Capturing a cold war capital: the secret Soviet mapping of London

Davies, J. and Kent, A. J. (2018) Capturing a cold war capital: the secret Soviet mapping of London. In: UK Mapping Festival, 4th to 6th September, ILEC, London. (Unpublished)

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Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the true extent of its military mapping project, an initiative created by Stalin and undertaken by the cartographers of the Red Army, is gradually becoming known. As part of this massive global project, undoubtedly the most comprehensive mapping endeavour of the twentieth century, over two thousand towns and cities from around the world were mapped in detail and mostly at scales of 1:10,000 and 1:25,000. The types of information portrayed include street names, district names, the characteristics of roads, bridges, railways and rivers, the names and output of factories and important buildings – and much more.

London provided a focus of Soviet military attention during the Cold War and maps of the capital and its environs were compiled at a full scope of seven different scales. These range from highly-detailed large-scale street plans that include a colour-coded classification of buildings according to their strategic value to smallscale topographic maps that were designed to provide an overview of the terrain and infrastructure. In most cases, the information depicted on the Soviet maps is not simply copied from Ordnance Survey maps and plans or from commercial street atlases but encompasses a wide variety of sources.

This richly illustrated presentation examines the maps and plans of London and the source material available and discusses how this information was interpreted in a global context. It explores why such geospatial intelligence carried such importance to the Soviet regime and offers some thoughts on the legacy of this truly global cartographic project and its relevance today.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GA Mathematical geography. Cartography
Divisions: Faculty of Social and Applied Sciences > School of Human and Life Sciences
Depositing User: Dr Alexander J. Kent
Date Deposited: 11 Sep 2018 09:03
Last Modified: 11 Sep 2018 09:03

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Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00