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Geographical renaming is the changing of the name of a geographical feature or area. This can range from the change of a street name to a change to the name of a country. Some names are changed locally but the new names are not recognised by other countries, especially when there is a difference in language. Other names may not be officially recognised but remain in common use.
Many places have different names in different languages, and a change of language in official or general use has often resulted in what is arguably a change of name.
There are many reasons to undertake renaming, with political motivation being the primary cause; for example many places in the former Soviet Union and its satellites were renamed to honour Stalin. Sometimes a place reverts to its former name (see for example de-Stalinization). One of the most common reasons for a country changing its name is newly acquired independence. When borders are changed, sometimes due to a country splitting or two countries joining together, the names of the relevant areas can change. This, however, is more the creation of a different entity than an act of geographical renaming.
Other more unusual reasons for renaming have included:
To get rid of an inappropriate or embarrassing name
Often the older name will persist in colloquial expressions. For example, the dish known in English as "Peking duck" retained that name even when the Chinese capital changed its transliteration to "Beijing".
Changes in romanisation systems can result in minor or major changes in spelling in the Roman alphabet for geographical entities, even without any change in name pronunciation or spelling in the local alphabet or other writing system. Names in non-Roman characters can also be spelled very differently when Romanised in different European languages.
China developed and adopted the pinyin romanisation system in February 1958 in place of previous systems such as the postal romanization and Wade–Giles. Many Chinese geographical entities (and associated entities named after geographical names) thus had their English names changed. The changes sometimes appear drastic, since it is sometimes the case that the former romanisations were derived from Cantonese—the common language in British-held Hong Kong—while the newer romanisations are derived entirely from Mandarin. However, the pronunciation in Mandarin has mostly stayed the same both before and after the change. Pinyin was adopted by the International Organization for Standardisation in 1982 and officially adopted in Singapore (resulting in several geographical name changes of its own). However it is usually not applied in the autonomous regions of the PRC (e.g.: Lhasa, Ürümqi, Hohhot, Xigazê, Ili, Altay, Kaxgar, Hulunbuir, Erenhot, with a notable exception being place names in Ningxia, whose native Hui people speak Mandarin as their native language) and has not resulted in any geographical name change in the SARs of Hong Kong and Macau, and is adopted only in parts of Taiwan, particularly within Taipei and other Kuomintang controlled cities and counties, in a recent push to adopt Pinyin by the Kuomintang government.
When the formerly-German city of Danzig came under Polish rule, it became known in English by its Polish name of Gdańsk. But when Winston Churchill gave his Iron Curtain speech he still spoke of a city in Poland by its German name (Stettin) instead of its contemporary Polish name Szczecin even though Churchill fully accepted the transfer of the formerly-German city to Poland, probably because it is German phonology, not Polish, that is closer to English. The pattern is far from uniform, and it takes time.
The Soviet Union replaced German city names in the former East Prussia that became the Kaliningrad Oblast and Japanese place names in southern Sakhalin Island with Russian names unrelated to the old German and Japanese place names after annexing them in the aftermath of World War II.
The military junta changed the official English name of Burma to Myanmar in 1988, even though both were pre-existing names which originated from the Burmese language and used interchangeably depending on contexts (see Names of Myanmar).
The People's Republic of China, upon its founding and new nationalities policy, changed the names of cities in ethnic minority regions from sometimes patronising Chinese language names to those of the native language. For example, it changed Dihua to Ürümqi and Zhenxi to Barkol.
After the occupation of the communist North Vietnam at the end of the Vietnam War, the city of Saigon changed its name to Ho Chi Minh City (after then late leader of North Vietnam Ho Chi Minh) to symbolize the north's victory in the war. Despite the official name change, however, many elderly Americans (especially those who were alive and those who fought in the Vietnam War) still refer to the city as Saigon. As a matter of fact, even many Vietnamese still refer to the city as Saigon. The name of the river, however, remains unchanged, the Saigon River.
Daegu – spelt Taegu prior to the official adoption of the Revised Romanization by the South Korean Government in 2000. In ancient times, Dalgubeol (달구벌/達句伐)
Dnipro, Ukraine, was officially changed from Dnipropetrovsk in 2016, following Ukraine’s decommunization laws (the former name is a contraction of the Ukrainian name of the river Dnieper and the surname of Soviet leader Hryhoriy Petrovsky). Previous names include Katerynoslav, Sicheslav, and Novorossiysk.
