Are there any countries have have actually moved geographically?

When I say moved geographically, what I mean are countries that were in one location, and for some reason ended up in a completely different location some time later.

One mechanism that I can imagine is a country that expanded their territory (perhaps militarily) , then lost their original territory, with the end result being that they are now situated in a completely different place geographically than before.

I have done a lot of googling, and cannot find any reference to this, but it seems plausible to me, and I’m curious!

#countries #moved #geographically

What do you think?

12 Points
Upvote Downvote


Leave a Reply
  1. Poland has done as lot of shifting, as has parts of Germany/Prussia, but not a 100% shift.

    In late medieval history, you could make a case that Normandy moved to England, then later lost the original Normandy.

  2. Rome. What was later called the Byzantine Empire was politically continuous with the Roman Empire, and *called* itself the Roman Empire, but did not contain Rome (or <*edit: for much of its history*> any of the Italian peninsula).

  3. The present Ghana is nowhere near the Kingdom of Ghana, which was located where Mali / Mauritania are today. Guinea, Equatorial Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau are all also named after the Kingdom of Ghana, and are nowhere close.

    The present Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo, are both not really in the Kingdom of Kongo, which is roughly Angola.

    The present Benin is pretty far from the Kingdom of Benin, which was located in present day Nigeria. The Kingdom of Benin actually still exists today within Nigeria, and has no relation to the country of Benin.

    The present Mauritania is far below the Kingdom of Mauretania, which was located where Algeria / Morocco are today.

    Senegal is named after the Zenata, a Berber federation active in modern Algeria, Morocco, and Mauritania.

    In almost all of these cases, European colonisers creatively recycled their names to completely different places.

    Special mentions:

    India was named after the Indus River, which is today entirely in Pakistan and China. Moldova is named after the Moldova River, which is today entirely in Romania.

    Malaysia was renamed from Malaya to include Singapore in 1963, but then Singapore went independent in 1965.

    Azerbaijan is named after Atropates, who ruled Media, then mostly located in Iranian Azerbaijan, which is a good way further south inside Iran.

    Estonia is named after the Aesti, which was a tribe living along the coast of what is now Poland

    Korea is named after the Goguryeo, which was a kingdom that originated from what is now Manchuria in China before migrating south.

    Madagascar is named after Mogadishu, which is and has always been in Somalia.

    The Order of Knights of the Hospital of St John in Jerusalem were originally headquartered in Jerusalem, until the reconquest of the Holy Land by Saladin in 1291. Thereafter they moved to Cyprus, but then invaded the Byzantine island of Rhodes in 1310, which they successfully captured (after a 4 year siege) and moved to, becoming a sovereign state. This continued until 1522 when the Ottomans captured Rhodes, and the Knights moved to Malta. They remained effectively sovereign until 1798 when Napoleon invaded. Throughout this time they continued to own large estates in various parts of Europe, many of which were gradually confiscated; they also colonised several islands in the Caribbean which they gave to the French. The Knights still exist today, headquartered in Rome, where they have their own internationally recognised passport and currency.

  4. Portugal to Brazil perhaps? When Portugal was invaded by Napoleon in the early 19th century, the Portuguese court moved to Rio de Janeiro and started to function from there. It was a case of the colony becoming the seat of the empire.

  5. There perhaps some comparable occurrences if not exactly what you’re looking for. What you’re describing is close to a *rump state* which is the last remaining territory of a once much larger state or empire. A classic example is the Kingdom of the Soissons, a rump state of the western Roman Empire that was far from Rome or it’s Mediterranean strongholds. The Eastern Roman Empire also had a few holdouts around the Aegean after the fall of Constantinople. These are usually closer to the stronghold of the empire (Like modern Turkey and the Ottoman Empire) and ones that aren’t generally don’t last long.

    Another, slightly different example would just be two different relatively unconnected states with the same name. The modern country of Benin is in a different location from the Benin empire for instance.

