Sunday, March 23, 2008

Changes to the World Map

Happy Easter! Alleluia!

Following up on yesterday's post on the upcoming dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles, I've decided to do an update on my list of changes to the world map since the fall of Communism, which I don't believe I've ever shared on this blog before.

I remember when I was a kid growing up, world maps stayed basically the same. Most of the de-colonization of Africa finished by about 1980, when I had barely started school, so I missed out on all the rapid changes of the postwar years. Then, in high school, Communism began to collapse in Eastern Europe. All of a sudden, you could pinpoint when a map was created by whether countries like Germany, Czechoslovakia, and the Soviet Union were split up or together, and then things got really ugly in Yugoslavia. There's been a tendency to think of the world map as being largely static since then, but there have been a few changes. We all remember the struggle for independence in East Timor, and the breakup of the former Yugoslavia continues to this year with the independence of Kosovo, though that has yet to be universally recognized.

So I began keeping a mental note of changes significant enough to appear on a map of the world. The biggest changes would, of course, be the creation or dissolution of new countries. Also noteworthy would be:
  • Changes in borders,
  • Country name changes,
  • Capital relocations,
  • Significant changes in territorial status,
  • Renaming of capitals or other major cities,
  • Renaming of major physical features, or
  • Other changes of similar importance.
Here's my chronological list since the split of Czechoslovakia on January 1, 1993:
  • May 24, 1993: Eritrea becomes independent of Ethiopia.
  • October 1, 1994: Palau becomes independent of the U.S.A.
  • January 1, 1995: Kiribati changes time zones to consolidate the entire country onto one side of the International Date Line, effectively diverting the Date Line to the east. Many maps fail to show this, however.
  • 1995: Bombay, India is renamed Mumbai.
  • February 1996: The capital of Tanzania is moved from Dar es Salaam to Dodoma.
  • 1996: Madras, India is renamed Chennai.
  • May 17, 1997: Zaire is renamed the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • July 1, 1997: Sovereignty of Hong Kong is transferred from the United Kingdom to China.
  • July 4, 1997: The Independent State of Western Samoa drops "Western" from its name to become simply Samoa.
  • 1998: Kazakhstan moves its capital from Almaty to Aqmola, newly renamed as Astana.
  • December 20, 1999: Sovereignty of Macau is transferred from Portugal to China.
  • 2000: The International Hydrographic Organization designates the Southern Ocean, though this is not universally recognized.
  • 2001: Calcutta, India is renamed Kolkata.
  • May 20, 2002: Independence of East Timor from Indonesia is recognized.
  • February 4, 2003: Yugoslavia becomes the short-lived State Union of Serbia and Montenegro.
  • November 6, 2005: Burma/Myanmar's capital is officially moved from Rangoon/Yangon to an unnamed new site in the center of the country.
  • March 27, 2006: Burma/Myanmar's new capital's name is announced as Naypyidaw/Nay Pyi Taw. (The military government's changes in names and capitals aren't universally recognized.)
  • June 3, 2006: Montenegro declares independence from Serbia.
  • June 5, 2006: Serbia declares itself to be the successor state to Serbia and Montenegro, naturally.
  • June 13, 2006: Nigeria agrees to transfer sovereignty of Bakassi to Cameroon, though this remains in dispute.
  • October 7, 2006: Palau moves its capital from Koror to the new town of Melekeok.
  • February 17, 2008: Kosovo declares independence from Serbia; this is recognized by 33 countries.
Wikipedia maintains a similar timeline of "country and capital changes" with a slightly different purview, which I didn't come across until I was almost finished putting this list together. I had forgotten about the Cameroon/Nigeria territory transfer until seeing their list.

Future expected or possible changes:
As a bonus, there have been two significant changes to the map of Canada in recent years:
  • April 1, 1999: The Territory of Nunavut is split off from the Northwest Territories.
  • December 6, 2001: The Province of Newfoundland's name is officially changed to Newfoundland and Labrador.
And in the United States, who can forget the New York/New Jersey border dispute around Ellis Island, decided by the Supreme Court on May 26, 1998 in favor of New Jersey?

Anybody know anything I missed?

Bonus trivia: Yugoslavia's old national anthem was called "Hey, Slavs."

3/24/08 UPDATE: In all the attention I paid to the Netherlands Antilles, I neglected to learn that right next door, Saint-Barthélemy and the French part of Saint-Martin separated from the French Overseas Department of Guadeloupe to become their own separate Overseas Collectivities. I have no idea what the different terminology means in practice, but this at least means that they are now governed separately.


At Monday, March 24, 2008 at 7:48:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Joshua said...

I remember in 1991, during the week after the attempted coup against Gorbachev, seeing a man walking by carrying a new globe, and thinking, "I hope he got a real discount on that."

At Wednesday, March 26, 2008 at 12:45:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Victor said...

I'll never forget typing in the following clause when I was at the "Daily Texan" ... "The Communist Party was banned in the Soviet Union..." Brought tears to the eyes, I tell ya.

Just a few weeks ago, I was editing a relatively routine Washington Times story and this sentence came up, en passant in the middle of the story (i.e., no spectacular point being made): "Mr. Bush will push European nations to [do something or other] at an April NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania." I told the reporter Jon Ward that it was an incredible experience, an anti-Proustian moment, for me to read a sentence that took for granted "NATO holding a summit in Romania" as a completely unremarkable event, a meaningless bit of B-matter in the guts of an inside story. Jon is not a stupid man, so he well understood what I was saying, but as a man 10-15 younger than myself I don't know that he could really realize HOW remarkable it was.


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