable sources we shouldn't use. Using only a single source may in fact result in less accurate figures, and it certainly results in a systematic bias away from states for which data are harder to come by.
  • I can agree with special highlighting of the states on a list that are not generally recognised (e.g. using italics), but they should be ranked. What would we gain by unranking them?sephia karta | di mi 16:02, 18 December 2008 (UTC)
Even better than "independent" might be "independently governed" because the word "independent" tends to raise emotions and cause problems. Readin (talk) 17:48, 18 December 2008 (UTC)
Blending sources ignores the different methodology used to obtain the various statistics. Many lists already contain different numbers for different sources. See List of countries by GDP (PPP) and List of countries by GDP (nominal) for example. Trying to find figures for entities not included would amount to an enormous amount of original research.
But in this example it is clear, data
List of sovereign states isn't a bad place to start but does that include those listed under "other countries"? — Blue-Haired Lawyer 17:52, 19 December 2008 (UTC)

I don't believe WP should be determining what is or isn't a country or sovereign--that is WP:OR. At best we should indicate who recognizes whom as a "sovereign" authority. Editors have argued that fractions of fractions of Montevideo constitute "sovereignty" where breakaway territories are concerned. The lists of countries, sovereign states, etc. are not that at all, they are soapboxes for advocating who is and isn't "sovereign". Breakaway territories that only recognize each other as "sovereign", for example, do not belong in a list of sovereign entities.
   To the point, as it's the authority that is recognized as sovereign, List of ''declared'' sovereign authorities would be a far more appropriate title. That covers everybody who says they are sovereign whether or not anyone thinks they are. That would stop the bickering over the land xyz of inhabitant xyz yearning to be sovereign. That list would then indicate who is recognized by whom, if by anyone.PetersV       TALK 04:36, 19 December 2008 (UTC)

With just allowing anyone who claims sovereignty, I'm concerned that we leave ourselves open to Sealand, the Kingdom of Lovely, the Republic of Lakotah and similar situations. I don't think they belong on the articles concerned, but I feel this ought to be clear.
Regarding unranking unrecognised states, on ranked lists we generally want no-one, or no land area, or whatever, counted twice - while at the same time recognising that the view of the majority of states is that (most of) the unrecognised states are not independent. In the case of Moldova, for example, we could list Moldova and Transnistria separately, excluding Transnistria from Moldova - but that might recognise Transnistrian independence. Or we could exclude Transnistria altogether - but that recognises Moldovan rule where de facto they have none. Including Transnistria in Moldova, but then listing Transnistria as well, unranked, is a compromise between the two positions. Pfainuk talk 17:02, 19 December 2008 (UTC)
Ok, I understand. But that seems slightly inconsistent to me. I mean, we recognise that these states are there, with population and all, and then we still pretend that these people are living in a country that to them, in a very real sense, is foreign. I think perhaps it is best that we do count double, and include these figures in both states. I don't really see any harm in double counting, and I think it is quite a valid idea that people can live in two countries. sephia karta | di mi 19:39, 19 December 2008 (UTC)

Collecting postage stamps has made me realise that there are geographic borders and there are cultural borders. The word "country" should be used when the place and position is important in discussion like for England, Greenland, Bavaria, Tibet or Falklands. The word "nation" should be used for political and administrative issues like for the United Nations and for kingdoms, empires, confederations, emerates or occupations. That makes it easier to define borders. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Rangutan (talkcontribs) 10:14, 3 February 2011 (UTC)

Break in discussion[edit]

This is an interesting discussion and thanks for initiating it, but I have a few concerns about where this is going. It is not our job, as mere editors, to decide what is an acceptable definition of a country - our job is to rely on sources and what they say. My view is that if a title says 'Lists of countries by...' then it should include all countries irrespective of whether they are independent, sovereign states or parts of larger entities. If the concensus is that a list should only include sovereign states, that should be reflected in the title of the article. (By the way, I believe the European Union should be included in lists of sovereign states, as well as the individual member states ndividually.) Cheers Fishiehelper2 (talk) 19:04, 29 December 2008 (UTC)

Forgive me for gatecrashing, but I've just come from Transport in present-day nations and states. There's a list of countries: the EU appears as an item, and then all EU member-states are listed underneath it. So far, so good. But under the UK, a further sub-list shows British dependent territories. This format implies that they are all members of the EU -- but they are not (eg, Channel Isles). In fact, nor (according to Wikiedia) are they part of the UK. This layout seems to me to be potentially confusing -- is it really what Wikipedia has decided is best? SteamSpeed (talk) 01:53, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
By the looks of the talk page, and the article history, that format was decided by a single user - User:Jkliajmi - who made about 500 edits on July 24-25 of this year and then never returned. No-one argues, so it never got changed. If you don't like what you see on Wikipedia, our policies encourage you to be bold in making changes. I have made an edit to this, and you're welcome to make changes to my edit as you see fit. If someone reverts you, then discuss the edits with them on the talk page. Pfainuk talk 11:57, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
@Fishie - I don't agree, because "all countries" means different things to different people. Sourced lists of countries generally do not correspond with areas that can be sourced as being called countries. If we went by the later description, we would very likely get bogged down in micronations, states, autonomous communities, constituent countries - whatever is called a country by someone somewhere. Official lists of countries differ depending on whether the source is the UN, the ISO or any one of the hundreds of national governments around the world - generally, no two are the same. And most of the list are actually pretty clearly intended to be limited to independent sovereign states. Pfainuk talk 11:57, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
If the lists concerned are actually pretty clearly intended to be limited to independent sovereign states then that should be reflected in their title. Daicaregos (talk) 16:49, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
So long as it is reflected in the lead-in to the list that the list is intended to be independent sovereign states, I don't see that a rename is necessary - particularly given that so many of the lists are based on a single source (meaning that the inclusion criteria are - by default - the countries given by the source). There is clearly no consensus above for a move to mixed-sourced lists in general.
If you want to propose a massive RM on the subject, you are of course welcome to do so, but bear in mind that we are very unlikely to come up with a name for this concept that is concise, neutral and that does not have the same issues as "country" does (i.e. that it could be read to include areas that are not independent sovereign states, or exclude areas that are). "Sovereign state", indeed, has exactly the same problems as "country" - specifically, that there are sovereign states in the world that do not claim independence, such as the states of the USA. Even the word "independent" implies legitimacy, which is disputed in many cases.
As a procedural issue, if you do decide to propose an RM, you will need to give a notification at every affected article talk page. I personally notified nearly 250 different talk pages of this discussion, and deliberately excluded articles on sports (whatever the configuration of UK participation) and other articles that list countries by a metric determined by a single body. If you were to propose such an RM on this basis, you would need to include all such articles - including probably the list of sovereign states and those lists linked from the List of sovereign states by year. It's a big job. Pfainuk talk 17:12, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
Dai, for what its worth I think the qualification on the ledes of all the lists is a reasonable compromise and prevents the lists been used as authority/precedent in other debates. Attempting an RM would I think be doomed to fail. Some battles are just not worth fighting. On sporting pages, or ones such as anthems I think we can keep the UK countries in the list as the context there allows it. --Snowded TALK 17:22, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
On international sporting lists and international legal issues where the fact England and Wales have a different legal system to Scotland and Northern Ireland there is clear justification for the different countries to be included separately. I agree with snowded the most important thing is the introduction clearly defines what is and is not included in the list. There was strong opposition to the renaming of one article the other week and thats what led to this discussion being started, so far most seem to say it should be based on what the sources list and that there is no need for major renaming of over 100 articles. BritishWatcher (talk) 17:49, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
FWIW I also agree with Snowded. Given that I would consider any RM on its merits (and would, generally, support a wording that met my criteria above - that was concise, neutral, and did not carry similar potential issues to "country") I cannot see that an RM could possibly pass in practice.
No-one argues that, where the context of the list requires some configuration other than independent sovereign states and possibly dependent territories, a more appropriate configuration should not be used. But in cases where there is no special context, I think that - given qualification in the lead - it is reasonable for lists of "countries" to include only what I have been calling independent sovereign states (which, as I say, is not a good rename target because the word "independent" carries emotional baggage) and possibly dependent territories. Pfainuk talk 18:08, 30 December 2008 (UTC)

Hi all. I've just come from the List of countries by highest point article where I had an addition I made reverted on the basis that the country I had added, Abkhazia, had not been recognised by an English speaking state and therefore, being English version of Wikipedia, Abkhazia should not be included! If that is where this debate is heading we are heading for big trouble. My view is that we should not be trying to tell the world what a country is, but to reflect what sources tell us. If an entity has a historical, constitutional or some other reason to be classified as a country, and reliable sources prove that the entity is referred to as a country, I think we must include these countries in list of countries. I do not think it would be wrong to clarify such entries with phrases such as 'part of Denmark' or 'part of the United Kingdom' so that everyone can see those countries that are sovereign states. Alternatively, why not use a colour band key to identify those entities that are not sovereign states - that way everything gets included but there is no confusion as to which entities are the sovereign states. Cheers Fishiehelper2 (talk) 19:37, 30 December 2008 (UTC)

To exclude a state based on the fact that it has not been recognised by any English-speaking country is systematically biased at best. It is not a good reason to exclude Abkhazia & South Ossetia in this case. It is also potentially POV, because English-speaking countries happen to be aligned politically, in general. If all unrecognised states were removed, it would be fair.
As I say, to "reflect what sources tell us" means different things to different people - because for the most part, independent sources tend to have different ideas. ISO 3166-1 is a list of countries. The CIA World Factbook asks you to select a "country or location". The UK foreign office offers travel advice "by country". The WHO have a country list here for Yellow Fever status. These are all lists of countries and no two are the same. I'm sure if I spoke Russian, I could find you a Russian official list of countries that includes Abkhazia and South Ossetia; that if I was inclined I could find an Iranian country list that doesn't count Israel.
These are all sources, and none of them includes every entity that could possibly be sourced reliably as being called a "country". And they all match the purposes of these lists rather better than, say, the UK government does when it refers to the "countries of the United Kingdom", the Spanish government does when it refers to the Basque Country, the French government does when it refers to the Loire Country, or the German government does when it refers to its states as Länder ("countries"). All of those countries speak languages where an alternative wording is possible and none of them use that alternative wording.
Just as it was a systematic bias issue that someone reverted on the basis of the views of the English-speaking countries of the world, it is a systematic bias issue that some subnational administrative divisions are called "countries", and some that have just as much history have names like "state", "province" or "community".
I'm thinking particularly of Belgium in this case. Flanders and Wallonia have distinct histories, cultures, constitutions, societies and languages. In particular - and I appreciate that this may be a controversial thing to say in this company but I believe it is grounded in fact - Flanders and Wallonia are far rather more different, culturally and politically, than England and Scotland are, let alone Saxony and Brandenberg. But they risk being excluded from these lists because when the political units were created to reflect the cultural realities, it was decided that they should be called "regions". This is pure systematic bias. Pfainuk talk 21:26, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
Agreed it is totally wrong to exclude something from the list and clear bias simply because English speaking nations hadnt recognized it whilst Kosovo was already on the list so i restored Fishiehelpers edit earlier so its back on the list. I think its right for disputed sovereign states appearing on international lists as long as they have some valid recogniztion which Abkhazia certainly has. BritishWatcher (talk) 21:39, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
Generally speaking, I think they can and should go on. I know some have an issue with double-counting in lists by area, population and so on, as I mentioned earlier - and in this case, if Georgia's highest point was in Abkhazia then we'd have to come to some compromise so that it could be in both places, with a note on the Georgia value or something. But it's not so it's no big deal in this case. Pfainuk talk 21:43, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
Perhaps but listing disputed regions alongside universally recognised countries gives rise to undue weight. The former should be given a separate list. — Blue-Haired Lawyer 21:58, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
Fair point. I don't feel very strongly about it in any case, provided that we're consistent. Pfainuk talk 22:41, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
Ya the impact on the other countries entries when ranking disputed sovereign states was my main concern especially on the population list which is less easier to define than land size etc, but thankfully as you say in this case its a different highest point. BritishWatcher (talk) 21:51, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
To accept England as a country but to reject Abkhazia is sistematic bias. And the not recognised by English speaking countries is the worst argument I've heard for a while. But that doesn't mean we should include either. We shouldn't be trying to tell the "world what a country is". Countries are either universally recognised, partially recognised and unrecognised. By considering anything else we are just conducting out own research or deciding based on value-judgements, which is just another form of systematic bias. — Blue-Haired Lawyer 21:58, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
(e/c) There is no need for WP:Original research. If there are WP:Verifiable references confirming that somewhere is a country, then that should be sufficient for us to accept it as a country and for it to be included on the lists. This is the 1st paragraph from one of Wikipedia's core principals, WP:Verifiability:
"The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth—that is, whether readers are able to check that material added to Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether we think it is true. Editors should provide a reliable source for quotations and for any material that is challenged or likely to be challenged, or the material may be removed.". Daicaregos (talk) 22:31, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
None of the outside lists that I cited earlier on included England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland separately. All combined them into the UK except the UK Foreign Office list, which logically enough didn't include the UK at all. BritishWatcher cited a few more here. The sources generally exclude the Countries of the UK from similar such lists. As I say, including anything that can be reliably sourced as being called a country by someone in authority would lead to systematic bias in favour of states such as the UK and Germany that happened to choose that nomenclature, and against states such as Belgium that happened to choose a different one. Pfainuk talk 22:56, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
Sorry about my comment on another talk page about English speaking countries; evidently that has not gone down well. But the level of recognition of Abkhazia by other countries seems to me to be insufficient for inclusion on a separate line; a footnote seems a fair compromise. Viewfinder (talk) 22:23, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
A separate section for disputed territories is an interesting idea, and may be a possible option, but for consistency Kosovo would need to be placed there also. Otherwise, where do we draw the line? Could I suggest that inclusion on the CIA list should be the criterion? (Abkhazia is not there). Viewfinder (talk) 22:40, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
No. There is no reason why the US government POV should be considered primary. I don't see why including Kosovo would makes the list any more consistent than excluding it. Indeed, the opposite appears to me to be the case. Pfainuk talk 22:43, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
(ec x2) I agree (with BHL), except that I would qualify "universally recognised" with some small but reasonable leeway. Liechtenstein's issues with the Beneš decrees should not mean that the Czech Republic and Slovakia are generally excluded from our lists, for example - hence the use of the wording "generally recognised" or "general recognition", where the states that are generally recognised are the members of the UN and the Vatican City. Pfainuk talk 22:41, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
You operate in a fantasy world if you don't think that we must exercise value judgements every day in editing Wikipedia. In a philosophical sense, there is no such thing as NPOV. We operate in a systematic bias if we ignore the Flat Earthers and those who think that America faked the moon landings. We evaluate the quality of evidence very single day and make decisions on issues such as Fringe every single day we edit. To pretend that there is some mythical perfect NPOV out there that we aspire to is a fantasy. In relation to the issue at hand, there is a systematic difference between the international acceptance of Kosovo and Abkhazia. We can simply "count noses" in that case both in terms of numbers of countries recognizing an entity and numbers of international organizations recognizing it. But even choosing the "nose counting" method, we can be accused of POV because there are more noses backing the English-speaking camp than those backing the Russian-speaking camp. But, in the end, we must choose some method of evaluation, and since this is the English Wikipedia, then we should not be ashamed of an English-speaking bias. While we can strive for the mythical Excalibur of NPOV, we should not become bogged down in too much hand-wringing over our cultural foundation. If the Republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia ever achieve actual independence from Russia (er, Georgia), and are granted some level of international recognition so that they can exist without the Russian Army, then they can assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal stance that they may (or may not) deserve. But until that time, they should live an italicized existence in Wikipedia and the area and population totals for Georgia should reflect the last accurate data for that country with a footnote on possible adjustments. In most cases, the problematic regions are just flyspecks in terms of international recognition, but the only real significant problem concerns Taiwan. I'm not completely comfortable with calling it a part of China, despite the fact that most international organizations recognize it as such. It has had such a long independent existence that subsuming it under PRC seems rather arbitrary. Italicization really seems the most NPOV, but there is still a fundamental difference between the independence of Taiwan and the Russo- or Turko- enforced independence of Abkhazia and Northern Cyprus. The independence of Kosovo lies somewhere in between the two extremes. Perhaps the closest that an NPOV list can come is something quite as simple as "Who pays the police in X area?" In this case, it would be pretty clear that there is a real boundary between Cyprus and Northern Cyprus and that the Falkland Islands are British. (Taivo (talk) 22:42, 30 December 2008 (UTC))
On ABkhazia the problem is all the sources we use on wiki are basically western ones. CIA< IMF< World Bank < EU < Council of Europe and the United Nations which is influenced by politics as the US, France and UK have veto power so its hard for UN organisations to give much unoffical recognition in stats. I agree we should stick to the sources, but i think if Kosovo is going to be included we have to allow the others on the list. If that is going to be too much of a problem then i would support the removal of all unrecognized / disputed sovereign states just so its clear or placed in a new table on each list. I think the fairest way is to include all disputed sovereign states recognized by atleast 1 member of the United Nations.
The issue of Scotland and UK countries on international lists is TOTALLY different. They may be defined as a country but on all international lists on those sources Scotland etc do not appear where as the United Kingdom does. Scotland at present does not seek independence or to be recognized as an independent sovereign state, there for it isnt in the same position as places like Kosovo / Abhkazia. BritishWatcher (talk) 22:45, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
I disagree with the issue of "recognized by one member of the UN". Until these states are generally accepted as members of the UN (for example), they should all live an italicized existence (that includes Kosovo and Taiwan). Kosovo has the same problem that Abkhazia and South Ossetia have in terms of UN veto power (with Russia and China in veto position). (Taivo (talk) 22:47, 30 December 2008 (UTC))
I agree about them being in italics so a clear difference can be seen and there should be an explanation note. Personally i like the idea of Sovereign states in bold, territories in italics, and disputed sovereign states in bold and italics, then all 3 are different. BritishWatcher (talk) 22:50, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
So are you therefore happy for Kosovo and Abkhazia to be in the same category? Viewfinder (talk) 23:04, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
I am. They are in the same category in my book. Both have some limited recognition but not general recognition. That Kosovo has 50-odd recognitions and Abkhazia only has two is neither here nor there. Taivo notes that we will always be making some kind of value judgement, and he may be right, but it rather strikes me that guessing around with numbers in this case is a bad idea. Pfainuk talk 23:08, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
I feel the same way. All disputed sovereign states should be treated the same way as each other, i think recognition by atleast 1 UN member is fair as otherwise like Pfainuk says you get into a numbers game of what is and isnt enough. They dont have to be treated exactly the same as fully recognized sovereign states so placing them in their own table below the main one or having disputed ones in italics is fine with me, but as i mentioned before bolding sovereign states makes it alot clearer. I dont know if im the only one but on my screen i can see no difference between regular and regular italics unless i zoom in. BritishWatcher (talk) 23:22, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
I agree with Britishwatcher on this. I also agree that the situation with the countries of the UK is totally different: if these list are lists of sovereign countries, there is no case to include England, Scotland etc as if they were sovereign countries. However, I see nothing wrong with including details under the United Kingdom entry in a way that is useful and informative. Cheers Fishiehelper2 (talk) 23:33, 30 December 2008 (UTC)

