People taking part in the a demonstration in Vienna
Plenty of people took part in the Vienna protest, but the crowd was much smaller than a post claims. Image by AP

‘Vienna COVID protest’ photo is actually Moscow in 1991

AAP FactCheck November 29, 2021
WHAT WAS CLAIMED

A photo of a gigantic crowd implies it is from recent COVID-19 lockdown protests in Vienna.

OUR VERDICT

False. The photo is from protests in Moscow in 1991.

It’s a picture of a massive crowd of protesters, but they’re not Austrians angry about measures to combat COVID-19 as a social media post claims.

The image posted on Facebook infers it’s one of many recent COVID protests in Europe but the photo is actually from anti-government demonstrations in Moscow months before the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

A screenshot of the Facebook post.
 A post claims to show hundreds of thousands of people demonstrating in Vienna. 

The image was posted on November 22 with a caption, “WOW this is Vienna” and implies it’s from protests in the Austrian capital on November 20. Other examples shared by Australian and New Zealand users are here and here while other posts acknowledge the location is Moscow but link it to COVID protests.

The original photo was taken by an Associated Press photographer, Dominique Mollard, and shows a mass demonstration held at Manege Square (Manezhnaya Square) in Moscow, on March 10, 1991. The caption says the image shows protesters demanding Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev step down.

AP reported the 1991 crowd in Moscow was up to 500,000, compared to this month’s Vienna protests, which drew about 35,000 to 38,000, according to Austrian media. The protest came after the announcement of a nation-wide lockdown and to make vaccinations compulsory as COVID cases continue to surge in Austria.

It’s worth noting the photo in the Facebook post has cropped the rectangular size of the original to leave out the Kremlin and its distinctive towers in the top left. Other images from protests in 1991 show the Kremlin and large crowds.

The 1991 Moscow image has been previously used misleadingly to show a 2012 protest against Vladimir Putin and also COVID-19 protests in Paris.

The Vienna photo claim has also been debunked by other fact checkers here, here and here.

The Verdict

The photo in the post is from the 1991 protests in Moscow prior to the fall of the Soviet Union. It is unrelated to demonstrations in Vienna against COVID-19 measures in 2021.

False – The claim is inaccurate.

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