Guinness World Records has issued a certificate to a new record holder which lists Sevastopol, a city in occupied Ukrainian Crimea, as part of the Russian Federation.
Guinness World Records nails international outrage
In May 2018 Belorussian citizen Alexander Bendikov set a world record for balancing 349 nails onto the head of a single 350th nail. This marked a huge improvement over his 2014, when he managed a mere 255 nails, but it also appears to have sparked an international incident.
Bendikov set his impressive new record during a visit to Sevastopol, which lies in occupied Crimea. Still legally recognized by almost every country in the world as part of Ukraine, Crimea was illegally occupied and annexed by Russia in 2014.
This weekend Bendikov received his official Guinness World Record certificate which lists his accomplishment as having taken place in “Sevastopol, Russian Federation.” This term “Russian Federation” also listed on the company’s official website.
Ukrainian call certification an “antirecord”
Having an iconic pop-culture institution like Guinness World Records acknowledge the annexation of Crimea, whether intentionally or by accident, is seen as a threatening move by Ukrainian authorities.
Outgunned by the Russian military on the ground, which is also occupying the Ukrainian regions of Luhansk and Donestk in the east, the Ukrainians have fought a stiff public relations battle to keep Russian control of Crimea from being viewed as a fait accompli.
Keeping the Russian-backed regime in Crimea isolated from well-known international institutions, both governmental and cultural, has been a priority. The Crimean postal system is still not a member of the Universal Postal Union, and in 2017 the Russian entrant in the Eurovision Song Contest was banned after she had been exposed as a supporter of the Russian occupation.
Tweeting this morning, spokesperson for the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kateryna Zelenko wrote, “We are working to correct the incorrect designation of the temporarily occupied Sevastopol in the Guinness Book of Records. Crimea is Ukraine. The records should be honest.”
Since then the Foreign Minister himself, Pavlo Klimkin, has tweeted an even more forceful remark: “Guinness Book of Records has issued an antirecord, naming Sevastopol Russian. We have already approached them, so they come back to honest and genuine records. Crimea is Ukraine.”
Guinness World Record’s awkward situation
The timing of the GWR certificate could also not be worse – tensions between Ukraine and Russia are riding high after Russian naval forces opened fire on three Ukrainian vessels trying to access the Sea of Azov in late November.
Speaking to News Growl, a a Guinness World Records spokesperson said they do try to remain politically neutral:
“Our current practice is to use the location chosen by the applicant when filling in their application form as the location of their record attempt but in light of this example we are committed to reviewing this practise now, and on a regular basis in the future.”
The term “Russian Federation” is still listed on the GWR website as of publication, however.
This type of issue is not unknown for GWR. Earlier this year the record for the longest observed rainbow was awarded to some Taiwanese academics. Instead of listing their island location as the Republic of China (which would infuriate the mainland People’s Republic of China), the record location is listed as “Chinese Taipei.”
“Chinese Taipei” is an internationally accepted term for non-controversially referring to Taiwan, and is used by the Olympics and other international organizations. No such diplomatic fig-leaf exists for occupied Crimea as of yet.