As the world waits to hear whether the semi-autonomous region of Crimea will become part of Russia in what’s being called “the worst East-West standoff since the Cold War,” another war is raging on Wikipedia over what to call the peninsula in the interim.
This war is being carried out by Wikipedia editors who have spent the last 48 hours tweaking, deleting, and discussing the question that has stumped international news organizations: Who does Crimea actually belong to, Russia or Ukraine?
Some of the confusion over Crimea stems from a referendum Monday where 97 percent of voters supported Crimea severing ties with Ukraine and joining the Russian Federation.
In March alone, there’s been more than 500 changes made to Crimea’s Wiki page.
For example, underneath the Wiki Talk section titled “Should we change the name to Republic of Crimea yet?” the following editorial discussions played out (emphasis added):
This was the same case under “Crimean independence (emphasis added):”
Crimea has become the focal point of the Ukrainian revolution after Russia began moving troops into the area in late February. Despite calls from President Barack Obama to cease military action, Russian President Vladimir Putin has pushed forward into Crimea and won over its political leaders.
On Monday, “Crimean authorities passed a flurry of laws to scrap Ukrainian influence and pave the way for annexation to Russia,” the Washington Post reported.
“Legislators in the renamed parliament, the State Council of the Republic of Crimea, nullified Ukrainian laws and nationalized all Ukrainian state property,” the Post added.
By March 30, Crimea will switch time zones. And in Jan. 2016, the Ukrainian currency hryvnia will be phased out and replaced by the Russian ruble, the Post states.
Despite the fact that Crimea was officially handed to the Ukraine in 1954 by the Soviet Union, many forget it has historically been a Russian property, dating back to the 18th Century when Catherine the Great staked her claim to it.
“More than half a million people were killed in the Crimean War of 1853-56 between Russia and the Ottoman Empire, which was backed by Britain and France,” Reuters reported. “The conflict reshaped Europe and paved the way for WWI. In 1921, the peninsula, then populated mainly by Muslim Tatars, became part of the Soviet Union. The Tatars were deported en masse by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin at the end of WWII for alleged collaboration with the Nazis.”
Following the fall of the Soviet Union after WWII, Crimea became part of the independent Ukraine. Crimea is 58 percent ethnic Russian and 24 percent ethnic Ukrainian according to Ukraine’s 2001 census.
Illustration by Jason Reed