Agreed the information is useful but its including it in a way that is fair and doesnt treat the UK as a special case when there are many others that would be justified to be treated the same way. That is why on international lists where possible i would like to see some form of notes column like on list of countries and outlying territories by area where England, Wales, Scotland and NI can be mentioned whilst not impacting on the ranking or design of the list. The column section would also then make it possible to explain disputed sovereign states and other info / sources. BritishWatcher (talk) 23:38, 30 December 2008 (UTC)

Yes, the arrangement works for list of countries and outlying territories by area. What I tried at List of countries by highest point didn't impact on the ranking and I thought it looked neat. I don't think too many other countries would have a demand to be treated the same way - anyway, the UK is a special case in that it was formed originally as a result of a negotiated union of previously independent sovereign states - few other countries in the world were created like that! Cheers Fishiehelper2 (talk) 23:47, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
Few others, yes, but the UK is not unique in that regard. Germany was founded as a union of smaller states, as was Spain (in its own way). And several other countries are the results of unions of otherwise separate territories that were negotiated on independence - the UAE, USA, Australia and Canada all result from negotiated unions of territories that were independent of one another at the time of negotiation (though the latter two were still considered parts of the British Empire at that time). The Netherlands and Switzerland, I believe, are also the current incarnations of pacts between smaller states. There are several examples of such pacts that were short-lived as well - the West Indies Federation and Federal Republic of Central America come to mind. Pfainuk talk 00:13, 31 December 2008 (UTC)

I said this before but I believe that I should re-state this here. If your going to do a list, please show some something created by academics or other encyclopedias (passing WP:V & WP:RS) that has been created to do the same thing as the topic is designed to cover. Does it list England, N.Ireland, Scotland & Wales or does it list only the United Kingdom? Simple solution. If in question see what the experts have done before. Don't use dictionary definitions, don't create your own definitions. Just use sources to prove your case, otherwise it might be WP:SYN. -- Phoenix (talk) 23:59, 30 December 2008 (UTC)

Yes, I agree. Pfainuk talk 00:13, 31 December 2008 (UTC)
Be careful with that definition that says "UK was the result of negotiated union". You might as well consider the original 13 US colonies in that boat as well as the Republic of California, the Republic of Texas, and the Kingdom of Hawaii, which were all negotiated unions as well. Then you add in the variety of treaties with the "sovereign nations" that Native American tribes were considered to be... The UK should not be treated differently than the 50 United States should be. Then you must also consider the United Arab Emirates in a similar situation. There is one sovereign government for each of them (the US, the UAE, and the UK), they should be represented once in each list. (Taivo (talk) 00:35, 31 December 2008 (UTC))
Agreed there are many "special cases" which is why the UK shouldnt be treated any different. Also the fact only England and Scotland out of the 4 were the actual sovereign states that negotiated a union. Wales was simply annexed and "Northern Ireland" was just part of another sovereign state. BritishWatcher (talk) 00:48, 31 December 2008 (UTC)
Here is an example of a place where WP:SYN and WP:OR is violated on a daily basis--the Inboxes at the beginning of language articles (see Armenian language for an example). There is only one real source that lists languages by country or languages in a country and that is Ethnologue. Yet Ethnologue does not recognize the "subsovereign" states under discussion here (Scotland) or barely recognized states (Abkhazia). However, nationalist editors insist on adding the barely recognized states into the language infoboxes. There is no source for languages that includes these states, but try to remove them to conform to any published list and you will spark endless edit wars adding them back in. (Taivo (talk) 00:44, 31 December 2008 (UTC))
(ec) Yes, as I noted above, Germany, Australia and Canada are all also the results of negotiated unions, as are (I believe) the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland - though in a few of those cases (Germany and Spain most obviously) the current administrative divisions are not the same entities as those that negotiated the unions. Include all of those subdivisions - even if we exclude Germany and Spain - and we've kinda lost the point of these lists. Pfainuk talk 00:46, 31 December 2008 (UTC)

If we use outside lists as the criteria for inclusion, as well as for reliable sources, that would be WP:Synthesis. "Synthesis occurs when an editor puts together multiple sources to reach a novel conclusion that is not in any of the sources." i.e. if the lists say that somewhere is a country then the list is a WP:RS that it is a country. However, a list would only be a reliable source that somewhere was not a country if it specifically said that that place was not a country. Any assumption that because a place is not included on outside lists it is not a country is WP:SYN. Daicaregos (talk) 08:29, 31 December 2008 (UTC)

The problem arises that almost none of these language infoboxes are referenced. It is assumed that most of the lists come from from Ethnologue or Katzner's Languages of the World, but then editors are constantly adding and subtracting countries based on criteria no more substantial than "I live there" or "Abkhazia is called Abkhazia because Abkhaz is spoken there". The referencing for these lists of countries is universally bad. (Taivo (talk) 09:00, 31 December 2008 (UTC))
I agree that a disputed sovereign state like Abkhazia belongs on the list despite not appearing on major sources such as CIA world factbook and World Bank / IMF etc as these are organisations controlled by the west and are there for biased to a certain point of view. However i totally reject Daicaregos's claim that taking into account the fact no major sources list Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland in their country lists is WP:Synthesis. As most international lists are based on these sources we should try to follow their listings where possible with exceptions like disputed states.
Scotland is part of the United Kingdom. Scotland is not a territory and it is not claiming to be a sovereign state. England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland do not belong on international lists except for issues like sports and legal systems. Where possible i support the mention of the 4 countries stats in a notes column like on list of countries and outlying territories by area, but it is simply unfair and wrong to place them individually in line with other sovereign states, territories and disputed states. BritishWatcher (talk) 10:51, 31 December 2008 (UTC)

Regarding generally unrecognised states: I can agree with their being highlighted as such in lists, e.g. by slanting, but keeping them entirely out of lists would violate unbiasedness. Recognition is politics, and whether a state is recognised or not has thus got more to do with politics than with whether they function like a state.sephia karta | di mi 11:18, 31 December 2008 (UTC)

There seems to be a consensus developing in favour of including all disputed countries, but with disputed countries in italics. I accept that, but either we change all our geographical lists accordingly or not at all. The reintroduction of Abkhazia ti the List of countries by highest point by Sephia karta, with no footnote or italics, created inconsistency and was not in line with this discussion. Viewfinder (talk) 11:59, 31 December 2008 (UTC)
All countries that are recognized as a country by at least one member of the UN should be included on the country lists. Daicaregos (talk) 12:15, 31 December 2008 (UTC)
We should not conflate formal diplomatic recognition with the fact that some countries happen to use the word "country" to denote their constituent parts. I would not accept this wording because it appears to do just that. If we limit your use of the word "recognized" to formal diplomatic recognition, for info this would mean excluding Somaliland, Transnistria and Nagorno-Karabakh, which are de facto independent but not recognised by any UN member. Pfainuk talk 12:24, 31 December 2008 (UTC)
UN members don't just 'happen' to use the word country, they use the word country (how POV was that?). It is the same word as is used in 'List of countries by ..." It would be ridiculous not to include WP:Verifiable countries on a 'List of countries'. Daicaregos (talk) 12:54, 31 December 2008 (UTC)
Most of the lists are lists of Sovereign States, Dependent territories and in some cases disputed sovereign states. As long as the introduction explains this there is no problem with leaving off things some describe as country, the term country means different things to different people. Following your attempt to have one of the articles titles changed to remove the word country which was strongly rejected and the fact most posts here are against the idea of a major Renaming campaign the use of the word country in the title does not have to mean EVERYTHING described as a country be included. BritishWatcher (talk) 12:59, 31 December 2008 (UTC)
(ec) Personally, I consider it pretty ridiculous to insist that one sovereign state must be split into its administrative divisions whereas the other 200-odd mustn't be split into theirs - a glaring inconsistency. Personally, I consider that to be nationalist POV. But there we are.
I see no reason why we can't use the word "country" in the title and then explain the exact inclusion criteria for the lists in the lead. You are still welcome, however, to open the RM (notifying, as I said earlier, all of the 400-odd interested talk pages) with a naming system that you would be happier with. As I said before, I may well support you - my main reason for opposing last time was because I felt that we should move either all lists or none. But I would be very surprised if it passed. Pfainuk talk 13:24, 31 December 2008 (UTC)
Agreed. Just because a country can be sourced as using the term "country" to describe an entity does not justify its inclusion on international lists (especially when its talking about itself). I would support inclusion of any disputed sovereign state that has diplomatic recognition from atleast one member of the United Nations. Its far more debatable about non recognized de facto independent states and i dont think they should be included to be honest. BritishWatcher (talk) 12:30, 31 December 2008 (UTC)
They are not 'international lists'. They are 'Lists of countries'. It follows that entities recognised as countries should be included on those lists. The article Country explains "Frequently, but not always, a country is considered a Sovereign territory and is associated with the notations of State, Nation and Government." Because you don't understand the term country to be what other people understand it to be doesn't mean that view should be disregarded. It is just as valid as yours. Daicaregos (talk) 16:09, 31 December 2008 (UTC)
There are "lists of countries" on all the major sources used for wikipedia lists, be it the CIA world fact book, IMF, World Bank, European Union, Council of Europe, Commonwealth of nations etc. All of them are able to use the term country without having to include Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland. Country means different things to different people, the term country is acceptable to just describe sovereign states, as long as the introduction explains it. BritishWatcher (talk) 16:15, 31 December 2008 (UTC)
de facto independent is debatable. It might be possible to argue Abkhazia was defacto independent for almost a decade before it declared its independence and was recognized by Russia after the recent war as Gerogia had no control of the area which is why they attempted to take it back by force. BritishWatcher (talk) 12:39, 31 December 2008 (UTC)
Actually, I would argue that. Both Abkhazia and South Ossetia declared independence in 1991, and they have both been de facto independent pretty much ever since. The de jure situation of both is obviously disputed. But this summer's war didn't actually change their status very much, formally, except in the eyes of the Russians and Nicaraguans.
Here's a solution, if not an original one: ISO 3166-1. It doesn't include the unrecognised states (and I wouldn't use it for the list of sovereign states), but it is an internationally agreed standard. We could always take the entities and ignore the names the ISO have provided where they fall short of NPOV and suchlike. Pfainuk talk 12:57, 31 December 2008 (UTC)
I agree the sovereign states article should stay as it is, that helps as starting point for all of these issues. I really am unsure on the best criteria for what disputed states get included and what dont but they should be clearly different to the sovereign states, be it with italics etc. I would support all disputed sovereign states with some recognition being on the list or mentioned afterwards. I would also rather have ALL disputed states (including those with no recogniztion) than losing all disputed sovereign states from the lists as that information is useful although it does leave it open to more disputes and disagrements. I dont like the ISO list where it includes Taiwan but does not mention Kosovo. And Kosovo should not be included on a list if Abkhazia isnt allowed. So including all disputed states is probably the best and fairest policy, what ever method is used there will always be problems. BritishWatcher (talk) 14:06, 31 December 2008 (UTC)

