Speed Reads

Fightin' words

Google Maps bowed to Russian threats after accusations of 'topographical cretinism'

About two years after Russia's much-disputed annexation of the Crimean Peninsula of Ukraine, the Ukrainian parliament passed a "de-communization" law which changed a number of location and street names from their Soviet-era titles. The law included Crimea, even though many now regard it as de facto Russian territory.

But on Thursday, Google Maps decided to take Ukraine's side, switching out names of Russian origin for the traditionally Crimean labels. Inevitably, the Russians noticed — and they were pissed.

The staff of Google Maps "suffer from topographical cretinism," charged Dmitry Polonsky, deputy chair of the Russian Council of Crimean Ministers, while Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov of the Russian Unity Party accused Google of being "Russophobic." More seriously, Russian Communications Minister Nikolai Nikiforov suggested Moscow might "not allow [Google] to effectively conduct business" in his country if the names weren't switched back.

And the next day, they were — for the Ukrainian and Russian versions of Google Maps alike. Google confirmed the reversal to the press but did not offer any explanation.