History of the changing boundaries of Tigray & Abyssinia / Ethiopia (1855-2021)Abyssenia (Ethiopia) had never had demarcated boundary before 1855. It also had never had a central government until 1855. The regions of Abyssenia had known self rule for centuries, with own local governors and territories that varied with the power of the governor. The higher governors 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 mentioned above, the name Ethiopia was not known to Ethiopians during the Zemene Mesafint (before 1855). It was Atse Tewodros from Kimant (ruled 1855-1867) who forcefully succeeded to rule several regions under the name Abyssenia. He is considered to be the founder of the then unified Abyssenia. The year 1855 is marked as the beginning of existence of modern Abyssenia.
Many Ethiopians do not differentiate between the names of Abyssenia, Ethiopia and Tigray. Here is a short explanation.
Ethiopia, as we know it now, is a large country in the Horn of Africa. Abyssinia is the name of that part of northern Ethiopia. Tigray was the center of Abyssenia. The fact that made Ethiopia to be known as one of the cradle of civilization in ancient countries, mainly because of Tigray. In Tigray we have the obelisks and more tangible evidences for that. Tigray is one of the first place in the world where all major religions (Jewish, Christianity and Islam etc) were introduced and practiced. Thus as long as Tigray remains part of the territory of Ethiopia, then the ancient civilization is also considered to be as that of Ethiopia.
Ethiopia with out Tigray has no written ancient history. As mentioned above, the ancient history of Ethiopia, as we know it to date, is actually the history of Tigray. If Tigray becomes independent Ethiopia can not claim the ancient history. Because the country Ethiopia didn't exist before 130 years. Abyssinia and Tigray were there but not Ethiopia. The country with the name Ethiopia is the result of the expansion made by Emperor Minilik since 1889. Minilik expanded Abyssinia and included large area from the south (much larger area than Abyssinia itself). The name Abyssinia was used synonymously to Ethiopia until the early 1930's. however, the southern Ethiopian people never associated themselves with the history of Abyssinia. Therefore in early 1930's emperor Elephantiases abolished the name Abyssinia and retained the name Ethiopia for the purpose of inclusiveness of the southern peoples.
On the other hand the name Abyssinia was the collective name of several regions in northern Ethiopia. Before 1855, the regions Tigray, Agew midir, Gojam, Shewa and Wollo made the country Abyssinia. These regions of Abyssinia existed for centuries and were geographically, ethnically or religiously bounded. Abyssinia itself had no clearly demarcated boundary until 1889. The boundary of Abyssinia was demarcated, for the first time, just like any other African countries during the colonization (scramble for Africa) period. In 1989 to be exact when Atse Minilik came to power.
The 3000 years old history that Ethiopia claims is actually the history of Axumites, particularly that of Tigray Abyssinians. The name Ethiopia was not known to Ethiopians during the Zemene Mesafint (period before 1855). The ancient history of Ethiopia is inherited from Abyssinia.
Until Haileselasse abolished the name Abyssinia in the early 1930's, both Ethiopia and Abyssinia were used synonymously. This is the one reason of confusion about ancient Ethiopia. The ancient Ethiopia known to the world is not the Ethiopia we know to date. For the ancient world Ethiopia is different from the present Ethiopia.
As is shown in the 17the centuries map of Africa, (click link below) 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 in the 19th century the world never knew of the existence of a country called Ethiopia. The northern region of Ethiopia was known to the world as Abyssinia. The Italians invaded no country that was called Ethiopia in late 19th century and in the early 1930's of the 20th century. The Italians invaded Abyssinia.
The regions of Abyssinia had known self rule for centuries, with own local governors and territories that varied with the power of the governor. The higher governors 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 is shown in the 17the centuries maps of Africa (click link below) the name Ethiopia refers to what is now called Sub-sahara Africa. Even the North Atlantic Ocean was called the Ethiopian Ocean in the 17th century. During the colonization (so called the scramble for Africa) the world never knew the existence of a country called Ethiopia. They world new only Abyssinia. The Italians invaded Abyssinia in late 19th century and in the early 1930's of the 20th century. They never invaded a country that was called Ethiopia.
The name Ethiopia was not known to Ethiopians during the Zemene Mesafint (before 1855). The 3000 years old history that Ethiopia claims is actually the history of Axumites, particularly that of Tigray Abyssinians. That history of Ethiopia is inherited from Abyssinia when Haileselasse changed the name Ethiopia. If Tigray becomes independent Ethiopia has no background to claim that history. This is one issue that can lead to the disintegration of Ethiopia, as most states don't consider themselves as Abyssinians.