(outdent) Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland & England should not be included on those lists-in-question. That's just my opinon, folks. GoodDay (talk) 18:42, 31 December 2008 (UTC)

Hi GoodDay - I agree that they should not be mentioned separately in lists of sovereign countries, but in some case it is appropriate that detail by individual country is added within the UK entry. This adds to the article without undermining the sovereign position of the United Kingdom. Cheers Fishiehelper2 (talk) 19:02, 31 December 2008 (UTC)
Fishiehelper2, Scotland, Ireland and Wales are no more "individual countries" than each of the 50 United States are. They conduct no foreign policy, do not have their own military, etc. It is a fiction that somehow the components of the United Kingdom are different than the components of the United States or the United Arab Emirates or the Federation of Malaysia. (Taivo (talk) 19:38, 31 December 2008 (UTC))
Scotland is a country, just not a sovereign one. It should therefore be noted in our lists of countries. The 50 United States are not countries. Also fyi there are two countries on the island of Ireland, one sovereign, one non-sovereign. Viewfinder (talk) 19:56, 31 December 2008 (UTC)
Sorry, Viewfinder, but you are wrong. Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales are no more countries than are Hawaii, Texas, or California. They should not be included in any list of "countries of the world" as separate entities. Yes, there are two countries on the island of Ireland--the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom. If people here are seriously going to suggest that Scotland and Wales are somehow "special", then I will start listing every single one of the United States as "special". They are all (Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland) part of one unified country. Once they have their own foreign policy and armed forces, then we can call them separate "countries". Actually, the 100 or so Native American tribes within the United States are called "sovereign" legally in U.S. law. They are not part of the state structure, but have their own laws and police forces and are bound to the U.S. by treaty. So if we are going to list Scotland, then we must also list the Lakhota Nation, the Arapaho Nation, the Comanche Nation, the Navajo Nation, etc. as separate units of the U.S. (Taivo (talk) 23:17, 31 December 2008 (UTC))
The thing is Taivo, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are verifiably countries. They are also recognised to be countries by a UN member state. WP:Verifiability states: "The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth—that is, whether readers are able to check that material added to Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether we think it is true." So, whether or not you or I think they are countries is not relevant, as it is verifiable that they are. You say that "the 100 or so Native American tribes within the United States are called "sovereign" legally in U.S. law". There is, therefore, some merit for their inclusion on a list of "sovereign" entities, but (unless the United States recognises them as countries) not on a list of countries. Daicaregos (talk) 11:20, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
I understand how you feel Taivo. The problem is the term "country" does not always mean sovereign state (USA, UK) etc. The United Kingdom government in its wisdom :\ describes the four parts of the United Kingdom as "countries". This is covered in detail on Countries of the United Kingdom. However Scotland is not equal to the United States or United Kingdom and it is not a territory or disputed sovereign state therefor the different parts of the United Kingdom should not be placed in lists and definetly not ranked. They can not be treated as a special case because as you mention there are dozens of other possible states which could be treated the same way.
There are a few exceptions such as legal issues where England and Wales have one legal system but Scotland / Northern Ireland have their own but it should be clear they are part of the UK. They also compete as individual countries in sporting events like football. For that reason it is sometimes justified for them to be included, but apart from those issues the UK countries should only be mentioned in note columns where available or not at all on the vast majority of international country lists. BritishWatcher (talk) 23:30, 31 December 2008 (UTC)


Conversation is silly, but will comment as it appears some people are still obsessed with this. The word "Country" refers to things like Russian Federation, United States of America, the Vatican City, Central African Republic, and perhaps to things like the The Territory of the Saar Basin, and maybe to places like Transnistria. It also refers to England, Scotland, Wales, Basque Country (!) to the whole of Ireland, Korea, and sometimes to places like Brittany or Catalonia. Insisting that the word country has "one true meaning" is bad for several reasons:

  • 1) it is a sign of intellectual vapidity and immaturity. Words don't have meanings other than those given to it by speakers. Pretending that they do for the sake of order will only work moreover if it looks like people are actually gonna do this.
  • 2) Wikipedia is edited according to verifiability, not truth, so unless you can get God to actually come down and say "the English word country has one true meaning", it doesn't actually matter even if it did have one true meaning up in heaven (which is the only place such meaning could exist independently of human beings).

So face it, it's a English word, with which millions of people use to refer to England, Wales, and Scotland, not to mention Ireland (island), every day. It's not used to refer to political units not otherwise regarded as historical national communities, for instance Idaho, North Rhine-Westphalia. This maybe tough beans if you're wanting to created some terminological fantasy world, but for those in reality let's please just deal with it. You wanna avoid stupid quibbling and edit-warring about "whether Wales should be in the list", just rename it Lists of Sovereign states or List of Sovereign States and autonomous regions and territories (or something similar). If you're a pan-UK patriot who would be offended by inclusion in such lists or want to prevent the conferring of greater dignity on its 3/4 "constituent countries" through such lists, likewise support the renaming. Otherwise no-one will get anywhere. Country includes these territories. This is a fact.Deacon of Pndapetzim (Talk) 11:02, 1 January 2009 (UTC)

England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are constituent countries of the United Kingdom, but they are NOT sovereign nations or dependencies. They do not have enough independence from the UK government to be considered a crown dependency (like Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man are). They are basically like the states of the USA so they are not legitimate countries or dependent territories or autonomous regions or whatever you want to call it. Jprulestheworld (talk) 18:45, 18 February 2009 (UTC)
The trouble is there are 100s of articles to rename if that was going to be the best policy. "Country" means sovereign state to many people so its a valid use of the term. As long as the introduction makes very clear what is and is not included (Sovereign states, territories) etc then i dont see why a major RM which many would oppose should be attempted. We also shouldnt just go through the same fight one article at a time. The renaming proposal on Talk:List of countries and outlying territories by total area#Requested move showed strong opposition to a single article being renamed, which led to this discussion being opened.. most replies have been against a major renaming of 100s of lists. I would support a full rename of all articles, but not a single one. It would also be only on the condition that "countries" continue to redirect to the renamed article and new lists of countries are not created which include everything. BritishWatcher (talk) 11:28, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
The main article of List of countries was resolved in the way you suggest. Redirecting to the List of sovereign states article but thats a bit different to renaming 100s of articles which use the general term country. A clear introduction explaining whats on it is the easiest way. BritishWatcher (talk) 11:33, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
Deacon of Pndapetzim is spot on! It is also interesting that editors who object to the notion of Scotland being classed as a country are perfectly happy for Greenland to be counted as a country, though both are part of a larger political entity and represented in the parliament of that larger political entity. Cheers Fishiehelper2 (talk) 11:42, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
Greenland is on the list because its a territory of Denmark. The Greenland article use to say it was a province of Denmark, until a few weeks ago when someone changed the description to "country".. Sounds rather familiar :) BritishWatcher (talk) 11:50, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
Greenland is very different to Scotland. Scotland forms part of the United Kingdom. Greenland does NOT form part of Denmark. BritishWatcher (talk) 11:54, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
The Denmark / Kingdom of Denmark articles are very confusing on this matter, i thought the UK situation was difficult, its nice to know other countries have lots of these problems too and Denmarks is far worse as it has two "denmarks". however as i say there is a big difference.
At the moment international lists i have seen list Greenland, Faroe Islands and Denmark but not the Kingdom of Denmark just like the Netherlands, Netherlands Antilles and Aruba is listed but not the Kingdom of the Netherlands. I support that however if we followed this example the United Kingdom would have to be removed from country lists. This is something that is never going to happen and i think even those supporting independence would struggle to justify. BritishWatcher (talk) 12:33, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
BW, while it is true that moving lots of pages would be problematic, it is true that edit-wars and time-wasting are also problematic. You wanna take an interest in the area, you obviously gotta deal with some problem. But both sides have to deal with it or move away. You don't need RMs necessarily of course; just if a move is attempted and disputed (and you're entitled to have edited redirects which block moves deleted without RM btw). Deacon of Pndapetzim (Talk) 12:35, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
To reply to BritishWatcher, this illustrates the difficulty this discussion is in - there is ample evidence that Greenland is described as a 'country' and evidence is the basis on which Wikipedia operates. By the way, Greenland and the Faeroes each have two representatives in the Danish parliament. Cheers Fishiehelper2 (talk) 12:42, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
DeaconWell one renaming was disputed to and undone, which led to a vote with overwhelming opposition to a single renaming taking place unless all lists were to be renamed. As i said before i dont mind the renaming of all articles to take place as it will be more accurate but that is not going to end the dispute. You may end up with someone trying to create new "country lists" which would be very unhelpful and inclusion on lists even saying sovereign states / territories leads to disputes like the issue with Greenland. The responses i have read on this page seemed to suggest most from some different articles would be against a major renaming there for if we did one by one there would be dozens of disputes considering theres over 200 country lists. BritishWatcher (talk) 12:48, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
Fishie indeed there is alot of evidence to justify Greenlands inclusion on international lists and its not because people have described it as a country. There is however no such evidence to justify Scotland being listed. As i said before, we can not follow the example of the Kingdom of Denmark and Kingdom of the Netherlands because that would mean having to remove the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from international lists which is unnaceptable and inaccurate. BritishWatcher (talk) 12:48, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
(lots of ec) I have pointed out several times that you and anyone else is welcome to open an RM on this (and I can't see the sort of mass-rename required going through without RM). I've even given my conditional support for a rename (provided that it affects all articles - not just one or a fraction - and that the name proposed is concise, neutral, and does not have potential for the same argument being made with respect to some other area). But I would oppose your suggested names because they do in fact have potential for exactly the same issue (in that US states are legally sovereign). I do not believe there is an expression for the concept that you describe as a "sovereign state" that meets my three criteria.
But I don't see that that's a problem if the inclusion criteria stated in the lead of the articles tell you what exactly the list includes, as implied by style guidelines. Based on your arguments, the unambiguous statement of membership criteria would be unnecessary because the title is paramount and anything that could be said to meet the criteria presented in the title should be included. This would have interesting consequences for, say, the Lists of English people - that title doesn't require that these be notable English people, and doesn't set up standards for Englishness. Based on your argument, that list is presumably incomplete until it lists everyone who has ever lived in England.
You say that the word "country" is "not used to refer to political units not otherwise regarded as historical national communities, for instance Idaho, North Rhine-Westphalia." This is false, at least in the latter case. North Rhine-Westphalia is a "country" - as opposed to a "state" - as defined by the German Constitution. Accepting British constitutional conventions and then refusing to accept German ones would be evidence of strong systematic bias: if we were to accept your argument, then we would need to do so consistently. If the countries of the UK go in on this basis, the Länder of Germany and wherever else must do so as well. Personally, I do not think that this would be a net benefit to Wikipedia.
Now let's look at lists in published sources that actually do what these lists is intended to do. I won't repeat them here - you'll find them elsewhere on this page and at the previous RM. And in any case, most of our lists are compiled from a single source. Do they include the Basque Country, the Loire Country, England, Bavaria, Korea as a whole? No, generally - except in contexts where this is clearly the most appropriate measure. Pfainuk talk 12:45, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
Pfainuk, I'd be interested if you provide examples where North Rhine-Westphalia is called a "country" in English or Idaho [or another US state] is called a "sovereign state" [btw Article_Four_of_the_United_States_Constitution seems to contradict your belief about US law]. If you do so this can be compared to sources that call Scotland and Wales countries and nations, to see if your argument stands up. Thanks, Deacon of Pndapetzim (Talk) 12:51, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
I find it curious that you are drawing conclusions from Article 4 of the US constitution, when the text of that article of the constitution does not mention state sovereignty, and the Wikipedia article you cite quotes the Supreme Court of the United States coming to exactly the opposite conclusion (Alabama is, therefore, entitled to the sovereignty and jurisdiction over all the territory within her limits).
The cite for US states I've been using is Louisiana - section 26 of the Constitution, which defines Louisiana as a "free and sovereign state". In the case of Idaho, here is a dissenting opinion written by a judge of the Supreme Court of the United States, a press statement by the Governor of Idaho, a press release including a speech by a former Governor of Idaho.
In Germany, the official language is German and hence legal documents are in German. There are plenty of places on this planet which speak languages other than English, and in many cases there simply is no common usage in English. It is strong evidence of systematic bias that you appear to seek to exclude German-language sources when discussing German-speaking countries.
On States of Germany we note that, The use of the term Länder (countries) instead of Staaten (states) is in accordance with German political tradition. Just as in the UK. The German Constitution, for example here, uses the word Länder exclusively. In specific reference to NRW, the Landesportal Nordrhein Westfalen (not the Staatsportal) refers repeatedly to the Landesregierung (not the Staatsportal), the Landtag (not the Staattag).
I notice you haven't responded to the point that our guidelines require an "unambiguous statement of membership criteria" in the leads of stand-alone lists - and therefore that the titles of the lists are not the primary definitions of what they should include. Given this, can I assume that you accept that we can use a concise title for these lists and then give an unambiguous statement of membership criteria in the leads of the articles? Pfainuk talk 13:43, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
German usage of German words doesn't matter on English wikipedia. The Ya̧nomamö of Venezuela-Brazil borderlands have yet another way of categorizing such things, but wikipedia's naming policies do not require editors to check 6000 dictionaries each time a name is discussed. That's one of the reasons we use English for English wikipedia. "North Rhine-Westphalia is a country" gets an amazing 1 google hit (from a German website clearly "misusing the word") and "Scotland is a country" gets over 49000. Tried looking from "Idaho is a sovereign state" and such things, could find nothing other than the example you find. fact, you can pretty much guarantee sovereign state is universally understood as meaning what you want country to mean, and that "sovereign state" meaning anything else is confined to the ramblings of some bored lawmen with too much fondness of legal fiction. Clearly sovereign state is significantly less ambiguous than country, and supporting wikipedia policy as you do (e.g. WP:NAME) you now presumably don't want this to remain at "country". Deacon of Pndapetzim (Talk) 13:59, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
I'm sure we could come up with an "unambiguous statement of membership criteria" that would be suitable for the leads of stand-alone lists. How about: "The list ranks countries, as well as self-governing dependent territories. A country is a geographical territory, both in the sense of nation (a cultural entity) and sovereign state (a political entity).", which defines a country and is in agreement with the article names, i.e. "List of countries ...". Daicaregos (talk) 14:08, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
We should not treat the administrative divisions of any single state as more significant than the administrative divisions of any of the others. We should not give administrative divisions of independent sovereign states equivalence to independent sovereign states in general. Any such glaring inconsistency damages the encyclopaedia. Our inclusion criteria should not be based on dictionary definitions to be interpreted, rather they should take their lead from lists with similar purposes to our own. Right now, we do this. Pfainuk talk 14:44, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
The name is more important here as it is the name that causes the edit-warring not the criteria (that won't be read or thought too important to edit away). In reality, the encyclopedia doesn't need a "list of things called countries" [and their spin-offs] it needs a list of "UN recognized sovereign states" [and their spin-offs]. It's a reflection of the incompetence of many editors that daftly chosen titles can actually prevent consensus for achieving such basic articles so often. Deacon of Pndapetzim (Talk) 15:42, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
Were you not aware that the list of countries no longer exists? Please check your facts before accusing editors of incompetence. We do have a list of sovereign states - the redirect target for list of countries - which includes all four of these countries as part of the UK. I think this title is fine at the moment because the list's inclusion criteria exclude everywhere that doesn't assert independence. Pfainuk talk 16:13, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
My facts are fine. Please re-read my statement. Deacon of Pndapetzim (Talk) 16:19, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
You said the encyclopedia doesn't need a "list of things called countries". That's good. We don't have a list of things called countries. And if we accepted your conclusion that any list of countries must include any entity that can be called a "country", we still wouldn't have a list of things called countries, since we have a list of sovereign states (which would, by analogy, have to have the states of the US added to it) and we have list of United Nations member states, as well as standards such as list of IOC country codes, list of FIFA country codes and ISO 3166-1. Pfainuk talk 16:46, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
Why insist on those exact phrases? It is obvious that you are not going to get so many sources if you're doing that. Yes, under US law, US states are formally sovereign. It is not our place to judge US state sovereignty as "legal fiction", let alone "the ramblings of some bored lawmen". It is entirely inconsistent to insist on one hand that UK countries must be included in any "list of countries", but on the other hand that US states do not need to be included in a "list of sovereign states".
On renaming, as I have said three times in the last 48 hours - including in my initial response to you - I am quite happy to support a general rename, provided that all relevant articles are renamed, and that the new wording is concise, neutral and unambiguous (specifically, a wording that cannot be construed to include entities that are not independent sovereign states). I see no reason to move hundreds of articles from one potentially ambiguous name to another - that seems entirely pointless.
I notice you haven't responded to the point that our guidelines require an "unambiguous statement of membership criteria" in the leads of stand-alone lists - and therefore that the titles of the lists are not the primary definitions of what they should include. Given this, can I assume that - whatever wording the article titles use - you accept that we can use a concise title for these lists and then give an unambiguous statement of membership criteria in the leads of the articles? Pfainuk talk 14:44, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
I didn't respond to your guideline point because I don't see its relevance. Likewise, the ramblings about legal fictions you posted aren't relevant either beyond their contribution to our understanding of usage. The point of this discussion is not to get lost in a bunch of stream-of-consciousness tangents, but to solve the problem. This would be done much quicker by admitting the indisputable cause of this mess ... in this case that "country" is ambiguous, and guarantees edit-warring and that sovereign state is less so. Frankly, if you don't, you are actively perpetuating this mess on this encyclopedia and its editors. Deacon of Pndapetzim (Talk) 15:35, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
It's a pretty crucial point actually. Your argument appears to be based on the notion that because the lists have the word "country" in their name, they must include anywhere that anyone has defined as a "country" in English. As Sephia Karta points out below, such a requirement, consistently applied, would have knock-on effects throughout Wikipedia. A given "list of elements" would have to include the Classical elements - fire, earth, water and air. The Lists of English people could not be limited to notable people - it would have to include anyone who could be cited as "English".
But the guideline I've posted implies the opposite: that a list can have a title that is not entirely unambiguous, and that that title can then be clarified using an "unambiguous statement of membership criteria" of the list. This is precisely what all of these lists do now (or at least, what they all should do). Pfainuk talk 16:01, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
The knock-on effects across wikipedia are largely the result of bad editorial planning, failing to foresee the effects, which I feel comfortable calling incompetence with regard to people from the British Isles, as they know this. My argument is no ought argument, just that you'll get all this if you have a name like this so either move it or don't whine and claim some obscure source of superiority when some editors come along and add Scotland and the Basque Country. Deacon of Pndapetzim (Talk) 16:08, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
Who's whining? The lists as they stand comply with relevant policies and guidelines, as I have demonstrated. You want the articles moved, so move them. Open an RM on them and get consensus for it (at least one of the lists has already been through RM already). I'm not preventing you - shoot, I've given conditional support already. Complaining of incompetence is not particularly helpful and may breach WP:CIVIL. Pfainuk talk 16:46, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
Ok BritishWatcher, please explain "there is alot of evidence to justify Greenlands inclusion on international lists and its not because people have described it as a country." What evidence justifies its inclusion? Since it has not declared independence and is not recognised as independent by any country, are you accepting that countries that are not independent can justify inclusion on international lists? If so, under what circumstances? Cheers Fishiehelper2 (talk) 13:04, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
My comment about there being justification for it to be included was for it on the lists of sovereign states and territories like List of countries and outlying territories by area i agree it certainly isnt independent and there for not a sovereign state. I was under the impression it was classed as a territory of Denmark, the BBC describe it as a territory and it appears on dependent territory. Also we are meant to take into account sources, the CIA world fact book does list Greenland on its own unlike Scotland but alot of the other sources dont.
So its status as a "territory" clearly is not as secured as i thought and there is justification for its removal from many lists but that would have to be agreed to. The same may be the case for the Netherlands that i mentioned before. At the moment the Kingdom of the Netherlands / Kingdom of Denmark only appears on the list of Sovereign states. Most countries and territory lists include the individual parts of the Kingdom of Denmark or Netherlands. This doesnt not create the problem we would face if the UK followed their examples because the United Kingdom would be missing from the lists and clearly there would be major disputes where as most dont notice the missing "kingdom of".
This is a big problem. Whilst their inclusion at the moment does not justify the inclusion of Scotland etc because we would have to remove the United Kingdom, there may need to be a debate on removing things like Greenland, Aruba etc where the main source does not provide it. This is the scary thing about wikipedia, information available can be misleading. BritishWatcher (talk) 14:12, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
I agree with those editors who have said that country happens to have several different meanings and that there is nothing wrong with picking the meaning independent state for a list. To argue against that is akin to arguing that we can't have lists of elements without also including wood, because we can reference wood being called an element. But obviously, that is under another definition of element, and I don't believe we violate OR by chosing the stricter chemical definition of element.
So I think that we can use country in this strict sense. That said - I know I've asked it before, and I know I've been answered before, but I forgot what the objection was - wouldn't independent state cover this narrow meaning of country also? sephia karta | di mi 15:38, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
My objection is that even though you are perfectly well aware that the definition of country is ambiguous you choose to use just one of those definitions (and, what do you know, it happens to be your definition too - what a coincidence). If you choose that definition alone, you are knowingly excluding the definition used by many millions of people. That would be an unacceptable and arrogant position to take. Wikipedia should be inclusive and accessible to all. Daicaregos (talk) 15:51, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
Will you object to using the common definition of "run", or will you demand that we always define a word to include all potential usages? The common definition of "a country" is "sovereign state". Wikipedia should not become a "legal document" requiring every single word to be meticulously defined. We should be able to use the common definitions of English words. (Taivo (talk) 16:00, 1 January 2009 (UTC))

