Former Place Names

Updated February 21, 2017 | Factmonster Staff

Like people, countries sometimes change their names or disappear altogether. Have you ever wondered what happened to these places?

  • Abyssinia, an ancient African kingdom, became Ethiopia.
  • Angora, the home of angora goats, became Ankara, the capital of Turkey.
  • Bohemia was a European kingdom. After World War I, the Czech people of Bohemia and Moravia joined the Slovaks of Slovakia to form the country of Czechoslovakia (the country was divided in 1993 into Czech Republic and Slovakia).
  • Burma, a country in Asia, was renamed Myanmar in 1989 by the military government.
  • Ceylon became a republic in 1972 and changed its name to Sri Lanka, which means “splendid thing.”
  • Constantinople was named after the Roman emperor Constantine. When the Turks captured the city, they renamed it Istanbul. Many people still called it Constantinople until 1930, when it officially became Istanbul.
  • Kampuchea is now Cambodia.
  • Mesopotamia, the fertile plain between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, is now Iraq (as well as smaller parts of Syria, Turkey, and Iran).
  • Peking, China, is now Beijing.
  • The kingdom of Persia is now Iran.
  • Prussia no longer exists. After World War II, it was divided among Poland, Germany, and the USSR.
  • Rhodesia in Africa was named after Cecil Rhodes, an Englishman who encouraged European whites to settle in Africa. Today, Southern Rhodesia is Zimbabwe; Northern Rhodesia is Zambia.
  • Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, became Ho Chi Minh City when the communists took over the country. Ho Chi Minh was a communist leader.
  • St. Petersburg, Russia, was built by the Russian czar Peter the Great. Its name was changed to Petrograd and then to Leningrad. Lenin was the leader of the revolution that overthrew the Russian czars. In 1991 it was renamed St. Petersburg!
  • Siam is now Thailand.
  • Tanganyika and Zanzibar, in Africa, united to become one country, Tanzania.
  • Zaire, the name of one of the largest countries in Africa, was changed in 1997 to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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