The history of modern Abyssinia (later Ethiopia) started in mid 19th century. It was emperor Tewodros from Kimant (ruled 1855-1867) who forcefully succeeded to rule several regions under the name Abyssinia. He is considered to be the founder of the then unified Abyssinia. Although not clearly demarcated, the territory of Abyssinia. under Tewodros was smaller than that ruled by emperors after him (click sidebar 1855-1867 for the map)
Atse (emperor) Yohannes (ruled 1867-1889) from Tigray succeeded Tewodros and continued to rule Abyssinia. He had correctly claimed the title of 'niguse negest' (king of kings) of Abyssinia., since he had several kings under his Administration. Yohannes fought and defended Abyssinia from foreign invaders (Egypt, Turkey, Italy, the Mahadists etc). Emperor Yohannes had secured the northern boundary, the Red Sea, of Abyssinia. The region Shewa constituted the southern boundary of his administration. (click sidebar 1867-1889 for the map)
Atse Minilik (ruled 1889-1913) who ruled Abyssinia. after Yohannes had made deals to demarcate the boundaries of Abyssinia. To the North he handed over the Red Sea including northern Tigray (now Eritrea) to the Italians. To the south he expanded Abyssinia. territory to what is now known as Ethiopia. Under his rule the territory of Ethiopia became much larger than Abyssinia.
The Amhara ruling groups began to use the name Ethiopia instead of Abyssinia. after the expansion to the south made by emperor Minilik (1889-1913). The southern peoples were ok with the name because they hade never considered themselves as Abyssinians. (click sidebar 1889-1913 for the map).
The international community used Abyssinia. and Ethiopia were synonymous until the early 1930's, the year Haileselasse officially abolished the name Abyssinia.
Queen Zewditu (daughter of Minilik) and Lij Eyassu (a nephew) ruled Abyssinia. (ruled 1913-1931). in relation to the borders nothing had changed in Abyssinia. under their rule. They were occupied with power struggle against Haileselasse, who used to be called Ras Teferi.
Atse Haileselasse (ruled 1931-1974) officially changed the name Abyssinia. to Ethiopia in the early 1930's. He also divided Ethiopia into 13 provinces. By doing so he took distance from the name Abyssinia. Later in the early 1960's he made Eritrea the 14th province of Ethiopia.
Haileselasse divided Ethiopia in 13 provinces with no consultation with the population. The whole nation was property of the Emperor. He used to take some part of a region and give it to another governor he favors. Like that, in 1955 (1948 Eth.C), Haileselasse gave Southern Raya of Tigray to his son Asfawessen who was governor of Wollo. In 1956 he gave Welkait (Western Tigray) to the so called Begemder province. Later after Eritrea was unified with Ethiopia he took Aseb area (Red Sea coast) that of Eritrea and part of Afar to Wollo.
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. In 1991, when Meles created the regions, he took part of western Tigray and half of southern Raya back to Tigray. But gave a large part of Eastern Tigray to the newly created Afar region. The successor Meles, Mr. Hailemariam, failed to govern the country and handed the power over to Mr. Abiy Ahmed in 2018.
Now the Amhara are wrongly claiming specifically Welkait and Raya from Tigray. They don't claim Aseb that is under Eritrea and that part of Afar that was under the rule of the Son of Haileselasse.(Asfawesen0).
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 himself 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 fighting back and determined to rule itself. However, with almost a total of 600,000 enemy armed soldiers fighting in the small region of Tigray (with area of 84700 square km). The damage and the atrocities that took place (and still are taking place in Tigray are beyond one can comprehend.
The Ethiopian, Eritrean, Somali and Amhara region soldiers had taken over the whole Tigray for more than 8 months. The goal of the war an is to wipe out the People of Tigray. Since the start the war there is total blackout of information in Tigray. Tigray is not accessible journalists. Everything in Tigray is destroyed. The infrastructure, all government and private organizations, health center, clinics and hospitals, fabrics (textile fabric, leather fabric, laboratories, etc.), all industries (inclusive pharmaceutical industry etc, schools destroyed and made military camps. All communications services don't function. No single public service functions in Tigray. There is no public transport service. No banking, no energy, no drinking water, no health and medication services, no education services etc. no telephone, no internet services. In addition to all of these, the government is misinforming the world with false propaganda.
The atrocities mentioned above are part of systematic extermination of the people of Tigray. Genocide is taking place, tens of thousands of women are raped , (rape is used as weapon of war. Farm lands, silo's containing grains are burned. millions of cattle are killed or taken to Eritrea an Amhara region. Sin short hunger is used as weapon of war.
After all these damages, the independence of Tigray has become imminent. There is no single Tigraway who wants to remain with Ethiopia. Subsequently, if Tigray becomes independent, other regions that never considered to be part of Abyssinia., will follow . That will result in the disintegration of Ethiopia. It will not be long until Ethiopia becomes history, just like Yugoslavia in the the early 1990.