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Soviet topographic maps: Update

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John Davies, the gentleman who has researched and written about Soviet topographic maps (see earlier blog post), has updated his website with a couple of papers that were presented at a recent discussion in Cambridge on the topic.

One paper (or transcript - pdf), by David Watt, talks about Soviet military mapping since its formal establishment in 1812. He notes that, during the Second World War, the need for large scale mapping of European Russia was particularly acute and was met with an heroic effort in which “80 million copies of 13,000 map sheets were printed in the first six months of the war.” He goes on the estimate that 35,000 to 40,000 cartographers worked for the Russian mapping program in 1996 - a time when the program was hardly at its zenith. It is estimated that the mapping program produced over 1 million separate sheets, 800,000 for the USSR alone. Additionally, another 1 million cadastral and city plan sheets were also probably produced.

A second paper by John Davies (pdf), discusses some of the sources of the Soviet topographic maps of the UK and the possibility of their use in military planning. He suggests that the early Soviet maps of the 1950s were probably based on older Ordinance Survey maps and that these maps were later updated using satellite imagery and supplemental information gathered on the ground. As a result, “the maps show more recent developments than contemporary OS maps . . . the net effect is that for the town plans of 1970s onwards, the only information that can be seen derived from OS material is the spot heights” dating from maps from the 1910s and 1920s.

John has also posted a copy of the OS’ copyright statement (pdf) on his site but suggests that there might still be some contention as to “whether or not the copied content [in the Russian maps] is ‘significant.’”

Also included on the site is a guide (pdf) to an exhibition of Soviet maps that were on display at the recent Soviet Military Mapping Study Day in Cambridge. It includes images and descriptions of some of the maps that were discussed.

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