A Brief History
On June 20, 1991, the German Bundestag moved the capital of the newly reunified Germany back to Berlin from Bonn. For a variety of reasons, countries occasionally change their capital cities. Here we list 10 of those incidents. There is no significance to the order listed. Can you think of other notable capital changes? (There are a lot!)
10. Bonn-Berlin, Germany, 1991.
When Germany was split after World War II into East and West Germany, each had their own capital, Bonn in the West and East Berlin in the East. Upon reunification after the fall of the communist Soviet bloc, the government was moved into the traditional German capital city of Berlin.
9. Rio de Janeiro-Brasilia, Brazil, 1960.
Rio had been the capital of Brazil in all its forms from when the Portuguese first colonized Brazil. Brazilians decided to create a new capital, centrally located in their vast country and without any of the historical baggage of an established city.
8. Chillicothe-Columbus, Ohio, 1816.
Columbus is now the most populous city in Ohio, but only the 3rd most populous metropolitan area (Cincinnati and Cleveland). Chillicothe was the first capital, then Zanesville, then Chillicothe again before finally Columbus. Chillicothe has the distinction of having been the capital of Ohio twice. Columbus is the largest city in the world named after Christopher Columbus.
7. Calcutta-Delhi-New Delhi. India, 1912 and 1931.
India is on pace to equal or surpass China as the most populous country in the world and they have nuclear weapons. Although still backward in much of the country, they are becoming more important industrially and economically. New Delhi is actually a new city built within the borders of Delhi, which is more of a region or district (“capital territory”).
6. Paris-Vichy-Paris, France, 1940 and 1944.
When Germany conquered France in 1940 the puppet government of occupied France was moved to Vichy. In 1944 when the Allies liberated Paris, Paris once again resumed its role as capital of France.
5. Kingston-Montreal-Ottawa, Canada, 1844 and 1857.
Queen Victoria herself made the decision to move the Canadian capital to Ottawa when Canada was still a “province” of the United Kingdom. When Canada gained their independence in 1867 the capital remained in Ottawa, a city with a metropolitan population of over 1.2 million.
4. Kyoto-Tokyo, Japan, 1869.
Kyoto had been the capital of Japan for over 1000 years when the 17 year old emperor (Meiji) decided to make Edo the capital and renamed it Tokyo. Tokyo now has a metropolitan population of about 35 million people. Cracked fact: Kyoto was spared being a nuclear target in 1945 due to its historical significance.
3. Moscow-St. Petersburg-Moscow, Russia, 1713 and 1918.
Czar Peter the Great moved the Imperial Russian capital from Moscow to his new city and it remained the national capital for all but 4 years until the communist takeover moved the capital of the Soviet Union back to Moscow. In the meantime, St. Petersburg was renamed Petrograd in 1918 and then Leningrad in 1924 and back to St. Petersburg in 1991 when the Soviet Union dissolved.
2. Constantinople-Ankara, Turkey, 1923.
After World War I upon the demise of the Ottoman Empire and the founding of modern Turkey, the Turks moved the national capital to Ankara, a city that today has a metropolitan area population of about 4.5 million. Cracked fact: The former capital, Constantinople is now known as Istanbul, a city with a metropolitan area of over 14 million people. Prior to Constantinople the city was known as Byzantium.
1. New York-Washington, D.C., USA 1790.
New York served as the nation’s capital while under the Articles of Confederation, and then as the first capital under the Constitution in 1789-1790 until Washington, D.C. was established. Cracked fact: York, Pennsylvania claims to have been the first capital of the US since the Articles of Confederation were drafted there and it was the defacto center of the revolutionary government. Cracked fact: The first capital of New York State was Kingston.
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