March 01, 2004

Mapping Russia



Map collecting is a great hobby. It allows collectors wide latitude in the amount of time and money they can devote to their collections. But, unlike paintings, coins or other historic artifacts, maps are still a relative bargain. They also have the added benefit of being easy to frame and display, so as to share with friends and families. 

The mapping of Russia, like the mapping of most of the world, is a relatively young science. While there are maps over 1000 years old, the real birth of the age of mapping came only 500 years ago, with the invention of the printing press. Maps from this era were primarily utilitarian tools created to further the efforts of nations in discovering, exploring, trading with and, at times, conquering new lands. In the case of Russia, many of these maps were created by Westerners seeking to find faster, more efficient routes through Russia to Persia and the Far East. In later years, the incentive of commerce with the East was eclipsed by the lure of Siberia and the New World, as Russia and other nations sought new routes to North America and the riches it held. 

Throughout much of the early era of Russian mapping, it is notable that non-Russian cartographers produced virtually all of the maps of Russia. While scholars acknowledge a Tsarist “mother map” that likely served as the basis for many of the earliest maps of Russia, there simply was not a map-making tradition in Russia before the mid-1700’s. 


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Russian Life is a publication of a 30-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.

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