Introduction to The Columbia Gazetteer of the World

    The definition of the term Gazetteer, when used in a geographical sense, is a "geographical index or dictionary."  When used in atlases or map indexes, gazetteers are simply assemblages of alphabetically ordered listings of places or physical/cultural features.  More extensive gazetteers include brief descriptions along with the listings.  The comprehensive gazetteer, however, is an encyclopedia of geographical places and features.  The Columbia Gazetteer of the World is such an encyclopedia.  

    In the decade since publication of the 1998 print edition of The Columbia Gazetteer of the World, globalization, technological advances, capital flows, and migrations of peoples have made profound impacts on many parts of the world.  Along with updating of population data, the restructuring of political units within countries, devastation caused by wars, and the alteration of landscape through natural processes and human activities are reflected in this revised and expanded edition of the Gazetteer.

    During this period, the United Nations has grown from 183 members in 1997 to 192 members in 2008, and the world's population has increased from 5.8 billion to 6.6 billion.  While China's population growth has slowed, India's rapidly increasing birth rate has taken its population to over 1.1 billion.  Thanks in part to immigration, the population of the United States now exceeds 300 million from 263 million.  Russia's, in contrast, has dropped from 150 to under 140 million as a result of low fertility rate and emigration.  

    Meanwhile, foreign-born populations have continued to rise in both industrialized and emerging economies owing to need for labor and absorption of refugees from war and poverty.  Expansion of the European Union into eastern Europe, increasing its membership from 15 to 27, has attracted large-scale migration from Poland to the United Kingdom and Ireland.  Explosive economic growth in the Gulf States, Malaysia, Singapore, and Australia draws migrants from throughout Asia, and such countries as Costa Rica and Botswana attract refugees and economic migrants from their neighboring regions.

    The number of newly-formed states within the past decade has slowed dramatically.  Only Timor-Leste and Montenegro have joined the family of nation states, and  Kosovo declared its independence in 2008.  This is in sharp contrast to the quadrupling of national states between 1945 and 1997, which resulted from the end of colonialism and the breakups of the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia.  On the other hand, the number of quasi-states that have achieved a high degree of autonomy has increased, following bitter conflicts or political disputes.  Examples are Aceh, Kurdish Iraq, Somaliland, South Sudan, and Catalonia.

    Categories of changes reflected in the revised Gazetteer, and samples of each include:

  •           Physical features. 
               Three Gorges Dam (Chang Jiang Gorges) and hydroelectric plant, the largest of their kind in the world, have created a lake within the middle Yangtze River, which, by 2009, will extend 370 miles from Yichang to Chongqing.  The rising waters has displaced over one million people, dismantled or moved hundreds of villages, and inundated countless historic sites.
               Arctic ice melt enabled the Northwest Passage to be traversed without ice breakers in the summer of 2007.  This has strengthened Canada's resolve to enforce its sovereignty over the Passage, referring to it as "Canadian Internal Waters."
             The Aral Sea, which has shrunk to half its original size due to diversion of its feeder rivers for irrigation, has been refilled in its northern section by construction of a dam to block the waters from flowing into the southern part of the Sea, and limiting the use of the Syr Darya River for irrigation.
  •           Natural disasters    
               Hurricane Katrina in 2005 flooded New Orleans, resulting in the relocation of so many of its residents that the city's population shrunk by half its former half million people.
               The 2004 tsunami that washed over Aceh province at the western tip of Sumatra killed up to 170,000 people and left more than a half million homeless.  This devastating blow was a major factor in Acehnese acceptance of a high degree of autonomy rather than independence, bringing an end to a thirty year rebellion.
  •           Transportation advances

              Russia built a new deep water port and oil export terminals at Primorsk on the Gulf of Finland, which permits it, in an emergency, to bypass oil export in Latvia and Estonia.
               Gwadar, on the Arabian Sea in Pakistan's Baluchistan province, has been developed from a small trade and fishing port into a deep-water port.
               Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, has been connected to the main Chinese railway system by construction of the highest railroad in the world.
               Santa Cruz in Eastern Bolivia has been connected to Brazil's markets by a 2,000-mile natural gas pipeline.
               The 1,100-mile BTC (Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan) oil pipeline connects landlocked Azerbaijan's Caspian Sea oil fields to Turkey's Eastern Mediterranean port, bypassing environmentally fragile waters of the Black Sea and Bosporus and Dardanelles Straits. 

