top of page
You've Got to be Kidding...

A Rose By Any Other Name


Jonathan van Bilsen

April 26, 2023

A Rose By Any Other Name

I was glancing through some notes I made many years ago, when collecting stamps, and noticed a reference to Tanganyika, an African country. I began to wonder why the name was changed, and how many other countries went through the same exercise.

Tanganyika was formally changed to Tanzania, when it joined with Zanzibar, and became one country in 1964. Other African nations also changed their names after gaining independence from their conquerors. Northern Rhodesia became Zambia, and Rhodesia changed its name to Zimbabwe. Basutoland gained independence from the United Kingdom, and was then known as Lesotho. Bechuanaland was renamed Botswana.

In 1937, Persia dropped its name, and became known as Iran.  Many of its residents, however, still refer to themselves as Persians.  Two years later, the Southeast Asian Kingdom of Siam gained independence and changed its name to Thailand, which translates to mean ‘Freeland’.

Just after World War Two, the British left the Transjordan area of the Middle East, and the areas were divided into Jordan and Israel (a newly created state). At the same time, Burma, in Southeast Asia gained independence.  It kept its name until a decade ago, when it officially became known as Myanmar. It was in the same year that Ceylon gained independence, but they waited until 1972 before changing their name to Sri Lanka.

In 1953, after the vicious war between communist and capitalist troops ended, the country of Korea was severed. The Republic of Korea (south) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (north), were officially formed (although democracy seems to be the last thing practiced there).

The African country of Ghana became official, and its former British name of Gold Coast, was dropped. This also happened to the Ivory Coast, which became Côte d’Ivoire, Dahomy became Benin, the Congo became Zaïre and then back to the Congo, and Upper Volta became Burkina Faso.

The list is long, and even Holland became officially known as the Netherlands on the world stage. Most Dutch people, or Netherlanders as they prefer to be called, seldom used the name, Holland.

In the past three years, the English translation of Turkey became Türkiye, as the country was tired of being thought to be the origin of American Thanksgiving. Swaziland, which I have had the pleasure of visiting, changed to Eswatini, and the Czech Republic was reintroduced as Czechia.

Countries continue to change their names, based on their history and situation. I hope that some of the new names above, will help you when you are listening to the news. For now, however, I am very glad to be living in Upper Canada.

Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Watch his show, ‘Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel’, on RogersTV, the Standard Website or YouTube.

  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • YouTube
  • TikTok
bottom of page