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8 Cities That Have Changed Names

Mary Beth  Skylis
Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon.
Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon. / Ho Ngoc Binh/Moment/Getty Images
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Every so often, a place sees a regime change or a shift in mentality leads to a major rebrand. Some of the most well-known cities in the world have gone through at least one name change. The new monikers often exhibit transfers of power, or may honor a specific person. Here are eight cities that were once known by other names.

1. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Saigon became Ho Chi Minh City in 1975 when it joined the Gia Dinh Province of Vietnam after the end of the Vietnam War. It was renamed after a previous communist prime minister, as the new moniker was representative of the north’s success. However, many people still refer to the city by its original name. 

2. Mumbai, India

The city formerly known as Bombay officially became Mumbai in 1995 when the Shiv Sena political party rose to power. The Shiv Sena party saw Bombay as a relic of Britain’s colonial legacy, and Mumbai was just one of many places in the country to receive a non-British name.

3. Istanbul, Turkey

Turkey - Istanbul - Aerial view of city with the Suleymanie Mosque and Golden Horn in foreground
The city formerly known as Constantinople. / Christopher Pillitz/GettyImages

Constantine the Great originally gave the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire the name of Constantinople, or “City of Constantine.” The city went by this name or variations of it even after the Ottomans captured it in 1453; it was formally renamed Istanbul in 1930, not long after the Republic of Turkey was created. 

4. Oslo​​, Norway

A fire destroyed the city of Oslo in 1624, during King Christian IV’s reign. When the settlement was being rebuilt, King Christian IV insisted on renaming Norway’s largest urban center after himself, dubbing it Christiania (which later became Kristiania). In 1925, the city’s original name was restored to Oslo. 

5. New York, New York, United States

It’s hard to imagine the Big Apple as anything other than New York City. But in the 17th century, the Dutch settled in southern Manhattan, calling their territory Nieuw Amsterdam (New Amsterdam). In 1664, the British gained the land, renaming it to New York after the Duke of York. 

6. Toronto, Canada

Toronto skyline
Toronto, Canada. / Carlo Allegri/GettyImages

When the British settled in the Toronto region in 1793, they changed the name of the territory from Toronto to York to honor the Duke of York. But shortly after, residents began petitioning to return the growing city’s name back to Toronto. They were finally successful in 1834.

7. St. Petersburg, Russia

In 1914—at the start of World War I—Sankt-Petersburg (also known as St. Petersburg) became Petrograd because the city’s original name was thought to be “too German.” In 1924, the city was briefly renamed to Leningrad after Vladimir Lenin died; it returned to its original name in 1991. 

8. Dushanbe, Tajikistan

In 1929, Tajikistan’s largest city was transformed from Dushanbe to Stalinbad in honor of Joseph Stalin. But the name change was short-lived. In 1961, the city reverted back to its original name as part of the region’s de-Stalinization initiative.

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