Why swap “Belarus” for “Belarus”?

  • Ulf Andens

    Journalist and former Aftenposten correspondent in London, Vienna and Washington

Vladimir Putin deserves a slap, we treated him badly. So let’s change Belarusian to Belarusian. Maybe that’s how it relates, writes Ulf Andens.

There is a tick on the name change.

Chronicle
This is a chronicle. Opinions in the text are the author’s expense.

From now on, Belarus will be called Belarus in the official Norwegian language. What our authorities decide that other countries should be called in the correct version is not always easy to understand. There are no consistent rules for this, and perhaps we shouldn’t have one either, as official decisions have to take cultural and linguistic considerations into account.

Russian experts say that “Belarus” means more or less the same as Belarus in the language of its own citizens. So we’re really only so far?

Resident’s own name

If we followed the same principle for the countries surrounding Belarus – or Belarus – we would correctly rename Norway to Russia’ Russia’s Rossija, Poland to Poland’s Polska, Slovakia to be Slovensko as such. called by the authorities there, Hungary would have to become Magyarorszag, and Georgia would probably become Sakartvelo, which is Georgia’s own name, Turkey would become Türkiye and Albania would become Shqiperi. But for Belarus, we attack in the name of its own citizen – Belarus.

If we look for any ramifications in this area, we will have a long way to go if we find that we most often use terms in our own language on behalf of countries with which we have long and extensive contact.

Pure coincidence

That is why it is officially called Great Britain Norway and not Great Britain, Germany and not Deutschland, France and not France, Spain and not Espana, Switzerland and not Switzerland, Austria and not Austria. In such countries, it is only a coincidence that our Norwegian name and the name of the country itself are the same, as in the case of Italy.

Among our Nordic neighbors, we let the Finnish Swedish-speaking minority lead over Suomi, although a few years ago we took one of the Finns and let it become Finnish as an environmental cue. Furthermore, we use Japan instead of Japan’s own Nippon, and China instead of China’s Zhongguo. There we did not care about the name of the ruler himself in the country, while we were full of desire to change when Persia became Iran, Siam became Thailand and the military dictatorship in Burma was renamed the kingdom of Myanmar. India and Pakistan, on the other hand, are equally good in Norway and foreign.

In this way, we can continue to find conflicting examples around the world, for those who follow.

What happened to Latvia?

Sometimes the naming of the official Norwegian language is very difficult to understand. The former Latvia which was founded has long been changed to Latvia, to be as close as possible to its own resident Latvia. In the other two Baltic republics, on the other hand, we stick to Estonia, not the people’s Eesti, and Lithuania, instead of the people’s Lietuva.

Don’t ask me what the logic is. Latvia is a good name that most Swedes don’t have, but then Swedes have a very different close relationship with Latvia than we have.

In some cases, I would think that the Norwegian name was retained because ‘the name of the authorities became too difficult for Ola nordmann to pronounce: At least for that reason, we wisely stick to Ivory Coast instead of Ivory Coast belonging to the authorities. .

Inconsistencies sometimes live their own lives. The old Norwegian name in Wales was England, after the original Celtic English people who clawed their way into the country, as opposed to the England the Anglo-Saxons had conquered from them and given their name. Later, Ola nordmann was satisfied with using the country’s English name, which in her own luggage language was called Cymru.

History can be lost

Most often it may happen that the more exotic and distant a country is, the more likely we are to keep the name of that distant country to ourselves, because we know nothing more. It can be a good name habit to stick to the Norwegian name in different kinds of foreign countries where few such names exist, because by that we show that we have had so much connection with that country, that it has found its own place. in our Norwegian.

The disadvantage of changing the name of a country or city is that history runs the risk of being lost. This is a little easier with them having the same name all the time.

But there’s a catch to the trade-off: Russian experts have explained to us that “Belarus” is the name of the country also in Russian. In other words: Belarus is what Putin says.

So why trade Belarus with Belarus? It came shortly after the country’s opposition leader visited Norway and asked us to do it. I can see a good reason for that: the name Belarus may sound to some people’s ears as if the country is still an offshoot of Russia. And we don’t think Putin deserves it. On the contrary: Putin deserves a slap, we treat him badly. So let’s change Belarusian to Belarusian.

But there’s a catch to the trade-off: Russian experts have explained to us that “Belarus” is the name of the country also in Russian. In other words: Belarus is what Putin says. This is the gap between Putin and the Belarusian freedom fighters. So we might as well keep both parties happy with the name change.

This text was first published on Ulf Andenæs’ Facebook page.

Henrietta Fairbank

"Amateur analyst. Zombie geek. Hardcore troublemaker. Internet expert. Incurable twitter fanatic."

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