Maps for Ordinary Consumers versus Maps for the Military: Double Standards of Map Accuracy in Soviet Cartography, 1917-1991

Author: Postnikov, Alexey V.

Source: Cartography and Geographic Information Science, 1 July 2002, vol. 29, no. 3, pp. 243-260(18)


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Soviet cartography shared several important characteristics with the Russian cartography from which it emerged. Geographical expeditions were extremely important for filling out the contents of both Russian and Soviet state topographic maps. Cartography had been centralized in many ways in Russian times, but the centralization became absolute under the Soviet system. At the same time cartography came under centralized control of the government in the State Cartographic Service, and the publication and use of large-scale maps were subject to governmental restrictions. The 1:100,000 map of the USSR was compiled in 1954, and was not designed to provide ordinary consumers with topographic information. Any maps for ordinary users, their scales notwithstanding, were based on the 1:2,500,000 map of the country. In the 1970s, the map was deliberately impaired by a cartographic projection that resulted in random distortions of the map's contents.
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