Countries Who Have Changed Capital Cities

Brasilia was intentionally designed to be the capital of Brazil.
Brasilia was intentionally designed to be the capital of Brazil.

A country’s capital city is often characterized by its history, a significantly high population, a high-level of political influence, and a strong economy. Capital cities are known to host the seat of that particular country’s government. Once in a while, some countries may opt to move the country’s capital from one location to another for different reasons. Throughout history, the relocation of capital cities has been done on several occasions. Even the Ancient Chinese, Romans, and Egyptians used to change the capital cities of their territories from time to time.

Countries Who Have Changed Capital Cities

Abuja, Nigeria

Initially, Lagos was the capital city of Nigeria before Abuja was made the capital of the country. Although it was the most populous city, Lagos was not the ideal seat for the Nigerian government since it was muggy, crowded, hot and politically divisive. The Nigerian government officials started making plans on establishing a new capital in Abuja about 300 miles northeast of Lagos throughout the 1980s. Abuja was preferred because it had a sparse population density, higher elevation, and was centrally located. The capital city of Nigeria was moved from Lagos to Abuja in 1991, but some of the functions remain in Lagos.

Brasilia, Brazil

The capital city of Brazil was moved from Rio de Janeiro to Brasilia in 1960. The move to change the country’s capital had been under negations for decades because Rio de Janeiro was overcrowded and was far from the other parts of the country. To encourage the move, the establishment of Brasilia as the country’s new capital began in 1956. Brasilia experienced a very rapid growth making the change a successful one that inspired other countries to alter the locations of their capital cities.

Canberra, Australia

During the 19th century, Australia comprised of two of the country’s largest cities which were Melbourne and Sydney. Both cities were contesting to be the capital of Australia, and neither would give up. To keep the peace, the government of Australia opted to establish a new capital city altogether. Following extensive survey and search, a piece of land in New South Wales was grafted, becoming the country’s new capital. Canberra became the new capital city of Australia in 1913 and is situated midway between Melbourne and Sydney. However, Canberra is not a coastal city.

Washington DC, United States

The US Congress held meetings in eight different cities which included New York, Baltimore, and Philadelphia during and after the American Revolution. The US constitution highlighted the construction of the nation’s new capital in a separate federal district. The former US President George Washington selected the new site for the country’s capital near the Potomac River. Both Maryland and Virginia donated land. In 1800, a new capital was designed and established in Washington, DC. The main reason Washington, DC was chosen as the US’s new capital is that the site was a compromise involving the northern states that were advocating for the repayment of war debts and the southern states that had economic interests on slaveholding. Initially, New York served as the capital of the United States from 1785 until 1790.

Reasons why countries chose to relocate their capitals

Throughout the world, many countries and their governments have moved their capital cities from one city to another. There are some reasons as to why a country might choose to relocate its capital city. Some countries relocate their capitals to cities where political, religious and ethnic environments are considered neutral to maintain prosperity, peace, security and unity of the country.

Countries Who Have Changed Capital Cities

RankCityCountryYear Reason
1AbujaNigeria1991Geographic location/Equal access
2BelmopanBelize1970Belize City was damaged by hurricane
3BrasiliaBrazil1960Overcrowding in Rio de Janeiro
4CanberraAustralia1913Compromise between Sydney and Melbourne
5GaboroneBotswana1964Botswana became independent
6IslamabadPakistan1967Less vulnerable to attacks than Karchi
7NaypyidawBurma 2005More centrally located
8New DelhiIndia1912Neutral territory
9NgerulmudPalau2006Avoid overconcentration of power
10PalikirFederated States of Micronesia1989Avoid overconcentration of power
11Washington, DCUnited States1800Avoid overconcentration of power

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