(e/c) Should your country appear on a "List of runs"? If not, your simile is irrelevant. Further, "sovereign state" is not the common definition of "a country". It is a common definition of "a country". I'm surprised you haven't understood this yet, as it is key to this debate. And, I agree with you that "We should be able to use the common definitions of English words." as another common definition of a country is "The territory or land of a nation; usually an independent state, or a region once independent and still distinct in race, language, institutions, or historical memories, as England, Scotland, and Ireland, in the United Kingdom, etc." (OED). Daicaregos (talk) 16:41, 1 January 2009 (UTC)

Give me a break, Tavio, that's a silly parallel as you well know. It is not an alternate definition of minor importance, but a widespread and well-established one predating the one you wish to prescribe, and parallels with "run" or unnatural attempts to extend the meaning of words beyond usage to include US and German compound states is not simply unhelpful, but complete time-wasting. For what is' worth, most people in the British Isles don't know what a sovereign state is and use "country" to mean something like "national geographically defined community", a definition which, like the football teams, predates the very idea of a sovereign state. Most Americans will do this also re Scotland and Ireland for the same reason, though like yourself if they know more might get confused by the expectation that the word "country"'s "real meaning" should be an independent sovereign state. It is simply that usage here is traditional and hasn't disappeared because of the emergence of the idea [you're trying to propagate] that sovereign states monopolize "countryness. Much of this is irrelevant to us anyway as wikipedia's policy WP:NAME says no-where that we ought to decide pagenames by what "we think a word ought to mean", and most of the problems can be solved by picking names that aren't so ambiguous. SO either we do that or we stop wasting each other's time and look forward to all the future edit-wars and fun repetitions of "debates" like this! Deacon of Pndapetzim (Talk) 16:34, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
Taivo, btw, if I'd seen this immature comment before I wrote that I'd not have bothered responding to you. Deacon of Pndapetzim (Talk) 16:42, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
Changing the name would resolve some of the disputes but it wouldnt be the end of matters. As has been said before several people would support a major renaming of all "country lists" but we can not do one at a time otherwise there will be dozens of disputed renaming attempts. Country can mean just sovereign state, aslong as the opening paragraph makes it VERY clear what is included i dont think 100s of articles need be renamed, but i would support it only on the condition that no new "country lists" are created to take their place. BritishWatcher (talk) 16:42, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
"Independent" can be quite an emotive word - if we were to describe Taiwan as "independent", for example, this would imply a certain position regarding relations between Taiwan and the Mainland which is not really NPOV (even if it is accurate in practice). Pfainuk talk 16:01, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
So that is why I support the use of someone else's list--ISO, for example--instead of wringing our hands over the definition of every single word about "country" and "sovereignty" in every single relevant language. (Taivo (talk) 16:04, 1 January 2009 (UTC))

"Independent" "Countries" (also called nation states or sovereign) are either single entities recognised by the UN or federations/unions of entities also recognized by the UN. Other such entities exist that surpass the level of the UN recognition (the more recurring one being the EU) or have a smaller status and therefore are recognized as a region belonging to an greater recognized entity (such as wales ,NI , scotland and England belong in the UKGBNI). Listings should try to RANK only the UN recognized entities while aditionally other entities could be listed (but not ranked) if they provide aditional insight in that particular subject. For example in the UEFA the UK doesn't exist ... Turkey , Russia and Israel are "seemingly" European nations ... EU is counted as an entity in many economical and political subjects ... NATO is a super-national military organization ... and many other such cases do seem valid when included (but not ranked) in various listings. To keep it short ... leave things as they are ... most criteria will be disputed and fought endlessly no matter how we decide about it anyway. Sotavento (talk) 00:45, 29 May 2009 (UTC)


Just to avoid the ongoing debate on countries above, perhaps we need one on the term territory. At the moment Greenland does appear on many lists but i thought it was on there because it was a "territory" of Denmark. It appears on the Dependent territory article but i dont know if that is accurate.

Greenland, Faroe Islands and Denmark all form part of the Kingdom of Denmark just like the Netherlands, Netherlands Antilles and Aruba all form part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. There is also some lists were the overseas regions and territories of the French Republic are listed separate from France.

This is very confusing and it does create the problem of why are they treated differently to the United Kingdom? Now Scotland has never been called a territory, but the same can be said for Netherlands which is not a "territory" of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Do all of the above belong on the list or should only Kingdom of the Netherlands Kingdom of Denmark belong on there?

The United Kingdom can not follow the same example as the current mentioned problems above because if we listed England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland like above we would have to remove the United Kingdom. This is giving me a headache now :\ whats peoples views on why they are included? BritishWatcher (talk) 14:29, 1 January 2009 (UTC)

