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Even the names of the countries, and their shapes on the map, had been different. Airstrip One, for instance, had not been so called in those days: it had been called England or Britain, though London, he felt fairly certain, had always been called London.

So The Empire has conquered a number of unfortunate countries and crushed the citizens under the weight of oppression. But it just isn't enough for The Empire. They've got to rub their newfound authority in the subdued province's face. How best to humiliate them? Take away something they strongly value, something that symbolizes their very identity--their name! The Empire will show how evil they are by re-branding the area with a label and a number. It also adds to the overall miliatry atmosphere of a piece, even though Real Life militaries' very reason for using codes rather than common place names is operational secrecy, and replacing the latter with the former for public use would be Completely Missing the Point.

Other evil rulers prefer to rename cities after themselves.

For replacing people's names with numbers, see You Are Number Six.

Examples of Airstrip One include:

Anime and Manga

  • In Code Geass, the various lands conquered by the Holy Britannian Empire are given numbers as part of the "Number system" of identified said conquered lands. Japan is renamed "Area 11."
  • Freeza named all the planets he conquered "Planet Freeza #(insert number here)"


Fan Works

  • Aperture Science 3007 Colony and Land of Life and No Death (theoretically Lithuania and Poland) from Portal: The 4th Millennium franchise.
    • Even though most other modern countries are referred to by their actual names. The author probably just hated his own home country that much.


  • Nineteen Eighty-Four has the entire United Kingdom given the pitiful title of "Airstrip One," a reference to the Americans referring to it as "an unsinkable aircraft carrier" during World War Two when the Nazis had overrun most of continental Europe.
  • Ixia's Military Districts (MD-1 through MD-8) in Maria Snyder's Ixia and Sitia books. The Commander isn't actually evil though, just a military man who hates any show of extravagance relating to the royal family he ousted.
  • The eponymous land of Tigana, thanks to a major case of Moral Myopia, walks the fine line between this and Unperson.
  • In S.M. Stirling's Domination of Draka series, the Draka give new (usually classical) names to all the lands they conquer. Southeastern France becomes the Province of Burgundia, there is a Hyrkania in Central Asia, etc.
  • In Sinclair Lewis' It Can't Happen Here, when Buzz Windrip of the fascist Corpo Party takes over the United States, he abolishes the old 48 states and their elected governments, and divides America into eight provinces, each province divided into numbered districts, each district divided into lettered counties, each unit ruled by a commissioner appointed by himself. Even the hostile newspaper editor Doremus Jessup is forced to admit these new administrative divisions make a certain amount of sense.
  • In Taylor Caldwell's THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE, the totalitarian Democracy of America has replaced the states with numbered Sections. What was formerly New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania is only "Section 7".
  • In The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, the "North American Directorate" appears to have replaced the states with "Managerial Areas".
  • In the Horus Heresy novels the planets conquered by humanity during the great crusade have their original names replaced by a numeric designation based on the code number of the fleet that conquered it, followed by a number that shows which order it was conquered in. Thus the 10th planet conquered by the 25th fleet is known as 25-10. These planets are then given proper Imperial names later.
  • In the Doctor Who Virgin New Adventures, the Earth Empire has renamed all Earth's cities "Spaceports". Original Sin is mostly set in Spaceport 5 Overcity, which seems to be London.
  • In The Hunger Games, the Capitol has renamed all of the subdued areas Districts 1-13.
  • The Republic of Gilead in The Handmaid's Tale.


  • Translations, by Brian Friel, a play about the UK's presence in Ireland in the 19th century. It is largely concerned with the effort to eliminate the Irish language by translating all place names into their English equivalents, or at least into something that sounds like English. Did you know that "Dublin" just comes from the Gaelic for "black pool"? It's not like anyone can pronounce "Baile tha Cliath" anyway. At least, not now that nobody speaks Gaelic.

