A Chinese woman made up the history of Russia on Wikipedia. Now thousands of people believe it’s real

  • 8

A curious thing has happened to Yifan in Wikipedia. Some time ago she began to consult articles on the history of Russia in search of characters, episodes and plots to transfer later to his fantasy novels. She found it. That and much more. Based on reading and rereading, delving and jumping from entry to entry, she ended up finding a major fakes in the annals of Wikipedia.

From the fantasy stories he usually writes, Yifan found himself jumping into the historical chronicle. And from this, in turn, transported to a story of the most genuine surrealist genre.

The news has revealed it Sixth Tonemagazine of the state company Shanghai United Media Groupand shows to what extent in 2022 Wikipedia still runs the risk of becoming a sieve of falsehoods even in matters as studied a priori as the history of a country.

While reading about the Russian chronicle on the Chinese version of Wikipedia, Yifan came across an article that talked about the great silver mine of kashina site —she discovered fascinated— opened centuries ago by the principality of Tver and in which 30,000 slaves and 10,000 freedmen worked.

A mine…of inventions


Miguel Yaroslavich, Prince of Tver, together with Mohammad Öz-Beg.

The text spoke of how its exorbitant wealth made it a valuable resource for the princes of Tver, how it aroused the interest of the dukes of Moscow and even unleashed a wave of wars that spread throughout present-day Russia between 1305 and 1485 Also, that Kashin mine had given riches for centuries, until more or less the middle of the 18th century.

The story was so fascinating, so inspiring, it promised so much juice for his own novels, that Yifan decided to go further and document himself. He read more articles, he was interested in who his protagonists were, settings, plots… Until, suddenly, all that wealth of data, well nourished in the Chinese Wikipedia, started to fade when he went to other sources.

To begin with, Yifan realized that the Chinese version curiously included more information about those passages from the Slavic chronicle than the Chinese version itself. english wikipedia either even the russianin which there were directly certain topics on which there was not a single line.

Not only that. When Yifan consulted the sources from which some Wikipedia data supposedly came, he found that they did not make the slightest sense. For example, Sixth Tone Explain how the footnote that was supposed to clarify a method used in medieval mining referred… —Surprise!— to an article about the automated extraction of minerals in the 21st century.

This is how Wikipedia's most prolific editor works: a robot

The bell came when Yifan discovered that, plain and simple, the Kashin mine was a huge hoax. existed the city and there had also been Principality of Tver, certain; but no sign of the supposed silver deposit that had unleashed those wars centuries ago.

What there was was a huge deception, bigger than that supposed mine.

Amazed Yifan told what he had discovered in Zhihua forum similar to Quora, where he related how the author of those articles had invented without embarrassment and mixed truths and lies, true facts with others more false than a three-euro coin.

Yes, everything with an amazing skill.

“To tell a lie you must tell more”

Heshen, a Qing dynasty official.

Heshen, a Qing dynasty official.

Wikipedia decided to investigate the matter and found that someone had used four accounts to spread false data about the qing dynasty and Russian history. The most curious thing, however, was not the multi-account technique to gain credibility, but the time that the columnist had been doing that. In Wikipedia they concluded that he had started with the hoaxes around 2010 and for more than a decade he had written 206 items and contributed several hundred.

An entire invented mythology worthy of the best Homer.

The accounts, of course, ended up banned on Chinese Wikipedia and June 17 most of his articles on fictional historical topics had already flown off the web. That did not prevent the scandal from going viral and the news spread on the Internet. like gunpowder. In a wink halfway between indignation, admiration and fascination, some Internet users even ended up baptizing that compulsive author of false stories with a memorable nickname: “the Borges of China”.

And who was the mysterious writer, alias Zhemao, one of the pseudonyms he used?

The best is that here too there was a trap.

In her profile, Zhemao described herself as the daughter of a diplomat based in Russia, a woman with studies in Russian history and married to a citizen of the federation. That turned out to be as true as her texts on Slavic history. As she would eventually admit in a letter of apology herself, the author was actually a high school educated housewife who was simply swept away by her own fiction, like a snowball from fakes.

12 years ago he decided to write a first post with data of doubtful reliability about Heshena royal official of the Qing dynasty, and two years later decided to launch a reissue of pieces about the tsar Alexander I of Russia. That was gaining size, growing and growing until… it was seen with more than 200 articles in which truths were mixed with a most credible fantasy.

This animation shows the most popular websites since 1993. It is a good reflection of the evolution of the internet

“As the saying goes, to tell a lie you must tell more lies. I resisted erasing the hundreds of thousands of words I had written; but as a result I ended up losing millions of words and a circle of academic friends collapsed”, Zhemao relates in his apology.

and finish: “The problem I have caused is difficult to compensate, so maybe a permanent ban is the only option […]. I won’t do any more nebulous stuff like this in the future.”

Uncovering the deception and the story of Zhemao, almost as fascinating as his stories about the Slavic past, are the lessons that the case leaves behind and, above all, the debate that it provokes.

Some believe that the case has shaken the credibility from Chinese Wikipedia. And of course there is also who have congratulated to Zhemao for an overflowing creativity that encourages him to pour into the pages of a novel, a genre perhaps more suitable for his literary vocation.

Practice after more than a decade writing inventions, experience hasof course.

Images | Wikipedia(1 Y two)

Amelia Bartlett (Unsplash)

A curious thing has happened to Yifan in Wikipedia. Some time ago she began to consult articles on the history…

A curious thing has happened to Yifan in Wikipedia. Some time ago she began to consult articles on the history…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.