History of the Russian cartography: the key points

Each of us is familiar with geographic maps from the school times, nowadays almost every mobile phone owner has a virtual map as an application that can be easily used for orientation in the unfamiliar location.
However, maps options are not exhausted by orientation. Thematic filling of maps is much wider: besides the general geographic content, they usually involve historical, social and economic data as well. These are the documents that might help to explore the countries’ origin, politic persons’ motivation and researchers’ fates, science and technology development, literature and fine arts heritage. The discovery of new, previously unknown territories, their development, and the names of the intrepid explorers - all this can be read on the maps.
The 16th century might be considered the inception of Russian cartography. Single geographical maps - "drawings", began to appear at the second half of the XVI century. It was the map of the entire Moscow Empire. Historian Vasily Nikitich Tatishchev, the author of the first major work on Russian history, points out "in 1552, Tsar Ioan IV Vasilyevich ordered to measure the territory of the Empire and to make the drawing". Circumstantial evidence exists that during the reign of Boris Godunov. "The Big Drawing" was amended and supplemented with the participation of his son Feodor. Simultaneously the explanatory text was comprised for these maps - "The Book for the Big Drawing".

This Book was stored up to our days; it was a precious source of information about the history of Russia's geography. “The Big Drawing” itself, most likely, was lost. The idea of it can be obtained from the map of the famous Dutch cartographer Hessel Gerritsz. His map of Russia is entitled: "Tabula Russiae desumpta ex autographo, quod delineandum curavit Feodor, filius Tzari Boris etc…, 1613" (The map of Russia, borrowed from a handwritten drawing, which was painstakingly executed by Feodor, the son of Tsar Boris ..., 1613).
In 1667, according to the order of the Russian public official, governor of Bryansk and Tobolsk, Petr Ivanovich Godunov (? -1670), the first known map of Siberia - "Drawing of the Siberian Land", better known as the "Godunov's map"1 was compiled. A copy of this map was preserved in the Stockholm State Archive.
In 1701, the whole atlas of Siberia, compiled by Semyon Yemelyanovich Remezov appeared. The Atlas was stored in the Russian State Library in Moscow. It was comprised of 23 maps, and was of great geographical value, its significance as a historical and ethnographic document is still relevant in our days.
New Russian cartography is associated with the reformative activities of Peter I. In March 1720 Peter I started the first cartographic survey in Russia. This time can be considered the establishment of a cartographer’s profession in Russia. Geographic expeditions to compile inventories and surveys of territories were in full swing. Foreign specialists were invited to Russia: French astronomer-geographer Joseph-Nicolas Delisle, English engineer John Perry, Dutch engraver Adriaan Schoonebeek, and Norwegian admiral Cornelis Cruijs. Unprecedented for the time surveys and measurements of the Empire interior parts were started, as well of locations bordering on Sweden, Kamchatka, the Kuril Islands, hydrographic work on the inventory of the Azov, Black, Caspian, Aral, Baltic, White, Bering and Okhotsk seas.
The maps drawing up and compiling based on the received land survey materials was implemented by the highest governmental institution in Russia - the Senate. It ordered the Senate’s chief-secretary Ivan Kirillovich Kirilov, who was a connoisseur of map-making, to head the investigations.
Hydrographic activities were united in the Admiralty Board. Things went pretty well. Apart from the number of single maps, other maps were published: atlas of the Don, Azov and Black Seas by Cornelius Kruys (1703-1704) and atlas of the Russian Empire by Ivan Kirilov (1734).
Peter’s successors continued his endeavors. Geographical Department was established under the Academy of Sciences. The fundamental cartographic work "Atlas of Russia" was published in 17452). 13 maps of the Atlas depict the European part of Russia, 6 maps – the Asian part of Russia and "General map" on two sheets - the entire Russian Empire.
This Atlas in its completeness, scientific content and technical implementation was a huge achievement of the time. Mikhail Lomonosov took part in the Atlas supplementation as well.
Geographic Atlas of 1745 opened a new era not only in the Russian cartography but in the world cartography as well. The image of the vast Russia’s territory and especially the North Asia seashores received more or less definite outlines instead of those fantastic images that were previously depicted on the foreign maps. The development of Russia’s cartography followed the same way as the cartography in European countries: detailed topographic surveys were made and astronomical definitions of the points were determined.
Operations on "General land surveying" began in 1766. The aim was to "confirm the tranquility, rights and reliability of each owner in his estate". These works were dragged on for the entire century (1766-1855).
Under Nicolay I, when the Pulkovo Observatory3 was established, geodesy and cartography in Russia made significant progress. Curiously, that the meridian, that passed through the center the main Pulkovo Observatory building had been serving as a reference point for geographical longitude in the Russian Empire since 1844. At this time, several large-scale works were executed. They are the following - the measurement of meridian arc degrees from the Danube to the Arctic Ocean (up to 1851), the triangulation of Spitzbergen in 1899-1901 and compilation of the topographic map of the Western provinces (since 1846). Those works were executed under the guidance of Vasily Yakovlevich Struve (1793-1864). Sheets of this map were sold under Alexander II. While he was reigning “The Special Map of European Russia” by I. Strelbitsky, and a number of maps of the Asian part of Russia (Caucasus, Central Asia) were also sold. Private cartographic activities emerged in that period.