Video Games

  • Half-Life 2 takes place in a coastal city in Eastern Europe (as evidenced by the architecture and abundance of Cyrillic script), known only as City 17. A City 14 is also mentioned by a passer-by.
  • Midgar's sectors in Final Fantasy VII. Jesse mentions that the areas on the ground used to have real names, but nobody remembers them any more.
  • Computer-controlled faction leaders in Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri like to rename bases after capturing them. Sometimes this can lead to an amusing situation when bases get captured back and forth, with the faction giving a recaptured base a new name even though it still had the one they originally gave it.
  • The world of Command and Conquer: Tiberium Wars since it's been divided into "Blue", "Yellow" and "Red" zones.
    • Part of this is because the concept of nation-states had been relegated to history due to the tiberium and subsequent mass movements of refugees trying to flee it, as well as the transnational nature of GDI and Nod.
      • The other part is that it is suggested that there are administrative divisions, at least in GDI territories, other than the Blue, Yellow and Red zone-division (which is more about what kind of place it is than anything properly administrative - the Red zones being nearly unlivable due to Tiberium poisoning, the Yellow zones being harsh and dangerous, and the Blue zones being almost as the pre-Tiberian world.
  • Dr. Regal from the Mega Man Battle Network series comes from a place called "Nation Z", referred to as an "infamous military country".
  • The famous Rhye's and Fall of Civilization mod has some special names for certain colonies under certain rulers (as well es dynamic names depending on the current government). For example, German colonies tend to become Reichsprotektorate, and the United States are also known as The Thirteen Colonies (English vassal) or New France (French Vassal).

Web Comics

  • 4U City from Sluggy Freelance. We don't actually know what it used to be called, except we can be pretty sure that wasn't it.
    • Actually, 4U city was founded by Hereti-Corp, so this is likely the city's original name. 4U, by the way, is a reference to both "For You" and the four initials of their new public slogan.

Web Original

  • In Look to the West, after a rebellion by French-speakers in Quebec, the Empire of North America adopts a cultural cleansing policy and either anglicises (Montréal -> Mount Royal) or outright renames (Quebec City -> Wolfeston) all its settlements with French-sounding names.

