Wikipedia and the Russian invasion of Ukraine

The 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine is extensively covered on Wikipedia across many languages.[1] This coverage includes articles on and related to the invasion itself, and updates of previously existing articles to take the invasion into account.[1] Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects' coverage of the conflict – and how the volunteer editing community achieved that coverage – has received significant media and government attention.[2][3][4][5]


A screenshot of Georgian Wikipedia Main Page displaying its logo in Ukrainian national colors in February 2022.

On March 1, 2022, one week after Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine, the Russian-language edition of the online encyclopedia Wikipedia announced that the Russian government had threatened to block access to Wikipedia in the country.[6] The Russian government cited "illegally distributed information" present on the Russian Wikipedia article of the invasion, including Russian casualties and treatment of Ukrainian civilians[7]—Wikipedia had previously been blocked in 2015 for similar reasons. Local downloads of the Russian Wikipedia for offline use from Kiwix increased by over 4,000% following the beginning of the invasion amid fears of a Russian block, and over 105,000 downloads had been made during the first half of March. [6]

In Belarus, Russian Wikipedia editor Mark Bernstein was arrested after having been doxxed (having his personal identity revealed) in relation to his editing and writing about the invasion.[8][9]

On 1 March 2022, the Russian-language Wikipedia published a picture of the Russian government's media regulator Roskomnadzor threatening to block access to the website in Russia over the Russian-language article Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, claiming that the article contains "illegally distributed information", including "reports about numerous casualties among service personnel of the Russian Federation and also the civilian population of Ukraine, including children".[7]

On 16 March 2022, the Russian Agency of Legal and Judicial Information (news agency founded by the RIA Novosti, the Constitutional Court of Russia, the Supreme Court of Russia, and the Supreme Court of Arbitration of Russia in 2009) published an interview of Alexander Malkevich, the deputy chairman of the commission on the development of information society, media and mass communications of the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation. In this interview, Malkevich said that Wikipedia (both Russian and others) was becoming a "bridgehead for informational war against Russia". He also stated that Russian law-enforcement agencies had identified thirteen persons who were carrying out "politically engaged editing" Wikipedia's articles, and about 30,000 bloggers "participating in informational war against Russia".[10]

According to Novaya Gazeta, pro-Kremlin structures related to Yevgeny Prigozhin are actively involved in doxing "coordinators of an informational attack on Russia", including Wikipedia editors. Novaya Gazeta also reports that Special Communications Service of Russia (a division of the Federal Protective Service) employees are trying to disseminate pro-Kremlin propaganda by editing Wikipedia articles.[11]

On 31 March, Roskomnadzor demanded that Wikipedia remove any information about the invasion that is "misinforming" Russians, or it could face a fine of up to 4 million rubles (approximately $49,000 or $47,000).[12][13] In June 2022, the Wikimedia Foundation appealed the fine, arguing that people in Russia have the right to access knowledge about the invasion.[14]

In April 2022, EU vs Disinfo found that four pro-Russian disinformation news outlets were referenced in at least 625 Wikipedia articles. Most of these references were in the Russian Wikipedia (136 articles), Arabic Wikipedia (70), Spanish Wikipedia (52), Portuguese Wikipedia (45) and Vietnamese Wikipedia (32). The English Wikipedia has removed most references to these outlets.[15]

In April-May 2022, the Russian authorities put several Wikipedia articles on their list of forbidden sites. The list included the articles 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Rashism,[16] several articles in Russian Wikipedia devoted to the military action and war crimes during the Russo-Ukrainian War,[17] and 2 sections of the Russian article about Vladimir Putin.[18]

On 20 July 2022, due to the refusal of Wikipedia to remove the articles about the Russian-Ukrainian war, Roskomnadzor ordered search engines to mark Wikipedia as a violator of Russian laws.[19][20]

On 1 November 2022, the Wikimedia Foundation was fined 2 million rubles by a Russian court for not deleting two articles on Russian Wikipedia.[21]

Responses from WikipediaEdit

The Georgian and Ukrainian Wikipedias changed their logos to reflect the blue and gold coloring of Ukraine's flag.[5]