The Observatory actively participated in various geodesic activities, such as, measuring the degrees of meridian arcs from the Danube to the Arctic Ocean (until 1851), and Spitzbergen triangulation in 1899-1901. The Pulkovo meridian, passing through the center of the main building of the observatory, was previously a reference point for all geographical maps of Russia. Pulkovskoye highway and Moscow Avenue pass approximately along the Pulkovo meridian. All Russian Empire ships had reckoned longitude from the Pulkovo meridian until 1884, until the zero-point of the longitude was accepted by all countries the meridian passing through the axis of the Greenwich Observatory (zero or Greenwich meridian).
Along with military and marine cartography, the so-called departmental cartography existed in Russia. There were specialized maps designed by the Ministry of Railways, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of State property, the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the Geological Committee, etc. The most significant works of Russian pre-revolutionary cartography are the following:
1) "100 sheets map of the Russian Empire" (published from 1796 to 1814). This 114-sheet map, compiled mainly on the sketches and maps of the General Land survey, was the basic geographic map of Russia until the end of the 19th century.
2) "Military topographic map of European Russia" - 527 sheets were issued (the publication was started in 1846). The map covers the area from the western border to Karelia, Novgorod, Tver, Moscow, Ryazan, Tambov, Saratov, Astrakhan, Stavropol and Kuban.
3) “A special map of European part of Russia” on 177 sheets (compiled from 1865 to 1871 under the direction and editorship of I.A. Strelbitsky). This map formed the entire era in Russian cartography, due to the amount of details, completeness and accuracy. It was reprinted regularly and was one of the main cartographic tools on the territory of the European part of Russia.
Several more maps deserve mentioning. They the following: the military map of Russia’s European-part roads on 6 sheets (1871); the map of Russia’s Asian part on 8 sheets (1876-1884); the map of the Russia’s Asian part frontier region on 32 sheets; the map of the Caucasian territory with the indication of its political status until 1801; and, finally, the most valuable hypsometric map of Russia European part created by Aleksey Tillo (1889).
Those basic maps of the Russia’s territory, although being remarkable and useful ones for their time, nevertheless, became outdated by the beginning of the 20th century, despite the partial renewal. The corps of military topographers continued intensive work. They concentrated their efforts on surveying p frontier regions, paying special attention to the western outskirts of the country, the Caucasus, the Central Asia and Far East frontier regions. Mapping covered significant areas of Manchuria, Mongolia, Persia, Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria. Hence, the central part of the country was not sufficiently and accurately mapped. The entire North region and most of Siberia region remained unexplored and unmapped.
The geographical map became part of Russian culture in the first decades of the twentieth century. The Higher Geodesic Department under the Supreme Council of National Economy was organized in March 15, 1919. The newly organized Department was assigned with the task of regulating and carrying out surveying and cartographic works in the central areas, in the Urals, in the Kuznetsk basin, in the peripheral republics, the Far East, Sakhalin and the Arctic.
The profound scientific basis of the Soviet cartography was laid in the 1920s. Thus, in 1930, Moscow Land Surveying institute was reorganized into Moscow Geodesic Institute (since 1936 - it is Moscow institute of Geodesy, Aerial Photography and Cartography), and Land Surveying Faculty was separated into an independent institution - Moscow Institute of Land Resources and Land Management. In October 1932, a chair of Geodesy and Cartography was established in the Geographic faculty of Moscow State University.
Photographic images shot from aerostats and aircrafts were widely used for mapping since 1927.
Soviet cartography, relying on a powerful mathematical science, evolved into a powerful industry. The Military Topographic service and the Main Directorate of Geodesy and Cartography created detailed maps of the country's territory, including the Volga region. The Red Army troops had received these maps already in the beginning of 1942.
In the 1950s, the authorized State survey of the country was completed at a scale of 1: 100 000. At the same time, the next survey at a scale of 1: 25 000 was started. It was finalized by 1985.
Since the beginning of the space era in the 1970s, the fundamental science stated. Innovation-based methods of determining the coordinates of the earth's surface points were implemented. New approaches to the Earth surveying and mapping were developed.
Laser-based and digital geodesic instruments appearance brought the process of topographic investigations to a fundamentally new level. GIS mapping software and technologies were widely implemented by the beginning of 1990s.
The scientific and technical breakthrough of recent years - satellite positioning systems, Global Positioning Systems (GPS) - technological complexes designed for positioning objects on the surface of the Earth. GPS-systems enable to track the coordinates (and their alteration) of fast moving objects as well.
Modern computer and electronic-optical printing systems radically changed the process of maps’ printing. 3D modeling, digital image processing, analysis and management of huge databases - these are the methods of the modern cartographer today. At the same time, the relevance of paper-based maps (hard copies) is rapidly declining. Data visualization for electronic media for viewing on various gadgets is the main assignment of today's cartography and geoinformatics.
1) Dick N.E. Activity and works of Lomonosov М.V. in the field of geography. M., 1961
2) Vinogradov N.V. Maps and atlases. 1941. The Publishing House of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR
3) Maps of the lands of the Russian North: reality and myths. M.: Art Volkhonka, 2017 (The development of the North: Thousand years of success). The team of authors, the idea and concept of the project "Norilsk Nickel"
4) Lebedev D.M., Esakov V.A. Russian geographical discoveries and studies from ancient times to 1917. M.; 1971
5) Sokolov B. The Mirror of Russia: an exhibition of geographical maps of Russian lands [from the collection of A.L. Kusakina] // Our heritage. 2002. No. 63/64

The compiler of the article: Irina Vershinina