In present day India the ruling party has started to rename the cities by claiming to take them to their origins. It has been discussed here, here and here. Primarily the cities with Muslim Names for instance Allahabad was changed to Prayagraj saying that it was it's original name and the Akbar changed it during his conquest. There have been cases when things were named after Muslims as well for instance an Island was named after APJ Abdul Kalam India's Former President and regarded as the Missile Man of India.

Also India's curriculum is being rapidly rewritten as mentioned here, here, here and here. This also includes historically incorrect facts and data such as that the Indian Kings defeated the Mughals when they clearly lost and had to run away which are in accordance to claims of members of Ruling Party but are historically wrong.

Illogical scientific claims are also being made as pointed out here, here, here, here and here These include things like ancient India has Televisions, Flying Vehicles, Stem Cell Research etc.

I was searching for previous historical precedent in other countries in both modern and ancient times for a project where actions were taken due to similar reasons but was unable to find any such incident. Has there never been such a mass renaming, rewriting of history and changing of facts earlier? If yes please comment on how did people react to losing their heritage and identity. Also please share some specific examples also.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Semaphore Aug 14 '19 at 19:25
  • @Semaphore just a question how can I get my post reopened.( People rarely reply on chats has happened to me before). I've made all necessary edits as advised – user38443 Aug 14 '19 at 19:26
  • 'Identity' and 'heritage' becomes tricky to define for a region where minority Muslim rulers reigned over a majority Hindu population. The Muslim empires of India have often been associated with religious conquest and violent, forced conversions, making their way into the subcontinent through continuing onslaughts and campaigns from the North-West of India. – user41008 Nov 17 '19 at 15:09
  • The result being that you have a Muslim minority that celebrates the legacy of these empires that were instrumental in sculpting the Indian Muslim's identity, and a Hindu majority that generally resents this period as a dark phase of rule by foreign settlers in India, accompanied by the destruction of their 'identity' and 'culture'. What may seem like a loss of heritage to one appeals to the other as going back to the roots. – user41008 Nov 17 '19 at 15:12
  • @ShubhamJohri I would just like to ask you when you refer to India at the times of the arrival of Mughals where do you draw the physical boundaries? I mean there was no sense of togetherness as each ruler wanted to expand his/her own territory. The southern region was totally isolated and had it's own dynasties so did the North East. So when you say these "foreign invaders" arrived and destroyed the culture and identity don't you think that it is more of a conquest of a stronger kingdom over a bunch of different kingdoms rather than a single identity. – user38443 Nov 17 '19 at 16:34

This happened in Turkey, as part of a deliberate attempt to replace old names:

Approximately 12,000 village names that are non-Turkish, understood to originate from non-Turkish roots, and identified as causing confusion have been examined and replaced with Turkish names, and put into effect by the Substitution Committee for Foreign Names functioning at the Directorate General for Provincial Governments in our Ministry.[27]

Note that this is after a period where many older names had already been changed by the Ottomans from the Greek. (Constantinople -> Istanbul), though in a less organized why. And of course some of these cities were also renamed when the Romans acquired them in the first place.

"Mass" renaming usually happens in the context of military conquest, as in what the Ottomans, the Romans, or the exchange of German names for Polish names as @luiz mentions, but as the Turkish example shows, the Indian changes for political reasons are not unique. Usually when this happens, it's the result of an indigenous population taking over from a "foreign" minority, for instance, as in South Africa. This may be exhibited in the names becoming more aligned with the ethnic majority, or they may just be the removal of names seen as representing foreign oppressors.

Note that the the change of individual names for political reasons is incredibly common, from Constantine renaming a city after himself, through the shoguns rebranding Edo as Tokyo, to the revolving door name of what is now St. Petersburg. At the lower level, this sort of thing happens endlessly. In the US, there's currently a debate about the names of schools, and a couple decades before that the US saw a wave of streets renamed for Martin Luther King Jr..

So yes, renaming things for political reasons is as old as politics.

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    Istanbul is essentially Greek "στην Πόλη" (literally "in the City") with an initial vowel simply because Turkish, like Spanish, does not like words starting with s and another consonant. – Henry Aug 13 '19 at 8:21

When German territory was given to Poland at the end of WWII, many names changed.


I had a German colleague whose grandma was born in these lands (Silesia), and she was expelled to Germany after the war. After the iron curtain fell, she went back there to visit her old farm... Buildings, roads, and all names were gone - small rivers, cities, no place mark or road sign had any sense to her. The only things she could recognize were some landscapes and trees - she even found a tree nearby where her brother had a tire swing as a child.

The Polish people were cooperative and she could tour her old farm, even if no building from her time is left standing.

Similar issues in the Russian Kaliningrad Oblast, wiki lists german, russian and polish names:


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  • well, the list of place names contains many cities, large and small. what do you mean? The point is after the war the polish or russian names replaced completely the german ones for all practical purposes - and it was massive, not an isolated case - precisely what he is asking. – Luiz Aug 12 '19 at 21:09
  • It would be nice to know which territories you're referring to. Pomerania? Silesia? – Rodrigo de Azevedo Sep 7 '19 at 10:43
  • Silesia, or at least the southern part of the german lands anexed by Poland. Not sure if the all these lands are called Silesia. He mentioned that her grandma family reference of 'big city for business not solvable at the closest city' was Breslau. But I do not know how far they were from Breslau. – Luiz Sep 7 '19 at 22:31
  • "German lands"? Why not Prussian-occupied Polish territories? And Silesia was not quite annexed by Poland. Stalin just took it and gave it to Poland to compensate Poland for the loss of Galicia, which became part of Soviet Ukraine. Many Polish Galicians were then moved to Silesia. And Galicia is now the heartland of one form of Ukrainian nationalism. It's complicated. – Rodrigo de Azevedo Sep 7 '19 at 22:36
  • German lands in the simple sense that they were part of the german state at that point in time. And in the sense that a good part of the the pop was german, also at that point in time. Today's border is where Uncle Joe's moustache told us it should be. 'Annex' is just a fact: it was not in poland at some point in time, and then it was. 'Annex' is not a political statement, or right or wrong. – Luiz Sep 7 '19 at 22:46