Creative initiatives add new content from Central and South Eastern Europe to Wikipedia

High resolution areal photo from Jaworzno in Poland, preserving the memory of nature area, made through an innovative initiative by Wikipedia Poland. Photo by Wikipedia user WiktorPilot, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Various global ranking lists usually place Wikipedia among the top ten most visited websites in the world. In Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) it also ranks quite high, while the local language versions often serve as primary source for educational content. Aware of its impact, various enthusiastic groups from the region are finding ways to enrich Wikipedia content. This post lists some recent examples.

CEE Wikipedians shine in #1Lib1Ref initiative

Twice a year since 2016, in January and May, the #1Lib1Ref campaign invites librarians to improve Wikipedia articles by adding citations. This year, Wikipedia community blog Diff reported that Wikipedia in Serbian had the top score for third time in a row, with 38 editors who edited 5,461 articles and added 12,689 references.

#1Lib1Ref event in state library in Belgrade, Serbia, feat. Gordana Gomirac from Wikimedia and awarded 2nd place top editor Žana Gnjatović, librarian from Sombor. Photo by Wikipedia user Gzanag, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Nikolina Šepić, a pedagogy student from Pančevo, retained the title of top editor, which won her media acclaim in 2022 also. This year she has added 6600 references.  The other top editors were also from Serbia: librarian Žana Gnjatović, and pensioner Liljana Sundać, a member of Serbia’s Senior Citizen project

Dozens of Serbian media conveyed this positive news, from Radio Television of Vojvodina, to state agencies  Tanjug and tabloid Telegraf,  framing it as national success and  a point of national pride.

#1Lib1Ref runner ups were Wikipedia in Polish with around 4,000 edits in more than 2,000 articles and the French version with 1,871 references.

Diff blog noted that the wider CEE region also had a strong showing:

29 editors of Romanian Wikipedia edited more than 600 pages16 editors of Bosnian Wikipedia gave reliable sources to more than 160 pages; we also salute the five editors in both Serbo-Croatian and Croatian Wikipedias; the four enthusiastic Czech Wikipedia’s editors, and the four Macedonian Wikipedia editors who managed to edit more than 700 pages! Let us close this CEE trip with a special mention to Ukrainian editors, who closed this year’s campaign with more than 50 users, and made over 1000 useful edits in 700+ articles on various topics.

Polish pilots make free-to-use aerial photos

Wiktor Pawuska, Anna Kosobudzka and the senior pilot Jarosław Pytel engaged in the ‘Landing on the screen with Wikipedia’ project. Photo by Wikimedia user WiktorPilot, CC BY-SA 4.0

Since 2020, Wikimedia Polska has been implementing the long-term Wikiszkoła (Wiki-school) program, which uses small grants to engage teachers and students to develop various activities and projects. This fund helped the ‘Landing on the screen with Wikipedia’ Project to produce high resolution areal photos to be used as resource for the encyclopedia.

This project, conducted in and above the Southern Polish city of Jaworzno, is brainchild of Wiktor Pawuska, a licensed pilot and a student of the Vocational and Continuing Education Center in Jaworzno, and his teacher Anna Kosobudzka. They used their Wiki-school grant to pay for airplane flights aimed at taking photos of Jaworzno and the surrounding area from a bird’s eye view, placing the 31 aerial photos in Wikimedia Commons resources, and then illustrating selected entries with new articles under free licenses. ​​

The project also created synergies with other local institutions, by staging an exhibition of aerial photos in cooperation with the Municipal Public Library and the Promotion Office of Jaworzno, which attracted the attention of visitors for several weeks.

Enriching the Macedonian Wikipedia with rock music info and photos

In North Macedonia, Art House Karev, an organization of teachers and students from the Nikola Karev High School in Skopje, cooperates with the civic association GLAM Macedonia to teach teenagers how to upload music-related content to the Wikipedia in Macedonian language. They organize workshops for high school students who are updating the articles about music bands.

The children learn how to find information from publicly available sources, such as the VBU Music Registry, the biggest public record database documenting music production from North Macedonia, and music published by local artists abroad. This information comes in handy in amending the data on musical bibliographies.

Tošo Filipovski, the author of the Macedonian Rock Encyclopedia with his book. Courtesy photo provided by him, with permission to republish.

Art House Karev has been working with copyright holders to obtain information from proprietary sources. For instance, they have received permission from music scholar and rock enthusiast Tošo Filipovski, the author of the Macedonian Rock Encyclopedia (Македонска рок енциклопедија) to use their articles for updating the biographies of musicians. This encyclopedia is only available in hardcopy format as a volume of 333 pages, containing the histories of 333 Macedonian rock bands, active from the 1960s to the present day.

Filipovski attended a workshop for ten young Wikipedians in Skopje on April 5, and besides giving them approval to use his articles, he provided them with digital copies of articles from his encyclopedia, in order to help them update the rockers’ bios more easily and efficiently. Vasil Buraliev, the founder of the VBU Music registry, also participated in the event, and noted that they will apply Creative Commons licenses to original photos of music bands from their archive,  to serve as illustration for students’ articles.

Meanwhile, Russia attempts to force censorship

However, its not rosy for all Wikipedians in the CEE region. A big challenge to Wikipedia's integrity comes from the Russian Federation, which has repeatedly been trying to censor it by inflicting monetary punishment against Wikimedia Foundation, based on its laws that support networked authoritarianism since 2013.

This trend intensified after the start of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. Several days later, Russia swiftly adopted a draconian law criminalizing any media coverage or social media posts about the war that diverge from the state agenda. In May that year Russia used a law on “domestication” of IT companies to declare the local branch Wikipedia Foundation a subject of its censorship laws.

In July 2022, at behest of Roskomnadzor, state executive agency responsible for monitoring, controlling and censoring Russian mass media, a Moscow court fined Wikimedia Foundation  RUB 5 million rubles (USD 91,000) for refusing to remove what it termed disinformation from Russian-language Wikipedia articles on the Ukraine conflict, including “The Russian Invasion of Ukraine,” “War Crimes during the Russian Invasion of Ukraine,” and “Massacre in Bucha.”

The series of such court cases started in April 2022, and, during the following year, over seven had been filed, including the latest concluded in April 2023 imposing a fine of RUB 2 million rubles (USD 24,500) on Wikimedia Foundation for refusing to remove an article on Russian-language Wikipedia called “The Russian occupation of the Zaporizhzhia Oblast.”

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