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Here's Why Google Maps Changed Some Town Names in Crimea—And Is Now Changing Them Back

As if by magic, Google Maps changed some town names in Crimea overnight. Images edited by Tetyana Lokot.

As if by magic, Google Maps changed some town names in Crimea overnight. Images edited by Tetyana Lokot.

On July 27 Internet giant Google renamed a number of towns, villages, and settlements in Crimea—a peninsula in Ukraine that has been under Russian control since early 2014—on their Google Maps service. The change came after the Ukrainian parliament altered the names of 70 geographic locations in Crimea in accordance with its “decommunization” campaign in May 2016.

Users of the Russian and Ukrainian versions of Google Maps noticed the differences immediately. For instance, according to a report by Meduza news website, the town of Krasnoperekopsk became “Yany Kapu,” Sovetskoe turned into “Ichki,” and Kirovskoe was changed to “Islyam-Terek.” Many of the new names have Crimean Tatar origin or other historic roots, replacing the Soviet-era variants.

The change on Google Maps immediately provoked a backlash from Russian and Crimean officials. The head of annexed Crimea Sergey Aksyonov accused Google in a Facebook post of “producing a propagandistic product” and of “trying to create their own reality.” Russian communications minister Nikolay Nikiforov also joined in the criticism, saying that if Google didn't stick to Russian laws and the Russian names of towns and villages (in Crimea), it would “prevent the company from doing effective business in Russia.”

Ukrainian foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin reacted to the backlash on Twitter, referring to what Ukraine believes to be illegal occupation of Crimea by Russia:

On July 28, a spokesperson for Google told RBC news website that they were aware of the changes made in accordance with Ukraine's “decommunization” law and of Russia's displeasure. Google told RBC they were “actively working to restore the previous version of the names on the Russian version of Google Maps.”

The Ukrainian government lost control of the Crimean peninsula in the spring of 2014, following a disputed referendum on seceding from Ukraine and joining the Russian Federation. Most of the world does not recognize Russia's subsequent annexation of the territory of Crimea.

  • Babeouf

    Generally the names on a map match the names used in the location. Of course on Russian maps the names okaid by the US should take precedence.

  • Greg

    all western businesses should be pulling out of Russia! Stop doing business with these criminals and invaders

    • MaximumOvertroll

      you assume businesses have a conscience and think of more than just profits.

      • Greg

        Well as a consumer you can stop buying products and services from companies doing business with Russia! You have the power. I believe all peoples should at least stop buying from and Rissian based company. All profits are taxed and the money is used to invade and murder Ukrainians.

        • Greg

          How would a company manage losing its customers if we stopped buying from Russian owned/based/financed businesses?

  • LavXolm

    Now we need an alternative to Google…
    Crimea cities were founded by Russia centuries ago and was only capriciously “gifted” to Ukraine from Russia by Khrushchev in 1954. Khrushchev was ethnic Russian from Russian area of Ukraine and never intended for Crimea to be USA base to harass and threaten Russia or anywhere else.
    Cynical Google has stupidly fallen in with neocon regime change agenda and is doing evil!
    More evidence that an alternative to Google is needed.
    P.s. my grandparents were from near Crimea (Odessa) and it was RUSSIA then and will not be easily made hostile to Russia and Russian culture. Just watch…
    Shame, Google!

    • MaximumOvertroll

      yes, im sure many czars and premiers would agree with your logic if any of their empires still existed, but the world has moved on.

    • Pavel Bure

      Have you ever asked for a gift back from someone you gave it to? This might be common in Russia but not in any country I have been you.

  • Pavel Bure

    Crimean government was seized at gunpoint and then with an sham election that wasn’t recognized as legal but the international community. To listen to Crimean Russian occupiers would be illegal.

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