Did Russian soldiers really burn Ukrainian history books?
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Politicians and experts shared a photo of burning books on May 21, claiming that the Russian army had begun getting rid of Ukrainian books in occupied areas. While Ukrainian authorities have reported cases of Russian soldiers destroying books, the photo actually shows a book burning organised by pro-Russian protesters in Crimea in 2010.
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A photo of a book burning was shared by experts and politicians, such as the UK ambassador to Ukraine.
The scene in the photo actually shows books being burned by pro-Russian protesters in March 2010, in Crimea.
- Ukrainian officials have indeed reported cases of Russian troops destroying books, but no images are available today.
The verification in detail
On May 21, a photo showing books spread out on the ground and set on fire was shared by several key personalities. Among them was Carl Bildt, the former prime minister of Sweden and co-chairman of the thinktank the European Council on Foreign Affairs, in a post that received more than 9,000 likes.
The same day, the British ambassador to Ukraine posted the photo on her Twitter account, garnering more than 14,000 likes.
Books destroyed by pro-Russians in 2010 in Ukraine
Searching with the words "burned history books" "Ukraine" and "Crimea" in Russian, you can find this report from the Ukrainian TV channel TCH dated March 16, 2010.
At 0:23 in the report, you can recognise the same book shown burning in this image, including the book entitled "The New History of Ukraine".
The report explains that there was a demonstration held on March 14 in Simferopol, Crimea, during which representatives of Proryv and the People's Opposition Bloc of Natalia Vitrenko, two pro-Russian political organisations, burned books about the modern history of Ukraine.
The caption to the video adds that the book "The New History of Ukraine", and the works of Soviet authors were destroyed.
An article from the Russian media Rosbalt confirms that a book burning took place during this event.
If you do a reverse image search with the search engine Yandex, you can find the same image in a January 2014 article from the Ukrainian news site Censor.net, which says it has compiled photos "from events held by Russian communities over the years on the anniversaries of Crimea's annexation to Ukraine and Victory Day".
Other images of the same event have been published, such as these two images below, in which burned books are also seen in the foreground.
In March 2010, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych formed a new government, which included pro-Russian Dmitry Tabashnyk as Minister of Education. On March 11, there was a demonstration in support of Tabashnyk in Crimea. From March 17 onwards, counter-demonstrations took place to denounce his appointment, particularly in the west of the country, as his opponents felt that he was "humiliating the Ukrainian language and culture".
What do we know about the destruction of books in Ukraine?
While these images do not show a book burning during the recent conflict in Ukraine, Ukrainian authorities have claimed that Russian soldiers have destroyed books in the occupied areas of Lugansk, Donetsk, Chernihiv and Sumy. However, our editorial staff did not find any photos showing this destruction.
Several Ukrainian libraries have been the target of shelling in Ukraine.