Turkey the Country Now Türkiye (Bird Still Turkey)

Our ostensible ally is seeking to rebrand itself.

NPR, (“Turkey will now be known as Türkiye [at least at the U.N.]”)

Turkey has a new name —at least at the United Nations. The organization has agreed to recognize it as Türkiye after a request from the country’s government, which has been working to rebrand the nation’s name since last winter.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu formally asked for the change in a letter to the U.N. and other international agencies this week.

“The process we started under the leadership of our President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in order to increase our country’s brand value is to be finalized,” Cavusoglu tweeted on Tuesday, according to a translation from Balkan Insight.

On Wednesday, U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told the state-run outlet Anadolu Agency that the name change took effect from the moment the letter was received.

The country’s rebranding campaign began in December — during a period of skyrocketing inflation and a worsening economic crisis — when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a memorandum asking other countries to use the name Türkiye.

Domestically, he also instructed that products for export be labeled “Made in Türkiye” and state agencies use the name in official documents, according to Al Jazeera.

“Türkiye is the best representation and expression of the Turkish people’s culture, civilization and values,” Erdogan said at the time.

The country called itself Türkiye — which is pronounced “tur-key-YAY” — after its declaration of independence in 1923, The Associated Press notes. Much of the Turkish public already recognizes that name, though the anglicized version is commonly used inside the country as well.

In January, the country launched a tourism campaign called “Hello Türkiye,” with a video showing tourists uttering the phrase from different sites across the country. The state broadcaster TRT World said the campaign’s goal was to “announce and raise global awareness about using the country’s original name.”

Turkish officials and state-run media suggest there are several reasons behind the push to have the country internationally recognized as Türkiye — including strengthening its identity and distancing itself from certain less-flattering associations (and search results).

BBC (“Turkey wants to be called Türkiye in rebranding move“) adds:

Turkey will be known as Türkiye at the United Nations from now on, after it agreed to a formal request from Ankara.

Several international bodies will be asked to make the name change as part of a rebranding campaign launched by the Turkish president late last year.

[…]

State broadcaster TRT was quick to make the change as soon as it was announced last year, explaining that among the reasons for the image rebrand was the association with the bird traditionally associated with Christmas, New Year or Thanksgiving.

As part of the re-branding, “Made in Türkiye” will feature on all exported products, and in January a tourism campaign was launched with the catch-phrase “Hello Türkiye”.

The move has been met with a mixed reaction online. While government officials support it, others say it is an ineffective distraction as the president gears up for elections next year, amid an economic crisis.

AP/WaPo (“No more Turkey: Country in push to be known as ‘Türkiye’“) notes:

It was not clear whether the name, with a letter that doesn’t exist in the English alphabet, will catch on widely abroad. In 2016, the Czech Republic officially registered its short-form name, Czechia, and while some international institutions use it, many still refer to the country by its longer name.

As a general rule, I favor calling people and countries what they want to be called. But, yes, requiring an umlaut and an extra syllable will be a hard sell. As, as silly as the association with the bird/insult may be, “Turkey YAY” seems sillier still in English.

Sometimes, as in the Burma/Myanmar or Kiev/Kyiv contest, these things have political angles, with the pronunciation/choice coming down to which faction one supports. Sometimes, as in Côte d’Ivoire/Ivory Coast, it’s simply a function of ease of translation.

Regardless, I’d be more amenable to “Turkey YAY” if Erdogan weren’t such a recalcitrant member of NATO and constantly sidling up to our adversaries in the region.

FILED UNDER: Europe, United Nations, World Politics, , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Kathy says:

    I say we call it Pontus.

    2
  2. Flat Earth Luddite says:

    I’m reminded of my late brother-in-law, who would proudly say

    my name is spelled S-c-o-t-t but I pronounce it Fernando

    2
  3. gVOR08 says:

    The guys over at TAC who said it was “Kiev” when I was a kid so it can’t be “Kyiv” will be unhappy.

    The process we started under the leadership of our President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

    Boy does that sound authoritarian. Maybe we should just call it Erdoganstan.

    1
  4. Kathy says:

    My rule is that personal names should not be translated, but used as given in their native language. Country, state, and city names can be translated as necessary, and this is usually not a problem.

    For instance, I know of no complaints that Nippon is usually known as Japan. For that matter, Deutschland does not demand English speakers not call it Germany.

  5. grumpy realist says:

    @Kathy: There’s also the “Nippon” vs. “Nihon” aspect. Both are presently acceptable, although I get the sneaky suspicion that “Nippon” was more widely used during WWII and the shenanigans up to it and hence has a more “nationalistic” flavour. I’d say it’s the term more widely used by the Japanese rightists driving around in their military trucks except for the fact that the feedback squawk on their loudspeakers is so strong that nobody can’t tell nothin’ of what they’re bellowing….

    3
  6. Neil Hudelson says:

    They can call the country whatever they want, as long as the biggest city is still called Constantinople.

    8
  7. Moosebreath says:

    @Kathy:

    “I say we call it Pontus.”