The Wikimedia Foundation released a statement on 1 March 2022, calling for "continued access to free and open knowledge" and for "an immediate and peaceful resolution to the conflict".[22]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Kleinz, Torsten (2022-03-03). "Ukraine-Krieg: Russische Medienaufsicht droht mit Wikipedia-Sperre - Die Online-Enzyklopädie informiert ausführlich über die Invasion der Ukraine und ist damit den russischen Behörden ein Dorn im Auge" [Ukraine-War: Russian media regulation threatens with blocking Wikipedia]. heise online (in German). Hannover, Germany: Heise Medien / Heise Gruppe GmbH & Co. KG. Archived from the original on 2022-03-20. Retrieved 2022-03-20.
  2. ^ Liffey, Kevin (2022-03-02). Pullin, Richard (ed.). "Moscow threatens to block Russian-language Wikipedia over invasion article". Reuters. Archived from the original on 2022-03-07. Retrieved 2022-03-13.
  3. ^ Gregory, Andy (2022-03-02). "Russia threatens to block Wikipedia over article on Ukraine invasion". The Independent. ISSN 1741-9743. OCLC 185201487. Archived from the original on 2022-03-08. Retrieved 2022-03-13.
  4. ^ Elder, Jeff (2022-03-08). "Russia's Wikipedia volunteers risk their freedom for truth". San Francisco Examiner. ISSN 2574-593X. Archived from the original on 2022-03-09. Retrieved 2022-03-13.
  5. ^ a b Harrison, Stephen (2022-03-01). "How the Russian Invasion of Ukraine Is Playing Out on English, Ukrainian, and Russian Wikipedia". Slate. ISSN 1091-2339. OCLC 728292344. Archived from the original on 2022-03-11. Retrieved 2022-03-13.
  6. ^ a b Rauwerda, Annie (2022-03-21). "Russians Are Racing to Download Wikipedia Before It Gets Banned". Slate Magazine. Retrieved 2022-03-23.
  7. ^ a b Liffey, Kevin; Pullin, Richard (2022-03-02). "Moscow threatens to block Russian-language Wikipedia over invasion article". Reuters. Retrieved 2022-04-01.
  8. ^ Song, Victoria (2022-03-11). "A top Wikipedia editor has been arrested in Belarus". The Verge. Archived from the original on 2022-03-14. Retrieved 2022-03-14.
  9. ^ Henning, Maximilian (2022-03-15). "Russische Wikipedia: Festnahme und Drohungen wegen Artikelbearbeitung - Russische und belarussische Behörden bedrohen Wikipedianer. Grund ist offenbar ihre Mitarbeit am russischen Wikipedia-Artikel zur Invasion Russlands in der Ukraine. Bearbeiter*innen löschen nun ihre persönlichen Informationen – aber unterwerfen sich weiter nicht der Zensur" [Russian Wikipedia: Arrest and threats for editing article - Russian and Belarusian authorities threaten Wikipedians]. Öffentlichkeit (public affairs). Netzpolitik (in German). Berlin, Germany: e. V. Archived from the original on 2022-03-20. Retrieved 2022-03-20.
  10. ^ ""Википедия" превращается в плацдарм для информационной войны против России — эксперт" (in Russian). Russian Agency of Legal and Judicial Information. 2022-03-16.
  11. ^ Kozlova, Darya (2022-03-17). "Правочный режим. ФСО редактирует статьи в «Википедии» об Украине, википедистов преследуют и угрожают блокировкой проекта — все из-за «спецоперации»" [Editing regime. Federal Protective Service edits articles on Wikipedia about Ukraine, Wikipedians are being persecuted and threatened with block of their project – all because of a "special operation"]. Novaya Gazeta (in Russian). Archived from the original on 2022-03-18. Retrieved 2022-03-20.
  12. ^ Saul, Derek (2022-03-31). "Russia Demands Wikipedia Take Down Information About Ukraine War". Retrieved 2022-04-01.
  13. ^ Treisman, Rachel (2022-04-01). "Russia threatens to fine Wikipedia if it doesn't remove some details about the war". NPR. Retrieved 2022-04-02.
  14. ^ "Wikipedia fights Russian order to remove Ukraine war information". Reuters. 2022-06-13. Retrieved 2022-06-16.
  15. ^ "Pro-Kremlin disinformation outlets referenced by hundreds of Wikipedia articles". EU vs Disinfo. 2022-04-19. Retrieved 2022-04-21.
  16. ^ "Роскомнадзор обязал поисковики маркировать «Википедию» как нарушителя российских законов из‑за неудаления статей о войне в Украине". Mediazona (in Russian). Retrieved 2022-07-20.
  17. ^ "Роскомнадзор потребовал от «Википедии» удалить пять статей про военные преступления в Украине". Mediazona (in Russian). Retrieved 2022-04-04.
  18. ^ "РКН потребовал от «Википедии» удалить из статьи про Путина разделы об Украине". Mediazona (in Russian). Retrieved 2022-04-13.
  19. ^ "Russia to punish Wikimedia Foundation over Ukraine conflict 'fakes'". Reuters. 2022-07-20. Retrieved 2022-07-20.
  20. ^ "Роскомнадзор принял меры в отношении Wikimedia Foundation". Роскомнадзор (in Russian). Retrieved 2022-07-20.
  21. ^ "Russia fines Wikimedia Foundation over Ukraine war entries". Reuters. 2022-11-01. Retrieved 2022-11-01.
  22. ^ "Wikimedia Foundation calls for continued access to free and open knowledge as Ukraine crisis continues". Wikimedia Foundation. 2022-03-01. Retrieved 2022-03-01.

Further readingEdit