    [Wikipedia has a nice list of rump states to read through](

  6. The Knights Hospitaller (aka Knights of Malta). A sovereign order, with UN observer status, their own passports and rump military, they were originally founded in Jerusalem, moved to Rhodes after the fall of Jerusalem, then to Malta after Rhodes was taken by the Ottomans. They ruled Malta for two centuries until Napoleon took the island on his way to Egypt. The French only held it briefly (the British took it from them, then kept it for the next century and a half), but the Knights moved to Rome where they’ve led a discreet existence since then, with only a couple of buildings as “territory”.

  7. Had the French succeeded in taking over Portugal during the Napoleonic Invasion then that could’ve perhaps happened, as the royal family and courts had escaped to Brazil and made the capital Rio de Janeiro for a while.

  8. The kingdom of the Salian Franks was originally based in what is now Belgium and the southern Netherlands. After the collapse of the Western Roman Empire they seized Gaul and parts of what is now Germany. Eventually the name became associated with France and Franconia in Germany, and the territory of the original Frankish kingdom is no longer known by the name France or anything similar.

  9. I guess the Republic of China (Taiwan) could be argued to have moved geographically. They are the remnants of the Kuomintang government which was overthrown by Mao’s revolutionary movement. They fled to Taiwan and have used it as a bastion ever since, hoping to one day reclaim mainland China… and not get invaded.

  10. If nobody has mentioned it already, the Liao dynasty in Northeast China from the Song dynasty period of Chinese history was toppled by the Jin and they fled west into Central Asia where they set up a continuation of their regime.

  11. Aside from all the other commented examples, my first thought was the Goths (visagoths, vandals, etc)

    Moving in their entirety due to pressure from the Huns

  12. Transnistiria is *technically* the last remnant of the Soviet Union, though it’s unrecognized by most sovereign states.

    Khanate of Crimea being the last successor of the Mongol Empire.

  13. The first example that comes to mind is the Eastern Roman Empire, which didn’t encompass any of the territory of the Roman Republic for the latter part of its existence, but the Roman Empire isn’t really a “country” if you define a country as a modern nation-state.

    Here are two more modern examples, that still exist today:

    1. The Republic of China, which now consists only of Taiwan after its defeat during its civil war with Communist China. During its formation in 1911, Taiwan was controlled by the Japanese Empire.
    2. The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The Hashemites originally reigned in Hejaz, the region of the Arabian peninsula that contains Mecca and Medina. Following World War I, their cadet branches reigned over Iraq and Jordan as well. Their original territory of Hejaz was conquered by the Sauds and today, only the Jordan branch still reigns.

  14. Persia has done quite a bit of moving. Their origin was in the regions north-east of Iran, for a while they had their capital in what’s today Iraq before “Persia” became synonymous with what’s today Iran.

    If you say “Turk” you’re probably today thinking of Turkey (or Turkyie), but as a people they have gradually migrated westwards over the centuries. Before islam arrived on the scene turks were primarily found in the Altai mountains (Mongolia/Kazakhstan) then moving west into Iran/Iraq and finally their conquests in Anatolia (the heartland of modern Turkey) during the 11th century was one of the triggers for the Crusades.

    Hungaria has also changed quite a bit, both moving their borders slightly westwards and losing much of their eastern territories in the carpathian basin (nowdays a part of Romania).

  15. Poland’s borders have moved quite spectacularly in history.

    []( I hope brittanica is good enough as a General Academic reference. It is transcribed and gives a good impression. And the actual causes are not that important, just the changes in size.

  16. Rome to Constantinople

    Roman Empire expanded from a single city in modern day Italy. The Western half of the empire (including the city) collapsed approx 300 AD but the Eastern half continued as the Roman Empire for another 900 years.

  17. Depends on what is a country. I’ll give you 2 examples and let you decide what works for you.

    First, it was actually pretty common for tribal polities of settled (not nomadic!) peoples to move great distances after being displaced by conquest. An interesting example would be Bulgaria: a Turkic tribal polity in the Caspian sea region in the 7-8th centuries that got expelled from their lands by other tribal polities. They split up into 2 groups: one went north and stayed in the Volga region (modern day Kazan in Russia) for 1000 years before being assimilated into the Moscow Principality after their conquest of Kazan; the other went west, ended up in modern day Bulgaria and had a pretty exciting history there lasting in one form or another until today.