  •           City development

               As a consequence of South Korea's "Sunshine" policy, North Korea's Kaesong adjoining the DMZ has been developed as a Free Zone within which South Korean small and medium-sized industrial firms employ thousands of North Korean workers, with the output destined for export.
               Novosibirsk, Siberia's largest city, has developed into Siberia's "Silicon Valley," with a large concentration of scientific institutes at nearby Alademgorodok ("Academic City").
               In the wake of the terrorist destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, Lower Manhattan is being rebuilt as New York City's second major financial and commercial center.
               Qatar and United Arab Republic Emirates of Dubai and Abu Dhabi have invested much of their wealth in developing world-class financial, tourist and higher education centers, marked by towering high-rise buildings.
               Myanmar's capital has been moved by the military junta from Yangon to Nyapyidaw, a new military city being built in an under-populated section of the country's central plateau.  This new capital represents a effort by the military rulers to isolate themselves from civil unrest in the heavily populated coastal regions. 

  •           Military bases        
Several U.S. naval bases have been closed, such as Roosevelt Roads and, due to widespread Puerto Rican opposition, the firing range at Vieques Island.
              Djibouti has become a major base for the U.S. Navy.  Its location overlooking the Strait of Bab el Mandeb and the Gulf of Aden facilitates operations against terrorist attacks on shipping, as well as protecting against piracy and smuggling of arms and drugs.
               Having closed its military bases in Saudi Arabia (owing to Saudi opposition to the Iraq war), the U.S. has built or expanded military facilities in Kuwait and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries.     
  •          Technology 
               Technological advances and high oil prices have made the exploitation of Alberta's tar sands financially feasible, bringing an economic boom to the province.

               Deep sea drilling in South Atlantic coastal waters has enabled Angola to become a leading oil exporter.

               Information technology outsourcing and software development have created "Silicon Valleys" in India's Bangalore and Hyderabad regions.
               High energy prices and the onset of climate change have spurred the development of alternative energy sources, including bio-fuels, thus altering agricultural patterns.  In Brazil, ethanol derived from sugar cane has helped the country to achieve energy self-sufficiency, expanding cane cultivation into parts of Amazonia. 
  •          Conflicts and Peace    
              Wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Darfur, and eastern Congo have devastated much of their landscapes, and resulted in massive numbers of deaths and displacement.
              Israel evacuated the Gaza Strip in 2005, razing all of the Jewish settlements there and turning the territory over to the Palestinians.  In subsequent elections, the militant Islamic Hamas party, which is opposed to recognition of Israel, won control of Gaza, drove out the Fatah forces of the Palestinian Authority, continuing the conflict.
              Peace has been achieved in Northern Ireland as Protestant and Catholic parties have entered into power-sharing agreements within a broader United Kingdom home-rule structure.
              Libya has reinvented itself, renouncing support of terrorism and abandoning efforts to develop nuclear weapons.  It has rebuilt diplomatic ties with Egypt and the West. 

    The 1998 Gazetteer had 163,000 entries.  This revised edition adds some 7,000 new ones, with many revisions to existing entries.  The information contained therein constitutes a gazetteer unrivaled in scope and unmatched in authority.  Supervised by a board of 150 leading geographical scholars from all parts of the world, the entries reflect the input of specialists intimately familiar with a wide variety of sources, some of which are not readily accessible, and with personal knowledge of places and features that these sources have described.  These entries have been continually updated in the on-line edition by editorial board members and research staff, and have been integrated into this revised edition.  The information has been selected, arranged, classified and interpreted to provide an up-to-date authoritative reference work of value to librarians, academic researchers, students, writers, people in industry and government, travelers, and all others for whom places hold fascination, and who require reliable data about them.

    The entries include information on many of the following: demography; physical geography; political boundaries; industry, trade, and service activities; agriculture; cultural, historical, and archeological points of interest; transportation lines; longitude, latitude, and elevations; distance to relevant places; pronunciations; official local government place-names and changed or variant names and spellings. Their length varies from a brief notation on a small village to an essay on a country or region.

    In selecting the entries, the overriding goal was to provide maximum coverage of places and features, while achieving a balanced profile of each country. The criteria for including places are population thresholds, reflecting differing national environments; area size; political administrative frameworks; and economic, political, and cultural significance. Thus, the Gazetteer includes every incorporated place and county in the United States, along with several thousand unincorporated places, special-purpose sites, and physical features.  There are a total of  38,745 for the United States. 