We can't remove United Kingdom, but when appropriate, doesn't it make sense to include 'Scotland (part of United Kingdom)', 'England (part of United Kingdom)', 'Wales (part of United Kingdom)' and 'Northern Ireland (part of United Kingdom)' as well? Cheers Fishiehelper2 (talk) 14:36, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
I have always said where appropriate i support them being listed separately. Like on sporting issues and legal issues where theres difference as long as its clear they are part of the UK. I also support a column for notes where possible where details can be listed about the 4 countries of the UK, like on the highest point thing yesterday but they should not be individually listed on things like land area etc. BritishWatcher (talk) 14:42, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
List of countries by population for example is currently incorrect if the wikipedia articles for the countries themselves are accurate. At the moment Denmark / Netherlands are bolded and listed as a sovereign state. Greenland etc are in italics as territories. Denmark is not a sovereign state if the article is correct, its meant to be the Kingdom of Denmark which means we would either need to remove "Greenland / Farore islands" or change denmark to a territory and add "Kingdom of Denmark".. The articles on Netherlands are more clearer but would still mean currently things are incorrect. Im gonna have to take a break before my head explodes. BritishWatcher (talk) 14:53, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
Why should they not be listed on land area? I understand that for things like military spending, GDP, there can only be a UK listing, but why would it be inappropriate to give information on land areas? Fishiehelper2 (talk) 14:57, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
Because they should not be given equal status as a sovereign state or dependent territory. Thats the reason why im confused about the inclusion of Denmark and Netherlands because at the moment if the articles are correct (or im reading them the right way) then its currently wrong. Can we leave the issue of the UK countries for the moment and sort out Greenland etc because it may resolve the question of the UK. The reason i didnt want UK countries listed was to avoid confusion for people who dont know the UK (the very confusion im having over Denmark / Netherlands now). I liked the extra info being provided, it was just how, where and the impact it will have on others saying "why can this that or the other be added as well". I have never been on a campaign to try and supress information on Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England, its been about avoiding confusion. BritishWatcher (talk) 15:12, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
My general position is that consistency is important. A uniform definition of a "dependent territory" is complicated by the fact that the eight countries listed at dependent territory do not give those territories the same status. In some cases, particularly in the case of Bouvet Island - the status itself is not well defined.
There are, I would suggest, certain cases that are clearly dependent territories. These broadly correspond to the UN's list of non-self-governing territories, excluding Western Sahara (which is a different kettle of fish entirely). However, that list is criticised because the question whether a territory is included tends to be used as a political football.
Certain territories in existence - the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, Niue and the Cook Islands - are in the grey areas between "non-self-governing territories" and independence - they are not independent, but they are considered "self-governing" in a UN sense. The Channel Islands are not part of the UK. Niue and the Cook Islands are not part of New Zealand.
Australia's dependent territories (which are generally excluded from our lists), France's Overseas Collectivies, Greenland, the Faeroes, Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles, meanwhile, appear to be in the grey area between "non-self-governing territories" and integral parts of the independent sovereign states concerned. There are times when distinction is useful: it is perhaps unhelpful to our readership if Greenland's area is included in Denmark's for example. That said, I don't see it as entirely unreasonable, given that we have "notes" columns for this sort of eventuality.
You then get the odd territory such as Bouvet Island, Clipperton Island and those parts of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands north of 60°S which have statuses that aren't easy to define (because no-one lives there so it's not really important), and areas south of 60°S which are covered by the Antarctic Treaty.
My solutions would be:
  • Use ISO 3166-1, as I suggested earlier, to define these lists (using Wikipedia naming conventions), which takes the thing out of our hands
  • Generally exclude all states that fall short of at least claimed independence except as specifically appropriate in context, and note dependent territories as necessary in the notes column or footnotes
I prefer the ISO list, as it would solve several issues and it is a reasonably politically neutral list. Pfainuk talk 15:26, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
I agree it would certainly be less disputed if we used an internationally recognized list to define this. Do you see what i am saying about Denmark / Netherlands entries on the population list currently? If we look at List of sovereign states, Netherlands is one part of the sovereign state called the Kingdom of the Netherlands which is in Europe and it says the other two as well. But on the population list (and most others) Netherlands is treated as the sovereign state and the other two as dependencies. The same problem exists for Denmark with Greenland etc (including and error on the sovereign states list) IF the article on Denmark / Kingdom of Denmark are accurate which im not sure about. BritishWatcher (talk) 15:39, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
[lots of ec] Greenland is generally not included in Denmark's totals for historical/traditional reasons. (I do not necessarily support any of these reasons, I'm just listing them.) 1) Greenland is "on a different continent" and New World territories have never been included in population or area totals. When the UK was listed in the 1940s, it was just the island of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, if you wanted to include the territories you had to write "British Empire". 2) No one wants Denmark to be the largest country in Europe by including the land area of Greenland. 3) A non-white population doesn't really count. None of these reasons has anything to do with sovereignty or integration into the government/economy of the "mainland". We must be very careful to not get bound up in a war of words here. "Country" must be taken in the context of the discussion here, which is about sovereign nations. "Sovereignty" must also be used with care since Native American nations in the U.S. are also considered to be "sovereign". The Republic of California, the Republic of Texas, and the Kingdom of Hawaii joined the United States in ways that were different than "Idaho", so any discussion of "Idaho" (as above) is misdirected since these other three states were sovereign nations before joining (by treaty or conquest) the U.S. "Territory" is also a loose word because every single "territory" on the planet will have a different relationship to the motherland than every other one. Greenland's relationship to Denmark is different than Midway's relationship to the U.S. and Polynesia's relationship to France. Even within one country (I use the vastly more common definition of "country" as "sovereign state"), Puerto Rico's relationship to the U.S. is different than Midway's relationship to the U.S. So we can't go using legal definitions for terms, either. The point is that we cannot "define" for ourselves what a "country" or a "territory" or "sovereignty" is based on terminology used in a treaty or constitution. We must use other means. Those other means should be 1) common sense (Scotland may be called a "country", but it's not independent), 2) common usage (Greenland may have representation in the Danish Parliament, but it's not usually included in Denmark), 3) consistency (ah, here's the real rub). Consistency is what we are really discussing here. "Why separate Greenland when we don't separate Scotland?" If Wikipedia values consistency, then we must list French Polynesia as part of France, Scotland as part of the UK, the Navajo Nation as part of the US, Greenland as part of Denmark. Or else we list all of these separately: the Navajo Nation, Greenland, Scotland, Abu Dhabi, Sarawak, Midway Island, Reunion, etc. (Taivo (talk) 15:43, 1 January 2009 (UTC))
As our discussions have shown it seems quite a bit better to use the ISO list(s) rather than getting bogged down in a case-by-case discussion about the issue. If Wikipedia can establish (by our consensus) that the ISO prevails, then we can cut off the endless edit wars. There is a problem with every single list we can find. There is not a perfect one. But by using someone else's standard list, then we can avoid the problems that we have here. (Taivo (talk) 15:50, 1 January 2009 (UTC))
I agree and fully support the use of some form of ISO which ever is the most accurate / inclusive. The most important thing about wikipedia is that it should be accurate, that comes first in my opinion over providing more information that might be useful. There will be exceptions to the rule but it shouldnt be just because of the wording. Where possible i still think a notes column should be added so greater detail can be gone into. Anyway i need another break, I think the headache i have right now because of this issue is probably worse than peoples hangovers from last night. :\ BritishWatcher (talk) 16:04, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
Just to clear up one thing on this issue incase the ISO article links to the wrong pages, when it comes to the offical ISO mentioned earlier "Denmark" is talking about Denmark and not the Kingdom of Denmark and Netherlands isnt about the Kingdom of the Netherlands. So on ISO lists there is no mention of the "Kingdoms" of Denmark / Netherlands? BritishWatcher (talk) 16:19, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
The other point is that, earlier on, there was clearly no consensus for a move, generally, to mixed-source lists, and it makes little sense to try and impose ISO where the single source that doesn't use it as a criterion. So, we should assume ISO as default, but on single-source lists we should use whatever criteria the source uses. Pfainuk talk 16:22, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
Yes, single-source trumps remanufacturing the list to conform to ISO. ISO comes into play when one is properly synthesizing the information from multiple sources. And using ISO does not in any way preclude the use of notes to clarify issues of what is and is not included. (Taivo (talk) 16:30, 1 January 2009 (UTC))
I take it therefore, that [1] list of countries would be acceptable for a 'List of countries by prison population article?' (Since England/Wales and Scotland have totally separate legal systems with separate prison systems, they are dealt with separately on this list.) Cheers Fishiehelper2 (talk) 16:42, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
Since the source separates the UK down into parts, then it would be acceptable. The key is the difference between a synthesized list and a single-source list. (Taivo (talk) 16:48, 1 January 2009 (UTC))
Legal issues like prison populations or age of consent which is different in parts of the United Kingdom should be listed separetly yes if the source backs it up, but to avoid confusion (part of the UK) added next to it as you mentioned before or something in the notes section just to explain they have different legal systems would be useful. BritishWatcher (talk) 16:50, 1 January 2009 (UTC)

I am a bit concerned about ISO, which seems to include many small overseas territories, which cannot really be called countries at all, but excludes countries with partially recognised sovereignty, e.g. Kosovo and Abkhazia. Is this really appropraite for "lists of coutries"? Viewfinder (talk) 17:50, 1 January 2009 (UTC)

Hmmm yes the ISO would be ok for the lists using the term country and territories, but there are alot on wiki that just list sovereign states currently and not territories. Im also concerned about the future of Kosovo and Abkhazia on the ISO. I would presume that Kosovo will be added sometime in the near future but i take it Abkhazia will be treated the same way despite western countries refusal to recognize? BritishWatcher (talk) 18:00, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
We can source the use of the word "country" to this page, so it is this is verifiable that the ISO list a list of countries. We aren't ever going to end up with a perfect match between the list and what every individual person thinks of when they see the word "country" (or "sovereign state" or whatever), so this sort of international definition is probably the best solution.
Kosovo won't be added to the ISO until/unless it is recognised by the UN, which won't happen until/unless it is recognised by Russia and China. Similarly Abkhazia and South Ossetia, replacing Russia with the US, UK and France. Pfainuk talk 18:05, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
The solution that seems to satisfy most Abkhazian and Nagorno-Karabakh nationalists, for example, is to list these disputed territories in italics with an explanatory note (see Abkhaz language or Armenian language in the InfoBoxes). ISO "recognition" would be unitalicized, non-ISO recognition would be italicized. There is no perfect list and not really the possibility of a perfect list that will satisfy everyone. The advantage to using ISO standards is that ISO have an accessible mechanism for regular revision. (Taivo (talk) 18:12, 1 January 2009 (UTC))
if Kosovo wont make it onto the ISO list because of Russia how did Taiwan get included? I thought ISO was politically neutral, if thats the case Kosovo and Abkhazia should be added when they next update things. Showing a difference between an ISO recognized and non iso recognized is fine but then the debate will be what gets to be included as non recognized ISO countries on the list. BritishWatcher (talk) 18:23, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
No, I would stick to ISO and exclude Kosovo and Abkhazia. The reason Taiwan is included is presumably historical (since Taiwan used to have the UN seat and is, in theory, a rival Chinese government as opposed to a self-declared independent state) - the Chinese seem happy enough provided it has the suffix (Province of China).
In regards to the status of Taiwan, it might be useful to consider a few facts. (1)Taiwan has never been ruled by China (here defined as the PRC). The PRC's claim to Taiwan is based on the fact it was taken and lost in an older dynasty, which in itself is problematic (i.e. Mongolia, Vietnam could be claimed as PRC territory if only this definition is used); (2) By technical definition, the government of Taiwan is called the Republic of China, which is both elder to the PRC Communist government, declared a cease-fire to the old civil war (which the PRC refuses to do), and makes no more claim to any territory not actually under its control; (3) Half of the mess exists because the old-guard, KMT dictatorship rejected deals to permit other states to recognize "two Chinas" in the 1970s which prompted a democratic reform movement and a self-created isolation when most of the world went to Beijing; (4) Recognition of Taiwan continues to exist: (a) more than 20 states still recognize Taiwan (ROC) as a state, (b) more than 40 additional countries maintain embassy-like institutions through "economic and cultural representatives", (c) Taiwan participates in various multi-state forums such as the Olympics, although PRC fury often results in blocking some, or no objection in others if Taiwan calls itself some other name that gives the appearance of submission or non-statehood (i.e. Chinese Taipei). (5) Unlike some disputed states, Taiwan has always been independent from the PRC, not by any act of succession or foreign invasion (to create a puppet state). —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:04, 9 February 2010 (UTC)

The PRC's claim to Taiwan is based on the fact it was taken and lost in an older dynasty

The position of the PRC is: PRC is the successor of the ROC, ROC is the successor of the Qing Rodos01 (talk) 11:51, 21 March 2010 (UTC)
I'm not going to pretend that the ISO list is perfect, largely because it isn't. Nor is it entirely neutral: look down the names and you'll see several where Wikipedia beats the ISO on NPOV because the ISO are using diplomatic norms which are frequently skewed to one side of the debate. Who are we to say that Taiwan is part of China, for example, as we would have to if we accepted that list in full? But listing those entities with NPOV naming seems to me to be the best compromise we're likely to get on non-independent entities short of just removing them all to the notes sections. Pfainuk talk 18:45, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
Taivo, lol, am I one of those 'Abkhazian or Nagorno-Karabakh nationalists'? :-D
Pfainuk, I'm concerned that by opting for the ISO list, we're achieving strict no OR only by sacrificing NPOV. It is not just the naming, but the very choice of entities on that list that reflects a systemic bias inherent to anything produced by the UN: it sides with those 'in the club'.sephia karta | di mi 02:08, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
I'm normally the first to point out that the UN is a political body with political opinions, and that its viewpoints do not always represent NPOV. That list is not perfect. It does take, to a certain extent, the UN's word on what constitutes a "country", and generally speaking this cannot be assumed to be NPOV.
But all this discussion has led me to the conclusion that an outside list is probably the best way of deciding this. We need a criterion that can easily be consistently applied without the grey areas with issues such as to what extent the French DOM-TOM are dependent territories and to what extent they are integral parts of France. I don't think we're ever going to have both a perfect NPOV and no original research whatsoever.
Adding unrecognised states in italics is not that big a deal, to my mind, provided we can get a clear and unambiguous definition - that is not OR - of an unrecognised state. My suggestion above was a bit OR-y and didn't get consensus, but nothing else did. Tamil Eelam and Puntland are both examples of states that exist in the grey areas between unrecognised state and autonomous area (they are generally excluded from our lists because they have not declared independence), and while I think we'd all accept that micronations do not belong on the lists, that feeling is not universal - so just requiring a declaration of independence should not be enough. Pfainuk talk 12:25, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
That ISO is called a "list of countries" does not alter the hard fact that it includes non-countries. Viewfinder (talk) 18:28, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
There are entities on the ISO list that I would not consider to be "countries" - but as I say, we are not going to end up with a perfect match with everyone's definition of that word (and we're not likely to for others for that matter), and shouldn't expect to. Better just to state something to the effect of "we're using ISO" in the inclusion criteria, and if people wonder why somewhere isn't included they can read up on the ISO. Pfainuk talk 18:45, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
This is where a name changes for the lists would be useful so they mention list of "countries and territories" or better "sovereign states and territories" so its more accurate. However i do still think its better that an international organisation is the thing that sets the critera rather than editors on wikipedia. BritishWatcher (talk) 18:55, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
I completely agree, especially on that last point. (Taivo (talk) 19:10, 1 January 2009 (UTC))
Sephia karta, there are two main issues with the ISO list, of course. First, it includes entities which have less de facto sovereignty than Abkhazia or Nagorno-Karabakh, but it does not include those two entities. Second, the names are a bit NPOV. However, as you and I know from our discussions on other pages, there is no such thing as NPOV when it comes to certain issues of sovereignty--I don't accept Abkhazia and you do, for example. We have agreed to disagree on that matter. But we came to a compromise by italicizing and noting the nature of Abkhazia's recognition. Any outside list we use has a POV. Any list produced by a non-Russian entity will not include Abkhazia. Any list produced by a pro-Russian entity will include Abkhazia. I don't think that ISO will include Kosovo until it has been accepted by the UN. Taiwan's inclusion is a historical artifact and it will probably never be removed. But OR is even worse than using a POV list that at least tries to be NPOV. If we are the ones doing the research, then we will continue fighting over South Ossetia and Abkhazia until either the Georgians reassert control or the Russians incorporate them into the new Russian Empire. We will never come to a conclusion if we are doing any OR on this matter. No, I think that in this case we must accept a bit of POV in order to avoid the endless edit wars that OR would engender. ISO seems to be the best available standardized outside source to use. We can use better, NPOV names and italics and notes for entities that are not included, but might be under a different worldview. (Taivo (talk) 06:15, 2 January 2009 (UTC))
It is not just Abkhazia and Nagorno Karabakh that I am concerned about, but also e.g. Somaliland, which is thrice the state Somalia is but which remains completely unrecognised just because no one cares about that corner of the world. That apart though, I'm not sure I understand what your position is. It sounds as though you propose we use ISO and then add to the list the unrecognised states, italicised and footnoted. If so, then I agree with that. It is just that I got the impression that you wanted to use ISO, unaltered.
For the record, in my book NPOV is more important than no synthesis.sephia karta | di mi 11:47, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
I agree. We should use ISO as a base list and add (verifiable) countries, which are not recognised states, to it. Daicaregos (talk) 12:02, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
Again, you appear to conflate de facto independent states which happen not to be recognised, with administrative divisions which are not de facto independent. Though this does demonstrate one reason why we need an unambiguous definition of the unrecognised states - so that it is clear that administrative divisions are not included. Pfainuk talk 12:31, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
No, Pfainuk, we're not talking about administrative divisions, only de facto independent states that are not listed in ISO. We're not talking about the administrative units listed in ISO or adding to the administrative units listed in ISO. That's a different discussion. This is just concerning those de facto independent states like Abkhazia and Nagorno Karabakh (yes, Sephia Karta, there are others, too) that are not included in the ISO list. If we can come to a consensus on how to deal with those (like it sounds like we are close to), then we can come to a conclusion about how to deal with administrative units that are included in the ISO. (Taivo (talk) 14:04, 2 January 2009 (UTC))
Oh, I agree. But given the wording of Dai's comment, and his previous comments, I rather got the impression that he was trying to get the countries in the UK in by conflating them with the unrecognised states. My point is simply that the exact criteria we use to include these states will need to be carefully considered in order to give as little wiggle room as possible. Pfainuk talk 14:23, 2 January 2009 (UTC)

