The Geopolitics of Context: Mordor, Russia and Google Translate

By Pip Thornton

“One does not simply walk into

the Russian Federation”

Over the last week several media outlets, and many more Twitter feeds, have been spreading news of a series of ‘glitches’ in Google Translate which saw the word Russia being synonymised with Mordor when translated from Ukrainian to Russian. Furthermore, Russians became occupiers and for a short time the name of the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov returned the result sad little horse. 

vk-russia-to-ukraine Twitter / Vadim Nakhankov (wired.co.uk)

Noting that ‘the terms mirror language used by some Ukrainians following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014′, some suggested the possibility of foul play; that the algorithm was ‘hacked by spies‘, ‘jokers’ or ‘mischievous pro-Kiev activists’,  or that the words had been inserted manually by users as alternative translations presumably in order to ridicule Russia and humiliate Lavrov. Other sources referred to a ‘bug’…

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