Real Life

  • In 1793-1794, the town of Lyon in France was renamed "Commune affranchie", or "the liberated town", after the citizens rose against the Jacobins and were defeated.
    • Pretty much the same thing happened to Marseilles, which became "Ville-sans-nom" ("City without a name"), and Toulon ("Port-de-la-Montagne").
  • The French Republic also had a policy of setting up "daughter-republics" in the territories it conquered, usually reviving names from Greek and Roman days. For instance:
    • Switzerland became the Helvetian Republic.
    • The bishopric of Basel became the Rauracian Republic.
    • The duchy of Milan was incorporated into the Cisalpine Republic.
    • Genoa became the Ligurian Republic.
    • The United Netherlands became the Batavian Republic.
    • The kingdom of Naples briefly became the Parthenopaean Republic.
  • The Nazis were absolutely in love with this trope. Their policy was after all to germanize most of the territories they conquered, especially in Eastern Europe. Poland for instance was reduced to becoming the "General Governorate"[1] (a governorate is a province ruled by a governor), while most of western Poland (annexed by Germany) became "Warthegau" (the Warta is a river in Greater Poland). There were also a number of occupational regimes called Reich Commissariats, of which only "Ostland" (the Baltic states and Belarus) followed this trope. The rest of them just used the German-language names of the countries in question. According to The Other Wiki, Hitler and his cronies apparently had even more of this in store if they had been able to solidify their domination over Europe. To wit:
    • Middle Poland: Vandalenland (land of the Vandals);
    • Lesser Poland: Beskidenland (named after the Beskids, a mountain range in the Carpathians)
    • Estonia to Peipusland and Latvia to Dünaland;
    • The Crimea: Gotenland (land of the Goths)[2];
    • Russia proper: Moskowien (Muscovy) and Ingermannland (Ingria);
    • The Netherlands: Westland (self-explanatory);
    • And probably even more. And that's not even getting into the wide-spread re-naming of cities such as Litzmannstadt[3] (Łódź in Poland), or Theodorichshafen[4] and Gotenburg[5] (Sevastopol and Simferopol respectively, both in the Crimean peninsula).
  • After the Anschluss Austria was renamed Ostmark.
    • Not really on par with "Airstrip One" though; Ostmark is an old name for Austria. Austria's name is Österreich, which means Eastern Realm, almost the same as the older Ostmark.
      • Essentially, Österreich (Eastern Realm) became Ostmark (Eastern March), logically following its re-inclusion into the broader Deutsches Reich (German Empire).
        • The point of renaming the country Ostmark was to deny that there had ever been an independent Austria. After 1942 the country was even further reduced in importance by being called Donau und Alpengaue ("Danubian and Alpine provinces").
        • Hitler, even though he was a native, always hated Austria and despised the Habsburgs' multi-national policies, so it's logical that, leaving aside pan-German sentiment, he'd want to abolish the idea of Austria as an independent entity.
  • Many (former) colonial territories obviously fall into this trope, often with a touch of the Egopolis. Take for instance New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Carolina, Columbia, Maryland, Georgia, California (named after a fictional country), Montana, Washington, Louisiana, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, New England, New Mexico, Florida, and indeed America...
  • Lands now known as Belarus were included into the Russian empire via a sequence of conquests, 1772-1795. Previously, there was some popularity to the idea that Russian tzar holds the "Great, Small and White Russias" (meaning Russia, Ukraine and Belarus), but in 1840 the word "Belarus" was forbidden, and replaced with/absorbed into a name with no implications of independence: "North-Western Region". The name was restored in 1918, when Belarussian and Jewish nationalist movements played a major role in the communist revolution.
  • After the Franks invaded and conquered Gaul, the country was called France after them.
  • Similarly, England and Anglia were named after the invading Angles, while Wessex, Essex and Sussex were named after the Saxons.
  • After the region known as Aremorica was invaded by Britons from (Great) Britain, it was renamed Brittany (or Little Britain).
  • After the rebellions of 1715 and 1745, "Scottish" was regarded as a problematic word and was often replaced by "North British". For instance, as late as the battle of Waterloo, the regiment later officially known as the Royal Scots Greys still carried the letters N B D for "North British Dragoons" on their saddle valises.
    • Similarly, Scotland was serviced by, among others, the Caledonian Railway and the North British Railway.
    • To be fair, "North Britain" and "South Britain" were terms first introduced by King James when he took the throne of England; it was part of a larger attempt on his part to unify the still-independent (but with a single monarch) nations of England and Scotland. "North Britain" only gained its now-unfortunate reputation after the rebellions (mentioned above).
  • The Imperial Japanese had a policy of designating conquered peoples by numbers, which coincidentally served as inspiration for Britannia's naming system in Code Geass.
  • Great Britain, during WWII, was referred to as the world's largest (and unsinkable) aircraft carrier.
    • A fact that no doubt inspired George Orwell to rename his dystopian British Isles to Airstrip One.
    • Although it wasn't to demean the British. It was a description of the role the country played in the Battle of the Atlantic.
    • This description was also applied to Malta (which never surrendered to the Axis despite being in the middle of the Mediterranean) and several Pacific islands used by the US as airbases in its island-hopping strategy against the Japanese. The terminology carried over into the Cold War as well, most notably in the Pacific with Taiwan and Japan (Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone actually used the term "unsinkable aircraft carrier" in regards to Japan's commitment to assisting the US against Soviet bombers in a 1983 speech).
  • Not necessarily evil, but in the book Soldier by Lt. Col. Anthony Herbert, he wonders how the Vietnamese feel about how the Americans divide up South Vietnam into AOE (Area Of Operations) Barnes, AOE Smith, etc., on the American maps.
    • Same war, the renaming, post-fall, of Saigon to Ho Chi Minh City.
  • Play along at home. See if you can guess which places these terms refer to before revealing the City name? (feel free to
    • "Zone 1" Central London
    • "Area 495" Washington D.C.
    • "The 4-1-6" Toronto, named for the area code, as opposed to "The 9-oh-5" for the surrounding metro area
  • Ghana was called Gold Coast when it was a British Colony, but they changed their name to Ghana (after the ancient Empire of Ghana) to avoid this trope when they gained independence. Somewhat maddeningly for historians, the Empire of Ghana never controlled any part of the modern Republic of Ghana, and modern Ghana only has a relatively small population of the Soninke people who had ruled the former empire.
  • Swedish kings founded most cities in what today is Finland. One of them got its name from the ruling Swedish dynasty, Vaasa. As the Russia Empire annexed Finland in 1809, the Russians tried to change Vaasa's name to "Nicholas' City", which is Nikolainkaupunki in Finnish. The people still said "Vaasa".
  • All of the puppet regimes set up by the Soviets in neighbouring countries were named something along the lines of "Socialist Republic of X".
    • And of course Königsberg (and has been called Kaliningrad since 1945), the old Prussian capital. Though unlike St. Petersburg, the chance of it being renamed back to Königsberg is pretty slim (or none), given that most of the native German population had been expelled/compelled to flee in 1945 and now its residents are largely ethnic Russians.
    • The Soviets were mad keen on this trope:
    • Petrograd became Leningrad,
    • Yekaterinburg became Sverdlovsk,
    • Nizhny Novgorod became Gorky,
    • Tsaritsyn became Stalingrad,
    • Vyatka became Kirov,
    • Orenburg became Chakalov,
    • Samara became Kuibyshev,
    • Tver became Kalinin,
    • Vladimirovka became Yuzho-Sakhalinsk
    • Ekaterinodar became Krasnodar.
    • That's just in Russia, though. They also turned:
    • Bishkek into Frunze,
    • Chemnitz into Karl-Marx-Stadt,
    • Dobrich into Tolbukhin,
    • Dushanbe into Stalinabad,
    • Kantowice into Stalinogroed,
    • Khodjend into Leninabad,
    • Kuressaare into Kringssepa,
    • Montana (Bulgaria) into Mihalyovgrad,
    • Podgorica into Titograd,
    • Veles into Titov Veles.

