What’s in a Name Change? Turkey Wants the World To Call It by Its Traditional Name: Türkiye
One reason behind the change is the government effort to inspire national pride
The Turkish government wants the world to call the country by its original name.
In April, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called on the international community to refer to his country by its traditional name, which is spelled “Türkiye” and pronounced Tur-key-yay.
“The word Türkiye represents and expresses the culture, civilization and values of the Turkish nation in the best way,” Erdoğan said.
There are sometimes misunderstandings of Turkey and the bird of Turkey, but of course it’s better to say Türkiye in our language and all languages too
Erdoğan, who is running for reelection in 2023 amid a widespread political and economic crisis, says the new name should be a source of national pride.
International organizations like the United Nations, the World Trade Organization and NATO already have agreed to use Türkiye as the country’s official name, following a formal request from Turkish authorities.
Turkey’s English-language state broadcaster TRT World also has started using the name Türkiye.
The country called itself Türkiye in 1923 after making its declaration of independence.
Turkey is certainly not the first country to drop its name for the sake of another.
Myanmar, Netherlands, Iran, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Macedonia are among the countries that have changed their names.
Dr. Şuay Nilhan Açikalin of the International Relations Department at Ankara Hacı Bayram Veli University told The Media Line the rebranding has roots in the country’s history.
“The main idea behind changing the name is promoting Türkiye brand. Actually, because Türkiye is not only a word, but it’s also a simple representation of Turkish culture, Turkish society as the historical deepness,” she explained.
However, Açikalin says the push to change the name may have something to do with America’s favorite holiday bird.
“Why not? There are sometimes misunderstandings of Turkey and the bird of Turkey, but of course it’s better to say Türkiye in our language and all languages too,” Açikalin said.
Another reason behind the change is the government effort to inspire national pride.
“I observed that the Turkish people are also very happy to use Türkiye in English as well or other languages too abroad, because its easier to represent yourselves,” she said.
TRT World explained the step in an article earlier this year, saying that googling “Turkey” brings up a “a muddled set of images, articles and dictionary definitions that conflate the country with Meleagris – otherwise known as the turkey, a large bird native to North America – which is famous for being served on Christmas menus or Thanksgiving dinners.”
The national broadcaster continued: “Flip through the Cambridge Dictionary and “turkey” is defined as “something that fails badly” or “a stupid or silly person.”
Our economy is reeling, we have a major financial crisis, our currency lost its value and that’s what our government is worried about?
The decision has been met with a mixed reaction inside the country.
Mustafa, a resident of Istanbul, told The Media Line that the government should focus on more pressing issues.
“Our economy is reeling, we have a major financial crisis, our currency lost its value and that’s what our government is worried about?”
Even the United States is still unsure about what to call its NATO ally.
While the White House, National Security Council and Treasury and Defense Departments have recognized the new name, the State Department is lagging behind.
US ambassador in Ankara, former Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, used the new name recently, tweeting: “Kudos to Türkiye” for its help brokering a grain deal between Ukraine and Russia.
“They’ll come around,” an official at the foreign ministry in Ankara told The Media Line.
Steps have already begun, with a promotional campaign underway including advertisements from Turkish Airlines featuring people saying the new name over and over.
The Turkish Presidency’s Directorate of Communications said it launched the campaign “to promote more effectively the use of ‘Türkiye’ as the country’s national and international name on international platforms.”
The Media Line is following the example of The Associated Press, and is watching to see how much acceptance “Türkiye” gains. In the meantime, TML will continue to use “Turkey.”