Special Report

17 Countries That Rebranded Their Identities Through Name Changes

The African nation of Zimbabwe was originally named South Rhodesia after the British colonizer Cecil Rhodes in the late 19th century. Rhodes assumed the country would forever bear his name, but he was wrong. “Did you ever hear of a country’s name being changed?” he once asked rhetorically.

While companies may change their names, it is highly uncommon for countries to do so since a nation’s name is deeply ingrained in its identity and culture. (These are some companies that changed their names after scandals.)

To compile a list of countries that have changed their names, 24/7 Tempo reviewed materials from numerous online government sources, including the official websites of the U.K. government and the U.S. Department of State, as well as other online sources.

However, many countries in the 20th and 21st centuries have acquired new names, often to distance themselves from colonial ties or forge a new national identity.

For example, Turkey recently changed its name to Türkiye to promote national pride and disassociate from the bird. The Czech Republic simplified its name to Czechia to boost tourism. Meanwhile, North Macedonia altered its name to settle a dispute with Greece (where a region called Macedonia is located) and join NATO.

Although changing a country’s name is complicated administratively, it can be beneficial if citizens embrace the change. Some name changes in Eswatini and Türkiye have been criticized as political distractions though. Ultimately, a country’s name carries great meaning, so the decision to change it is not taken lightly.

Click here to see 17 countries that have changed their names

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