I think the last comment by Daicaregos illustrates that the title of an article really is very important: if the intention is to have lists that only include sovereign entities, it really makes sense to reflect that in the title of the article. If people insist on trying to use 'list of countries...' in the title and then try to define country in a narrower way than used in some parts of the world, it will not be surprising if this isuue arises again and again as editors try to add details of (verifiable) countries to articles that claim to be lists of countries. Cheers Fishiehelper2 (talk) 14:11, 2 January 2009 (UTC)

There's no reason why an RM can't be opened - you and indeed anyone else who wants these articles moved is welcome to do just that. Though it might be a good idea to come up with a name that ticks all the boxes that people want ticking before filing the RM. Pfainuk talk 14:23, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
If that is the intent of Daicaregos (to conflate the administrative units of the UK with non-ISO de facto independent states), then we should be very careful to avoid that. (Taivo (talk) 15:02, 2 January 2009 (UTC))

I think what is required here is for a return to basics and ask just what is, and what is not, acceptable in WP. The litmus test for country-ness is not the primary sources of ISO but the reliable secondary sources that WP absolutely depends on. That's why WP uses verifiability as the be-all and end-all of acceptablity to the wider community — not truth, not ISO lists. England is a country — fact — because dozens of respected sources say it is. The UK is a country — fact — for the same reason. As Fishiehelper has just said, the problem doesn't lie with the word country but with the with ill-thought out use of word combinations (or not what's said but what is not said) in articles, lists, etc. So if someone wants to write a list that doesn't include non-independent countries then say so in the title and intro, but please just live with the truism that country can mean different things in different contexts as long as it can be backed by sources. -Bill Reid | Talk 15:13, 2 January 2009 (UTC)

Here's the problem with not having a standard to lean on: "England is not a country - fact - because dozens of respected sources say it is not." Using ISO as a base gives a firm foundation for avoiding edit wars with equally reliable sources. I'm not wed to ISO as the only possible standard we can use, but it seems to be the consensus choice among the discussants here. (Taivo (talk) 15:22, 2 January 2009 (UTC))
Who exactly are you quoting here Taivo, by saying "England is not a country - fact - because dozens of respected sources say it is not."? Please quote your source. I would find it difficult to AGF if you cannot. Daicaregos (talk) 18:29, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
I agree, and in any case I don't think that anyone is arguing that we shouldn't describe how we decide what is included in lists of countries in the intros to the lists at least. Pfainuk talk 15:44, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
"England is not a country - fact - because dozens of respected sources say it is not." - This is when a discussion like this gets silly. I have never come across any respected source that specifically states that England is not a country. If anyone has, I'd be interested to see it! (By the way, not including a country in a list of counties is NOT the same as 'saying it is not'.) Cheers Fishiehelper2 (talk) 16:09, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
To clarify my point about my "quote": I was not quoting anyone in particular, but pointing out the difficulties which would arise if we don't have an accepted "neutral" (i.e., not created by Wikipedia) standard for our list of "countries". For every single "fact" that you can assert with references, there are probably an equal number of "facts" that your opponent can assert with his own references. I wasn't quoting anyone or any reference in particular, I was simply using the positive quote at hand to illustrate a point. But, I'm sure that if I spent an afternoon in the university library I could find any number of geographical and political references to "prove" that England is not a "country"--just as any driven editor could do with any point you wished to make about this issue. We've all been in edit wars over such things. It always turns out that the strongest arguments are always the ones that properly use WP:OR or WP:Syn or some other Wikipedia policy standard. That's why I think it is important to use a "Wikipedia-approved" list. (Taivo (talk) 18:53, 2 January 2009 (UTC))
Back to the main point: you are right that 'the intros to the lists' are not the main concern. However, if the title of the article gives a different impression from what the intros to the lists actually state, I think it is highly likely that the intros will be edited to be brought into line with what the title implies, and entries will then be added to the lists. I am more persuaded that the way forward may be to consider article names on a case by case basis: Why not have articles called, for example, 'List of UN member states by miliary spending' rather than 'List of countries by military spending' - that would end al problems of agreeing what should be included. Cheers Fishiehelper2 (talk) 16:18, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
I suggested "sovereign states and dependent territories" as an alternative to the conventional Wikipedia use of "countries" back when we were having this discussion on the ex-List of countries, and I still think it's a good idea. We should strive to have titles that accurately reflect the content of their pages. Coming up with an "accepted definition" for an ambiguous term is just going to make things more complicated than they need to be. I shudder to think of the WP:MOSCOUNTRY that could result from this discussion. Orange Tuesday (talk) 16:48, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
(ec) The main point on this part of the argument, you're right, is not whether the countries of the UK are countries, but whether the lists should be moved. IMO they don't have to be moved, but this does not mean that a move might not be a good idea, if a good alternative name can be determined. Deacon above wanted to replace countries with sovereign states, and Dai has also proposed a similar move on one of the articles. BritishWatcher wanted to add and territories to the names (though I think and dependent territories would perhaps be better). It would, perhaps, be a good idea to open a discussion here as to a compromise rename proposal, and then open an RM (with notification to all the affected lists) to decide whether to adopt this proposal. Better to have one unified proposal to put to RM than have an RM that fails due to lack of consensus on the move target. What do you think? Pfainuk talk 16:53, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
I agree, though I don't think a single name will work on every occasion. For example, I have just proposed moving 'List of anthems by country' to 'List of anthems of UN member states' - in that case, there is already an article 'List of anthems by nation' which includes loads more than just sovereign states so I thought we could go for something more precise for the 'List of anthems by country' aricle. Cheers Fishiehelper2 (talk) 17:06, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
I would support an attempt to make titles more accurate by saying they are "of sovereign states and territories" or of "UN member states" which would be the least debatable as "Sovereign state" still has disputes. However use of such titles should not lead to the creation of "list of country" or list of "nations" articles which contain almost all the same data with the addition to a few dozen others like England. Thats why i have a problem with the current format of the national anthems pages. BritishWatcher (talk) 18:38, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
We have a featured list at List of anthems by country which is almost impossible to find because one editor 6 months ago changed a redirect and created a super list of list of national anthems with no criteria for whats included. This duplication at the expense of a featured list is just wrong BritishWatcher (talk) 18:39, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
As I've mentioned there, this is content forking and we shouldn't really be doing it at all. If we move, we should keep the redirects created from "list of countries" variants to try and discourage it. I've set up a discussion section below for potential moves. Pfainuk talk 18:47, 2 January 2009 (UTC)

Taivo, please respond to this. Thank you. Daicaregos (talk) 19:49, 2 January 2009 (UTC)


Several people here have said they support moving these lists in one way or another. As I said in the last section, I think it would be worth trying to get a compromise move proposal together before filing any RM - that way, the RM will is much less likely to fail due to a lack of consensus as to where to move to. To file RM, we need a full list of articles intended to be moved, and the names that they are to be moved to. There doesn't have to be an exact parallel between all articles to be moved, but I think it would be easier if, as far as possible, similar names ended up at similar places.

Once we have such a list, we will need to follow the instructions at WP:RM, which includes notifying every affected talk page (something we need to do to avoid repeating the mistakes of those trying to disambiguate "Ireland"). If there's no semi-automated tool to do this, maybe a bot request would be useful as there could be hundreds of articles affected. I would also suggest that, for the best chance of success, any RM should be filed by someone who feels that a move is necessary (so, not me).

Proposals so far have been:

  • List of countries becomes List of sovereign states.
  • List of x becomes List of x and territories or List of x and dependent territories where the list includes dependent territories.
  • Lists that are currently titled by country have not been significantly discussed.

If it helps, we appear to be headed for a consensus that a neutral listing - outside the list of sovereign states and those lists that base their data on a single source - would include all the entities listed on ISO 3166-1 (using names as approved by consensus on Wikipedia), plus those states that are de facto independent but not in ISO 3166-1, noted in such a way as to avoid implying sovereign status (for example, in italics with a note explaining the situation). We don't yet have an exact definition of the latter type, but it essentially includes everywhere listed on the list of unrecognised states but not the ISO list. Pfainuk talk 18:48, 2 January 2009 (UTC)

The issue that I was most concerned about in this discussion was how to deal with the list of countries where a given language is spoken inside the Language Infobox appended to every language article. It seems that a good working consensus (at least a solid majority) approved using ISO 3166-1 as a base list with italicized additions of de facto independent regions with notes. The field in the Language Infobox template is labelled "|states". I see no reason to change that label in the template. These lists should not be "renamed" or "moved", but if my impression of consensus is valid, then I will post an instructional comment on the template's talk page that can be referred to as policy. Good luck with the moves. (Taivo (talk) 19:05, 2 January 2009 (UTC))
As i have said before i would support renaming of articles to "list of sovereign states...." or "list of sovereign states and territories...." where available. This should only be done on the understanding that the current titles containing "countries" continue to redirect to the new "sovereign states" pages. Renaming should not be used as a reason by some to create new super lists containing anything that has atleast one source describing it as a country, as most of the data will just be a duplication of the main lists.
I also think where possible and useful lists should include both "sovereign states" and territories all ranked together. Its a bit confusing at the moment that some ranked lists are only of countries whilst others are of both countries and territories.
Anyway i do not really think a mass renaming is needed as country can mean sovereign state so aslong as this is stated in intros it seems reasonable. But its for those who have a problem with the current word country in lists to argue for such a change and i will support it to avoid future disputes on this issue. Failure to get agreement on renaming these articles should not be seen as a reason or justification for including other "countries" on these lists. As long as the introduction explains whats on the list, the title is not inaccurate as to many the term country ONLY means Sovereign State BritishWatcher (talk) 19:19, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
And to many it doesn't. I would only agree to support the renaming of articles to "list of sovereign states...." if that is what it contained. The agenda from some of you is clear: you only want a rename in order to exclude to countries of the United Kingdom. Daicaregos (talk) 19:44, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
I am happy for a renaming not to take place and im still sure the countries of the United Kingdom do not belong on the list. I am only supporting a rename to try and resolve the problem some people have with it. Attempts have been made to add the individual UK countries to certain lists, that attempt failed. A proposal to rename an article to sovereign states was started by you, that overwhelmingly failed as many said all should be changed or none. This discussion was then started to try and resolve your concerns and others who share your opinion on this matter. The agenda of some people is very clear yes. BritishWatcher (talk) 19:58, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
(ec) The idea that our sole motivation is "in order to exclude to countries of the United Kingdom" is bizarre, largely because it is quite within policy and guidelines to exclude the countries of the UK from these lists without renaming them. My motivation is to make these lists better, and we can get a name that will preclude all such arguments, then that will make the lists better. I am trying to address your concerns here.
That said, would it really matter if the sole motivation was to exclude these four? The notion of including the administrative divisions of one state while excluding the administrative divisions of the 200-odd others is clear nationalist POV in my book, and I think that someone whose sole motivation is to maintain NPOV by excluding them - and all other similar examples - from lists where they are not clearly relevant would be working for the good of the project. So, while your speculation may be seen as a violation of WP:AGF, so far as I can see you're accusing people of doing something that they may well be reasonably justified in doing per policy. Pfainuk talk 20:36, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
You accuse me of violating WP:AGF because I believe your agenda is to exclude the countries of the United Kingdom. However, in this diff you stated "My issue on the list of countries isn't that I reject these as countries. [refering to England, Scotland and Wales] ... I accept that these are countries, but I don't think they belong in that list." Care to spin that one? Daicaregos (talk) 11:51, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
The comment you cite is entirely consistent with what I just said. One would assume that anyone familiar with the structure of the United Kingdom would appreciate that the countries of the United Kingdom are neither independent sovereign states nor dependent territories. Rather, they are the first level of administrative divisions of the United Kingdom. Including these four on lists that otherwise exclude administrative divisions of states (as you seek to) would imply that this is not the case - rather that these four are themselves either independent sovereign states or dependent territories or at least should be seen as equivalent to sovereign states or dependent territories. This would represent a nationalist POV and is something that we should not accept. FWIW if you were arguing to include Quebec or Tibet, the principle that I would be arguing against including them on would be the same.
The AGF issue is as much one of tone as of substance. Accusing people of having "agendas" is not helpful to this discussion and may be seen as a breech of AGF because it assumes - implicitly - that people are motivated by something other than the good of the encyclopaedia. As it happens, however, the agenda you are accusing people of holding is consistent with the good of the encyclopaedia in that excluding the countries of the UK (and all other administrative divisions) is necessary to maintain NPOV, one of our core principles. The phrase Care to spin that one? could also be seen as a breech of AGF in that it implies that you do not expect a good faith response (which, I assure you, this is). Pfainuk talk 12:47, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
Yes, if there is a move, the redirects should remain in place, and content forks should not be made. Yes, if there is no rename then this should not create any reason to try and introduce areas that are not covered by the existing inclusion criteria. Pfainuk talk 20:36, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
I've no problem with moving these article titles, to help clarify why England, Scotland, Northern Ireland & Wales don't belong. GoodDay (talk) 23:39, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
And, in your opinion GoodDay, why don't the countries of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland belong on a list of countries? You never seem to explain why you hold that opinion, you just reiterate that you do. Daicaregos (talk) 13:15, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
England, Wales, N.Ireland & Scotland are not independant. They're part of an independant (United Kingdom). GoodDay (talk) 16:29, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
Daicaregos, everyone is coming to the correct consensus that calling Wales, etc. "countries" within the confines of the U.K. is a legal terminology like calling Native American tribes "sovereign nations" within the confines of the U.S. It is not included within the intent of Wikipedia's lists of "countries". Wales is not a sovereign state, but a primary administrative division of the U.K. As such it has no more reason to be listed separately in a list of "countries" than does Texas or the Navajo Nation. (Taivo (talk) 14:52, 3 January 2009 (UTC))
Pfainuk is right. Whether you want to call the administrative divisions of the UK "countries" or not, they don't belong separately in lists where no other sovereign states are divided by administrative divisions. Scotland is no more special than Texas (although their membership in each of their higher-order states is by treaty and each has a legislature in charge of local affairs and each has its own set of laws). So the attempt to strip Scotland of separate status is actually promoting Wikipedia's aim of NPOV. But moving entire articles just so the majority of editors (who don't live in the UK) can appease the minority of editors who insist that Scotland is a "country" seems rather extreme. (Taivo (talk) 23:46, 2 January 2009 (UTC))
Taivo, please respond to this. Thank you. Daicaregos (talk) 11:53, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
Already did, here. (Taivo (talk) 14:31, 3 January 2009 (UTC))
Thank you. So, to recapitulate, your quotation was one that you simply made up. As it was in quotation marks anyone trying to follow this thread would naturally assume that it was a direct quote taken from a reliable source. As I WP:AGF, I can be sure that your intention was not to deceive, but just to try to be funny, or smart. If you don't have the ability, or if you simply can't be bothered, to find actual references to quote in support of your argument, you should not feel entitled to simply make them up. Please be more careful if future. Interesting that you admit to having been involved in edit wars. And that you think I have been involved in them too. I have not. This is explicitly against Wikipedia policy. WP:EDITWAR states: "Edit warring is an unproductive, repeated, combative reversion of others' edits. Wikipedia holds that an open system can produce quality, neutral encyclopedic content. This requires reasoned negotiation, patience, and a strong community spirit, each of which is undercut by antisocial behavior like incivility and edit warring. A content revert intentionally reverses changes made in good faith by another editor, rather than improving upon the edit or working with the editor to resolve the dispute; it is not to be taken lightly. Editors who edit war after proper education, warnings, and blocks on the matter degrade the community and the encyclopedia, and may lose their editing privileges indefinitely." Please do not think that edit warring is acceptable. Lastly, what is a "Wikipedia-approved" list? Daicaregos (talk) 15:57, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
Save your lectures, Daicaregos. Those of us discussing this topic know exactly what I was referring to when I used the term "edit war"--where a group of good editors are trying to keep one out-of-control editor with an axe to grind from disrupting an article. Actually, you are showing a great lack of WP:AGF in your lectures and "reprimands" above. Since your comments are really no longer on topic, but seem to be growing more disruptive than enlightening, I won't respond to you further unless the comment is on-topic again. (Taivo (talk) 16:12, 3 January 2009 (UTC))
Glad you think someone knows "exactly what I was referring to when I used the term "edit war"". Because I took you at your word. Perhaps I should have known better after your "quote". So, I ask again, what is a "Wikipedia-approved" list? Daicaregos (talk) 16:22, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
Read the discussion, please. It is using an externally generated list such as ISOxxx as the basis for Wikipedia lists rather than generating our own. (Taivo (talk) 16:32, 3 January 2009 (UTC))
I'm sure the point has been made already, but the main issue is not whether Scotland is a country (which is clearly verifiable) - the issue is whether lists about countries should include Scotland and other entities that may not have ben envisaged when the article was started. My view is that the easiest way to prevent dispute is to make sure that the title makes clear what the content should be. If the title says 'lists of countries', expect people to add details about countries like Scotland. If the title says 'list of sovereign countries', expect people to add details about countries that may be 'de facto' independent, though not internationally recognised. Let's try to have as clear and unambiguous titles as possible and we will avoid disputes further down the line. Cheers Fishiehelper2 (talk) 00:35, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
Indeed, GoodDay - that's well put on that part of the issue. The point of renaming is not so much to exclude these four (since we can and should exclude them whether the articles are renamed or not) - rather it is to address the concerns that have been raised by clarifying to readers why they are excluded. Pfainuk talk 12:47, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
Just a comment, but this discussion is becoming increasingly difficult to read because of the tendency to comment on previous remarks inter alia rather than at the end. Someone coming to this discussion new might have a very difficult time understanding anything or finding the principal thread. This is not our habit in the Language articles, so if this is acceptable in other parts of Wikipedia, then I will adapt, but the end result is difficult to read. It also seems like a very good way to get off-topic very fast. (Taivo (talk) 16:35, 3 January 2009 (UTC))
(ec with below) In theory the indenting should help - though this relies on everyone indenting properly. I would suggest that if editors wish to remove the indent, they move other responses to the same editor above the discussion they are currently in. Otherwise, my response to GD above, for example, is divorced from its context. It would also help if any new response was made after previous responses to the same comment - that way people are more likely to spot them (which is useful if you want your comment answered). I have adjusted the intentation of the discussion above. Pfainuk talk 16:47, 3 January 2009 (UTC)

