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About This QuizYugoslavia is no more. Prussia? Vanished from the face of the Earth. From war to political unrest to simple re-branding, there are all sorts of reasons that leaders rename their nations. Can you pick the former names of these countries?
It was a sprawling country encompassing parts of both Asia and Europe. Now, what's left of it goes by the name of Russia. What was it called before that?
the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (aka the Soviet Union)
The Soviet Union existed between 1922 and 1991, and was the world's largest country. A highly centralized, communist government eventually gave way to 15 independent countries, like Latvia, Ukraine and Russia.
Botswana in southern Africa has one of the highest standards of living in Africa. What was it formerly known as?
In 1885, Britain annexed this nation as one of its territories, giving it the name Bechuanaland, meaning the country of the Tswana, the main ethnic group. At independence in 1966, it was renamed Botswana.
It's a name that's found in history books and even the Bible. What's the other name for Iran?
Persia was a common name for Iran, particularly in the Western world. In 1935, the Iranian government requested that countries use the term "Iran" rather than "Persia" because "Iran" means "land of the Aryans" and this was to show that the country belonged to more than just Persians. ("Aryan" was an ancient word for Indo-Iranian-speaking people.)
It's now officially called the Kingdom of Thailand (or just Thailand to Westerners). But what was its old name? Hint: there's a cat involved.
More than 1,000 years ago, people who mostly spoke a subset of the Tai languages began settling in what’s now called Thailand. But back then, it was named Siam, which came from the Sanskrit word "syam." In 1939, after a successful coup, dictator Luang Phibunsongkhram changed the country's name to Thailand. It was briefly called Siam again from 1945-48 when he was out of power.
In the early 1900s, the British folded what’s now called Ghana into its empire. What did the British call this colony?
The British called it the Gold Coast, in part because there was so much of the precious mineral in the area. At independence in 1957, its name was changed to Ghana.
After the end of the Cold War in 1991, Yugoslavia broke up into separate countries. Can you name one?
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia all sprang from the late Yugoslavia.
It's now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But what was this country's name before 1997?
The Republic of Zaire was fairly short-lived, lasting from just 1971 to 1997. Before and after that time, the country was referred to as the Democratic Republic of Congo.
If you want to put an ugly political situation behind you, you can always change a country's name. What was Burma's name changed to in 1989?
After a military junta used extreme violence to put down a political uprising, it changed the nation's name from Burma to Myanmar. The U.S. and some other countries don't recognize the name change.
What did Capt. James Cook originally name the Hawaiian Islands?
the Forbidden Islands
the Sandwich Islands
Cook named them in 1778 after one of his sponsors, the Earl of Sandwich — and not because he had eaten a delicious sandwich there. After the 1840s, the local name of Hawaii became more popular.
the Beautiful Islands
Abyssinia is the old name for which modern country?
The eastern coast of Africa is home to a land formerly known as Abyssinia or Ethiopia. Abyssinia was the preferred name by outsiders but locals have always called it Ethiopia.
Image: Juanmonino/Getty Images
About This Quiz
Yugoslavia is no more. Prussia? Vanished from the face of the Earth. From war to political unrest to simple re-branding, there are all sorts of reasons that leaders rename their nations. Can you pick the former names of these countries?