Dobrich – known as Bazargic between 1913–1940, Tolbuhin between 1945–1990. It was known Hacıoğlu Pazarcık during Ottoman rule
Donetsk – founded as Yuzovka (after John Hughes) in 1870, called Stalino 1924-–1961, renamed Donyetsk in Russian (Donetsk in Ukrainian) after the De-Stalinization period in the USSR
Dushanbe – known as Stalinabad between 1929–1961 and renamed Dushanbe after the De-Stalinization period in the Soviet Union.
Eisenhüttenstadt in eastern Brandenburg, Germany, was founded as Stalinstadt after World War 2 to settle displaced people from the former eastern German territories, and was renamed during the De-Stalinization period in the Soviet Union.
Faisalabad was known as Lyallpur (until the 1970s) in Pakistan
Florianópolis was known as Desterro until 1893, when the president of recent-founded Brazilian republic, Marshal Floriano Peixoto, crushed the Naval Revolts, and the supporters of Peixoto, after the imprisonment of all his opponents, changed the name of the city to honor the Marshal.
Gagarin, town in Russia – formerly Gzhatsk, took current name after cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin's death in 1968
Gdańsk – in German Danzig, when part of Kingdom of Prussia or Germany (1793-1920 and 1940–5) and as a Free City (1920–39).
Heraklion in Crete, Greece: Its ancient name was Heraklion. After the Arab conquest in 824 it was named "Handaq" (The Moat) from which derived the Greek name "Chandax" in Byzantine times (961–1204) and later the Italian "Candia" during the Venetian period (1212–1669) when Candia eventually became the name of the whole island of Crete. In Turkish times (1669–1898) it was called "Kandiye" by the Ottomans but from the locals "Megalo Kastro" (Great Castle) or simply "Kastro". During the time of the autonomous Cretan State (1898–1913) scholars proposed to reuse the ancient name "Heraklion" which eventually was accepted by the locals.
Ivano-Frankivsk, founded as polish Stanisławów in 1662, changed to Stanislau in 1772, under Austria. After World War I it returned to its original name. Then it was known as Stalislav (1939–41), Stanislau (1941–45) and again Stanislav, until 1962, when it has been renamed to its current name, to honour Ivan Franko.
Lüshun – formerly Port Arthur in English, or Ryojun during the Japanese occupation in the 1930s and 1940s.
Lviv, Ukraine – originally called Lviv. It was the capital of the Kingdom of Ruthenia from 1272 till 1349, when it was conquered by Polish Kingdom and became Lwów. Then became Lemberg under Austro-Hungarian rule (1772–1918), reverted to Lviv for a short time of existence of West Ukrainian Republic (1918), reverted to Lwów (1918–1945), then Lvov under Soviet rule (1945–1991); restored current name on Ukrainian independence
Latina – (Italy, Latium), whose former original fascist name was Littoria.
Makassar, Indonesia – formerly known as Ujung Pandang.
Nursultan Kazakhstan's legislature passed a law on 20 March 2019 to rename the Central Asian nation's capital city from Astana. The act came one day after Nursultan Nazarbayev's resignation as president of the country.
Nuuk renamed from Godthåb in 1979, following the introduction of the Home Rule.
Orenburg was renamed Chkalov from 1938–1957, after Valery Chkalov and renamed Orenburg in 1957.
Oslo, Norway renamed Christiania when rebuilt after fire in 1624. Spelled Kristiania between 1877-1925 when the name returned to Oslo.
Eastpointe, Michigan, incorporated as the village of Halfway in December 1924 and reincorporated as the City of East Detroit in January 1929. The city changed its name to "Eastpointe" after a vote in 1992; the name change had been proposed to reduce its association with the adjacent city of Detroit (a move that offended many Detroit residents), and the "-pointe" is intended to associate the city with the exclusive communities of the Grosse Pointes. However, the school district that serves most of the city was unaffected by the municipal name change and still uses the name East Detroit Public Schools, with the local high school being East Detroit High School.
The New Zealand town of Otorohanga briefly changed its name to "Harrodsville" in 1986, in support of local restaurateur Henry Harrod, who was being threatened with lawsuits over the name of his business by Harrod's of London.
Dingle/An Daingean: The Irish town of Dingle (An Daingean or Daingean Uí Chúis) has been the focal point of a dispute over whether official signposts in officially Irish-speaking areas (the Gaeltacht) should show place names in Irish only, thus possibly endangering income from tourism.
