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Henryk Batuta hoax: Wikis


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The real Batuta Street in Warsaw

The Henryk Batuta hoax was a hoax perpetrated on the Polish Wikipedia from November 2004 to February 2006.



The perpetrators of the hoax created an article about Henryk Batuta (born Izaak Apfelbaum), a fictional socialist revolutionary and Polish Communist. The fake biography said Batuta was born in Odessa in 1898, participated in the Russian Civil War. The article was created on November 8, 2004, and exposed as a hoax 15 months later when on February 1, 2006 it was listed for deletion.

The article was ten sentences long while it existed on Wikipedia. It gained some prominence after stories about it appeared in prominent Polish newspapers (Gazeta Wyborcza) and magazines (Przekrój), as well as a British one (The Observer).

The article also falsely claimed a street in Warsaw was named "Henryk Batuta Street", after the fictional communist official. The anonymous hoaxers who created the article, according to the press calling themselves "the Batuta Army", allegedly wanted to draw attention to the fact that there are still places in Poland named after former communist officials who do not deserve the honour.

The hoax was exposed when the article was listed for deletion. Even after the article was exposed as a well organized hoax, its perpetrators tried to convince others of its authenticity by providing false bibliographical information and even by uploading a doctored photograph of a street name "ulica Henryka Batuty" (Henryk Batuta Street). The mystification was "officially" exposed and confirmed on February 9, 2006, when the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza and weekly Przekrój published their articles about the hoax.

There is in fact an "ulica Batuty" (Batuta Street) in Warsaw [1] However the name actually comes from the Polish word "batuta", which means "conductor's baton".

Content of the hoax article

The hoax article as it appeared on the Polish Wikipedia on February 1, 2006 when the article was finally exposed as a hoax[2].

Henryk Batuta, właśc. Izaak Apfelbaum (ur. 1898 w Odessie, zm. 1947 pod Ustrzykami Górnymi), polski komunista, działacz międzynarodowego ruchu robotniczego. Uczestnik wojny domowej w Rosji, po powrocie do kraju członek Komunistycznej Partii Polski. Na mocy partyjnych wyroków organizował zabójstwa tajnych współpracowników policji politycznej, których wykonawcą był Wacław Komar. Sprawa ta wyszła na jaw dopiero w latach 50. W latach 1934–1935 więzień Berezy Kartuskiej, później na emigracji. Uczestnik wojny domowej w Hiszpanii. W czasie II wojny światowej w ZSRR, od 1943 członek Związku Patriotów Polskich, major Korpusu Bezpieczeństwa Wewnętrznego. Zginął w 1947 pod Ustrzykami Górnymi w starciu z UPA.
Jego osobie poświęcona jest ulica w Warszawie (Służew nad Dolinką). Po 1989 r. pojawiały się liczne głosy, by zmienić jej nazwę, jednak do zmiany nie doszło.

English translation:

Henryk Batuta, real name Izaak Apfelbaum, (born 1898 in Odessa – died 1947 near Ustrzyki Górne) was a Polish communist and an activist in the international workers' movement. A participant of the Russian civil war, he joined the Communist Party of Poland after returning home. Using the authority of the party sentences, he organised assassinations of undercover political police informers; the killings were carried out by Wacław Komar, among others. Only in the fifties was this revealed. From 1934 to 1935 he was imprisoned in Bereza Kartuska, later he emigrated. He participated in the Spanish civil war. During World War II he stayed in the USSR; in 1943 he joined the Union of Polish Patriots; he became the major of Internal Security Corps. He died in 1947 near Ustrzyki Górne in a clash with the UPA.
His figure is commemorated by a street in Warsaw (Służew nad Dolinką). After 1989 many suggested renaming the street, but the name was never changed.

Batuta as an example of using Wikis as references

In academic discussions, this story is occasionally referenced as a warning against allowing use of wikis for reference due to the previous examples of unquestioning researchers. The notion of, "I read it on Wikipedia, therefore it must be true," is immediately discounted by the story of Henryk Batuta and the ensuing events. It must also be noted that the power of any wiki is the ability to update this information after independent research or discussion. An example of this case existed in an ISTE round table discussion on November 18, 2008, where educators argued for and against allowing students the use of community generated tools for research.

In the meeting some supported only Academe-generated sources in the discussion (1st Proposition: Skagen Vita), while others argued for allowing the use of Wikipedia for preliminary research (1st Opposition: Prospero Linden, 2nd Opposition: Inventing Tomorrow). More directly, some stated that wikipedia should not be quoted as bibliographical reference, but should not be ruled out of the research process altogether (1st Proposition: AJ Brooks); while an understated argument exists to allow bibliographical references to Wikipedia when specific conditions are satisfied (1st Opposition: Gravity Folsom). The two conditions which are mandatory in the final argument are:

1) There must be no other reference available or possible
2) The reference must not be made as a primary source

As the meeting took place in the Virtual World of SecondLife, there is no record immediately available to investigators outside of SecondLife except for this Wikipedia entry that the Henryk Batuta story has been used as a tool for debate. Since the discussion was a reference and criticism of the Henryk Batuta hoax and not arbitrary commitments to the story itself, the point is debated that it could be referenced as a secondary source.


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