I am sure this comment remains 'on-topic' as it is about whether renaming articles is important to resolving the disagreement.

I am concerned by the comment that editors "should exclude them whether the articles are renamed or not" - how can you anticipate all possible titles to be so certain that it would be inappropriate for Scotland to appear on that list? I accept that Scotland should not appear on the article List of anthems of UN member states as Scotland is not a UN member. However, it is obviously appropriate for Scotland to appear on List of national anthems, as it is a nation that has a national anthem (used routinely before international football matches, for example.) Therefore, whether Scotland should appear on a given article depends entirely on what the title includes. Cheers Fishiehelper2 (talk) 16:41, 3 January 2009 (UTC)

A belated catch up on this discussion and that in the sections above.

The first point I would like to make is that for historical reasons the sovereign of England was always King of England. This is probably to do with the fact that William the Conqueror was interested in land, but not very interested in the people on it (so long as they did what they were told and worked for his barons). In contrast the title held by the Holy Roman Emperor was King of the Germans and Napoleon was Emperor of the French, both seem to indicate more of an interest in the nation than the country. This is probably why we mix country, nation and state. Because of this I do not think that either country of nation should be used as synonyms for "nation state" or the more pedantically correct "sovereign state". (nation state works because it always means sovereign state it never means a devolved government like Scotland's).

Taivo made a point on 31 December about "sovereign nations". The UK unlike France is not a sovereign nation, it is a state made up of several nations who inhabit lands called countries. There is no escaping that fact and although the sovereign advised by her government has decided to unite three realms into one, this does not make the nations and countries of the United Kingdom any less real. I can not think of one person in the United Kingdom who asked which country are you in would answer the United Kingdom (although asked their nationality they might answer British). The United Kingdom is only a country or a nation when those words are being used a synonym for state.

When flying into JFK British people have to be told not to put their nationality on the card that is handed out but to put British (some US immigration people seem to get confused by this issue). Virginians used to say "My country is Virginia" and they fought , and his country was Vergina, but how many Virginians today would write Virginian on a similar card when landing at Heathrow?

Picking up on something that Pfainuk said on 1 January 2009 "This is false, at least in the latter case. North Rhine-Westphalia is a "country" - as opposed to a "state" - as defined by the German Constitution." The best description of German lander in English is province.

By an large I agree with Deacon of Pndapetzim contributions to this discussion., and I would be willing to place a bet with Taivo (2 Jan) that he could not spend an afternoon in the university library and find any number of geographical and political references to "prove" that England is not a "country", because England is a country, although it is not a sovereign state.

Pfainuk you wrote on 3 January: "Rather, they [countries] are the first level of administrative divisions of the United Kingdom." No they are not , England is not an administrative division. With that statement you are putting the cart before the horse.

ISO says in their FAQ "New names and codes are added when the United Nations publish new names in either their Terminology Bulletin Country Names or in the Country and Region Codes for Statistical Use maintained by the United Nations Statistics Division. There is no other way of having new country names included in ISO 3166-1. So if a name is not on these lists it will not get into ISO 3166-1." but that does not explain where the list originated and the list put out by the UN is in part reliant on the ISO "three-letter codes established by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO);" and it also states "names (in short form) of Member States of the United Nations (indicated in bold) and a selected number of other entities;" so it is not a list of countries! Using [2]->UNTERMS and searching on [country definition] does not return a single document. It seems that when country is used they mean sovereign state.

BTW way how seriously can one take an organisation that can not even agree on a standard two letter abbreviation for the UK is it "uk" or" gb"? (GB is silly because Northern Ireland is not part of Island of Great Britain). The ISO FAQ "What is the code for Scotland in ISO 3166-1?" "There is no separate ISO 3166-1 code for Scotland. It is part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and its codes GB, GBR and 826 apply to Scotland, too." Notice that they do not say that Scotland is not a country just that "gb" applies to Scotland.

I agree with Fishiehelper2 comments on 3 January about Scotland and the names of List of anthems of UN member states and List of national anthems

I think having country in the name of a list is a mistake, if one means sovereign states -- just as having the word state in an article about such entities would be a mistake without qualifying it as "sovereign state" (because it is confusing for for Americans and Australians bias who primary usage of the word state is for a subdivision of their nation state), so taking the test example List of countries and outlying territories by total area, it should be move to list of sovereign states and outlying territories by total area. But such a list should be formatted with the sates in one list and outlying territories in another so places like Guernsey should be placed in a separate list (unless they are included in the size of the state in which case they can be listed as they are in the list of sovereign states).

--PBS (talk) 14:19, 3 March 2009 (UTC)

Well i agree that it would cause less disputes if we used sovereign state rather than countries however there didnt seem to be any major support for renaming all the articles with countries in although id support renaming the main ones (like population and total area), However i disagree with some of the other points. Yes Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are real countries however the main use of the word country is when talking about sovereign states. Even if we were not talking about sovereign states the United Kingdom is just as much a "country" or a "nation" as anything else. I would be one person who described my country as the United Kingdom or Great Britain, and im not the only one.
The fact remains just because certain entities are called countries does not give them the right to be included in lists just because the word country is in the title, although it should be explained in the introduction what is and isnt included. Scotland ofcourse should be included on the list of national anthems page but that is only possible because sovereign states and other "nations" are placed in different tables. Scotland and the United States are both countries, but they should never be treated in the same way because one is a sovereign country and the other quite clearly is not. With the exception of legal lists or sports, country lists should show the United Kingdom. Not England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland unless in an expanded notes box in their rightful place next to the UK. BritishWatcher (talk) 17:16, 3 March 2009 (UTC)
I totally agree with BritishWatcher. Bazonka (talk) 17:40, 3 March 2009 (UTC)
If the "Even if we were not talking about sovereign states the United Kingdom is just as much a "country" or a "nation" as anything else" what is the national composition of the UK and what is the territory of the United Kingdom called? The UK is only a nation and a country if one is using the terms as synonyms for "nation state" (States control territory not country and inside those territorial boundaries are populations that may or may not contain just one ethnic group which may or may not be called a nation). I have recently been doing a lot of work wikisource on treaties of latter half of the Napoleonic era and these concepts are brutally clear in those treaties. A contemporary British critic of the Treaty of Schönbrunn wrote "We see a Christian King, calling himself the father of his people, disposing of 400,000 of his subjects, like swine in a market", or another example is Prussia loosing nearly half its territory and population under Treaty of Tilsit only to regain more at the Congress of Vienna. More recently the movement of Poland at the end of World War II (Potsdam Agreement) and the creation of states in Africa and Asia at the end of colonisation, show that the concept of state territory and populations are still different from nation and country unless one is using nation and country as synonyms for "nation state".
The use of country on its own in a title is like using "state" or nation on its own in a article/list name, and it is bound to lead to confusion, as the words have more than one meaning. If we were to move List of sovereign states to List of states similar mayhem to list of countries would be unleashed. This is in part because it takes a requested move to make a controversial move and that give times for the arguments to be aired, while providing a reliable source is cited, one can not easily remove an item from a list. It is no use saying "but we can define it in the introduction", because an addition of a clause in the introduction that starts "and ..." can easily add new criteria to a list. One only has to see the problems that the name list of massacres (caused for entries with or without reliable sources) to see that naming is a problem for lists in general and not just lists in this area. --PBS (talk) 16:39, 4 March 2009 (UTC)
I hadn't noticed this section before, so I'll make a few comments belatedly.
As I noted above, on a general principle I think that a uniform naming scheme is probably a good idea - though clearly where the name is already defined on a single source list, then using the wording the source uses (most commonly "country") makes sense.
Let me further say that at this stage I would not oppose a mass rename to replace countries with sovereign states and dependent territories (omitting the and dependent territories where only sovereign states are listed, clearly). Legal lists could be done by jurisdiction - thereby allowing for differences within a sovereign state. I wouldn't guarantee that I'd support it, but I don't mind putting it to the test at RM and I wouldn't oppose it.
Given that we (appear to) have consensus in favour of a general RM I think that the sticking point at the moment appears to be time more than a lack of agreement. As I see it there are three stages where there is a lot of work: firstly, getting a list of pages to be moved written up here so that we can then agree on a precise set of move targets; secondly, actually initiating the RM, including notifying all affected articles on talk; thirdly, either doing the move or removing the RM banner, depending on the outcome of the RM. Given that we're talking about at least 200 lists (and possibly as many as 500), each of these jobs could take hours by hand. Maybe we should get a bot to do it?
I personally do not see that "country" and "administrative division" are necessarily mutually exclusive. I think it is fair to say that the sovereign state of the United Kingdom divides itself into four component parts for purposes of administration, and each of these is a country in their own right (though NI is clearly more complicated). But I think at this stage, this is a side issue - not really worth going further with. Pfainuk talk 00:34, 18 March 2009 (UTC)
England is not an administrative division of the UK. Labour do not want it because it would have a built in Conservative majority (Conservatives do not want it because they think devolution is unnecessary but they might support an English "grand committee", the EU does not want it as a region because the it would be much larger than any other region and bigger than many EU states. --PBS (talk) 09:36, 19 March 2009 (UTC)

List of National Anthems[edit]

