MARC Change History

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The first MARC (Machine Readable Cataloging) standard was developed by the Library of Congress in 1965-1966. Some other national libraries followed by creating similar standards tailored to their own needs. In the United Kingdom, there was UKMARC; in Canada, CANMARC; in Denmark, DANMARC, and so on. The name of the U.S. version may be given as USMARC for clarity. International standard ISO 2709:1981, with the vague title "Information and documentation -- Format for Information Exchange", is a specification for record formats to be used when storing bibliographic information on magnetic tape. MARC conforms to this standard (or ANSI standard Z39.2, which is the same thing), but it adds to it some content standards. MARC includes some code lists that are not specified in ISO 2709. The one of present interest is country codes.

With increasing international exchange of bibliographic material, there has been pressure for harmonization of the various MARC variants. The English-speaking countries seem to be gravitating toward USMARC as a common ground. IFLA, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, created a harmonized MARC in 1977. They called it UNIMARC, for "Universal MARC". UNIMARC is more popular among non-English-speaking European countries. The UNIMARC codes for geographic areas are the same as those in USMARC. (The ISO 3166 country codes are also included in the UNIMARC standard, though.)

Here are the changes in MARC country codes that I was able to find. When I speak of countries being merged or split, you are to understand that I'm only referring to a change in MARC codes. The corresponding geopolitical change may have happened earlier, or not at all.

  1. 1978-01: Ashmore and Cartier Islands [ac] merged with Australia [at]. Aldabra Islands, Farquhar Atoll, and Île Desroches transferred from British Indian Ocean Territory [bi] to Seychelles [se]. Israel-Jordan Demilitarized Zone [iw] and Israel-Syria Demilitarized Zone [iu] merged with Israel [is]. Portuguese Timor [pt] merged with Indonesia [io]. Southern Ryukyu Islands [ry] merged with Japan [ja]. Sikkim [sk] merged with India [ii]. Swan Islands [sv] merged with Honduras [ho]. Serrana Bank and Serranilla Bank transferred from United States Miscellaneous Caribbean Islands [uc] to Colombia [ck]. North Vietnam [vn] and South Vietnam [vs] merged to form Vietnam [vm].
  2. 1978-10: Gilbert and Ellice Islands [gn] and Central and Southern Line Islands [ln] reconfigured to form Kiribati [gb] and Tuvalu [tv].
  3. 1985-01: Canal Zone [cz] merged with Panama [pn]. Saint Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla [xi] split into Anguilla [ai] and Saint Kitts-Nevis [xd]. Northern Mariana Islands [nm] split from Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands [tt].
  4. 1987-07: Mayotte [ot] split from Comoros [cq]. Code for Northern Mariana Islands changed to [nw].
  5. 1988-03: Jan Mayen [jn] and Svalbard [sb] merged with Norway [no]. Aruba [aw] split from Netherlands Antilles [na]. Code for Anguilla changed to [am]. Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands [tt] split into Federated States of Micronesia [fm], Marshall Islands [xe], and Palau [pw]. Code for United Kingdom Miscellaneous Islands changed from [ui] to [uik], in effect coding it as part of the United Kingdom. Alternate codes were eliminated (there had been four alternate codes: [cn] for Canada, [uk] for United Kingdom, [ur] for Soviet Union, and [us] for United States).
  6. 1991-01: East Germany [ge], West Berlin [wb], and West Germany [gw] merged to form Germany [gw] (one source says this change occurred in 1990-01). South Yemen [ys] merged with Yemen [ye]. South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands [xs] split from Falkland Islands [fk].
  7. 1992-06: Soviet Union [xxr] split into Armenia [ai], Azerbaijan [aj], Belarus [bw], Estonia [er], Georgia [gs], Kazakhstan [kz], Kyrgyzstan [kg], Latvia [lv], Lithuania [li], Moldova [mv], Russian Federation [ru], Tajikistan [ta], Turkmenistan [tk], Ukraine [un], and Uzbekistan [uz].
  8. 1992-10: Bosnia and Herzegovina [bn], Croatia [ci], Macedonia [xn], and Slovenia [xv] split from Yugoslavia [yu].
  9. 1993-05: Czechoslovakia [cs] split into Czech Republic [xr] and Slovakia [xo].
  10. 1993-11: Eritrea [ea] split from Ethiopia [et].
  11. 1993-12: Canton and Enderbury Islands [cp] merged with Kiribati [gb].
  12. 1997-07: Hong Kong [hk] merged with China [cc].
  13. 2000-05: Macao [mh] merged with China [cc].
  14. 2003-08: East Timor [em] split from Indonesia [io].
  15. 2005-07-12: New three-letter codes created for the subdivisions of Australia.
  16. 2007: Serbia and Montenegro [yu] split into Montenegro [mo] and Serbia [rb].
  17. 2008-04-04: Added a code for Kosovo [kv].
  18. 2011-08: South Sudan [sd] split from Sudan [sj].
  19. 2011-12-06: Replaced Netherlands Antilles [na] with Caribbean Netherlands [ca], Curaçao [co], and Sint Maarten [sn]. Saint Barthélémy [sc] and Saint Martin [st] split from Guadeloupe [gp].
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