Ukraine Maps Don’t Tell the Story on the Ground
As Russia advances and falters in Ukraine, maps depicting the attack have proliferated online. Such maps feel trustworthy, as maps often do. “Uncharted” means more or less “unknown”—while something that’s mapped out is planned, coordinated, and safe. Because they project a sense of confidence and security, maps assume a kind of cultural authority—and perceived authenticity.
Yet maps have always been projections of power. When looking at maps, we should focus more on seeing them as narratives, particular versions of a story reflecting a specific interpretation and angle. Maps are more novels than photos and need to be read carefully. In a war like Ukraine, closely tied to misrepresentations of history, in which Russia sends a nationalist historical advisor to head a negotiations team, maps of the past and present play a crucial role. Russian President Vladimir Putin has already made them an inherent part of his propaganda machine.