When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Mapaganda: How The World Falls For Russia's Bogus Maps — National Geographic And All

Though Russia's intentions to take over Ukraine on the ground have failed, they are winning in the field of cartography. Maps seen in respected books and periodicals around the world offer a distorted view of who has the right to territory — and who is the aggressor. A campaign is underway to change maps to change perception of reality.

Mapaganda: How The World Falls For Russia's Bogus Maps — National Geographic And All

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Constitutional Court Chairman Valery Zorkin looking at a map during a meeting at the Kremlin.

Mykola Golubei


KYIV — Mapaganda is a particularly well-targeted form of propaganda used by Russia against Ukraine and other countries affected by its military aggression. Mapaganda is implemented by the influencing of cartographic companies and communities so that they print and publish the Russian view of the world in their products: school textbooks, world atlases, globes, car atlases, tourist products, electronic map services, etc.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

It’s a real shame, but dozens of international companies, including National Geographic, develop, print and widely distribute maps that contain Russian disinformation and the Russian view of the situation. For example, they designate Crimea as a part of Russia while "claimed by Ukraine." This creates the impression that Ukraine is the aggressor.

The lion’s share of educational products of bookstores in Germany, Austria and Switzerland depict Ukraine in different variations outside the 1991 borders. The situation is no better in other European states, in the UK and the U.S.

Unfortunately, the Ukrainian authorities are not making a strong enough effort to rectify the situation.

Photo: provided by author

This is how the National Geographic Atlas of the World outlines the map of Ukraine for 2022. Temporarily occupied Crimea is marked as a part of the Russian Federation which is “claimed” by Ukraine.

Parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions also became a “disputed territory.”

In almost all 2023 products, Crimea, Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhya, and Kherson regions are depicted as a disputed territory within their administrative borders - in fact, this is how they legalize the occupation of Ukrainian lands by Russia.

Photo: provided by author

On the left is a map of Ukraine: automobile atlas of ADAC (All-German automobile club – the largest public organization of motorists in Germany and Europe). On the right is the world atlas of the German publishing house "Kunth".

Do you remember the Russian narrative that Ukraine was created by Lenin and never existed before? The media recently wrote that references to Ukraine are being crossed out in Russian textbooks, for example, instead of "Kyivan Rus" they now write simply "Rus."

So, in Western atlases of history, Ukraine and everything Ukrainian is crossed out. Instead of "Kyivan Rus" the terms "Kievan Russia", "Early Russia" or simply "Russia" are introduced. Have you ever heard of Volodymyr the Great, who was the prince of "Kievan Russia"? Or that the Vikings sailed to Russia, and then Russia fought the Khazars in 965?

Photo: provided by author

The team of the project “Stop Mapaganda! Information for de-occupation of Ukraine" identified more than 30 international companies (and this is just the beginning) that develop, print and distribute educational products (school textbooks, world atlases and globes for children and adults, wall maps, atlases for motorists, tourist products, electronic map services and services of electronic encyclopedias – in particular, Wikipedia), containing fakes, disinformation and the idea of dismemberment of Ukraine. The problem has potentially catastrophic consequences.

Russian tools of influence

Russia implements its strategy in the field of cartography through the "Russian Geographical Society" (RGS, whose chairman of the board of trustees is Vladimir Putin, the president of the organization is Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu) and the "Russian Historical Society" (RHS, whose head is the director of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Russia Sergey Naryshkin).

Photo: provided by author

RGS and RHS are engaged in external and internal propaganda, and these two structures also "integrate" the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine and have already opened branches there.

A good example of the activities of RGS is an article dated December 1, 2022: “The Russian Geographical Society announced that this year, together with the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, 14 large expeditionary projects have been carried out."

The first vice-president of RGS, academician Mykola Kasimov, declared at a joint meeting with the Ministry of Defense: "The Russian Geographical Society and the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation continue to work in close cooperation, opening new horizons in joint projects.”

As well as the news from the RGS website dated October 7, 2022: “Crimean geographers are establishing contacts with new territories of Russia”:

American geographers present Ukraine as an aggressor who "claims" a part of Russia.

The main topic of the discussion was preliminary negotiations on the possibility of opening a branch of RGS on the basis of the academy: "The Crimeans shared their experience of creating a branch of the Russian Geographical Society already in the first months after the region was returned to Russia, spoke about the activities of RGS and the main measures and plans for its branch in Crimea. We discussed common plans in a warm and friendly atmosphere.”

An international plague

RGS has close relations with international geographical societies: the National Geographic Society (USA), the Association of Spanish Geographers, the Norwegian Scientific Academy for Polar Research, the Berlin and Munich Geographical Societies, the Italian Geographical Society, the French Geographical Society and many other organizations.

And it's not just protocol relationships. Collaboration with American geographers allowed the Russians to penetrate their tentacles deep into the world's main geographic media - National Geographic, which is the official publication of the U.S. National Geographic Society.

National Geographic has a long history of cooperation with RGS and is an important tool for spreading Russian narratives. In particular, the publishing house first depicted Crimea as a “disputed territory” in their products, and now as a part of the Russian Federation, which is “claimed” by Ukraine. In other words, American geographers present Ukraine as an aggressor who "claims" a part of Russia.

Here is the world atlas for children in National Geographic dated March 22, 2022, in German and Italian with the description that Crimea is a part of the Russian Federation claimed by Ukraine (in the original “Von der Ukraine beanspruchte Grenze” - “The border claimed (or encroached upon) by Ukraine”).

