Fact Check: Viral Photo Does NOT Show Anti-Vax Protest In Austria -- It's 30-Year-Old Picture Of Political Protest In The Soviet Union

Fact Check

  • by: Christiana Dillard
Fact Check: Viral Photo Does NOT Show Anti-Vax Protest In Austria -- It's 30-Year-Old Picture Of Political Protest In The Soviet Union Moscow In 1991

Does a viral photo featuring a large mass of people gathered in a city square show an anti-COVID-19 vaccination protest in Austria? No, that's not true: The image, taken in 1991, actually shows Russians gathered to protest the leadership of the country at the time.

The claim was suggested in a Facebook post (archived here) published on November 23, 2021. The post featured a cropped and differently-toned version of the original image, with the following text superimposed:


The Revolution Will
Not Be Televised!

This is what the post looked like on Facebook on November 29, 2021:

Facebook screenshot

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Mon Nov 29 19:44 2021 UTC)

The text superimposed over the image alluded to the anti-COVID-19 vaccination protests in Austria. Those protests were in response to a national November 2021 lockdown in the country, which was to last longer for unvaccinated Austrians. Austrians also protested a mandate requiring all eligible residents to be vaccinated against COVID-19, which was to go into effect on February 1, 2022. Real images of one large Austrian anti-COVID-19 vaccination protest, held in the country's capital city of Vienna on November 20, 2021, can be found on Getty Images here. That protest was estimated to include about 35,000 people.

The image used in the Facebook post was taken by The Associated Press on March 10, 1991, in Moscow. The crowd of about 500,000 people was gathered to demand that then-President Mikhail Gorbachev -- the last leader of the Soviet Union before it broke apart -- step down from power.

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Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.

  Christiana Dillard

Christiana Dillard is a former news writer for Temple University’s Lew Klein College of Media and Communication. She received her undergraduate degree in English Writing from the University of Pittsburgh. She has been a freelance writer for several organizations including the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation, Pitt Magazine, and The Heinz Endowments. When she’s not producing or studying media she’s binging it, watching YouTube videos or any interesting series she can find on streaming services.

Read more about or contact Christiana Dillard

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