Yugoslavia Name Change No Surprise to Geographers

George Stuteville
for National Geographic News
February 14, 2003

Judging from the news reports, it would seem the nation of Yugoslavia was overthrown overnight and suddenly renamed Serbia and Montenegro.

"Yugoslavia Abolished," screamed the February 4, 2003 headline in hundreds of newspapers and Internet Websites around the world.

But there was no surprise for the cartographers of the National Geographic Society. For nearly a year, David Miller, senior editorial cartographer for National Geographic Maps, has been planning to issue maps marked with the new name of the Balkan nation formerly known as Yugoslavia.

"With the Society being headquartered in Washington, D.C. we have access to significant geopolitical developments through the foreign embassies, the U.S. State Department, and even the CIA, when they return our phone calls," Miller said.

Since March 2002, when the countries of Serbia and Montenegro agreed to become a new nation under an agreement brokered by the European Union, Miller has been waiting for the countries to formally ratify the Constitutional Charter.

"We had a lot of warning this would happen. At the Society, we are now in the process of purging Yugoslavia," Miller said.

On February 13, National Geographic Maps was ready with its updated map, which includes a downloadable version on the Nationalgeographic.com Web site. This map replaces Plate 84 of the National Geographic Atlas of the World, Seventh Edition.

It was no trouble, Miller said, to make the map change—unlike the sweeping changes that occurred during the aftermath of the breakup of the former Soviet Union in 1991. From that event, the names of 21 new nations had to be added to maps depicting Eastern Europe, Russia, and Asia.

A Nation is Born

Renaming a country does not erase its problems. Consider: Serbia and Montenegro have no common flag they can wave in the ongoing European soccer match-ups (in fact a squabble is brewing over which color of blue they should adopt).

They have no seal that can be stamped on passports (both nations use a double-headed eagle, but there is a difference in the bird's wing).

Continued on Next Page >>


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