Rebranding countries — Türkiye

In the media reports on the aftermath of the earthquake that has devastated Syria and Turkey in February 2023, you may have noticed that most news channels are using Türkiye for the country’s name. It has joined a swathe of other rebranding countries that have changed their name in a move to shift perceptions.

Why countries have different names

Countries having different names is common. It is usually a difference between what the residents call their country in their own language—an ENDONYM—and the name that people abroad give to the country—an EXONYM. e.g. England is called Angleterre by the French, Inghilterra by the Italians and İngiltere by the Turks. These are all translations of Land of the Angles which is how England is derived.

Türkiye’s name change

Last year (2022) Türkiye’s government sent a letter to the United Nations formally requesting that it be referred to as Türkiye. The Turkish government aimed to rebrand the country to dissociate it from the negative connotations of the poultry bird and links with things that fail badly.

In December 2021, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ordered the use of Türkiye to better represent Turkish culture and values, including demanding that “Made in Türkiye” be used instead of “Made in Turkey” on exported products. Turkish ministries also began using Türkiye in official documents.

Other rebranding countries

Some other rebranding countries that have rebranded in recent times:

Ceylon was the name of the island country (now known as Sri Lanka) when it was a British colony. After gaining independence in 1948, the country officially changed its name to Sri Lanka (before that it had also been known as Serendip by the Persians).

Persia refered to Cyrus the Great’s empire (around 530 BC). In the 1930s, steps were taken to change its name from Persia to Iran. The request came into force in March 1935. The British wanted to continue to use Persia as Iran was too similar to Iraq. The idea for the change is said to have come from the Iranian ambassador to Germany, influenced by the Nazis.

Burma was the official name from 1948 to 1989. In 1989, the military government became one of the rebranding countries when it changed the name to Myanmar, but the change was not widely recognized until 2011 when the military government handed power to a civilian government. It remains contentious with some.

Rhodesia was called that from 1965 to 1979, when it was ruled by a white minority government. After independence, the country officially changed its name to Zimbabwe. This is the case for many African countries, changing the names from imposed European names to names reflecting their people.

In 2018, the country officially changed its name from Swaziland to eSwatini, which is the traditional name for the country in the Swazi language.

In 2019, the Republic of Macedonia (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) became the Republic of North Macedonia. It sought to improve relations with Greece that had disputed the use of the name, a geographical region in Greece and an ancient Greek kingdom.