Thursday, August 6, 2015

How Old is Your Globe?

Just how old is your globe? Does it still show the U.S.S.R.? How about East & West Germany, Yugoslavia, the Federation of Rhodesia, Burma, Ceylon, and the Trucial States? Does it list the cities of Bombay, Peking, and Saigon? If you can find any of these place names on your current globe, it might be time for a new one. The world has changed tremendously in the last fifty or so years and that fact is reflected in our globes.

Entire countries have disappeared while others have sprouted like mushrooms after a good rain. The U.S.S.R. was once the largest country in the world; it spanned eleven of the world's twenty-four time zones! There are now fifteen new nations where it once stood; does your current globe show these countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, or Uzbekistan? Unless you're a dedicated fan of the Olympics, you may never have heard of more than a handful of the most politically active of these countries.

The former Yugoslavia practically turned itself inside out to produce seven new nations. After the bitter conflict in the 1990s, these countries emerged onto the world stage: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia. They are just a few of the many new countries to have premiered in the last fifty years. According to this article, the National Geographic "currently lists 195 independent countries of the world, roughly three-quarters more than we recognized in 1963." That's a lot of change over a relatively short period!

Countries that disappear and reappear, switch identities or rearrange themselves aren't the only reason for the vast increase in the number of countries in the world. Many former colonies are now independent countries in their own right and have joined the other players on the world stage. In fact, the end of the colonial era is the primary reason for the vast growth in the number of nations in the last half of the 20th century.

Sixteen new countries have emerged in Africa alone, along with dozens of other newly independent former colonies in Oceania and the Caribbean. Some of these former colonies seem to have had identity crises: The Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland became Zambia and Malawi in 1964 and then became the single nation of Zimbabwe in 1980! There are other countries which have also merged into one; besides the well-known examples of East and West Germany along with North and South Vietnam, did you know there was once a North and South Yemen? How about Tanganyika and Zanzibar? They morphed into Tanzania in 1964 - maybe the best example of how to merge two names into one that represents both nations.

Many other changes to the globe haven't resulted from actual changes to the countries or cities, but rather from how native names have been translated. Ceylon is now Sri Lanka and Burma is Myanmar, Peking became Beijing and Bombay is now Mumbai. Sometimes even seemingly well-established countries can decide they need a change; that's why Canada now has a new territory. Up until 1999, Nunavut was just part of the Northwest Territories and now it's a new territory of its own.
Lest you think that only political names have changed, physical features sometimes need updating as well. The Mariana Trench is the deepest point in the world, but the National Geographic has listed at least five different depths for it since 1966. Even the height of Mount Everest is subject to change - depending on how much snow is included in the measurements! The Aral Sea was once the fourth largest lake in the world, but so much irrigation water was diverted away from the rivers that feed it, that it has shrunk by 90% since the early 1960s. It split into four basins and the eastern basin has completely dried up and is now known as the Aralkum desert!

If your globe is covered with familiar, but outdated names, contact us for an up-to-date version and astonish your friends and family with your knowledge of this new world in which we all live!

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