We're looking at you, Czechoslovakia, if that is your real name. (It's not.)
By
Jeremy Cassar

17 Aug 2016 - 11:54 AM  UPDATED 17 Aug 2016 - 1:30 PM

1864: Denmark’s War is a gorgeous war epic screening on SBS On Demand – centred on the Danish war with the Prussians.

No, that last word wasn’t a misspelling of Russians. The Prussians. Like the rest of this list, Prussia used to be an actual place that changed its name after some geopolitical comings and goings.

Now, while many a tweed-wearing history buff might scoff at this list, the rest of us can either learn a thing or two that we didn’t know before - or feel superior that they already knew every detail. 

Here we go...

 

Prussia (1525-1947)

Where was it?

Bits of Germany, Poland. Denmark, Lithuania and more.

What was it?

Up until 1945, any one of us could book a ticket to the Prussian region. Over the 400 years prior, the Kingdom of Prussia survived through the Napoleonic Wars, Schleswig Wars and Austro-Prussian wars, then went on to shape late 19th century Germany.

Why the change?

Adolf Hitler forced out the existing Prussian monarchs so he could unite the world’s population in the name of peace, which he achieved.

 

Persia (550-1935/or present?)

Where was it?

Iran.

What was it?

The Persian Empire spread and dwindled and spread and dwindled, but the core centre of Persia was considered the nation of nations. And while we still refer to most things from Iran as “Persian” (cuisine, cats, rugs) the map says Iran, so I guess we should take that on face value.

Why the change?

In 1935, the Shah of Persia asked foreign governments to cease using the word Persia and switch to Iran.

Some Iranians claim to have called the area Iran for centuries, and that Persia is the less-liked Western label for the country. Others long for the map to change Iran back to Persia, which evokes a thriving, contributing ancient culture.

 

Mesopotamia (65,000 BC-roughly 1920)

Where was it?

Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Turkey, Iran and Syria (basically a chunk of the Middle East).

What was it?

A common misconception is that a bordered nation named Mesopotamia changed its name to Iraq. In fact, Iraq existed in some form within both upper and lower Mesopotamia, a region that went through the Akkadian, Sumerian, Assyrian and Babylonian empires, and all subsequent empires until the Ottoman.

Why the change?

In 1920, after the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire, the borders of modern Iraq were marked by the League of Nations and the new nation remained under British rule until granted independence in 1932, which is when the Kingdom of Iraq officially arrived.

 

Czechoslovakia (1918-1993)

Where was it?

Slovakia and the Czech Republic (soon-to-be renamed Czechia?).

What was it?

A landmass that lay under the thumb of Austro-Hungarian rule from 1918, then surviving through Nazi occupation and a Soviet-led communist regime, before implementing democracy in 1989.

Why the change?

Post-Soviet stronghold Czechoslovakia was split between the hyper-nationalistic citizens, and, well, the not. The dissolution was so peaceful that, after a brief period where it had no name, all they really did was halve the word - officially splitting it into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.  

 

New Holland

Where was it?

Australia

What was it?

The entire continent (or, at least, the areas navigated) gained the nickname New Holland so Europeans knew which landmass was which - a moniker from the first pair of non-Indigenous feet to hit Aussie soil: Dutchman Abel Tasman's.

Why the change?

After Cook partied along the undiscovered east coast of New Holland like it was 1778, and named the land stretching from the entire coastline as New South Wales, this crazily shaped land became divided – New Holland on the western side, New South Wales on the other. Some Matthew Flinders guy sorted the whole thing out and came up with Australia instead.

 

1864: Denmark’s War is available on SBS On DemandWatch the first episode right here:

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