    Does that make Erdogan the heir to the Poison King?

  8. Scott F. says:

    I hope this country re-branding thing doesn’t catch on. I sure don’t want to live in the Trumpist States of AmeriTrump come 2025.

    3
  9. gVOR08 says:

    @Scott F.: It would just be “Trump”, in big gold letters over the WH and Statue of Liberty.

    3
  10. Slugger says:

    How is the ü pronounced? I can do it in German, and I always ask for an Über rather than a oohber. Did the gastarbeiter von die Türkei carry that vowel sound back home?

    2
  11. MarkedMan says:

    Totally pointless piece of trivia concerning why the country and the Thanksgiving bird share a name: Centuries ago, Turkey was considered an exotic place by Western Europe standards, and a lot of exotic things were imported from there. Over time, the adjective “turkey” came to mean “exotic” regardless of where it actually came from. When the large North American fowl was introduced to menageries in Europe, it was described as a “turkey bird” from North America, and gradually in the US it got shortened to just Turkey.

    Every Thanksgiving my mother would ask my father (both born in rural Ireland in the 1920’s) if he had gotten the turkey bird yet, his one contribution to the annual feast.

    3
  12. Sleeping Dog says:

    I’ll adapt to the spelling, but the umlaut ain’t happening and turkey will forever pass through my lips.

    2
  13. just nutha says:

    The country called itself Türkiye — which is pronounced “tur-key-YAY” — after its declaration of independence in 1923, The Associated Press notes.

    I was wondering about this when I read the headline and the sub.

    As far as the pronunciation goes, it seems logical to me that it goes “Tur(tour?)-kih-yeh” rather than “Tur-kee-YAYEE,” but to each his onw own.

    1
  14. CSK says:
  15. JohnSF says:

    @Kathy:
    Hey, what about Bithynia and Galicia, Phrygia and Cappadocia?
    Not to mention Paphlagonia.

  16. Lounsbury says:

    Erdogan’s antics of a late may be usefully boiled down to the usual authoritarian’s plays for posturing against the foreigners as a distraction from domestic problems.

    With an official 70% inflation rate (and likely real rate higher, this not being silly conspiracy mongering, rather Erdogan’s people have started buggering around with even statistics) and a 45% decline in Lira value thanks to his recent economic incompetence, provoking fights with the Foreign is his political play.

    Pity the fellow did a perfectly decent job in his first ten years and had he retired, after a decade, he would have had a lion’s reputation. But no, thirst for power…

    2
  17. Scott F. says:

    @gVOR08:

    It would just be “Trump”, in big gold letters over the WH and Statue of Liberty.

    “Trump” will also be emblazoned all along the wall that will span our entire border, including shorelines.

  18. Lounsbury says:

    @just nutha: As for pronunciation, and as someone who’s regularly in Turkey with Turkish colleagues, I have no idea where the Associated Press is getting that pronunciation but it’s a bizarre (mis)rendition of what Türkiye sounds like in Turkish. Your rendition is rather better.
    Listen here for example to Republic of Turkey in Turkish (sound file) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Tur-T%C3%BCrkiye_Cumhuriyeti.ogg

    (on other hand the way anglos render the supposed pronunciation of Qatar in Arabic – either dialect or not – is so bizarrely distorted, I suppose it is par for the course. Turks will be better off sticking with Turkey.)

  19. Kathy says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    I think you meant Byzantium.

    1
  20. Michael Reynolds says:

    Let them figure out how to manage crowd control at the Blue Mosque and I’ll call them whatever they like. Also, the taxis suck.

    1
  21. just nutha says:

    @Lounsbury: Good to know that the courses in non-English phonics/diction and phonetic linguistics weren’t wasted. 🙂

    2
  22. Richard Gardner says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Some NPR program (The World) today had a piece on female taxi drivers in Istanbul and how there numbers were “dramatically increasing.” Out of 30-50K cab drivers, there are all of 15 female drivers, ha, NPR math. Close enough to zero, insignificant. The name changing thing reminds me of a know-it-all undergraduate that just visited Europe for a couple of weeks (er, Europe’s tourist traps and Capitols) and pompously announces, “It is Roma, not Rome.” (For Kathy, “It is London, not Londres” Ha.)

    2
  23. If Portugal was a superpower, it will be Peru wanting to change its name to Piruw or something like that

  24. DrDaveT says:

    One is reminded of the ire and angst when China announced that their capital really is called “Beijing”, not “Peking”. Or when India suggested that the rest of the world might want to know that their largest cities are Kolkata and Mumbai, not “Calcutta” and “Bombay”. Or, for that matter, when Italy (or should that be Italia?) reminded everyone that the city with all the great museums is Firenze, not “Florence”…

    It’s almost amusing that the West reacts as if the nation were trying to change their name, not as if the West had gotten it wrong all along.

    Deutschland doesn’t bother correcting anglophones because they are sufficiently secure in their Deutschligkeit that they are content to simply sneer at the ignorance of anglophones. Turkiye ain’t so confident.