Israel/The Zionist Entity/Palestine: People who refuse to recognize the State of Israel often call it The Zionist Entity. When such people refer to Palestine, they normally include Israel as part of Palestinian territory (along with the West Bank and the Gaza Strip).
Disputes involving the name of a whole entity being used to refer to a part of it, and vice versa
US/America/North America: The terms 'America' and 'American' are frequently used to refer only to the United States and its people. This sometimes causes resentment among some non-US Americans, especially Latin Americans, who tend to respond by referring to the people of the US as North Americans (or 'norteamericanos' in Spanish), at least when not using the unofficial term 'gringos'. The practice is sometimes also followed by native English speakers who wish to show they are sympathetic to Latin Americans, and/or when translating texts into English. The practice can also be found in Mexico, even though Mexico is normally considered part of North America. A Canadian may sometimes be described as 'un norteamericano de Canada' (a North American of Canada). See also use of the word American.
EU/Europe: Just as the terms 'America' and 'American' are frequently used to refer only to the United States and its people, the terms 'Europe' and 'European' are also frequently used to refer only to the European Union and its people, and this similarly sometimes causes resentment among some non-EU Europeans, although the enlargement of the EU means that there are now fewer non-EU Europeans left to take offence than there used to be when the EU was smaller.
Russia/Soviet Union: In this case the part (Russia) was (and still is) often used to refer to the whole (the Soviet Union). The usage can be resented by such people as non-Russians who do not want to be called Russian, some anti-Communist Russians wishing to blame Communist crimes on the Soviet Union rather than Russia, and some Georgians wishing to take patriotic pride in the achievements of Georgia-born Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. After the Soviet Union was dissolved at the end of 1991, the name of its successor organisation, the Commonwealth of Independent States, was soon derided with the claim that its members had nothing in common and no wealth.
^Similarly, because 'Republic of Ireland' can be interpreted as meaning 'Republic of all Ireland', the British Government usually tends to prefer the expression 'the Irish Republic', as do many of the British media, despite the irony that this was the name of the Republics proclaimed by rebels against Britain in 1916 and 1919. A further irony is that Irish Nationalists now avoid saying 'the Irish Republic', partly because it is not the official term, but also to avoid sounding unpatriotic and pro-British despite the anti-British origins of the expression.
^The details of any resulting offence can be complicated: For instance, a substantial minority of Northern Ireland's population (about 23% according to a 2012 survey) regard themselves as 'British not Irish', and are thus unlikely to be offended by the fact that using Ireland to refer to the Republic of Ireland logically implies they are not Irish. But, like the rest of their fellow Unionists, they may still be offended by the fact that this use of the name Ireland still logically implies that the Government of Ireland is entitled to rule over Northern Ireland, despite any explicit claims to that effect in the Republic's Constitution having been dropped by over 94% of those voting in the Republic in the 1998 referendum that endorsed the Good Friday Agreement as part of the Northern Ireland peace process. On the other hand, Northern Irish Nationalists were not offended by such past claims by the Irish Government, but would be offended by any claim that they were not Irish, yet they do not make any major public complaints about that implication of the use of the word 'Ireland' as the official name of the Republic.
^The renaming of Londonderry to Derry remains highly controversial. According to the city's Royal Charter of 10 April 1662 the official name is Londonderry. This was reaffirmed in a High Court decision in January 2007 when Derry City Council sought guidance on the procedure for effecting a name change. The name Derry is preferred by nationalists and it is broadly used throughout Northern Ireland's Catholic community, as well as that of the Republic of Ireland, whereas many unionists prefer Londonderry; however in everyday conversation Derry is used by most Protestant residents of the city. Apart from this local government decision, the city is usually known as Londonderry in official use within the United Kingdom. In the Republic of Ireland, the city and county are almost always referred to as Derry, on maps, in the media and in conversation.
^Ben Dupuy (September 21–27, 1994). "The real objectives of the occupation". Translated by Greg Dunkel. Intelligence Action Center. Retrieved 2014-06-03. ...After Panama, where the North American intervention supposedly had as an objective to do away with Noriega,... ... (Aristide) continued, addressing the North American president directly, ... propaganda that the Haitian community is practically 100 per cent in accord with the North American intervention. ...led jointly by the North American troops, their intelligence services and their local employees from the Haitian army and police. ...Patrols comprised of both North American troops and Haitian police... According to a North Americanintelligence analyst... the North American intelligence official... ...according to a memorandum by the North Americanambassador,... ...under the supervision of the North American military ....