How I show Crimea in my statistical maps

by Jakub Marian

Tip: See my list of the Most Common Mistakes in English. It will teach you how to avoid mis­takes with com­mas, pre­pos­i­tions, ir­reg­u­lar verbs, and much more.

I have been getting a lot of comments and emails lately about “errors” in my maps, all about one particular part of the map. Whenever Crimea has the same colour as Russia in my maps, angry Ukrainians come and accuse me of endorsing the annexation of Crimea. Whenever it has the same colour as Ukraine, angry Russians spam my mailbox with claims that Crimea is part of Russia now.

So let me make the following clear, once and for all:

My maps do not show political units. They visualise statistical data, and whether Crimea is shown as a part of Russia or as a part of Ukraine depends on one thing and one thing only: Whether Crimea was included in the data for Russia or in the data for Ukraine by the original source.

For example, in my latest map about military expenditures in Europe, Crimea has the same colour as Russia because Crimean citizens pay taxes to the Russian government (not Ukrainian), and Russian government (not Ukrainian) pays the military expenditures of Crimea using that money. These numbers are included in the official statistics, so giving Crimea the same colour (and hence the same value) as Ukraine would be a complete misrepresentation of the data.

On the other hand, my map about the most common surnames in Europe shows Crimea as a part of Ukraine because the available statistical sources did include people from Crimea in the Ukrainian data and did not include them in the Russian data, so showing Crimea as a part of Russia would be an inaccurate representation of the data.

When it is not clear where Crimea belongs, it does not share colouring with either country, such as in my map of the well-being index.

So, please, keep that in mind when viewing my maps. The colour associated with Crimea does not indicate any kind of political endorsement. Whether my sources view Crimea as a part of Ukraine or as a part of Russia is something over which I have no control and which is often dictated by objective criteria (such as which country provides financing in the given sector in Crimea).

Language maps, borders and coastlines

The same happens in my language maps. For example, when I published my map about the word “Easter” in European languages, I received comments about Crimea again. And again, the reason why Crimea has the same colour as Russia is that the majority language in Crimea is Russian. It has nothing to do with politics.

One last thing I should mention is why the peninsula seems to have a border with Ukraine. That’s not, in fact, a border; it is a coastline, because Crimea is almost entirely separated from mainland Ukraine by a system of lagoons, and in the template I use when creating the maps, the coastline extends all the way around Crimea (the connecting piece of land would be only a few pixels wide).

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