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Old Names Of Modern Countries You Didn’t Know

hese days it is relatively common to meet someone who has changed their name in some form or another. Over a longer scale of time, a few countries have changed their own names to reflect either a change in government or the groups of people that live in said countries.

We know them by their modern day names, but here are the old names of a few familiar countries and where they came from:

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1. Persia/Iran

I’ve always wondered where the name ‘Persia’ came from. It seems that the land was referred to as such by the Greeks in their writings. Established in the 6th century BC by the Achaemenid Empire and ruled into the 20th century AD by the Qatar dynasty.

In 1935, the government asked its diplomatic allies to refer to the territory, no longer as Persia, but as Iran.

It is rumored the source of the name was an Iranian ambassador to Germany who took too much of a liking to the Nazi way. After the request, though, all partners supported the name change. While its origin may not have been too great, people have no problem referring to the country as Iran.

2. Kampuchea/Cambodia

I honestly never knew Cambodia had a name before Cambodia. It has also changed its name quite a bit over the last few decades.

In the span of time from 1953 to 1970, citizens referred to their country as the Kingdom of Cambodia. For five years after 1970, the territory was the Khmer Republic. The communist rule saw the name changed again from 1975 and 1979 to the Democratic of Kampuchea.

During a UN “transition authority,” the country was referred to as the state of Cambodia for a short time. Restoration of the monarchy changed it back to the Kingdom of Cambodia.

It turns out that “Cambodia” is actually a western mispronunciation of Kampuchea.

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3. Burma/Myanmar

The country is often referred to as both Burma and Myanmar in a few English-speaking countries. Officially, it was first known as Burma before the name was changed to Myanmar. After the ‘military junta’ took control in the late 1980s, the “Republic of the Union of Myanmar” was born.

The countries of France, Japan, and the majority of the UN supported the name changed. But as the junta slaughtered many to get to power, the US and UK refused to recognize the junta-established government.

4. Transjordan/Jordan

The country of Transjordan was recognized as an independent state in September 1922. A British mandate stated the country be referred to by that name until the state’s independence in 1946.

That year in May, “The Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan” was ‘established.’ The name lasted only three years and the name was changed once again, but this time to “The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.”

The name ‘Jordan’ comes from the Jordan River, the rumored baptism place of Jesus.

5. Abyssinia/Ethiopia

When Abyssinia existed, it covered what is today the northern part of Ethiopia. It was established as Abyssinia in 1270, when the Solomonic dynasty of the Abyssinian people began to rule.

Up until the 20th century, the Abyssinians had ruled without question. It was during World War II that the X king, Hailesilase, had finally dubbed the country Ethiopia. Many debate this and state the country was always Ethiopia and Abyssinia was simply made popular by the Arabic peoples.

Geographically, Ethiopia also has a larger mass.

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6. Bechuanaland/Botswana

At one time, Botswana was under British rule at the protectorate of Bechuanaland. On March 31st, 1885 it was officially changed to Bechuanaland. That signified Britain officially adopting the land as one of their territories. As such, they remained the Bechuanaland Protectorate until independence on September 30, 1966.

Upon independence, the name was changed to Botswana, a reference to the largest ethnicity, the “Tswana.”

7. Ceylon/Sri Lanka

I went to 3rd grade in 1996 and even then remember the country of Sri Lanka. From 1815 to 1948, British rule had named the country Ceylon. The name Ceylon comes from the transliteration of the Portuguese Ceilao, the name that colonial Portuguese used for the country.

It was the desire for independence that birthed the name Sri Lanka in the 20th century. Thanks to Marxist political parties Lanka Sama Samaja and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, the names were officially adopted to “The Republic of Sri Lanka” in 1972 and finally to the “Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka” in 1978.

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