Photo of 1991 Moscow protest shared as anti-vaccine mandate march in Vienna in 2021

  • This article is more than one year old.
  • Published on November 29, 2021 at 09:49
  • 2 min read
  • By AFP Australia
Social media posts have shared a photo purporting to show a mass demonstration against Covid-19 restrictions in the Austrian capital Vienna in November 2021. The claim is false; the image was taken in Moscow in 1991, during a protest against then Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev.

"Protest in Vienna against COVID restrictions, including mandatory vaccine passports. People are waking up and we will all do this if we have to," reads a tweet from November 21.

The photo shows crowds waving banners packed onto the streets.

A screenshot of a tweet sharing the false claim, taken on November 23, 2021.

The photo was shared in similar posts on Facebook here and here.

The picture surfaced online as thousands rallied against new Covid-19 restrictions on November 20 in Vienna.

The Alpine nation returned to lockdown on November 22, shutting shops, restaurants and festive markets as a fresh wave crashed into Europe. The country also said it would impose a vaccine mandate from February 2022.

However, the photo circulating online was not taken in Austria.

A Google reverse image search found that the photo in the archives of AP news agency, alongside the title: "Russia Unrest 1991".

Screenshot of the photograph on the AP Images website

"Hundreds of thousands of protesters pack Moscow's Manezh Square next to the Kremlin, Sunday, March 10, 1991, demanding the Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and his fellow Communists give up power," the photo caption reads.

"The crowd, estimated at 500,000 was the biggest anti-government demonstration in the 73 years since the Communists took power, and came a week before the nationwide referendum on Gorbachev's union treaty."

The photo, which is credited to AP, appeared in this 2016 article by USA Today, headlined: "The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991".

Below is a screenshot comparison between the image in misleading posts (left) and AP's photo (right), with matching features highlighted by AFP.

Screenshot comparison between the image in the misleading post (L) and the AP photo in the USA Today article (R)

A similar photo, credited to Russian news agency Tass, was published on the Yeltsin Centre's website in an article called "Rally on Manezhnaya Square in Moscow on March 10, 1991".

The AP photo previously circulated in misleading posts claiming it showed a rally against Covid-19 measures in France.

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