Much of the world seems content to quietly ignore the situation in Crimea in the hope that it will go away. But for some, silence isn’t an option – and that includes the mapmakers of the internet.
Take Google. The company has offices in 60 countries, and offers services in 130 languages, including both Russian and Ukrainian. Which means that whatever it does, someone’s going to be annoyed.
But that doesn’t stop the company from trying. Visitors to the company’s Ukrainian website, google.com.ua, will find a map of Crimea as they remember it. The border with Russia is unmarked, but the internal boundary with the rest of Ukraine is clear:
Russian visitors to Google get a very different picture. In no uncertain terms is the area marked as a separate country from wider Ukraine:
When international visitors look at the area, we’re given an answer somewhere in the middle; Google uses its legend for disputed borders between mainland Ukraine and Crimea:
Google already gained a reputation for trying to please all sides from similar cases. For instance, Indian visitors to the site are show the area of Aksai Chin, north-east of Kashmir, as Indian, while Chinese visitors are shown the same area as part of their country.
“Google Maps makes every effort to depict disputed regions and features objectively,” a spokesperson told the Guardian. “Our Maps product reflects border disputes, where applicable. Where we have local versions, we follow local regulations for naming and borders.”
Other online mapping services have not been as quick to move. Microsoft’s Bing still shows Crimea as staunchly Ukrainian, whatever language the user speaks:
And the volunteer-driven efforts at OpenStreetMap also ignore the effects of the the controversial independence referendum in March:
But one site takes the referendum very seriously indeed. Yandex, Russia’s largest search engine, uses bold colouring to make the political statements in its map clear. For its users, Crimea is Russian:
What’s more, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, two separatist regions of Georgia, are granted their independence as well.