The changing boundaries of Tigray & Abyssinia/Ethiopia from 1855-2021It is important to understand what is meant by Abyssenia and Ethiopia. Until the early 1930's, the name Abyssenia was synonimous to Ethiopia. It was only during the Haileselasee rule name Abyssenia was abolished.
However, the name Abyssenia was the collective name of several regions in northern Ethiopia. Before 1855, the regions Tigray, Agew midir, Gojam, Shewa and Wollo made the country Abyssenia. These regions of Abyssenia existed for centuries and were geographically, ethinicaly or religiously bounded. Abyssenia itself had no clearly demarcated boundary until 1889. The boundary of Abyssenia was internationally demarcated, for the first time, just like any other African countries during the colonization (scramble for Africa) period. As mentioned above the demarcation took place during the reign of emperor Minilik (1989-1913).
The old regions of Abyssenia had known selfrule. They had their own local govenors and administration. The highest ranking governers had the titles of Ras (princes). There were Ras's of Tigray, Gojam, Shewa, Agew and Wollo etc. Such governors becomes Nigus (king) when other region or regions are included in the administration and taxes were willingly or forcefully collected from the regions.
As to the name Ethiopia the 17 century map tells different story than is known by the Ethiopians themselfves. As is shown in the 17th centuries map of Africa the name Ethiopia was associated to what is now called Sub-sahara Africa. The North Atlantic Ocean was also called the Ethiopian Ocean. During the scramble for Africa the world never knew the existence of a country called Ethiopia. Abyssenia on the other hand use well documented in books written in the 19th century and the first half of 20th century. When the Italians invaded a country with the name Abyssenia not Ethiopia. The Italians invaded a country called Abyssinia in the 19th century not a country called Ethiopia.
Click the link below to the the 17th century map of Africa and read what Ethiopia meant by then.
The name Ethiopia was not known to Abyssenians during the Zemene Mesafint. The 3000 years old history that Ethiopia claims is actually the history of Axumites, particularly that of Tigray Abyssenians. That history of Ethiopia is inherited from Abyssenia when Haileselasse changed the name Ethiopia. If Tigray becomes independent Ethiopia has no background to claim that history. This adds to the liability of the disintegration of Ethiopia, as most states don't consider themselves as Abyssnians.
It was Atse Tewodros from Kimant (ruled 1855-1867) who forcefully succeeded to rule several regions under the name Abyssenia.
Atse (emperor) Yohannes (ruled 1867-1889) from Tigray succeeded Tewodros and continued to rule Abyssenia. He had correctly claimed the title of 'niguse negest' (king of kings) of Abyssenia, since he had several kings under his Administration. Yohannes fought and defended Abyseenia from foreign invaders (Egypt, Turkey, Italy, the Mahadists etc). Emperor Yohannes had secured the northern boundary, the Red Sea, of Abyssenia. The region Shewa constituted the southern boundry of his administration.
Atse Minilik (ruled 1889-1913) who ruled Abyssenia after Yohannes had made deals to demarcate the boundaries of Abyssenia. To the North (as mentioned above) he handed over the Red Sea including northern Tigray (now Eritrea) to the Italians. To the south he expanded Abyssenia territory to what is now known as Ethiopia. The territory of Ethiopia is much bigger than Abyssenia.
Queen Zewditu (daughter of Minilik) and Lij Eyassu (a nefey) ruled Abyssenia (ruled 1913-1931).
Atse Haileselasee (ruled 1931-1974) officially changed the name Abyssenia to Ethiopia in the early 1930's. He also divided Ethiopia into 13 provinces. By doing so he took distance from the name Abyssenia. Later in the early 1960's he made Eritrea the 14th province of Ethiopia.
Colonel Mengistu, Derg- military junta, (1974-1991) tried to retain Ethiopia as is, but failed. Eritrea became independent in 1991 (officially 1993).
Mr. Meles Zenawi (ruled 1991-2012) from Tigray, divided Ethiopia into 9 regions based on language and Ethnicity. His successor Mr. Hailemariam failed to govern the country as is and handed the power over to Mr. Abiy Ahmed in 2018.
Abiy Ahmed (2018 - now) has not changed the boundaries yet. Unfortunately Abiy is not taken long to recognize Abiy as a despotic dictator. Since he came to power, 3 years ago, he has proved hemself to be against self rule of the regions. He has manifested that in almost all of the regions. Many known well known Ethiopian politicians are killed and many, tens of thousands kept in prison during the last 3 years.
Tigray was the only region that Abiy could not subjugate easily. Thus, he made alliance with foreign countries and Amhara regional government and invaded Tigray in november 2020. Since then, Tigray is figting back and determined to rule itself. However, with almost a total of 1,000,000 armed soldiers fighting in Tigray, the damage and the atrocities that took place in Tigray are beyond one can comprehend.
After all these damage, the indipendence of Tigray has become imminent. There is no single Tigraway who wants to remain Ethiopian. Subsequently, if Tigray becomes independent, other regions will follow the disintegration of Ethiopia will be the final result. Within a forseable periode Ethiopia will become history, just like Yugoslavia in the the early 1990.
In the sidebars in this page you find maps showing the changing boundries of Tigray during the last 150 years. Click on the links under each sidebar to see the map of the period your interst.