 Naturally, this led to a massive repeat performance when the Communist regimes collapsed and most of the cities were given their old names back.

  • A lighter example is how the U.S. congressional district names go along the lines of [State]'s [Number] Congressional District- in contrast to the U.K., the country it descended from, which gives each of its 650 parliamentary constituencies unique names.
  • Spain basically renamed the Aztec lands to New Spain (later Mexico) and the Incan lands to Peru after conquering them.
  • Popular history seems to think this is what happened to Constantinople/Byzantium, now Istanbul, after the Ottoman conquests in the 15th century. Actually an aversion, the preferred official term was Kostantiniyye, the Turkish word (via Arabic) for "Constantinople". Istanbul wasn't the official name for the city until the modern Republic of Turkey was founded in 1923, though it had become the most common name amongst the populace before then.
    • Pretty sure "Istanbul" is also derived from Constantinople. In this case, it's a local slang term that gradually became accepted as the official term.
  • After the USA defeated Spain in the Spanish-American War of 1898 and captured all of Spain's colonies, they installed in Puerto Rico an USA-controlled local government that officially renamed the island to "Porto Rico." And, oh, and they banned the popular, then-unofficial flag that later became that of Puerto Rico.
  • A modern day example is Canton 10 in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which also does not have an official coat of arms or flag. Most of the population is Croat, the local government uses the old symbols of the Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia and still calls itself Herzeg-Bosnia but the national government has declared this unconstitutional as it does not include the Bosniak or the Serbs.
  • A good chunk of modern-day Poland used to be Germany. After WWII, Poland would gain a good part of Eastern Germany, including East Prussia and Danzig. The latter city was renamed as Gdansk after all the Germans were kicked out.
  • From 1953-1990, the government of what was then East Germany officially renamed the city of Chemnitz as "Karl-Marx-Stadt" to honor the founder of Communism.


  1. The full name was "General Governorate of the occupied Polish territories", but this version was rarely used and completely phased out in 1941.
  2. Based on the theory that the Crimean Goths had survived until then (they probably didn't).
  3. After Karl Litzmann, a World War One general and early supporter of Nazism
  4. After Gothic king Theodoric the Great, who famously failed to rouse the Crimean Goths against Italy
  5. after the Goths again
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