    The Gazetteer's coverage of large countries is, of course, extensive, as evidenced by the 8,617 entries for Russia (with over 2,000 new entries), 7,174 entries for Canada (with over 2,500 new entries), 5,568 for France, 5,565 for India, 4,931 for Brazil, 4,534 for Germany, 4,052 for Spain, 3,747 for Japan, 3,628 for China, and 2,980 for Australia.  Medium-size countries are also substantially represented, with 2,084 entries for Argentina, 1,913 entries for Greece, 1,288 for Colombia, 1,181 for Indonesia, 1,118 for the Philippines, and 505 for Viet Nam.  No country, however, is slighted in the detail of the entries, or is too small to be included, as shown by 193 entries for Luxembourg, 147 for Iceland, 106 for Armenia, 82 for Belize 67 for Malta, 66 for Rwanda, 42 for Djibouti, and 15 for Andorra.  

    The following entry categories indicate the scope, coverage and sheer amount of information contained in the Gazetteer:

  •          The political world--major geographic regions, counties, provinces, regions, states, districts, capitals, cities, town, villages, neighborhoods, special districts.
  •          The physical world--continents, oceans, seas, gulfs, lakes, lagoons, rivers, bays, inlets, channels, streams, islands, archipelagos, peninsulas, atolls, mountains, mountain ranges, canyons, deserts, valleys, glaciers, volcanoes.
  •          Special places--national parks, reserves and monuments, historic and archeological sites, resorts, airports, ports, dams, nuclear plants, mines, canals, shopping malls, theme parks, stadia, military bases, fortified lines, mythic places.

    Since the 1998 edition, factories and industrial plants have continued to disappear from many centers, particularly in the United States and in Western Europe, often replaced by post-industrial, high-tech, service, financial or tourist enterprises.  Manufacturing and some information technology services have shifted to other countries, many in the developing world.  In Japan, China, India and elsewhere, thousands of agricultural villages have become absorbed within the urbanized sprawl. Major mining enterprises have closed in many parts of the world, while new mining areas have been developed elsewhere. New agricultural crops have replaced ones that formerly predominated in farming areas, and highways, airports, and military bases have been newly built, as well as replaced.

    The Columbia Gazetteer of the World serves also as a unique guide to the ways in which names offer insight into the political, cultural, religious, and aesthetic meanings that people ascribe to particular environments, and in which the values of places change. The dynamism of the world system since World War II is graphically illustrated by changed names for both renewed and pre-existing places.

    The end of colonialism brought about a spate of name changes to mark the establishment of the new states--Southern Rhodesia is now Zimbabwe and Northern Rhodesia is Zambia; Ghana has replaced the Gold Coast, Namibia was Southwest Africa, Ethiopia was Abyssinia, Belize was British Honduras, Timor-Leste was East Timor, and Suriname was the former Dutch Guiana.  Numerous city name changes also reflect this surge of new Nationhood, such as Harare (Salisbury), Kabwe (Broken Hill), Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Yangon (Rangoon), Kisangani (Stanleyville), Chennai (Madras), Shenyang (Mukden), and Tshawne (Pretoria).  Such changes reflect the symbolic importance of place-names in nation building and in the shaping or reshaping of national values. Europoort and London's Canary Wharf are examples of renewed areas, and Brasilia, Cancun, Reston and Yamoussoukro represent totally new places.

    When political systems and national goals change, place-name changes sometimes symbolize efforts to resurrect the past. The name "Israel" holds deep emotional and historic meaning to a people who created a modern state in the ancient Land of Israel. The purpose of substituting the "Khmer Republic" for "Cambodia" was to evoke the greatness of the ancient Khmer Empire and civilization.  To erase the memory of Khmer Rouge mass killings, Cambodians once again refer to their country as "Cambodia."  In the Congo Basin, colonial history, modern nationalism and revolution are all reflected in  the various name changes that have been made. In 1908, the kingdom which Belgian King Leopold II called the Congo Free State, became the Belgian Congo when the king turned over to the state the private domain that he had acquired in 1885. With independence from Belgium in 1960, the name was changed to Republic of the Congo. Four years later, following the agreement of the Katanga to rejoin the country after a bloody civil war, the name became the Democratic Republic of the Congo, only to be re-named Za