NEW ZEALAND ISN’T ALONE

Other countries are blunter in their approach. India displayed “Bharat”, the Hindu name for the country, on menus and nameplates at the G20 meeting it hosted in New Delhi last September, surprising many in attendance. Speculation soon followed about an imminent name change.

Such a move would play right into Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s unique style of Hindu nationalism, and help create distance between the nation and its colonial past. For critics, however, reinforcing the country’s Hindu roots also means excluding other communities from its national brand. Still, Bharat is already a name recognised in India’s constitution and is a common namesake for the country.

Nationalistic overtones were also discussed when, in 2023, Turkey told the United Nations to use its Turkish-language name, Türkiye, in English as well. If part of the rationale behind the decision sounded a bit quirky – referring to the bird associated with the English-language name – many saw a move to distract attention from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s poor economic and democratic record ahead of an election. The move also aligns with Erdogan’s nationalistic brand.

While not a country name, Ukraine’s push for the world to call its capital Kyiv instead of the Russian-spelled Kiev was also a show of nationalism that focused on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the latter’s effort to distance itself from its Soviet past.

Other recent nomenclature changes are more difficult to define. Take Czechia, for example.

The country’s parliament voted in 2016 to officially recognise the shorter version of its name, but the world was slow to catch up, partly because the country’s very own prime minister disliked the change. The debate reached the country’s embassies and created a little chaos between those for and against the shift. Recently, however, the new name has picked up in popularity and is more commonly used globally.

In 2018, in a bid to access the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and to appease its southern neighbour, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, also known as FYROM, accepted a change to North Macedonia so Greece could finally claim its own Macedonian heritage.

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