How much territory does Ukraine control?

Entry type: Single project

Country/area: United Kingdom

Publishing organisation: _The New Statesman_

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 2022-06-14

Language: English

Authors: Nicu Calcea, Mengying Du, Giacomo Boscaini-Gilroy


Nicu Calcea is a Data Journalist at _BBC News_, previously Data Projects Editor at the _New Statesman_. He also teaches data journalism at City, University of London.

Mengying Du is a Dataviz Developer at the _New Statesman_ Media Group.

Giacomo Boscaini-Gilroy is a Senior Dataviz Developer at the _New Statesman_ Media Group, previously a Dataviz Developer at the Office for National Statistics.

Project description:

The size of the Russian invasion of Ukraine is difficult to understand for those living far away from Ukraine’s borders.

The _New Statesman_ has built an interactive tool to allow its readers to visually compare the size of Russia-occupied territories in Ukraine to something more familiar, like the size of their own country or state.

Impact reached:

Other than the homepage and other landing pages, the article was the third most viewed page on the _New Statesman_ website between June 2022, when it was initially published, and December 2022. The article has been updated several times since then.

In addition, it made the front page of reddit and was picked up by a series of [enthusiast blogs](https://googlemapsmania.blogspot.com/2022/06/how-big-is-occupied-ukraine.html) and non-English publications.

Techniques/technologies used:

The interactive map was heavily inspired by projects such as [The True Size](https://www.thetruesize.com/), which allow users to compare the size of countries and territories, accounting for distortions caused by projections like Mercator.

We used Leaflet to build the interactive map and Svelte to build the rest of the app (search, infobox, etc).

We sourced the geographical features of the occupied territories of Ukraine from liveuamap.com and processed them in R. We also used Eurostat’s country shapes to be able to calculate a percentage figure between the size of those territories and that of other countries.

Context about the project:

The data was highly volatile, particularly at the beginning of the 2022 invasion of Ukraine by Russia. Liveuamap, the Institute for the Study of War and other sources were all keeping an updated map of the territories in Ukraine that were occupied at the time, but they all differed. We decided to go with liveuamap because of their on-the-ground expertise.

What can other journalists learn from this project?

The project webt from idea to publication in just a few days. At the same time, it’s one of the most-read articles of the year for the _New Statesman_.

What this shows is that a decent data journalism idea, executed at the right time and in the right matter, can engage audiences in ways traditional content cannot.

The idea and its success also encouraged editors to request more data journalism content and engage more with the data journalism team, giving us a bigger spotlight within the organisation.

Project links: