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Explained: Why did Turkey change its name to Türkiye?

Following a request to the UN, the country officially changed its name. But why?
Last Updated 11 June 2022, 10:03 IST

The United Nations officially recognised Turkey renaming itself Türkiye after the government formally advocated for the new name. The UN said it had implemented the change shortly after receipt of the request.

The process of renaming the country began in December 2021, when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a statement saying, "The word 'Turkiye' represents and expresses the culture, civilisation, and values of the Turkish nation in the best way." The name was changed to rectify the country's image and make it more attached to the cultural roots etched in Turkish history.

Domestically, Türkiye (pronounced tur-key-yay) is used already but its anglicised version 'Turkey' was adopted internationally.

State broadcaster TRT said that Europe has been using the anglicised version ever since Turkey’s independence in 1923. "Over the centuries, Europeans have referred to firstly the Ottoman state and then to Turkiye by many names," the broadcaster said. "But the name that has stuck most is the Latin 'Turquia' and the more ubiquitous 'Turkey'."

An unfortunate association

TRT explained that the association with the bird of the same name, typically associated with Christmas, New Year or Thanksgiving in the US, was one of the reasons for the change. Further, the Turkish government objected to the search results of the large bird that showed up when the word 'turkey' was Googled. Another objection was that one of the definitions of 'turkey' was "something that fails badly" or "a stupid or silly person".

A rebranding campaign

Just ahead of the elections, Turkey’s government undertook a massive rebranding campaign as part of which 'Made in Türkiye' will appear on all exported products. In January, a tourism campaign with the catchphrase 'Hello Türkiye' was also launched.

According to the BBC, government supporters favoured the initiative as a way to cope with the country's economic problems but it has found few takers outside of that circle.

Like Türkiye, other countries have altered names to sidestep colonial imprints. The Netherlands, for instance, decided to stop calling itself Holland, Macedonia was renamed North Macedonia due to political conflicts with Greece, Persia became Iran in 1935, Thailand emerged from Siam in 1939, and Rhodesia was renamed Zimbabwe in 1979 to shed its colonial history.

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(Published 11 June 2022, 09:54 IST)

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