Since June 1, the official name of Turkey in the UN, and by extension in the international community, has become Türkiye, replacing the previous one, Turkey (a clear case of homonymy, since the word means Turkey and turkey). The new one brand of the country will no longer give rise to misunderstandings, but the zeal of the officials in charge of applying the measure has been such that the immediate substitution of the name in legends and posters, via CTRL+F, has caused truly comical episodes. The most notorious has been the automatic change, whether or not it is relevant, of the word Turkey in all Turkish Airlines documents, in whose entertainment program, for example, the synopsis of a chapter of a cartoon series in which a family intends to rescue a turkey from the butcher, turns the threatened bird into Türkiye.
The change in the UN was automatic. António Guterres, secretary general, received that day a letter from the head of Turkish diplomacy, Mevlüt Çavusoglu, requesting that “the name of (his) country in the UN, in foreign languages, be registered as Türkiye”. Said and done, reported Stephane Dujarric, a spokesman for Guterres, as an acknowledgment of receipt of the letter. The initiative, Çavusoglu explained on his Twitter account, obeys the desire of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, from the end of 2021, to “increase the brand value” of his country. In fact, at the economic level – with a worrying situation, skyrocketing inflation and a depreciated lira – Ankara has spent years wanting to impose the brand internationally made in Turkeyinstead of the traditional made in Turkey.
Turkey’s is not the only nominal change that the UN accepts. From the collapse of the Soviet Union, with the appearance of new independent countries – a true geographical orgy that was also a revenge of history -, to the most recent change of Holland for the Netherlands, the UN undertakes the task effortlessly. “The process is quite simple: an official representative of a country (in this case, the Turkish foreign minister) simply has to send a letter to the secretary general requesting that his name be officially changed. As soon as the secretary-general’s office confirms that the letter is authentic, the name change will take effect at the United Nations. There have been some examples of this in the past,” explains Ian Johnson, a UN specialist at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana.
The examples pointed out by the professor are numerous and due to diverse causes. Holland for the Netherlands; Swaziland for Eswatini, Czech Republic for Czechia, Macedonia for North Macedonia. The introduction of a new name is often much more than a change of brand, a decision that has as much to do with the internal discourse of the country in question as with its image abroad, be it for political, historical, legal or political reasons. even tourist. When the Netherlands regained the name of the Netherlands in 2020, it did so to let people know that it is bigger than two of its provinces, North Holland and South Holland; that is, to avoid the synecdoche (use of the part for the whole) that implied the use of the place name Holland. With the change, in addition, the country wanted to transmit abroad the national innovation and economic strength, which in the case of the Netherlands were circumscribed to a picturesque setting of windmills, cheeses and tulips.
In 2018, Swaziland, the small country sandwiched between Mozambique and South Africa, became Eswatini out of a desire to break with the colonial heritage that the first name connoted (in fact, the change was announced at the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of independence of the British Empire). The small absolute monarchy also argued that the country’s colonial name was often confused with Switzerland, Switzerland in English. In 2016, the Czech Republic, resulting from the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1993, adopted Czechia, an appellation attested as far back as the 19th century, as its official short name, and is listed as such in many international organizations.
The dispute in North Macedonia
The case of North Macedonia is more complicated, since it is a change that involves historical, identity and administrative issues, a true Copernican change. In order for Greece to officially recognize its northern neighbor, unlocking its access to the European Union and NATO, the former Republic of Macedonia agreed to call itself the Republic of North Macedonia by virtue of the historic Prespas agreement (2018), later ratified by Parliaments from Skopje and Athens. The change forced to rename from signage to banknotes, passing through mentions in textbooks.
“The name change was not automatic, but happened after constitutional amendments. When they came into force, the change of the name of the country became official”, explains Andreja Stojkovski from Skopje, executive director of the PRESPA Institute. “There was no problem with the UN, but because of Bulgaria and its problem with the new name, we made one more change last January. We have passed a diplomatic note explaining that the use of the abbreviated name North Macedonia always refers to the country Republic of North Macedonia”, concludes the expert, referring to the dispute raised by Sofia due to historical and linguistic demands, and which blocks the access of the former Yugoslav republic to the EU. The identity claim in the Balkans continues to be the order of the day.
But of all the episodes, perhaps the most striking is the one in Turkey. In the midst of an unparalleled economic crisis, with unleashed hyperinflation, further aggravated by the effect of the war in Ukraine – its geographical location and the extensive coastline of the Black Sea make Turkey almost the front line in the conflict -, it never ceases to amaze the effort dedicated to these nominal cares. “It is an attempt to demonstrate to the Turkish public at home and to Turks living in Germany and other Western European countries that Erdogan has the power to assert his will beyond the political borders of the country, and to shape the language and define the terms of the debate”, interprets Mustafa Aksakal, professor of history at Georgetown University. “The name change has great symbolic value at home, at least in some circles. It may seem silly to some, but it gives Erdogan the role of protector, of safeguarding the country’s international reputation and respect for the country,” concludes the academic.
There are many more precedents, even within the Eurasian country itself, for example, the strenuous effort to shake off the term Constantinople – the one still used by Greece to refer to the city – in favor of Istanbul. Or, not far away geographically, the years it took for Iran to get rid of the name Persia, without completely succeeding. Naturally, the Internet has not been able to resist the temptation to make fun of a geopolitical decision, and the example of the poor Turkish turkey offers it an opportunity on a platter. Pure meat -winged- of meme.
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.