No, Scotland, England, N.Ireland & Wales do not belong, unless the articles-in-question are Sports articles (example: the Olympics). In those sports articles (where Eng/Scot/Wal/N.Ire are shown, the UK is correctly not shown). GoodDay (talk) 16:44, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
Ok then, so that is one exception to the original suggestion that they never belong. How about the article about List of national anthems (which is different from the List of anthems of UN member states) - another clear exception. I could go on, but the point is that there will be article where it is appropriate for Scotland to be included - it really depends on the title of the article. Cheers Fishiehelper2 (talk) 16:54, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
IMHO (which is all I have to offer), the 4 don't belong. GoodDay (talk) 16:59, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
There are three types of lists as far as I can tell:
1) Lists that are copies from a single source. These lists may or may not include Scotland et al. separately, but should be followed as found and referenced, perhaps with a footnote clarifying that the source listed Scotland et al. separately.
2) Lists that are (properly done) syntheses of lists from multiple sources. These lists should follow a standard explicated in a lead paragraph, but, based on our discussion here, should follow the ISO list with explanatory notes of differences between the lists (if one list includes Scotland et al. and another does not)
3) Lists that are created for Wikipedia, such as a "List of Sovereign States" which would be based on the ISO list. Here the administrative units of Scotland et al. would be excluded in the list proper, but included in explanatory notes or in a separate list.
The List of national anthems should include the anthems of sovereign states and focus on them, but the list (being a #3 list it seems) could list "other anthems not of sovereign states" where Scotland et al. would occur. If Scotland et al. were a #2 list, then the same would apply. The key that we are focusing on here is not to "exclude" from the article Scotland et al., but to properly place them in context, i.e., as administrative units of a sovereign state and not as states themselves. Many of the United States have anthems as well and depending on the state they may be regularly played. But they do not hold any more "right" to be included in a list of "national anthems" than does the anthem of Scotland. They can be included in a separate list of "other anthems", but not in the list of sovereign anthems. (Taivo (talk) 17:00, 3 January 2009 (UTC))
For 6 months (since List of national anthems was turned into a list) next to Scotlands entry it has said see also : United Kingdom. That was removed a couple of days ago so now there is no context at all and no explanation. Its crazy, and i notice that Quebec appears on there with the same problem. Sadly some of these are politically motivated edits. BritishWatcher (talk) 17:03, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
(ec x lots) The articles I am referring to are articles such as List of countries by population, List of countries by birth rate and so on - for the most part these are articles that compare or rank independent sovereign states and dependent territories. Clearly, where context means that it is most appropriate for us to include administrative divisions (countries of the UK, states of the US, provinces of Canada, whatever) as opposed to the independent sovereign state concerned, this configuration should be used. But generally speaking, administrative divisions of all states should be excluded from these lists, whether or not a mass rename takes place.
The three content-forked lists of national anthems are lists of songs, not of countries, and IMO the distinction is important. They should be merged into a single list of national anthems, and on that list entities that have anthems that are not independent sovereign states (including countries of the UK, states of the US, autonomous communities of Spain and so on) should be very clearly distinguished from entities that are. My ideal solution would be a single article with three distinct sections covering independent sovereign states, dependent territories and administrative divisions of states in turn. Pfainuk talk 17:05, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
Three distinct sections? that's acceptable. GoodDay (talk) 17:08, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
I agree and would support it all being included on one list. My only conern at that idea was the huge lenght of the single article and the fact including all those different entities might have an impact of its status as a featured list because of possible future disputes and the lenght etc. BritishWatcher (talk) 17:11, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
Another option would be article-splitting. GoodDay (talk) 17:13, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
(ec)I agree with Pfainuk about the national anthems article. That current list includes not only Scotland (an administrative unit), but Valencia (a city), Acadia (an unlanded emigre community), and Tibet (a semi-non-existent former state). We must distinguish these things from sovereign states. I also agree about excluding administrative divisions from the other "lists" you mentioned. I disagree with BritishWatcher (unless I misunderstood him) about a single list with everything in it. The list should be divided between sovereign anthems and non-sovereign anthems. (Taivo (talk) 17:14, 3 January 2009 (UTC))
I used the example of 'national anthems' because national anthems are anthems of nations, and not all nations are independent states. (And , by the same token, not all parts of sovereign states are nations!) Cheers Fishiehelper2 (talk) 17:21, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
Sorry i didnt explain what i meant clearly. I would support moving everything onto the single article and having separate sections (tables) for the different types, sovereign states etc. My concern with that was how long the article would get and if it might lead to any problems which would threaten its status as a featured list. I wouldnt oppose such a change, was just a concern, if it ends up resulting in lots of disputes on that article. BritishWatcher (talk) 17:25, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
The 'national anthems' article had Quebec listed (which I removed). GoodDay (talk) 17:28, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
(ec) I think that Pfainuk has been very clear, and we all seem to agree, that the lead paragraph must be clear in setting out the parameters for inclusion on one list or another. "National" is a problematic term that we are stuck with, I'm afraid. A "national" anthem is meaningless when talking about the Star-Spangled Banner, for example, because the U.S. does not fit the definition of a "nation", but don't tell an American that the SSB is not a "national anthem". We cannot always use absolutely correct terminology since the popular definition must supersede sometimes. The Scottish anthem may be a "national" anthem and the SSB not in technical terms, but in the popular mind, the SSB is a "national anthem" and the Scottish anthem is not (Americans only recognize "God Save the Queen" as the national anthem of all parts of the UK). So we must carefully craft our lead paragraphs with the parameters, but recognize the popular meanings and incorporate them as appropriate. (Taivo (talk) 17:33, 3 January 2009 (UTC))

(outdent) Do as ya'll wish. I just lost my appetite at List of national anthems. GoodDay (talk) 17:35, 3 January 2009 (UTC)

Hi all, to explain the GoodDay comment above, I reverted his removal of Quebec from the list of national anthems, and provided a source to confirm Quebecer nationhood. (By the way, the USA, after a shared history and culture of over 200 years, would definitely meet the definition of 'a nation'.) Cheers Fishiehelper2 (talk) 17:42, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
The problem is Quebec is a nation that is PART of a united Canada. The declaration of the Canadian government giving Quebec such status makes VERY clear they are part of Canada. There for i fail to seee why it should not be atleast noted to see Also Canada next to Quebecs entry. Its far more useful than saying nothing, just as where possible its useful to list the UK countries figures in the notes section. BritishWatcher (talk) 17:45, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
Quebec is not a nation. Quebecers are a nation within a united Canada. A pandora's box has been opened. GoodDay (talk) 17:47, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
GoodDay is correct, "Quebec" wasnt declared a nation by the Canadian government, there for it should be changed but even then it should explain that it is a nation within Canada, just as The UK countries are "nations" within one Kingdom. BritishWatcher (talk) 17:52, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
(ec) Admittedly, this isn't the place for a debate over American "nationhood", but the place is too diverse ethnically and linguistically to be considered a "nation" in the proper sense of the word. The Navajo and Lakhota are nations (common identity, history, culture, ethnicity, and language), but "American" isn't (just as Quebecois is a nation, but Canadian is not). But the point is still relevant--Quebec, Acadia, Valencia, Scotland, and Tibet deserve to have their "national" anthems listed, but in a separate table from the true "national anthems"--the songs of sovereign states. (Taivo (talk) 17:49, 3 January 2009 (UTC))
Hi (Taivo, I'd be interested in where you got your definition of 'national anthem' from. defines national anthem as 'noun, a song formally adopted as the anthem for a nation." It didn't say that only nations that are sovereign states could have national anthems. Cheers Fishiehelper2 (talk) 18:52, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
Common usage prevails. Most Americans don't know the technical distinction between "nation" and "state" so "nation" becomes the term used to define a state. The American anthem, for example, is not the anthem of a nation, but of a state, since there really is no American nation. Same is true of the Canadian anthem--the "national anthem" refers to the anthem of the state, not a nation in a technical sense. Americans would find it awkward, if not impossible, to say the "Scottish national anthem" since Scotland is not a sovereign state. They would say "The Scottish anthem" or "The official anthem of Scotland" instead. You and I know the technical difference between "nation" and "state", but such terms have little distinction in American English. (The problem is, undoubtedly, the fact that the administrative units of the U.S. are called "states".) For example, the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (one of the two best sources for American English) defines "nation" as: "1. A relatively large group of people organized under a single, usually independent government; a country. 2. The government of a sovereign state. 3. A people who share common customs, origins, history, and frequently language; a nationality... 4.a. A federation or tribe, especially one composed of Native Americans. b. The territory occupied by such a federaton or tribe." Thus, the technical definition of "nation" is only the third definition while the first two definitions are more correctly associated with the term "state". (The problem with is that it mixes British and American usage indiscriminately without remark.) (Taivo (talk) 19:43, 3 January 2009 (UTC))
Thanks for that response, Taivo. Most sovereign states today are nation-states so I can see how distinctions in the meanings of words can become blurred. Cheers Fishiehelper2 (talk) 20:03, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
Fishie this is the reason why people have suggested several tables on one article rather than one long list. If it was separated into specific tables then it would be very clear the difference between nations etc and peoples understanding of words wouldnt become "blurred" How do you feel about a single article with the separate sections one of which where Scotland etc are included? BritishWatcher (talk) 20:08, 3 January 2009 (UTC)

Regarding the List of National Anthems, I don't see why it would be a problem to have a Wikipedia list that consists of all regions of the Earth that have a national anthem, with their national anthem. I submit that that is a very useful list to have. The title needn't necesarily be the current title. I think this reflects well the fact that it really depends on the topic covered by a list. sephia karta | di mi 19:59, 3 January 2009 (UTC)

The problem i have with the current setup is that the List of anthems of UN member states (Originally "List of anthems by country" until earlier), despite being a featured article is almost impossible to find. List of national anthems has the prime spot and it simply contains a few dozen extra entries. A single article on this matter broken up into sections for sovereign states, regions etc would be a good idea but i dont think it should be just one big table like it is currently showing no difference between sovereign states or a nation of "people" BritishWatcher (talk) 20:05, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
And why does that difference matter in this context? --Snowded TALK 20:14, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
To avoid confusion, to inform? Fishie just said the meaning of words can become blurred, which is very true and a reason why it should be made clear to people what the difference is. Whats the actual problem with having the information presented in several tables so its clear to everyone? Wales national anthem would still be available for all to see . BritishWatcher (talk) 20:20, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
(ec) Because without a clear distinction between the anthems of sovereign states and everything else, the national anthem of Serbia gets buried between the city anthem of Salt Lake City, the national battle tune of the Sarmatians, and the official harmonica wail of the Self-Proclaimed Tax Republic of Seven Rivers Trailer Park. Without a clear distinction there is no limit to the length of the potential primary list. Granted, the secondary list could become unwieldy, but then it, too, could be subdivided in the future. (Taivo (talk) 20:23, 3 January 2009 (UTC))
Is there a national anthem of Salt Lake City? No? Thought not. Then your concerns are unfounded on that score! Fishiehelper2 (talk) 20:49, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
Just for reference the editor who undid the redirect and created this super list of national anthems was in the process of transfering everything from List of anthems to that list. So theres still many places that need adding based on the introduction, and some of those places are pretty odd. And ofcourse that one editor who decided 6 months ago to make list of national anthems a new table has now retired so that job will never be completed. BritishWatcher (talk) 21:00, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
Ah, come on, Fishie, surely you can identify hyperbole for the sake of emphasizing a point. My concerns for an out-of-control list are not at all unfounded when I see national anthems for Acadia, Valencia, and Tibet populating the list of national anthems. (Taivo (talk) 04:47, 4 January 2009 (UTC))
Hey, I just noticed that a couple of elves have been over at list of national anthems cleaning things up. Good job, gents. (Taivo (talk) 04:50, 4 January 2009 (UTC))
Yes, Taivo, I thought it was a case of 'reductio ad absurdum'. My approach to examples such as the national anthem of Valencia would be to look for source evidence that a) Valencia/Valencians are a nation and b) it/they have an anthem regarded as their national anthem: if those conditions are satisfied, it deserves to be included in a list of national anthems. Cheers Fishiehelper2 (talk) 10:05, 4 January 2009 (UTC)

Is it soup yet? Do we have any consensus on core issues?[edit]

This has been a fascinating six-week dialogue. I wonder if it might be possible to summarize (or propose) some small list of core items on which most of us agree? Does anyone want to take a stab at such a proposal? N2e (talk) 18:55, 3 February 2009 (UTC)

As I understand it:
  • Where a list is based on a single source, the inclusion criteria of the source should determine the inclusion criteria for the list.
  • Otherwise, lists should use the entities listed on ISO 3166-1 (but not necessarily using the names listed there) plus the unrecognised states - those states that have de facto control over territory and that claim independence but that are not listed on the ISO specification.
  • Where specific circumstances make it more logical that some other configuration should be used, such as lists of sports teams or lists on laws that may vary within a sovereign state, the more logical configuration can be used.
  • There is consensus for an RM, but no clear consensus as to which articles (if any) should be moved and as to what the move targets should be.
    • No RM was actually ever filed, at least partly due to the sheer scale of the job - there being several hundred lists.
There was little opposition to the inclusion of the unrecognised states generally, but I can imagine that they would all get strong opposition individually. I would suggest that some effort be taken to ensure NPOV in this matter. For example, the listing for a country like Serbia could give values both including and excluding Kosovo. Pfainuk talk 20:15, 3 February 2009 (UTC)

"One source rule"[edit]

A user has raised the issue of using one source of data that may be less reliable for all countries as opposed to having an individual source for one specific country (USA). I thought I'd post a message about it here, as I'm not sure if two people's opinions are enough to reach a decission... (Talk:List of countries by unemployment rate#US unemployment rate, circa February 2009). Jolly Ω Janner 19:04, 6 February 2009 (UTC)

WikiProject Outline of knowledge[edit]

See Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Outline of knowledge where there seems to be all the usual confusion about the difference between, state, county and territory. --PBS (talk) 21:10, 17 March 2009 (UTC)

Badly phrased title.[edit]

List of countries by natural gas proven reserves

Gas proven reserves? I suggest changing the title to: List of countries by proven natural gas reserves. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:20, 11 April 2009 (UTC)

You should discuss that on the specific article's talk page. This discussion page is primarily concerned with the "list of countries" part of the name, which is not affected by your suggestion. Bazonka (talk) 14:25, 11 April 2009 (UTC)


You knew it was going to happen sooner or later, why is Taiwan (or the Republic of China, whichever you like) not a 'sovereign state'? It has an army, a navy, an elected president and legislature, borders, has diplomatic relations with 20+ other states, yet Wiki lists have started not including it (such as in for example). Whatever your opinion of the political situation, Taiwan (or the ROC, whatever) is not a dependent territory or colony. Its government officially claims the entirety of China, and the PRC claims it, this does not make it a subordinate territory of the PRC. If we are going by UN membership, then remember that Switzerland was not a member of the UN until 2002. FOARP (talk) 06:52, 24 June 2009 (UTC)

The consensus here was, as noted above:
  • Single source lists should use the inclusion criteria of their sources
  • Other lists should use the entities on ISO 3166-1, replacing the names used on that list with names as agreed by consensus, and should note in some neutral way the existence of those unrecognised states that are not mentioned on the ISO specification.
  • Where specific circumstances make it more logical that some other standard be used (as is frequently the case on sporting lists, though this is appropriate in other circumstances as well), we should use that other standard.
The list you cite is a single-source list, so the inclusion criteria should be those used by the source. In my view, basing inclusion criteria on the CIA World Factbook - as that list does - is inherently POV because the US government is not a neutral source. Such lists base inclusion on the views of a single country, to the exclusion of all other views. We can split hairs over the details of the international recognition of Abkhazia, Kosovo and Northern Cyprus, but I would argue that the situation in each case is fundamentally the same. Pfainuk talk 17:48, 24 June 2009 (UTC)


Should some reference be made to the Country lists in the Common Local Data Repository? —Preceding unsigned comment added by ThePilgrim (talkcontribs) 16:58, 18 November 2010 (UTC)