Capital City Relocation

Countries That Have Moved Their Governments

Congresso Nacional, Brasilia, Brazil
Congresso Nacional, Brasilia, Brazil.

 Jeremy Woodhouse/ Photodisc/ Getty Images

The capital of a country is often a very populated city where much history has been made due to the high-level political and economic functions that occur there. However, sometimes government leaders decide to move the capital from one city to another. Capital relocation has been done hundreds of times throughout history. The ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Chinese changed their capital frequently. Some countries choose new capitals that are more easily defended in a time of invasion or war. Some new capitals are planned and built in previously undeveloped areas to spur development. New capitals are sometimes in regions deemed neutral to competing ethnic or religious groups as this could promote unity, security, and prosperity. Here are some notable capital moves throughout modern history.

Countries like United States, Russia, Canada, Australia, India, Brazil, Belize, Tanzania, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Kazakhstan, Soviet Union, Myanmar, and South Sudan have all changed their capital city location.

Capital Relocation Rationale

Countries sometimes change their capital because they expect some type of political, social, or economic benefit. They hope and expect that the new capitals will surely develop into cultural gems and hopefully make the country a more stable place.

Here are additional capital relocations that have occurred in approximately the last few centuries.

Asia

  • Since 1982, Sri Lanka’s Parliament has met in Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte, but some other government functions remain in Colombo.
  • Malaysia moved some of its administrative functions to Putrajaya in 1999. The official capital remains Kuala Lumpur.
  • Former capitals of Iran include Esfahan and Shiraz. It is now Tehran.
  • A former capital of Thailand is Ayutthaya. It is now Bangkok.
  • Hue was an ancient capital of Vietnam. It is now Hanoi.
  • Pakistan from Karachi to Rawalpindi to Islamabad – changes occurred in 1950s and 1960s.
  • Laos from Luang Prabang to Vientiane – 1975
  • Turkey from Istanbul to Ankara - 1923
  • The Philippines from Quezon City to Manila – 1976
  • Japan from Kyoto to Tokyo – 1868
  • Israel from Tel Aviv-Jaffo to Jerusalem – 1950
  • Oman from Salalah to Muscat – 1970
  • Saudi Arabia from Diriyah to Riyadh – 1818
  • Indonesia from Yogyakarta to Jakarta – 1949
  • Bhutan from Punakha (former winter capital) to Thimpu - 1907
  • Uzbekistan from Samarkand to Tashkent - 1930
  • Afghanistan from Kandahar to Kabul - 1776

Europe

  • Former capitals of Italy include Turin, Florence, and Salerno. The current capital of Italy is Rome.
  • Bonn was the capital of West Germany from 1949-1990. Reunified Germany’s capital began as Bonn but was moved to Berlin in 1999.
  • Kragujevac has served as the capital of Serbia several times. It is now Belgrade.
  • Durres was briefly capital of Albania during World War I. It is now Tirana.
  • Lithuania from Kaunas to Vilnius - 1939
  • Malta from Mdina to Valetta – 16th century
  • Poland from Krakow to Warsaw - 1596
  • Montenegro from Cetinje to Podgorica – 1946
  • Greece from Nafplion to Athens – 1834
  • Finland from Turku to Helsinki – 1812

Africa

  • Ghana from Cape Coast to Accra – 1877
  • Botswana from Mafeking to Gaborone - 1965
  • Guinea Bissau from Madina do Boe to Bissau - 1974
  • Cape Verde from Cidade Velha to Praia – 1858
  • Togo from Aneho to Lome – 1897
  • Malawi from Zomba to Lilongwe – 1974

The Americas

  • Trinidad and Tobago from San Jose to Port of Spain – 1784
  • Jamaica from Port Royal to Spanish Town to Kingston – 1872
  • Barbados from Jamestown to Bridgetown – 1628
  • Honduras from Comayagua to Tegucigalpa – 1888

Oceania

  • New Zealand from Auckland to Wellington –1865
  • The Federated States of Micronesia from Kolonia to Palikir – 1989
  • Palau from Koror to Ngerulmud – 2006