Oxford University Press has unintentionally waded into a dispute with Ukraine following a letter sent on 13th October by the Ukrainian embassy, which complained that the fourth edition of its Geography for Key Stage 3 textbook presents Crimea as a part of Russia.
In the letter, Igor Kyzym, the Charges d’Affaires of Ukraine to the United Kingdom, writes that “unlike Kalingrand, which is mentioned on the page 106 along with Crimea as the Russian exclave, Crimea is neither Russian nor the exclave. Crimea was brutally annexed in 2014 with Russian boots on the ground…”. The international dispute over the Black Sea peninsula has been on-going ever since Russian forces seized complete military control of the region on 25th March 2014, following uprisings by pro-Russian militia weeks before.
The Oxford textbook places Crimea on a par with Kaliningrad, formerly a part of Germany that was incorporated into the Soviet Union after World War II, describing both as “exclaves of Russia.” However, the text describes Crimea as territory “which Russia took from Ukraine in 2014.” Russia has since turned the peninsula into a ‘forward operating base’ following what they call a ‘reunification.’
The textbook further refers to a 24th March referendum in Crimea that has not been recognized by the international community. “This sham ‘referendum’,” the embassy letter states, “has never been recognised by the international community. Moreover, the UK Government has condemned [the referendum] as illegal.” It adds that a UN General Assembly resolution on Ukraine’s territorial integrity also rejected Russia’s takeover of the region.
A spokesman for Oxford University Press responded by stating that all OUP publications are continually revised “to reflect changes in circumstance and feedback from various sources.” He added: “We will be changing the wording used on this matter and will also include the UN position.”
Somehow, this complaint has since been picked up by the Russian state-controlled English-language media company RT. They mischaracterise the letter by claiming that the embassy has “urg[ed] the world’s largest publisher to ‘correct [its] mistakes immediately,” even though the letter was more polite in tone.
To confuse matters further, it seems that RT has misread or misunderstood the last part of the letter, which urges OUP to update its textbook “in order not to bring The Oxford University Press into disrepute” and instead have told Russian readers that “unless [it is] redacted, [Kyiv] threatens to escalate the issue into a ‘dispute.'”
Image: Russia Today