Photo: provided by author

And here is the National Geographic map - Europe Executive Map. With such a description: “The National Geographic Europe Wall Map, designed by experts, is the authoritative map of Europe by which other reference maps are measured.” Crimea on this map is also depicted as a part of the Russian Federation.

This is the legalization of the idea of Ukraine’s dismemberment.

Photo: provided by author

Since 2016, a man named Alex Tate has been responsible for the mapping policy of National Geographic. In his LinkedIn profile (unfortunately now deleted), Tate indicated that he worked as a vice president of the International mapping company.

This company makes a product – Sovereign Limits: The International Boundaries Database – as the description states, “a comprehensive database designed for research, visualization and mapping of international borders”. On Sovereign Limits, Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk regions are not marked as part of Ukraine.

In essence, this is the legalization of the idea of Ukraine’s dismemberment. In the product description, International mapping notes that “in April 2014, two regions in the east of Ukraine declared independence,” and it calls Luhansk and Donetsk regions "states." It also writes about the "disputed territories": “the international border between Russia and Ukraine is unstable, especially in the eastern regions adjacent to the disputed territories.”

Photos: provided by author

Here is the list of international companies (certainly incomplete) that develop, distribute and widely distribute Russian fakes, disinformation and narratives about "disputed territories":

The U.S.: National Geographic.

Germany: ADAC, Arena verlag, Columbus Verlag, DuMont Reiseverlag, Franckh-Kosmos, INTERKART, Kunth Verlag, Mairdumont, Marco Polo, Räthgloben 1917 Verlags, Ravensburger, Stiefel Eurocart, Ravensburger, Westermann.

The UK: Cosmographics, Maps Worldwide, Mapsinternational.

Italy: Edizioni White Star SrL, Tecnodidattica Spa. Austria: Freytag & Berndt.

Switzerland: Hallwag Kümmerly+Frey.

Czech Republic: Kartografie.

List of companies that distribute fake products:

  • German chain of bookstores, "Thalia.de", "Hugendubel";
  • Austrian chain of bookstores, "Thalia.at";
  • Swiss chain of bookstores, "Orell Füssli";
  • Online stores "Amazon.de" and "Amazon.com", "Bucher.de".

Electronic map services that depict Crimea as a "disputed territory":

  • Google Maps;
  • OpenStreetMap;
  • Natural Earth.

On Wikipedia in many languages, Crimea and other temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine are presented as part of the Russian Federation or as a “disputed territory”.

Tough solution

Unfortunately, our state does not respond sufficiently to the fact that millions of Western consumers perceive Ukraine through the prism of Russian propaganda. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine in 2014 recorded various cases of incorrect images of the map of Ukraine in various sources of information. Our diplomats contacted publishing houses, received some letters about "solidarity with Ukraine" or "apology for a mistake". However, the problem remains.

Rather than an apology, the following actions should take place:

– withdrawal of all products with distorted maps of Ukraine from the market;

– official investigation with punishment of those responsible;

– informing millions of consumers that they had purchased an educational product that contained misinformation.

To really change the situation, there should be a systemic state policy of Ukraine with the use of legal and sanctions instruments. We are faced with a complex problem that requires a complex solution.

Contact details of the Stop Mapaganda project "Information de-occupation of Ukraine":



You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

If Iran Truly Fears A Regional War, It May Just Ditch Hamas

Iran's revolutionary regime insists it wants Israel destroyed and has threatened a regional war, but its actions are ambivalent, suggesting it prefers intrigue to a war that might hasten its demise.

A veiled woman waves a Palestinian flag during a pro-hijab and pro-government gathering in downtown Tehran

At a pro-Palestinian rally in Tehran on Nov. 2

Hamed Mohammadi

Updated Nov. 10, 2023 at 7:15 p.m.


Urban warfare is an ugly mess even for high-tech armies, yet after weeks of bombing Hamas targets, Israel believed it had no choice but to invade Gaza and expose its troops to just this type of fighting. It is the only way of flushing out Hamas, it says, which has decided to fight Israel amid the wreckage of Gazan homes, schools and clinics.

For the latest news & views from every corner of the world, Worldcrunch Today is the only truly international newsletter. Sign up here.

Meanwhile, attacks on U.S. forces in the Middle East by similar militias working in coordination with the Iranian regime have become a headache for the Biden administration, which is seen by some as taking a soft line with the Tehran. The administration insists there is no hard evidence yet of Iranian involvement in Hamas's attack on Israel on October 7, though it has hardened its tone, warning Tehran not to pour "fuel on fire."

As for the European Union, it remains cautious about listing the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as terrorists, even if in September the NATO parliamentary assembly advised members of the alliance to list them as such and aid the democratic aspirations of ordinary Iranians.

Whatever the details, the war in Gaza is intimately connected to the Iranian regime and its modus operandi.

Its officials have warned that the Gaza offensive, if continued, would open new fronts against Israel. The regime's foreign minister, Hussein Amirabdullahian, vowed Gaza would become an Israeli "graveyard" if its troops invaded, while the head of the Revolutionary guards, Hussein Salami, compared the strip to a "dragon" that would "devour" the invaders.

But so far we have seen nothing of Iran's more dramatic threats, made soon after the October attack, including the West Bank joining with Gaza or the Lebanese Hezbollah firing off 150,000 rockets. Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, while insisting Iran had nothing to do with the Hamas assault, urged regional states to starve Israel of fuel. That too has yet to happen.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest