SIMFEROPOL, Crimea — Although the United Nations and many Western governments continue to object to Russia’s claims over Crimea, the publishing industry recently provided two signs of its growing legitimacy.
On Thursday, RT reported that a new geography textbook published by Oxford University Press, one of the world’s top academic publishers, recognizes Crimea as a part of Russia. The textbook is geared toward 11-14 year olds.
— RT на русском (@RT_russian) October 14, 2015
This news comes just days after Internet users began reporting a similar change in the 2016 edition of the Larousse Atlas, published in France.
— Alex Kokcharov (@AlexKokcharov) October 13, 2015
According to RT, the “Meet Russia” section of Oxford’s new edition of the “Geog.3 Student Book” textbook on Geography reads, in part:
“‘Russia is a big powerful country – the biggest country in the world.’
Speaking of Russia’s scale, authors point out ‘two small exclaves.’
‘The one next to Lithuanian is called Kaliningrad. The other is Crimea, which Russia took from Ukraine in 2014.’”
After Ukraine distanced itself economically and politically from Russia on the heels of the Euromaidan protests of 2013, the residents of the Crimean Peninsula of Ukraine overwhelmingly voted to break away from Ukraine and rejoin Russia. Russia announced the annexation of the region soon after, but the move has not been recognized by Ukraine or its NATO allies, leading to months of tense, sometimes violent conflict.
Dan Selinger, head of communications at Oxford University Press, told RT that the decision to include Crimea was made based on “thorough research on the political, social and economic realities at the time of publication.”
On Tuesday, Igor Kyzym, Charge d’Affaires for the Ukrainian embassy to the U.K., issued a letter of concern to Oxford University Press, republished on the embassy’s Facebook page. It reads: “I deeply regret that the textbook misleads the students which used to rely on the Oxford University Press as a reputable publishing house.”
The statement also notes:
“This sham ‘referendum’ has never been recognized by the international community. Moreover, the UK Government has condemned it as illegal and repeatedly urged the Kremlin to stick to the international law and return Crimea to Ukraine.”
Kyzym’s letter also notes that the United Nations declared the Crimean referendum to be invalid.
Under pressure from the embassy, Oxford University Press promised to amend future editions of the textbook, reported Damien Sharkov for Newsweek Europe:
“‘We will be changing the wording used on this matter and will also include the UN position,’ the [Oxford] spokesperson says. ‘We continuously review all of our materials to reflect changes in circumstance and feedback from various sources.’
… [They] did not comment on when the updated version of the textbook would go to print.”
A report from Anadolu Agency, a Turkish state-run press service, noted a similar reaction to the French atlas by Oleh Shamshur, Ukraine’s ambassador to France:
“‘Despite an asterisk stipulating that Crimea was “attached,” not even “annexed,” by Russia, this representation by [publisher] Larousse gives legitimacy to Russia’s flagrant violation of international law,’ Shamshur wrote in a letter to the publishing house on Oct. 10.”
But Editions Larousse, publisher of the atlas, seemed more measured in its response than Oxford University Press, with a representative telling Anadolu Agency only that “Larousse did not wish to be drawn into this controversy.”