    Second, a modern day example is Taiwan: the loosing side of the Chinese civil war retreated to the island and has been there up until today.

  18. They aren’t exactly *countries* in the traditional sense, but your question reminds me of all the American Indian Nations that were forcibly removed from their ancestral lands and which now control (at least partially) land in Oklahoma.

  19. The Germanic tribes did a lot of migrating around. The two off the top of my head are Burgundy and the Vandals. They both started near Poland. Burgundy then migrated south until it settled where it is now located in eastern France. The Vandals went from Poland, all the way to France, down to Spain, into Morocco, and eventually founded the province of Africa near Tunis for the Roman Empire.

  20. The most famous example might well be the rump states that the other poster mentioned. The most famous is likely the Empire of Portugal with the royal family being deposed and living their lives as royalty exclusively in Brazil, the other side of the Atlantic from their palace.

    Nomads end up doing this pretty much constantly from one ousting to another, but if you are talking about “countries” you are probably talking about nations with capitals.

    The Cherokee and the 5 civilized tribes that were forcefully evicted in the genocides of the 18th-21st centuries would probably count. They had their own nations but lost to colonizing forces who then moved their nations.

  21. Burgundy. Originally a germanic tribe, burgundy is all over Europe. They started out in central Germany, then moved into northeast France, then established the kingdom of burgundy in southeast France. They were absorbed into the new frankish state, then split of again into the burgundian state, consisting of the low countries and what is now the French department of burgundy.

  22. Rome seems like the obvious answer. The western Roman empire fell, but the eastern Roman empire, based out of Constantinople, lasted another 1000 years and still considered themselves “The Roman Empire”

  23. I think a country (with a loose definition) that shifted territories multimple times would be the **Military Order of Malta**. Founded as the *Order of Saint John*, a.k.a. Knights Hospitaller in Palestine they got control over land in the Kingdom of Jerusalem, and with the fall of Acre in 1291 they resettled to Cyprus. In 1310 the got hold of Rhodes and reigned there as a soverign nation. When the lost Rhodes in 1523 they gained Malta in 1530 as new holdout until Napoleon took it on his way to Egypt.

  24. I’d say russia

    most of kievan rus was Ukraine and Belarus but some principalities on the fringe expanded into new territory and eventually ‘rus’ians lost this in 1990s

  25. The obvious one is Taiwan. Started off as China, which was given control of Taiwan. Then due to a civil war, the government fled to Taiwan, and no longer has control over mainland China.

  26. Moravia was originally part of the Czech lands, and spoke a Slavic language. The Moravians severed ties with the Roman Catholic Church (before Martin Luther!) and, because of persecution, moved to some of the German baronies, learned German, and forgot their Slavic language — but retained their own religious views and cultural identity.

  27. Lithuania’s borders around the 1400s were on the borders of Moscow. Which was essentially just a city-state. Now it’s not much bigger than a city-state itself.

    Then of course the Greeks and (North) Macedonians were in a naming rights “war” for about 20-30 years. With the Greeks claiming that they weren’t ethnically or culturally Macedonians and they already had a Macedonia but the (North) Macedonians were claiming that they were the location of the original Macedonia. Which was a Greek city-state.

  28. Albania was originally a state in the Caucasus. Bulgaria with Old Great Bulgaria and Volga Bulgars. Technically you could argue that Sassanid Persia moved to Tang dynasty China although they didn’t have a state, but the story of the Anti-Caliphate alliance is just too good.

  29. Not sure the full history here but a lot of German/Slav/steppe migrations took place between 300-900 AD. Angles/saxons moved from Germany to UK, heck there is now a Saxon territory inland in Germany instead of on the coast. Lombards moved from Germany to Italy. Slavs moved in big numbers from the plains of Russia/Ukraine/Poland to Czech/Croatia/Eastern Europe. Goths/Magyars/Huns/Alans/Avars all moved from the steppe to Romania through to France. Lots happened during this time period.

Leave a Reply