Why is it wrong to call developing countries Third World countries?

Beatriz Freitas
5 min readJul 28, 2020

A geographically imprecise terminology based on prejudice.

In geography, we learn that every concept and attempt to portrait the world through graphics, maps, or illustrations transmit an ideological background. That is why when adopting a point of view is vital to be careful not to reproduce ideals that are incorrect or disrespectful.

An example is the prevalent use of the nomination First, Second, and Third World countries, up to this date. So here are a few reasons and explanations why using this terminology is no longer correct and what the use of it may imply in our society.

  • USSR extinction

Now you must be asking what does the Soviet Union has to do with this?

Well, it is quite simple actually. The denomination First, Second, and Third World countries was a vocabulary used during the period between the end of World War Two in 1945 till the end of the Cold War in 1991.

So by rankings, the First World countries were those aligned with the economic and political beliefs of the United States of America, predominantly related to the capitalist system, which included Canada and most countries in the western region of Europe.

On the opposite spectrum, the Second World countries were aligned with the ideals of Russia and later composed a confederation, the USSR, that in 1922 with the help of the Red Army implanted a government based on socialism.

The rest of the world, majorly composed of developing countries that didn’t directly support either the USA or the USSR, were grouped in one big block called the Third World countries. India, for example, was the textbook definition of this denomination once they weren’t aligned with the potencies. The Indian community had just achieved its independence from the UK in 1947 and refused to join their block to be an area of influence again. But India also had no interest in aligning with the USSR since socialism defended social equality, something that contradicted India’s traditional caste system.

The fall of the Berlin Wall, along with the extinction of the USSR, marks the end of the Cold War, which represents the concrete dissolution of the division between Communist and Capitalist areas of influence. Photograph: Peter Horvath/REX/Shutterstock

This nomenclature, even being highly biased, was used extensively throughout the Cold War in an attempt to simplify the global dispute for power and influence. However, due to…

Beatriz Freitas

Brazilian. Fourth-year medical student. Love arts and social science.